I don’t work for a Dinosaur – a response to Peter Rip.

Reading what VC’s think is a good idea, I recommend it, especially for us corporate sorts. I read Peter Rip’s post on enterprise 2.0 via Charlie Wood this morning, and there are a couple of things that I’d like to pick up on.

I agree with a lot of what he says…for instance:

Enterprise 2.0 is not just web 2.0.  As Zoli once commented “Web 2.0, collaboration is great, it has it’s place in the Enterprise, but so do those “ugly complex” transactional systems.  Don’t try to run your supply chain on a wiki”

Enterprise 2.0 is a meaningful and significant space.

The Gartner coverage of enterprise 2.0 is not their best work

Some users will play a greater role in “building” their “own” applications.

Web 2.0 companies are unlikely to be the dominant Enterprise 2.0 players

Where I disagree.

1. Dispense with the sociology. Over the last 150 years, lots of clever minds have studied how people organise themselves, and understanding the corporation is a significant component of that research. Naive assumptions about sociology is precisely why many KM projects fail.  Over-simplifying organisation development and sociology is just plain dumb. We need more sociology in software not less.

I don’t think LAMP, Rails etc is the defining factor. Collaboration in the workplace is not about a particular technology, the plumbing, as McAfee rightly calls it. Today these may be the primary tools used to build “2.0” applications, but they aren’t the only ones.  The need to collaborate will be around long after we expire. It is unlikely that LAMP etc will. 

2. I’m really really sick and tired of SAP being called a Dinosaur. Just because we don’t drop everything and jump on every bandwagon going through town we are labelled Dinosaurs. Dinosaurs are extinct but SAP is definitely not, the business is growing, anad has a P/E ratio that implies that the market thinks it will continue growing.

I’ll take a bet that SAP will embrace enterprise 2.0, and do a damn good job, and make serious revenue with it. The internal adoption of enterprise 2.0 via wiki projects is rocketing, and this will have a huge impact on the way we think about enterprise applications. Spend some time in SDN, and you will see what I mean.

In every major technology and application wave over the last 30 years, SAP has thrived and grown stronger. It may not be the first, but when it gets something figured out, then things really happen. Look at the switch from mainframe to client-server, Unix, NT, the B2B bubble, Globalisation, CRM, Supply chain, HR, BI and now SOA. I don’t  know why “2.0” will be any different, if we continue to apply our best minds to the challenge, work with the best customer base and partners in the world and keep our Schumpeter mantra (Kagermann quotes him a lot).  What Plattner said 9 years ago still stands here in starship enterprisey.

”The challenge is to permanently question ourselves, to be awake, to be agile, to learn,” says Plattner. ”When you see you have to do something, you have to react quickly and not fight it.”

The metaphor of dinosaur and meteor is not a bad one. Most of the time though, SAP is the meteor.

3. Spreadsheets. The only people I know who like spreadsheets are accountants. Writing macros is up there with getting telesales calls in the middle of reading  children’s bedtime stories in my book.

4. In some industries and jobs, user built applications will thrive, but I don’t see major mission critical core processes moving this way anytime soon. Most people who work in enterprises think of O’Reilly is a pub rather than a publisher.

I think the role of the process owner is vital. I see process owners taking a much greater ownership of the process design, being more application aware, and demanding more from their IT department and their vendors.  Lets call this enterprise 1.5…..see the examples from Technidata in environmental product compliance (EPC). I wont call this a mashup, but it is a significant process centric application that leverages multi datasources, open apis…..

Go ahead and write SAP off in the Enterprise 2.0 space. But it is a big rock if it lands on you.

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10 thoughts on “I don’t work for a Dinosaur – a response to Peter Rip.”

  1. Now that has to be one of the best things I’ve read all day,

    “The metaphor of dinosaur and meteor is not a bad one. Most of the time though, SAP is the meteor.”

    and it holds more truth than anything of I read today!


  2. Count me in as another who is sick of the endless blabber about the “plumbing”. While significant innovation is happening in the technology stack space, we should remember that the technology stack is just a set of tools. Whether significant productivity gains due to improved collaboration will emerge as a result of this technology, is to my mind a completely open question.

    I suppose that I should be immune to the technology hype cycle by now, but I guess I’m not. Still, I wish that people would take a page from Jerry Maguire and Show Me the Applications! I am sick and tired of technology looking for a problem, how about looking at the problems and finding a technology to solve them for a change?

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  4. I agree. This is a great post.

    While I ‘dispense with the sociology’, I think social communication is essential. I just don’t think enterprises are democracies. Not all communication is equally important, valid, or warranted. So much of Consumer Web 2.0 has this overtone of giving everyone a voice.

    Also, the dinosaur/plankton dichotomy was not meant to insult either party, but to provide a contrast. If I offended you or anyone else in the discourse, I apologize.

    Above all, yours is an excellent response and I appreciate it.

  5. Peter.
    No offence taken, or meant in return…
    (I can cope with whale, elephant or gorilla, it is just dinosaur that irked me)

    Sociology doesnt mean democracy in my book, it is the study of how society functions. The more we can learn from other disciplines the better…

  6. Hi Thomas,
    As an ex-SAP guy, I appreciate your position. Much as we may try to rebut the “Dino” tag, guess there is value in understanding the anxiety in many such references. Its not as though the dino-taggers wish SAP bad. Guess what SAP does ALL the time when a new Technology or a stream of thought breaks open is to try and fiddle it in its traditional product spaces. For instance, in the “2.0” tango, SAP does stand to benefit by listening to the “vibes” specifically in the SME segment. Even in the Large enterprise space, SAP also makes the mistake of “beloning” itself to the data-transaction systems. Enterprises are bigger than just SCM, CRM and such core processes. There are many other aspects to enterpise and the “2.0” brings value to it and SAP will definitely stand to benfit from the “criticisms / ideas” of the community. I am sure the commuity also would praise ANY GOOD EFFORT from SAP. I am sure my vote will be there -First !

  7. I love your words, passion. But I think you are just scratching the surface. Show that you can innovate at the cost of what the web 2.0 companies are doing. Even better show your customers they can implement the stuff without legions of consultants.

    SAP and other larger vendors are still missing the seismic change. It’s not just about being able to deliver new technology. it’s also about business model innovation. Sorry, Thomas – you are still a big rock that falls on customer budgets -)

  8. Thomas: A strident defence. Good for you.

    Observations –
    Sociologists – how does this jibe with your position re: Strassmann (who said: Long on rhetoric short on facts) I’m a psych/soc major BTW.
    Dinosaurs – if you recall, they were among the most successful species on the planet – before the shrews took over. 🙂
    Spreadsheets – hmmm…you know KPMG runs an annual conference supported by the Uni of Hawaii about just how dangerous they are? KPMG are…??? And I’ve been agin speads for more than 10 years as anything other than an ad hoc what-if tool. Trouble is it’s part of the freebie (did I say that?) called Office. And I get paid to rip it to them as well hehe – but yes. Many accountants make a handsome living out of spreads.

    But…Hasso doesn’t run the show anymore. Which is a shame because he was the only one who gave a speech I felt captured the need for partnered innovation at SAPPHIRE 06. Worth a podcast re-run.

    To the more substantive points – Mehesh reflects what I’ve said consistently the last few months. And as he’s an ex-SAPper he should know better than I.

    The real problems as I see it is: SAP really has to demonstrate that it is thinking about how it responds to the new economics of commodity. It really can’t play a monetary shell game and expect customers won’t notice. And it does itself few favours by having an integration strategy thaq’s inward looking when compared to Oracle’s more inclusive view of the world. We can argue the detail. but perception as they say, is reality.

  9. Dennis,
    I need to read what Strassman said about sociology. I’m a fan of giddens,parsons, weber and co. They can teach us alot about social software.

    Mahesh’s comments are spot on. We do play in the ERP comfort zone, and if we are to be the platform, then unstructured data is a big part of the game. Look at IBM buying filenet.

    One of things about Duet that hasnt got much coverage is the excel integration. That may help solve the problems of the spreadsheet as database…

    The business models are changing, look at the BPO stuff with ADP as an example.

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