Disney and Edinburgh

I’m going to drive to Eurodisney tomorrow morning with my family. Happiness 1.0.,

Next week I will be going to Edinburgh, where I’m talking at the GiKII workshop, part of the VI Computer Law World Conference.

In some form of rather odd symmetry, I’m talking on “Data Protection Law: The Cinderella of the software industry.” Weird, as I came up with the title ages before we decided on the Disney expedition.

I’ll try and blog from Edinburgh, but if not I’ll be back online in the middle of next week.


Scrums of another sort.

I spent much of my childhood in South Africa, and I was a really awful rugby player. I was neither big enough to be any good, nor fast enough to get out the way of those who were. As soon as I could, I became the linesman and team photographer.

The term scrum, then, creates an terrifying flashback to lying in a muddy field with about 15 heavy people on my head. At SAP, though it is part of some of the change that’s happening in our development processes here in starship enterprisey walldorf and across the development centres around the world.  Here is an article from SAPINFO aimed at a non techie (like me) audience.

Cote from Redmonk has posted about enterprise scrum.  It seems there is controversy in the world of scruming techniques.

I’m not a developer, but what my dev mates tell me is the model works well for smallish, shortish projects. It really focuses on delivering on what you said you were going to deliver on. Like in a real scrum, it is impossible to hide. The take up internally has been excellent, and it is working. 

Another thing that is going on here is six-sigma. There is alot of black belt training and sigma stuff on the go.  We have a long way to go until we are like a GE engineering division, but things are happening.  I also read today in the employee magazine that the number of reported help desk messages is down, despite a significant increase in customer numbers and go lives.

UK parliamentary hearings are often very boring, but sometimes they produce gems. This one from Professor Thomas from Oxford reminds me that this industry is really just getting going…They are discussing the why many government IT projects fail.

 We are as an industry very much in the early stages. The industry is only 50 years old. If you compare that with civil engineering, which is several thousand years old, we are tackling some of the most complex engineering designs and building some of the most complex engineering systems that the world has ever seen, essentially using craft technology. If you looked at the methods that are employed in most companies you would come to the conclusion that actually IT system development is a fashion business, not an engineering business, because they jump from one methodology to another year after year so long as it has a whizzy name, “Agile this” or “Intensive that”. The underlying engineering disciplines that every mature engineering discipline has learnt it needs to use in order to be able to show that the system it is building has the required properties have not yet been employed in software and systems engineering, and that is at the heart of why these things do not work.

No wonder the SAP CEO is really pushing the idea of the industrialization of the software development process. Better code comes through better processes. Standardisation, automation and the division of labour. It has driven productivity improvement in almost every other industry and profession, and he is convinced it will do the same here.

2.0 Job boards and why Techcrunch and GigaOM don’t get it.

Michael Arrington over at Techcrunch and Crunchnotes has started a job-board. Why not, one may ask? He is an a-list blogger, presides over much of the what is cool and uncool in the Web 2.0 space, is a very interesting read and gets stacks of traffic of the sort that look for tech jobs. OM Malik has done the same, and Michael is a bit put out that they didn’t do it in partnership. He levels the lowest of 2.0 insults, the 1.0 thinking label, shudder, with the wall building double whammy blow. thump…

 I decided to have a look at the techcrunch offering first. There are several rather nice jobs advertised already, including one at Microsoft. (note to my employer I’m not looking for another job, this was merely professional curiosity) Michael has posted on the stats here.

Working in HR software for the last 15 years or so, and being foolish enough to attempt an HR related startup in 2000 (in this very space) I was intrigued to see what the high priests of 2.0 would provide as a job board. Me being all enterprisey and 1.0 I was expecting to be wowed by all sorts of web 2.0 stuff.

I was hoping for.

1.Feeds to enable posting from corporate and other boards. (HR-XML based), maybe even automated payment methods, price by click through options and micropayments

2. A simple application form tool, allowing applicants to easily enter CVs -resumes and speed routing to the correct recruiter. Maybe even with options to include your linkedin profile, your blog, myspace, or your opensource contributions. (perhaps exploiting some of the technologies developed for dating services?) Search widgets

3. A solid privacy policy, maybe with some neat anonymization features. (So that you dont find your current employer knowing that you are looking, or your data sold on who knows where.)

4. Reporting to show the value of 200 dollars a month. (number of reads, applicants etc)  perhaps real-time,  and open so I can drop the results into my recruitment system or financial application?

5. a cool and wacky 2.0 why didn’t I think of that thing “you enterprisey fossil?” moment

I didn’t see any of these. All I saw was rudimentary posting form, with the same old same old mail your CV to the recruiter, or worse head over to xyz.careers.com to apply.

Simply put it is very 1.0 circa 1997.

Michael commented, “I imagined an API for entering jobs, and an API for outputting jobs, that could be displayed anywhere” and also “Job boards are trivially easy to build”

If Michael had done just a  teeny weeny bit of research first, he would have seen that the open-apis that he wants are right there, ready and waiting.

There is a lot of work going on with open apis for job board posting, as most  in the HR space know. Check out HR-XML for details. There has been a XML standard available since 2000. This is used by many of the job boards and the recruitment applications to communicate between their applications. HR-XML is involved with the WS-I, the web-services interoperability organization.

There is much that can be improved in the recruitment process chain. After all finding a job is a pretty important thing when you don’t have one, or are unhappy in your current one. It costs employers a big wedge too. It isn’t trivial, otherwise it would be a whole lot better than it is.

I believe that web 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0 offer the potential to fundamentally reshape the recruitment space. How about resumes expressed in atom feeds, with maybe a soundbite or even video, embedded privacy policies perhaps leveraging DRM, pay on results….

This isn’t a 2.0 recruiting play. Pity, it could have been.

A simple job post board is easy to build, but the world doesn’t need another one. 

Michael would have been better served in partnering with a promising HR development crowd who understand the space,  or at least checked out a couple of cool recruiting related blogs like Cheezhead. 

I’ve recently discovered  indeed.com  and they have some v cool apis and widgets, firefox plugins, jobs by IM and trending.  they have an affiliate revenue stream. This is a pic of their typepad widget. From it you can search jobs on many boards.


How about looking up Jim over at Microsoft? He blogs up a storm on recruitment and really knows his stuff.

I had a look at OM Maliks site too, and much the same criticisms apply there. He mentions Linked in integration, but I’d expected more.

I look forward to the 2.0 versions, without walls. Leveraging your blogs to target recruitment is a clever play, but not in the way you have gone about it. Why not partner with an innovator like indeed or Jobster, instead.

It seems I’m not the only one who has doubts..


Job boardgasm


Enterprise 2.0 continues for now….

Mike Stopforth certainly started something with his wikipedia entry for Enterprise 2.0.

The debate about the validity of the entry makes for an interesting read, and it has given me a lot of insight into how wikipedia works. All that wisdom of the crowd business. For all the finger pointing at wikipedia, the process is transparent. My opinion of wikipedia is higher now than when it was first deleted.

If the entry is eventually removed, it will be after a through debate and discussion. Neologism is now something I have an opinion on. Dan Farber provides a good summary of the debate. Check out Crispy to follow how it develops.

Some of my “irregular” colleagues  have asked you all to go out and vote for the wikipedia entry on enterprise 2.0. The choice of the word “vote” was  inappropriate according the wikipedians, but their intent is a good one. 

The important lesson I’m learning from all this is that the term itself is not that important. I’m not a great fan of anything labelled 2.0, it has the whiff of prefixing with an e,  adding .com to a company name, or dropping vowels to seem trendy, but actually it is because someone else has the domain name you really would have liked.  I’d much rather we had a different term, but for now, it is the best one we have.  ( Peter Ripp has a funny take on 2.0)

For what? Well there is a shift happening in enterprise computing, and like any shift it is hard to define it when you are in the middle of it. 

Andrew McAfee’s original definition focused on the use of freeform, social computing in the enterprise. In his words,

Enterprise 2.0 is the use of emergent social software platforms within companies, or between companies and their partners or customers.

Vinnie thinks this is too narrow, and we need to look at the changes beyond the impact of just “social computing.”

I’m not sure which definition I like. McAfee’s definition is more tangible, and allows for co-existence with other enterprise applications, Whereas Vinnie is talking about complete change of all enterprise applications – revolutionary stuff.

But here in starship enterprisey I think we are starting to get the message. There are new forms of computing emerging, and they are having an effect in the enterprise space. I’m looking forward to seeing HR applications do org charting based on social networks inside organisations, and the email torrent ebbing to a manageable flow as wikis and RSS take hold behind the firewall. But, like Vinnie, I see another change coming, bringing a new set of competitors, new technologies and new business models.

I’d like to see the Enterprise 2.0 term stay in wikipedia. It is in a way, a counterpoint to enterprisey, which does have an entry. The way for the term to stick around though, is for it to get more traction in the real world. Whether the term enterprise 2.0 has staying power is for the wikipedia gods and the neologism factories at the analyst firms to decide.

The forces that Vinnie and Andrew discuss though, are already tangible. Companies like Socialtext exist, and the tools that help build web 2.0 are being deployed behind the firewalls as we speak.

Jerry Bowles commented in the delete debate at Wikipedia.

Enterprise 2.0 is an important concept that is (not?) going to go away simply because it does or does not meet the Wikipedia gatekeepers’ criteria for inclusion at this time. It represents the most important and potentially disruptive business challenge since the advent of modern management

After all the SOA plumbing work of the last few years, I expect this big SAP elephant to start leading the charge.

More on Corporate Social Responsibility

Dennis asked me in a recent comment for examples of companies doing stuff with CSR. The FT kindly obliged on friday by publishing an interview with Wayne Murdy, CEO of Newmont Mining and the chairman of the International Council on Mining and Metals. (Hat tip, James)

This point hits home.

For companies, maximising local benefits and reducing poverty is simply a matter of enlightened self-interest.

In the article he notes that mining companies have a responsibility to the countries in which they operate, and he highlights the EITI (Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative)  the EITI looks very interesting, as it is a combined effort by “developed countries”, resource rich countries, NGOs and large corporates to address the tragedy that is “poor but resource rich countries”.

The mining companies have realised that a sustainable social fabric is vital. Without that stability, it makes mining investment a tricky business.

As the Shell website puts it.

Oil revenues can transform developing countries by invigorating economic growth and funding social services such as schools and hospitals. But managed badly they can have the opposite effect: stimulating corruption and conflict.

The Shell CEO , Jeroen van der Veer commented

“If we get it right, transparency will create a virtuous circle where improved governance encourages more investment – which in turn leads to improved and sustained economic and social development.”

Also, the UN’s Principles for Responsible Investment looks promising. There is of course, a long way to go. NGO’s such as Global Witness are key in making us aware of the issues, and bringing the unsavory examples to the table.

Shell’s reporting page is more than just window dressing. The modern CEO needs to manage and report on more than just Q1 sales. Those designing software to aid reporting should take note.

It isnt just the mines and the oil companise that take this seriously. I have just been over on HP’s site. Check out HP’s position on global warming. This is more than just some attempt to sell pc’s to green types.  HP also publish a GRI report  This diagram is from the report

So Dennis, there are lots of companies investing serious executive time and shareholders’ money into CSR efforts. It makes good business sense to invest in broader societal issues, because without a functioning broader society, you have no business.

My little browse this evening. (There is zip on German TV tonight1) lead me to the opendemocracy website. I’ll be reading more about the sustainable development and capitalism debate, and I may have to add this to my reading list.

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reducing payroll complexity and TCO (SAP related)

A slightly geeky SAP HR (sorry mySAP ERP HCM as the one voice police insist it is called) post.

Exciting stuff for a Friday afternoon, especially if you are a payroll person.

Over on SDN there is a new payroll tool worth having a look at.  I heard about this a little while ago as a prototype so it is nice to see it in anger now. It is also interesting to see that we are using SDN a delivery channel for it. 

The tool apparently makes new and existing payroll installations more stable, less expensive to operate, and easier to configure. It simplifies payroll configuration, speeds up error diagnostics, and improves efficiency of payroll maintenance and operations. The tool keeps track of configuration changes, eliminates transport conflicts that can potentially bring down production instances, pinpoints errors that are tricky and time consuming to fix, and speeds up verification of payroll runs to confirm changes in configuration, LCPs, HRSP, and upgrade of payroll systems.

Hopefully it does what it says on the tin. It does look a whole lot better than the normal  stuff in payroll, but then beauty is in the eye of the beholder. As customer once told me, I don’t care what the payroll looks like, if it runs correctly, it is beautiful. If you are using it, let me know what you think. 

You can watch the SAP TV movie too, it includes a demo.  (Watch out youtube, here comes SAP TV…)

Anything that lowers the cost of what Vinnie calls “utility computing” is goodness.

Payroll is one of those “utilities” that isnt hip or trendy, but that needs to work every time.  We have several 100 people working in development maintaining the rules for over 50 countries. This is one of those big projects Charles mentioned the other day. There are very few companies that have been able to pull the expertise together to build and maintain this sort of thing. 

I also like the way this new tool sits on top of your existing payroll and makes it easier to use etc. It means you dont have to touch what is already working.

There are many gems in SDN. Just watch them come out and sparkle.

Duet and Coffee with Udo.

I’m getting old. Well, not really that old, but I felt it this morning. I had coffee with Udo Waibel, the development lead for the Duet project. I met Udo about 10 years ago when he was a uni student doing his work assignment at SAP (He built a travel expenses app in excel that interfaced with SAP, so in a sense he has been working on Duet for 10 years, on and off).

He then moved into ESS development and has since scaled the dizzy heights of development, being heavily involved with X-apps. We had a bit of a chat about SAP politics (as one does.)  For one so young, he is rather wise. If you are going to Teched, look him up.

We talked a lot about Duet though. Customer take up is excellent, and development is going better than expected. I was pleasantly suprised at what’s around the corner. Lots of language support, lots more scenarios and so on.

Something that he mentioned that I didn’t see in all the marketing blurb is that it is dead easy to publish any SAP report via Duet, so any classic SE38 report can be distributed via Duet. Cool. Think on-line payslip, think budget exceptions and so on.  He promised that they would be a number of “how-to” guides coming out to help early adopters do more with Duet. SDN will be a major channel for Duet knowledge, so keep an eye out there, and on the Duet.com site Personally I reckon the excel related features of Duet will be very useful, probably even more than outlook. imagine using excel etc for compensation planning, but with real-time data, and synchronisation with master data….

Duet just won an award from computer world, The Computerworld Horizon Awards were established last year to alert readers to especially cutting-edge technologies from research labs and companies that are “on the horizon.”  This was voted on by CIOs so hopefully those that think we don’t do innovation will pause for just a moment and check it out.

Corporate Social Responsibility isn’t just blah blah..

The Mckinsey Quarterly and its on-line siblings are simply brilliant. They reflect and polish the image of the firm, are well researched, thorough, very useful, and a pleasant read. (Would be even better if the site was RSS enabled)

It is easy to be cynical about CSR, see it as nice padding in the annual report. There is more too it than that though.

Being Political Science graduate who somehow ended up in the software industry, I have always had an interest in the relationship between corporations and society. Much of my university time was spent discussing the complex relationship between capitalism and apartheid. (It isn’t as simple as it first seems.)  At least in the South African economy, a firm grasp of socio-political issues and their implications, together with action is key to business success. The Milton Friedmann business of business is business argument just doesn’t wash back home.

It is also being challenged elsewhere too. Read what the Management guru Henry Mintzberg has to say.  and the discussion at Harvard here. 

Back to Mckinsey: they recently published a series of articles on CSR (when social issues become strategic), and they are well worth reading. I found the MD, Ian Davis, especially enlightening. He says…

  • The case for incorporating an awareness of social and political trends into corporate strategy has become overwhelming.
  • Issues such as privacy, obesity, offshoring, and the safety of pharmaceutical products can alter an industry’s ground rules, and the financial and reputational impact of mishandling these issues can be huge. But they also create new market opportunities that nimble companies can exploit.
  • Companies should look for signs of emerging hot topics, be ready to respond to them early, and place a series of small strategic bets that will create value if the social and political landscape shifts.
  • CEOs must be willing to ensure that different parts of their own organizations are united behind a coherent approach, to engage in external debate, and to consider collaboration with others.

The survey also makes compelling reading   see exhibit 4 for the key issues. (It is a fancy flash graphic which has so far defied my attempts to link to it)   The report notes.

Executives around the world overwhelmingly embrace the idea that the role of corporations in society goes far beyond simply meeting obligations to shareholders, according to the latest McKinsey Quarterly global survey.But executives also say that, for most companies, sociopolitical issues—such as environmental concerns and the effects of offshoring—present real risks. Indeed, finding ways to control them is so important, the executives say, that the effective management of sociopolitical concerns must start with the CEO.

While looking through Technorati I found an Interesting post  about what Timberland do.This is what the  CEO of Timberland, Jeff Schwartz  has to say:

And so, where it was once a great risk for business to step up and engage in matters of social justice, environmental stewardship and global human rights, it’s time to take a greater risk – to step outside our comfort zones and work to make our impact in these areas in ways that are stronger, deeper, more powerful and more thoughtful. It’s incumbent upon us to do this for two reasons:

We have the ability. If we, as businesses, applied the same level of innovation, passion and determination to corporate social responsibility as we do to product development, sales and marketing, the results would be phenomenal. And why shouldn’t we? In the business world, “good enough” rarely is; we’re always working to make it better. There’s no reason why the standards should be any less for our CSR efforts.

The world desperately needs it. Never before has the notion of sustainability been so prevalent – the idea that we must consider the consequences of our actions not on tomorrow, but on the world we leave behind for generations to come. And while making a conscious effort to reduce our negative impact on the environment and our communities is a good first step, doing “less bad” isn’t enough. We’ve got to start doing more good – to try to repair some of the damage that has already been done and invest in positive, sustainable change.

Some of my questions, (more to follow someother time)

What are the issues software companies should be focussing on? Sun has recently started marketing eco-servers. Is this just a cynical, irrelevant ploy, or will they become the Toyota prius success story? Should the industry concerned about the impact that computer processing has on energy demands? Should software designers care about this too? Can programs, like light bulbs, be more energy efficient?

Privacy and security were ranked #5 on the list. Should software companies be doing more in these areas? If so what? Loss of privacy is an externality that is currently not adequately regulated for – will this change? What about Google and other search players? I’ve mentioned this before.

What are business schools doing to educate future leaders? Is the focus too much on quantitative stuff, and the shareholder primacy dogma?  This is a criticism that Henry Mintzberg has leveled here. (more on this another day) How should ethics and CSR be taught and researched?

What tools and measures are needed to report on CSR? how can we be transparent without undermining competitive advantage? How can CSR actvities be communicated to broader society and the market in clear, hype-free, believable language? What standards should be used to measure CSR?

Is the Global Reporting Initiative,  GRI, the answer? (GRI’s vision is that reporting on economic, environmental, and social performance by all organizations is as routine and comparable as financial reporting.)

I have recently read Sumantra Ghosal on Management, A force for good. He was a brilliant management thinker, and he provides a thought provoking challenge to management theory. He challenges the greed is good mentality and suggests that a lot of management theory is based on incorrect assumptions about humanity. 

Part of the reason why this is on my mind is that I’m organising our 1st Chief HR Officer roundtable at the moment, and the theme is “Employee Engagement and Sustainability in Europe.” If you would like to find out more, drop me a note. Thomas[dot]Otter[at]SAP[com]

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Wikipedia, Nicholas Carr, Andrew McAfee and Enterprise 2.0 nuked..

Nicholas Carr is currently infected with the wikipediaitis malady. It is a rare affliction, in that it creates an uncontrollable urge to mention wikipedia in almost every post.  I’m afraid that Andrew McAfee’s post from today may bring about a more widespread outbreak. I have caught it, and I expect it to spread rapidly amongst the Enterprise 2.0 community.

Wikipedia nuked Mike Stopforth’s entry on Enterprise 2.0. I thought it was a great start at building a useful reference source, and I was vaguely thinking of contributing myself. “I can’t cut the lawn, dear, because I’m adding to the world’s greatest knowledge store.”

If you look to the deletion discussion Andrew, you are the creator of a:

Neologism of dubious utility. I can find examples of it’s use online but there doesn’t seem to be a consensus on what it means other than “sort of like Web2.0, but businessy

This is a level of arrogance that even I can only dream of aspiring to. 

So other than a couple of articles in HBO and SMR, a good number of people talking about it, companies actually doing it, and people like Ross, who by all accounts makes a good living out of it, what does one need to do to keep an entry?

Oh dear I feel a long post about George Orwell and unthink and peasants and castles coming on. Help.


I see I’m not the only one that this irked…. Dennis McDonald has more.

And Jason too.

HR Shared Services story

I normally don’t use this blog to crow about deals and stuff, but I couldn’t resist sharing this one with you.

A colleague forwarded me this link to an AMR report about HR Shared Services at Diageo.  (thanks AMR)  It is a good story of the challenges and successes of this sort of project, but you can guess which paragraph I like best…

I met with the Diageo HR team recently, and it is a fascinating company. The real credit for the project should go to them-

They have a brilliant perk, a company bar that is trendier than most nightclubs. More companies should have these. Then I would get out more.

Great products, great company.