Some people believe that IBM is purely an expensive services business. True, the company derives a lot of its income from that source and at top dollar. IBM is also one of SAP’s most important implementation partners with a business worth some $6.5 billion a year. That’s a lot of code being deployed around the world. Recently, Vijay Vijayasankar an IBM associate partner and sometime commenter for our JDOD shows demo’d a solution that helps large organisations better manage working capital. I asked Vijay if he would record the same demo with my JDOD colleague Jon Reed. What you see above is the result.
This is what I call a ‘self evident’ application. It is not particularly beautiful in the consumer application market sense but it does exactly what it says on the tin and, as Vijay mentions, did not require any explanation when put in front of CXOs and analysts. They just got it.
In another video, Vijay explains the rationale behind this solution, noting that in IBM’s recent annual survey of CFOs, working capital management is top of mind. So what does this solution do that has not been possible in the past?
The solution is based on HANA, SAP’s high speed database and application engine which is capable of returning the number crunching results of many millions of pieces of data at speeds that were unimaginable a few years ago. But as Vijay points out, speed is not enough. There has to be a business context. In this use case, it is easy to understand the impact of applying different levers to the working capital of the business. The solution provides the basis for additional analysis upon which businesses can make the right kinds of decision in a timely manner and not simply glorified guesswork based upon spreadsheets.
As Vijay points out in the demo video, there is plenty of work to do including making it available on mobile devices, the addition of consolidations, enrichment from other data about the business and so on.
I see a large market for this style of solution and not just among IBM’s obvious market of large enterprise. Mid-sized businesses face similar problems with just as much complexity at hand. Is that enough to justify re-engineering for an SAP system? Maybe. Whatever you think of IBM, there are at least some people thinking hard about how to innovate large scale financial processes. More to the point, when I spoke with Vijay, he believes the solution can payback in a single quarter. That’s almost unheard of in this world.