I agree with Vinnie on something. shock horror gasp

I have just got back from Sapphire Europe. I was only there for the first day, had several customer meetings, a great lunch with Les Hayman and James Farrar (more about that on another post), had an excellent session with Amit Chatterjee and his team about GRC (governance risk and compliance), saw a super presentation about the SAP talent management implementation at KBC Bank and then later had a couple of glasses of bubbly with the GRC gang and then a steaktatar for dinner. I managed to see some partner and SAP folks too. All in all a busy day.

Sapphire though is a bit too much marketingspeak for me.  It reminds me more than a little of what G.B Shaw said when he declined an invite to speak at a vegetarian convention."The thought of a 1000 people simultaneously crunching celery terrifies me"

I agree with Vinnie that there is too much SOA talk at the moment. It is a tad theoretical, abstract, metaphorical and technical for me. I should leave that to James and the my birkie mates.

 I studied a fair bit of philosophy at university, and Immanuel Kant is easier to figure out than some of the SOA stuff. We are talking too much about the technology and not enough about the applications the technology helps create.

CIOs might buy and love technology, but I still believe business people buy applications. They want to eat the meal, not just read the cook book. 

I think we need to start moving back to messaging that resonates with business people. Governance, Risk Compliance business unit is a step in the right direction. I reckon we need to do more of this sort of thing- focus on the business issue.

Build teams of people who really understand the business issues, and deliver solutions to address the business challenge. You can only do this if you understand the business issues in depth, only then can the technology help. The combination of  Virsa  and some key from core ERP will make for a compelling foundation.

It was nice to see a big HR (sorry Human Capital management with mySAP(tm) ERP powered by SAP Netweaver) deal announced. the Bank of India

MUMBAI, India and PARIS, France – May 30, 2006 – May 30, 2006 — SAP AG (NYSE: SAP) today announced that the State Bank of India (SBI), India’s largest commercial bank, selected mySAP™ ERP to automate and seamlessly integrate its human capital management (HCM) processes across State Bank Group, part of the bank’s efforts to transform its operations and prepare for future growth. The enterprise resource planning (ERP) application from SAP would serve State Bank Group’s global strength of more than 370,000 employees and retirees, making it one of the largest HCM implementations in the banking industry globally

Well done to Amit Avasthi and his HR team in India did a fab job on this one.

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the other Sapphire and back to the future

I'm flying to the less glamorous Sapphire this afternoon. Us Europeans don't do that conference thing as well as our American cousins do. They get Sheryl Crow and we don't. Nevertheless it is a good opportunity to dig deeper into some of the messages announced in the US, and talk to customers and partners.

I remember attending the 1996 Sapphire in Vienna, where most of the presentations were in German with a form of English translation. If you think understanding SOA, ESA etc is tough today, imagine the poor translators simultaneously expounding on the benefits of R/3 three-tier-client server  and BAPIS back then. We had just as many slides, but the graphics and grammar were worse. The conference bag was nice though, and I got to hear lots of Mozart and waltzes.

I googled Sapphire 96, and found very little. Much has changed in 10 years it seems.

This is how AMR covered the event then:

Next Releases of R/3: The primary focus was on the newest release, R/3 3.1, which adds Internet and intranet capabilities to R/3 and is scheduled to ship by year end. This will be followed by Release 4.0, scheduled for first customer shipment in 3Q96. Release 4.0 will feature the "componentization" of R/3 – SAP intends to divide its software into discrete software components or business objects without sacrificing the integration for which R/3 is known. At the SAPPHIRE conference in Vienna (see The AMR Alert on Manufacturing June 21), SAP had announced its intent to divide R/3 into three pieces: Financials, Human Resources, and Logistics (includes Manufacturing). Instead, Financials and Logistics will stay together until Release 5.0.

BAPI's are the first major delivery of components that will make up SAP's new Business Framework architecture – announced at SAPPHIRE 96. The Business Framework architecture consists of SAP business objects which have been developed with input from customers and partners to ease the task of integrating add-on products and customizations with R/3. The low level complexity of the SAP application (and the ABAP/4 development environment) are hidden from the user. Microsoft's COM/DCOM broker technology is used to allow any external application to call methods of the objects housed in SAP's business object repository. The business objects then utilize an internal SAP broker to interact directly with the correct SAP R/3 remote function calls (RFC's). This allows SAP, their customers, and partners to code to a common abstraction layer, eliminating the rework that is usually required when any of these parties changes their application code

Hmmm, somethings change and somethings stay the same.

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HR application reality with some customers

In my little echozone here, I have perhaps been guilty of focusing too much on the Sapphire announcements and general SAP navel gazing.  I thought I'd redress that balance and blog about an HCM conference I attended this week. I  think I was the only blogger there, so no echo…

Thomas Cook, a conference organiser arranged conference focusing on SAP HCM (HR to most people) I was lucky enough to attend and get to kick things off.  I saw most of the presentations, except for the odd conf call interuption.

I talked about ERP 2004-2005 and life in general. I tested out the recent sapphire pitch on the audience and they seemed to survive, at least no-one left. The key themes I covered were the enhancements in talent management, BPO, shared services and Analytics. there is a big interest in upgrading, but users really want to see the FUNCTIONALITY ENHANCEMENTS before they push for it.  At SAP we need to be careful that we dont get too techie with all this SOA business and forget to mention the product. HR folks dont really get excited about how netweaver will change the world and whatever. But the new succession planning stuff seemed to go down particularly well. ( a comment in the coffee break was why did it take so long to build it if all this netweaver stuff is so easy to develop with? I didnt have an answer.)

Graham White, the Head of HR at Surrey County Council was up next.  I have known Graham for a couple of years now. He is passionate about HR and the need for it to change. He is not afraid to tell it like it is.  If you ever get the chance listen to him jump at it.  He is a fantastic speaker, witty, motivational and deeply knowledgeable. He is an HR guy who gets technology. We need more of those. I'm also amazed at the IT -HR innovation in the UK public sector. Over the past couple of years, they have done lots. I think in many cases, surpasing the private sector. (especially with e-HR and shared services) Surrey has a well-oiled self and shared services model.

Deutsche Telecom's t-com division has large implementation of SAP's Learning solution, for about 80,000 employees. Winfried Kohne, the project manager took us through the project. this is an ultra-competitive space, the the ability to get staff upto speed on new devices etc is key to success. The learning solution plays a big role in this at t-com. Winfried is not an IT guy, but a pyschologist. He said "this is an ideal background for an SAP project lead."  Everyone agreed.

At lunch I talked with some folks from GNER, a UK rail operator, I'm going to put them in touch with some other rail users, including the South African railways (spoornet) who have done some interesting stuff on staff rostering.  (Rail is really complex, and often fraught with legacy contracts and so on. I heard of one railway company who is stuck with some terms and conditions that include different salary rates for uphill and downhill journeys. This is a legacy from the days of steam, when the stokers had to work much harder on uphills. and yes, SAP handled it…..without new code)

Martyn Redfearn is from the West Yorkshire Fire Service. He is a former fireman, and spoke of how the HR system is supporting the fire brigade. The project has just gone live, so to be able to attend a conference implies that there were no go-live fires to be dealt with. The fire services are ungoing significant modernisation, and West Yorkshire is leading the UK, it seems. Managing people information is key to a better service. Serious business. They fitted 70,000 smoke alarms last year, and a lot of what they do is about prevention, not just putting out the fires.

The AA is the biggest car repair service in the UK, and Lewis Jones covered how the AA use SAP finance and HR in a tightly integrated fashion, he also discussed how vital knowledge management is for the customer care quality and for the job satisfaction of the mechanics. When a mechanic finds a new way to fis something, it gets posted on the KM system. There is a lot of peer recognition for this. Managing HR issues for people on the road is tough, but the AA have it well undercontrol it seems. Strong shared services model, supported by a world class call centre.

instead of going to the gym I had a beer with the guys from ADP. they are really lining up to push the globalview story, so the BPO space is in for a big shock. I also caught up with Sarah Nehring from Epiuse, she ran a major project at BMW till recently. Epi-use is a focused SAP HR partner, they stared in south Africa, and now have over 300 people globally focused on SAP HR. Check them out, they have some great add-on tools too.

the next day, I was planning to listen to a colleague present, but he had some lame excuse like a customer escalation, so he called me in a panic and asked me to present instead. I stupidly agreed before having seen the slides he was planning to use. Instead of using  110 slides he sent me I decided to present in more detail about SAP's HR BI offering and how to make the most out of analytical information. I showed the youtube clip about ABAP JEDIs to start the day. It is good to show that developers are people too. not sure that the onevoice police would agree though.

The analytics bit generated a lot of good discussion. There are greater demands now then ever before to do better BI, but lots of HR folks dont know where to start.

Siemens presented what they are doing with HR shared services. This is an awesome story. They have moved all the HR adminstrative processes for 170,000 employees to a shared service model, suppported by SAP HCM and SAP CRM (for the employee interaction center.) The really interesting bit is how they have broken down the HR activities into clearly defined service units. These can be priced and measured objectively. This makes for a strong process centric model of HR service delivery. I plan to go and see this in action soon, so more details will follow then.

In the afternoon, I unfortunately had to miss the session on BW at the BG group and the BW workshop, but it seems that analytics is on the minds of our customers at the moment. The message I get is that most customers have a solid core system in place, and they are now looking for ways to get more out of it. Analytics is a good place to start this. I have had quite a few emails today asking for more info on the HR analytics features in ERP 2005, and what can be done with earlier releases.

the conference finished off with a Duet presentation and Demo from an SAP colleague. I decided to slip out at that stage and dash to the airport to stock up on english children's books.

It is good to listen and talk to customers who are using our software. I learn lots from hearing about their issues and innovations. Often when I was asked a question I would answer it, and then some other customer would have a better answer.

Thanks again to Thomas for inviting me.

some good news from Germany….

(I live in Germany but I'm not German. I pass the tebitt test though, and  will be supporting them in the football world cup. Strictly speaking this more than slightly strange test of nationality was about cricket. I like Germany, but not enough to support them at cricket, unless they pick me for the team)

 Check out this post on the state of the German economy.  it suprised me.

In spite of Germany’s unexceptional macro­economic data, no other industrial nation has so successfully harnessed the opportunities offered by an interconnected global economy.

This mid-sized country of 80m, often painted as angst-ridden, risk-averse and allergic to change, has been the world’s largest exporter of goods every year since it overtook the US in 2003.

In spite of Germany’s unexceptional macro­economic data, no other industrial nation has so successfully harnessed the opportunities offered by an interconnected global economy.

This may link somehow to a post about Duet….and all that world is flat business.

Duet, has helped break not only the language barriers from the code point of view, but has also broken geographical barriers from the development point of view. Within SAP, the building of Duet is spread across locations that are as far apart as they can get. Labs at Palo Alto (USA), Walldorf (Germany), Ra'anana (Israel), and Bangalore (India) all work together on this product. For me, this is the first time I am witnessing Global Development of this scale happen so efficiently and so rapidly. Initially it was awe at first sight. Now even after months into this project, I am still in awe. If I was asked to summarize the document on “How Duet (Mendocino) works?”, I would finish it off with one word – “Magic”.

When I think of German exports it is VW, BMW, Porsche, Hugo Boss and ugly beer mugs, that come to mind. SAP though, is a major exporter too. As I have noted before, SAP must  continue to keep that delicate balance between those traits that make Germany the export champions, and bringing in the best people and ideas from across the world. Duet it seems, is proof that this is working.

To improve the broader german economy though, apparently internal consumer spending needs a boost…all developers should as an economic imperative, buy new birkenstocks.

(okay I'm not mentioning a whole lot of structural economic issues…………….)  

ruby and sapphires.

There is lots of interesting innovation going on in the SAP community that backs up Shai Agassi's excitement about SDN. I was very sceptical of it when it started, but I was clearly wrong. (not the first time)

Ross commented on SDN here.  I stumbled across Piers' stuff today while in frankfurt airport awaiting my plane. See what Piers is up to with Ruby and SAP. Here is the SDN entry. 

I read it, said "?????" and released I needed adult supervision, so I mailed a Birkenstock-wearing colleague who resides deep in the walldorf machine.

He told me, "I've been following Piers' work on SDN. it is great to showcase this kind of thing-its nothing new to see such innovation from the partner-consultant community, but very nice to see it showcased effectively." 

If you are interested in more on Scripted languages, check it out here, the post is written by a guy from Colgate. Thoughtful stuff. This SDN thing is working. The more people innovating on SAP, the better.

I

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excellent Sapphire summary and the need for some humo(u)r

For those of you who don't want to read lots of blogs, the best Sapphire summary comes from AMR's Bruce Richardson.  Succinct, coherent and timely. (score one to AMR)

 While Hasso Plattner, Henning Kagermann, and Shai Agassi are household names inside AMR Research, how many know Ian Kimbell? Derek Prior, our top SAP analyst in Europe, and I were talking about the SAP executive presentations this week. I said that they were always better when Mr. Kimbell was part of the product demonstrations. Derek turned to me and asked, “Is he the funny Brit?”

Yes, Mr. Kimbell is the very funny Brit. Please SAPPHIRE planners, if you’re going to make us sit for hours on uncomfortable folding chairs, at least entertain us. We mean no disrespect to this week’s participants, but bring back Ian Kimbell. Don’t make us start a petition.

The point about Ian Kimbell may seem a bit cryptic for those that haven't seen him in action, but a skillset we drastically underestimate and under invest in at SAP is the ability to present and demo complex concepts in a way that customers can understand and enjoy. Ian has this skill, yet far too often this is dismissed as just "blah-blah"

We focus too much on the powerpoints and not enough on the content delivery, yet boring is not a good sales strategy. As usual there is a gapingvoid cartoon to make the point better than I can.

i'm a speaker.jpg

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duet, it takes two to tango…

Jeff's merry band of Bloggers are discussing Duet in some detail at the moment. I have blogged a bit on it before, and it is good to see that I have been thinking much the same  things sitting here in island Walldorf that they have.

I'm a big fan of Duet (even if I have some concems about the name). As a presales guy, I have been on the receiving end of SAP's clumsy GUIs for years. Time and time again, customers would tell me, SAP has the functionality, but PeopleSoft is prettier and sexy.

The best response to this was from an italian guy who wanted to buy SAP, but his US boss wanted PeopleSoft.

He said:"boss, in italy women she is sexy. in italy, some cars, like ferrari she is sexy, but graphical user interfaces, she is not sexy"

the room echoed with laughter and SAP won the deal. Grazie..

We are seeing a shift away from one GUI to a many GUI model. the decoupling of the application logic from the GUI will lead to a lot more "pretty" frontends. (This has been something of a recuring theme with me over the last couple of weeks.)

For customers though, it will hard to pick which ones you want to deploy. Lots of companies will now come to you and say "have I got a great gui for you and your SAP systems"  Your users will become more demanding. You will need a GUI strategy, I reckon.  

Zoliblog gets it.

Duet's importance by far exceeds what the limited number of currently available scenarios might imply: for SAP it means potentially tripling / quadrapling their user base, even if indirectly, and for Microsoft it's another way to lock users into their Office suite

Vinnie dismisses it as a nice to have. I think he is wrong on this point. So many people are office-bound (pun intended) that it makes sense to bring SAP to them. SAP has tried with various technologies to get to the manager onboard and failed, but I think this will work.

Vinne does raise a concern that I have had before, namely Microsoft's commitment to the party, and the sour grapes from Dynamics lot at msft. SAP's sales force on its own won't make Duet a big hit. (damn these musical puns)

Another real world cocern is that Duet will mean that customers will have to upgrade to the Office 2003 enterprise professional. If IT budgets get hit with the dreaded office upgrade, how much IT time will be available for other SAP projects we'd like to be selling them.

Managing the channel between SAP and Microsoft will be challenging. Our partner folks will need to do more than produce nice joint brochures.

At least we have something sexy to demo, if not for the italians..