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Forrester report says six emerging vendors have best business software

Forrester flags six breakout vendors in SaaS business applications that have high growth, solid financial backing, proven technology and the ability to support large enterprises.

Forrester Research is singling out Anaplan Inc., CloudCraze Software LLC and Plex Systems among six emerging cloud...

vendors that are challenging the giants in their respective fields.

In "Breakout Vendors: SaaS Business Applications,'' Forrester lauded the six fast-growing vendors as providing some of the best business software in their cloud category.

The research is intended to help businesses identify cloud applications that can give them an advantage over their competition in serving their customers, said Paul Hamerman, co-author of the report and a vice president and principal analyst at Forrester.

In software as a service (SaaS) business applications, Forrester named six vendors that hold a number of characteristics in common, including impressive customer numbers, with high growth, strong financial backing, established technology and services partners, and an ability to support large organizations.

"We wanted to identify some vendors that could potentially become the next NetSuite or Workday in five to 10 years," Hamerman said.

The winners included the following:

  • Finance -- Anaplan
  • Human resources -- BetterWorks
  • E-commerce -- CloudCraze
  • Procurement -- Coupa Software Inc.
  • Supply chain -- LLamasoft Inc.
  • ERP -- Plex Systems

Each of the up-and-coming vendors could potentially disrupt the status quo and become leaders in SaaS business applications, Forrester said in a 15-page report.

Anaplan offers wide variety in finance

Anaplan, which offers , budgeting, forecasting and reporting for finance departments, won partly because it uses proprietary in- computing that is enhanced for large and complex business problems, Hamerman said.

Anaplan, based in San Francisco, provides a wide range of services, such as HR workforce , sales and operational , marketing, supply chain and sales compensation , the report said.

Through its app store, Anaplan offers more than 120 prebuilt models, built by the vendor itself or partners and customers.

BetterWorks aligns personal goals with organization

BetterWorks, based in Redwood City, Calif., offers a performance management tool that allows employees to set their personal goals and align them with their organization's goals and strategy. The vendor provides for continuous performance management, allowing employees to nudge and cheer each other and managers to coach.

Hamerman said BetterWorks offers a method called Objectives and Key Results on an engaging platform with good visuals for employees to follow their performance and measure their progress on goals.

While the traditional annual performance review is under growing criticism and scrutiny, many organizations could be slow to adopt BetterWorks or other performance tools across the enterprise, the report said.

Plex Systems is pure play in cloud ERP

Plex Systems, headquartered in Troy, Mich., gets the nod for best business software because it targets a number of different types of manufacturers with a comprehensive cloud ERP system that is deployed on a shop floor and connects to production equipment, Hamerman said.

Plex is pure play SaaS ERP, whereas most of the traditional players in the manufacturing space provide a cloud version of pre-existing on-premises software. Plex can innovate more quickly because it is free from legacy ERP software, he said.

Plex automates ERP for about 1,500 manufacturing facilities operated by nearly 500 companies. Larger enterprises use Plex as a tier-two ERP system, supporting one or more manufacturing sites while coexisting with a corporate-level ERP, the report said.

Plex also stands out because its software updates continuously, not just once or twice a month, Hamerman said. "They can add features every day," Hamerman said. "That seems to go over well with the customers [who] understand continuous improvement in manufacturing."

CloudCraze flying high in commerce

Commerce on the cloud remains very hot and CloudCraze is profiting with an impressive list of users that includes Coca-Cola, which uses the vendor to deal with its bottlers, and Kellogg's Bear Naked Granola, which allows consumers to choose ingredients to create their own granola.

CloudCraze, which is based in Chicago and was spun out in 2015 from EDL Consulting, is noted for its speed and agility and can be deployed in weeks, the report said.

CloudCraze was built on the Salesforce App Cloud and benefits from the capabilities that run Salesforce itself, said Liz Herbert, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester and co-author of the report.

Coupa offers impressive scale, savings

As for the best business software in procurement, Coupa's strategy is to be a -rate partner that works well with any ERP.

It is easy to use with preconfigured capabilities across procurement, expense management and invoicing, the Forrester report said.

With more than 2.2 million connected suppliers, Coupa, based in San Mateo, Calif., has tremendous purchasing power and can provide massive savings with discounts in prenegotiated contracts, Herbert said.

One interesting aspect of Coupa is users get savings as soon as they sign up, even before they go live, she said.

LLamasoft is solid on analytics

In supply chain, LLamasoft, based in Ann Arbor, Mich., specializes in design and modeling with advanced math and analytics to help users in what-if scenarios.

Users, for example, can model the outcomes of certain changes, such as moving a distribution center or keeping more stock in a particular location, Herbert said. "What would that do to the overall supply chain?" she said. "What would that do to the overall costs, and what would that mean for our ability to do next-day service?"

LLamasoft, which also offers on-premises software, has more than 500 customers, including half that use the cloud platform that launched in 2014.

The software helps companies design ways to use their supply chains more effectively and it focuses on helping teams work together across the enterprise.

Despite astonishing expansion in SaaS business applications in recent years, there is still plenty of room to grow, Herbert said. More companies are moving to the cloud in categories served by the breakout vendors and more companies are looking to forge strategic partnerships with vendors that offer the best business software.

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