• AffinityLive – PSA For Us All

     

    I posted recently about OpenAir, NetSuite’s PSA offering. Hot on the heels of that I talked with Geoff McQueen, founder of Hiive Systems an Australian vendor who is bringing its own PSA solution to market later this year. Geoff…

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  • Private Cloud Redux – Nimbula Bets on Today’s Reality

     

    A number of cloud commentators seem to get all pent up and in a state of agitated hand-wringing about private cloud. “But it’s not the true cloud” they say, having some sort of dogmatic view over what is, and…

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  • Salesforce Chatter goes into GA. No Hiding Now Marc!

     

    I’ve always been partly in awe and partly dubious about the way Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff gives… “aspirational” product announcements. On one level, it’s great to get people thinking and envisioning a future, while on another vaporware is just that – unobtainable and frustrating. Just look at his quote about Chatter: Salesforce Chatter is the [...]

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  • PBWorks Bets on a World Where CRM Meets the Actual Customers

     

    PBWorks is launching a new version of their product today (see previous coverage of PBWorks here) that is aimed at solving the problem of traditional CRMs being siloed and closed to external customers. In the process they’ve invented yet another three letter acronym – Customer Relationship Collaboration or CRC. While I’m not enamored with the [...]

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  • Contextual Gadgets – ManyMoon Unlocks Google’s Value

     
    Image representing Manymoon as depicted in Cru...

    Since the Google Apps marketplace launched, I’ve been a little disappointed at the somewhat limited integrations that have been created by apps on the marketplace. While I’d love Google to have an even richer common set of data, there was little use made of the data that is currently provided.

    All that is changing with the introduction of contextual gadgets, and right now ManyMoon the social productivity tool, is releasing it’s take on what that means. A contextual gadget is quite simply a gadget within an application that unlocks some functionality in another app.

    In their case, the Manymoon Gmail contextual gadget enables users to track and complete projects and tasks directly within an email. Once a user adds the gadget, it can intelligently update tasks and projects with important content and contacts from within emails.

    ManyMoon is understandably bullish about what the marketplace is doing for them, Amit Kulkarni, CEO of Manymoon reports that over 1,000 new businesses that use Google’s applications sign-up for Manymoon through the Google Apps Marketplace each week.

    This is the sort of experience that delivers on the promise of the apps marketplace – take a look at the screencast below.

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  • Getting Office 2010 without Office 2010 From Central Desktop (Well Kind Of, and Conditions Apply)

     

    I had a briefing recently from CentralDesktop CEO Isaac Garcia who was super-excited about their new product offering, Central Desktop for Office. The product is built on top of technology licensed from OffiSync and, quite simply, it gives Microsoft Office users online collaboration and a “SharePoint” experience” without Office 2010 and without SharePoint.

    With the product, users of both Office 2003 and Office 2007 will see a new bar on the control ribbon, titles “CentralDesktop”. This bar will give them access to their CentralDesktop files which can be opened natively inside of the particular office application, and then collaboratively edited by anyone who has access to the files – it’s not a web app so all parties will need Office, but it introduces something that Office users simply could not do until now – and in doing so will, perhaps, replace a deluge of “reply to” emails with draft amendments.

    CD for Office makes nice use of “meta panels” that drive further information to a document viewer – things like comments, documents within the same folder etc – expect to see more rich, contextual information available in these panels soon.

    cdforoffice_commenting_dashboard

    The product isn’t real time per se – the way it works is that the file owner receives a pop-up notification of an amendment whenever one is made, they can then chose to merge this amendment into the document. I questions Garcia about this, especially in the light of Google’s recent release of key-by-key real time co-authoring for Google Docs, his response?

    True real time collaboration is awesome, what Google has done is amazing technically. The need for this degree of real-time however is pretty minimal, it’s generally only a few edge cases that need this and the flip-side of real time is that it often gets reduces to sheer chaos. We believe that our approach of giving the file owner notification of changes, will suit the marketplace just fine. That said there is potential to make the experience tighter in the future.

    It should be noted that when using this product, full version control and tracking is retained within CentralDesktop so their is always a record of any changes made, regardless of whether the file owner chooses to accept them. I was a little disappointed that the product doesn’t make allowance for multiple changes. As an example, in a situation where three people make amendments to a document at the same time, the file owner is notified of one merged change to accept or delete – it’s easy to imagine a versioning nightmare when parts of the change are to be accepted and others not. CentralDesktop’s approach of expecting the owner to apply the merge and then selectively deselect the parts of the change they don’t want is less than ideal.

    cdforoffice_coauthoring_preview

    In terms of pricing, the bare bones product will be free to all CentralDesktop users, while some premium functions will be available for a charge. See below for a demo screencast:

    Central Desktop for Office Video from Central Desktop on Vimeo.

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  • Adaptive Planning for Budgeting

     

    At the recent SuiteCloud conference (see disclosure) I met with AdaptivePlanning and had a look at their application. AdaptivePlanning was founded in 2003 by a CFO who had previously been involved with many large businesses. Having built a number…

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  • Vindicia Builds a Tunnel to Relaxation

     

    PCI compliance is hard. Hard, expensive and time consuming. Third party subscription and billing vendors have attempted to remove as much of the burden of PCI compliance from their customers but one barrier remains – any business that wants to allow customers to enter their credit card details in their own site, and in familiar surroundings, still has a PCI burden because of the credit card details entered into their site. In an effort to remedy ulcers and late nights for vendors (or their PCI compliance people at least) Vindicia (see disclosure) has decided to do something about it.

    They’ve today announced their Hosted Order Automation (HOA) capabilities. By using HOA, online merchants are able to completely offload PCI compliance to Vindicia while maintaining control over their customers’ buying experience. HOA allows merchants to accept credit cards on their own order pages without ever touching a credit card and subjecting themselves to PCI regulations.

    What HOA does (beyond the press release hype) is to create a secure tunnel between a field within a vendors credit card form, and Vindicia’s own servers. In effect when a customer enters their credit card number, they are doing so within a Vindicia form field, but on the vendor’s own page. HOA requires only a code snippet within the page so existing customization and styling is retained and customers have a seamless on-site experience. The transactions progresses like this:

    1. Consumers visit the vendor’s website and want to make a purchase or update their payment method.  As they request the page, a call is made to CashBox that contains the function being used and the IP address of the customer.
    2. CashBox creates a secure session that allows customer payment information to be submitted directly.  The customer continues to enter their data into the form fields on the page as they would normally. For additional security, the session will time out after a pre-configurable amount of time.
    3. Once the customer submits their information, it is sent directly to CashBox and bypasses the vendor’s servers altogether. CashBox validates the IP address as an additional security measure and stores the customer data and payment information with the requested action.
    4. The customer is redirected to the results page by CashBox. As the redirect loads, the successful receipt of customer information is returned. Once the vendor’s servers receive this information, another call to CashBox is made requesting the actions be performed (e.g., fraud screening, authorization, tokenization, new account signup, payment capture or update).
    5. The success or failure of the requested action is passed back to the vendor’s server upon completion, with all of the necessary information (results, tokenized payment method, etc…) to display a detailed confirmation message to the customer on the results page.

    Or if you much prefer a purty picture, like this:

    HOA_flow_2

    Hosted Order Automation is available immediately as part of the Vindicia CashBox solution. Wait and see how the competition reacts…

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  • Financial Force gets Chatter(ing)

     

    Right about now, Jeremy Roche the CEO of SaaS Accounting vendor FinancialForce (more on them here) is on stage at CloudForce in New York telling the world about the integration they’ve made with Salesforce’s chatter functionality. I had an opportunity to speak with Roche a week or so ago under a strict embargo about the integration – it seems FinancialForce were particularly worried that any leak of the announcement might jeopardize their chances to speak at the event. Apparently salesforce CEO Marc Benioff is getting close to Apple CEO Steve Jobs in terms of exerting control over every little thing. But anyway, I digress.

    Firstly a bit of an update on FinancialForce – they’ve now got customers in over 40 countries and are seeing something of a polarization among their users – with many utilizing the entire accounting functionality, but many larger customers using FinancialForce as a kind of accounting “middleware” – facilitating the integration between large enterprise systems such as SAP, and smaller divisional systems. In fact FinancialForce recently showcased their integration with SAP, allowing sales data from a business unit using FinancialForce to be populated through to the SAP ledgers – see the diagram below:

    coda

    According to their PR blurb, FinancialForce:

    want(s) to help finance reach the whole (or part) of sales which as we know is a pain in the real world when wrangling via email. We are giving them the ability to initiate and be part of conversations that they wouldn’t normally be included in until a problem occurs or questions need answering. We think there’s real value in this and that it creates a different sense of where finance sits in the organization that can drive longer term value. The collaborative finance function – bringing accountants from the back office into the heart of the business. Since everything in business comes back to a financial transaction, the opportunities both internally and externally are compelling

    What Financial Force is releasing is an integration of their core accounting product with Chatter and a continuation of the interaction between the front and back office functions of an organizations. This leverages the ability of Chatter to follow all types of objects, be they people, opportunities, cases, customers etc. FinancialForce is enabling their “Chatterbox” a rules builder for chatter that Roche pointed out a couple of use cases for:

    • A financial manager, concerned about cashflow, might create a rule that shows them progress relating to every opportunity about (for example) $50000 that will be closing in the current quarter
    • A service manager may create a rule that allows them to follow all service cases with no progress activity for a certain number of days

    Check out the video below which gives an example business scenario for chatter:

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    I’ve always been cautious about social tools that promise to revolutionize the enterprise – but I have to say that an integration between chatter and a third party force.com application really shows the promise these social tools can bring – dragging information kicking and screaming out of the app and to where a user needs it.

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  • And Who Said SaaS Wasn’t Customizable? – NetSuite Rewrites the Rules and Embraces Design Thinking in the process

     

    I spend a lot of time talking to organizations about moving to SaaS an often I hear their concerns around the apparent lack of flexibility that SaaS apps give them. In the broader context this argument speaks to the…

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