As the world moves to more complexity and businesses use more diverse systems, the need for a modular dashboard that allows users to aggregate different types of data from different applications in one place becomes apparent. It’s for this reason that I’ve long advocated for a kind of “iGoogle for Business” – something that gives users the ability to show core ERP data along with relevant other information be it application based, RSS feeds, social content or whatever.
Last week I was given a pre-briefing of Aplicor’s Cloud Suite 7.0 that fills much of this need. First though an introduction to Aplicor. Founded a decade or so ago, Aplicor original focused on producing a CRM product but has since gone on to develop a full ERP suite. Aimed firmly at the mid tier business (up to 1000 users) Aplicor fills an interesting space – it’s far beyond the SMB products (QuickBooks for example) but sits well below the price point of other CRM/ERP combinations from NetSuite, Intacct and salesforce.
Aplicor currently uses a direct to market sales approach, but advised me that internationally they were keen to develop a channel approach to enable them to scale more rapidly – already in the US they have channel partners in specific vertical sectors.
Aplicor offers the needs of its target market – it provides multi company, currency, language, tax and inventory location options, all available at the per user price of $59 per month.
So what is Aplicor offering? Built on top of Microsoft Azure, and leveraging the Microsoft Silverlight toolkit, Aplicor gives users the ability to create dynamic “workspaces” that map custom workflows, deliver content from its own or external applications, and display external data sources (RSS, Twitter, XML etc). While the Silverlight platform provides a rich user experience, it does so at the cost of open standards. As we’ve seen recently with Apple’s approach towards Adobe Flash, many people believe that an open standards approach is the best way to provide cross platform and device functionality. The jury is out on whether Flash can remain, or Silverlight can become, a defacto standard in this area.
Anyway, back to the offering. The best way to think of Aplicor’s approach is to think of iGoogle – in the same way that iGoogle allows consumers to display content from Google services, other applications or external feeds, so too does Aplicor offer this for business users. The great thing about this approach is that it allows the flexibility to deliver custom UIs that are in keeping with the context, work processes and needs of individual users.
Where Aplicor departs from the simple approach however is to tie their custom display abilities to a dynamic workflow builder that allows users to create custom workflows that prompt actions based on the needs of the business.
One thing I discussed with Aplicor was the increasing demand for “social” aspects for business software – I recently scooped NetSuite’s moves into this space. While Aplicor allows users to “favorite” particular artifacts and have their favorites displayed on their dashboard, there is no provision for socializing that information, allowing others to comment, update or otherwise add color to the information. this is one area that I can imagine Aplicor filling out in future releases.
All in all I really like the Aplicor approach – the combination of graphical workflow building functionality and an eminently modular dashboard approach is a refreshing change. This mixed with the fact that they’re almost alone at their price and customer-focus point leaves me pretty positive about the opportunities for them in the marketplace.