Thinking about Ubuntu, but not just the Unix sort.

Warning. Vendorprisey gets deep and meaningful, some may say soft in the head.

I’m sitting at Frankfurt airport, making use of the excellent (free for T-online DSL customers) wifi. This post has been lingering in the back of my mind for a while. A delayed flight seems the ideal time to finish it.

I find myself reading a lot of South African blogs, well I tend to start at Mike Stopforth’s blog and follow his link trail.  I think he nails the zeitgeist of social computing , while at the same time linking to interesting broader  South African topics.  (Having grown up in South Africa it will always be part of me, wherever I live. My good lady describes this rather well.)

Mike wrote a super post about selling enterprises on social computing, and it is worth a read for anyone anywhere selling or thinking about selling  enterprise 2.0.

Maybe I was reading too much into it, and I’ll tread carefully here,  but one thing irked me. It was the phrase “especially in South Africa” It smacked of the  “tip of Africa chip.”  I used to have it, but moving to Europe cured me.

I have worked in South Africa, Germany, the UK and the US, and I’ve visited big enterprisey customers all over the world, and some of the world’s best ERP implementations are in South Africa.The top SA customers are often first to implement the new bleeding edge stuff. Visit any Sapphire, and you will find SA companies showcasing stuff that the Americans and the Germans haven’t yet figured out.  Companies like SAB are our toughest, but most valuable customers. 

Thinking about the social in social software and social media…

I’m by no means a social media expert, but I do lurk on the edges of the social media collective. (For a real expert check out Jeremiah who works at Podtech)

Most software folks outside SA,  when they hear the term Ubuntu think of  world class open source Linux, but if you look at the Zulu word, it pretty much encapsulates everything that the cluetrain, social software  and enterprise 2.0  are trying to achieve and a whole lot more. In western English we need long paragraphs and new buzz words with numerical suffixes to describe this. Collaboration and emergence  seem counter intuitive after centuries of individualism and control structures, both in the social and the corporate sense. 

Graphic  from the Ubuntu website. ubuntu definition

I know zip about Linux, but I can’t help but be awed by Mark Shuttleworth.  

At Wits Business School I had the luck to be lectured by Peter Christie.   He is an expert on Ubuntu (not Linux) I wish he had more on the web but I stumbled on this paper the other day about storytelling  that quotes him

Sitting around the fire later that evening, over the cauldron, and having sacrificed Arrogante to the ancestors, the wise elder and the wise hunter looked deeply into each other, knowing that only when the eyes see can the mouth speak and the ears hear. Then they began to drum and they began to chant, quietly and alone at first, then louder and louder, and together with all their brothers and sisters, elder and hunter alike. The spirit of ubuntu had been resurrected in the Ndabandaba, and the tribe sang out their praises.

“If I see you, and you see me, together we’ll the richer be.”
“If I see you, and you see me, together we’ll the richer be.”

“If I see you, and you see me, together we’ll the richer be.”

So thereafter for the Ndbandaba tribe, with the spirits of the ancestors appeased, never were the yields more plentiful, the hunts more bountiful and the times more prosperous.

We read a lot about the competitive advantages of India, China, London or the Valley.  Yet African storytelling and community could teach Western Europe and the US a lot more about social media, blogging and the cluetrain than we realise.  Social media isn’t really about wikis and blogs, it is about telling stories and listening to them.  Watch the master here.

It is on the Ubuntu CD, of all places…

I don’t think it is a fluke that the most successful and talked about cluetrain consumer marketing success is a South African winemaker, StormhoekHugh is the main storyteller, sure, but Stormhoek bet their brand on this.

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Well done

On this blog I have been known to cast doubt upon APEX and Appexchange and on the omnipotence of the pure SaaS priesthood  I’ve not moved from that position.

But I’m really impressed with SFDC’s stance on energy emissions and philantropic efforts.

(Salesforce) announced Earthforce – an initiative to create a carbon neutral in 2007. In taking important key steps in becoming a carbon neutral corporation, the Foundation will work to neutralize the effect of’s corporate greenhouse gas emissions from its major areas of carbon consumption – its office locations, corporate travel and data centers. This will be done through the strategic purchase of carbon offsets with the help of Clean Air-Cool Planet, NativeEnergy and Conservation International. In taking this first, important step in becoming a carbon-neutral company, and the Foundation recognize that energy conservation and sustainability are vital parts of doing business in the 21st century.


Salesforce’s philanthropic efforts go right back to its early days, so I can’t dismiss the  power-of-us announcement as opportunistic.

The San Francisco-based Foundation said the program would help partners learn how to implement an integrated philanthropy model – similar to its 1/1/1/1 model – to help serve the nonprofit sector and facilitate the donation of their services through existing nonprofit customers. The 1/1/1/1 model stands for 1 percent of product, 1 percent of an employee’s time, 1 percent of equity and being one with the earth, all of which combine to make an effective impact on the global community.


They have managed to effectively communicate their CSR position to the market. 

More respect.



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Dad, stop using my Wii to play that SAP game.

I drifted over to SDN this evening as German TV was about as interesting as watching cement set. 

Have a look at what the guys at Colgate Palmolive are upto.

Using our newfound shiny object, we just had to experiment and introduce the Wii to the enterprise. We decided to integrate the Wii remote with an existing Ruby on Rails application connecting to an SAP BW backend

I remember as part of the developer challenge a couple of months ago some top SAP developers had experimented with the Wii, but to see customer developers  doing this means a lot more. 

This seems like fun, but it got me thinking.

1. The SAP ecosystem rocks.  These guys could probably get dates, but this is what they spent their Friday evening doing.

2. The world of the GUI will change faster  than most of us imagine.

3. SAP, Ruby on Rails and the Wii. Next time someone says SAP isn’t open I’ll suggest the pop over and talk to Ed, Dan and Mark 

4. Nintendo may have a business opportunity. 

5. Dan may have started to answer his own challenge.

6. There is masses of innovation going on in our customer base. We need to do a better job at uncovering and nurturing it, but SDN is a great place to start.  Customers telling their own story, in their own words beats a brochure anyday.

Thanks guys.  

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Performance management, Berlin, and an acquisition….

A big part of my job is helping SAP customers connect with each other. This week on Thursday and Friday I’m facilitating a workshop on performance and organisational management in Berlin.  The focus is on performance, mbos, objective setting, bonuses  and the like, and how to make these work better.  Practical, nitty-gritty HR reality. 

The agenda looks great, with speakers from Shell, Danfoss, InfoHRM, Institute of Employment Studies,  SAP internal HR, Henkel… full agenda here. It is a chance for HR professionals  and experts to learn from each other, mainly through conversation really. Product features are not on the agenda, but experience is.  (drop me a note if you want more details) 

  For those that knock best practice, we aren’t blindly suggesting there is “one best practice”  but  hopefully by bringing customers together we help them realise that gosh someone else had a similar challenge as I have today, and they fixed it. 

My colleague Jürgen Daum will pick up on the need for HR and Finance to collaborate better. Finance performance management tends to ignore people factors, and HR often loses the connection to the business drivers. Both can learn from each other.

Being off the grid last week in Les Gets,  I read very few posts, but I did read James’s take on the SAP acquisition of Pilot  He nails it.  

Pilot is a nice bite-sized chunk for SAP, with plenty of room for upside growth- it only has 150 customers now, but with access to SAP’s salesforce and distribution channels we can expect significant growth in the near and long term, because organisational overlaps are minimal.

For those who like sentences with lots of commas and subordinating conjunctions here is the official press release.

Jonathan Becher,  CEO at Pilot has a blog,  check it out. -especially the post about teaching elephants to dance.  Here at SAP we could always do with some dancing lessons.  It would be fabulous if Jonathan and his team could wander over to SDN-BPX in the analytics corner too. 

I also  look forward to seeing how Pilot  and SAP HCM performance management can work together, because the HR performance management space is really hot at the moment.  I’m interested in Jim’s  and Jason’s take on this.

SAP’s acquisition strategy isn’t about buying customers or “securing” maintenance revenue streams. It is about filling white spots in our product offering quicker than we could build it, and bringing in an outside-in thinking to starship enterprisey. 

All that SOA stuff that we keep harping on about helps SAP integrate this sort of acquisition at a technical level faster, making this sort of “tuck-in” move much more viable. Take GRC as an example.  With Virsa we have been able to make huge technical integration strides in a very short period, expand the solution and also effectively ramp up the field to sell and support it.   With this experience I’m confident that we can do the same with Pilot.


Niel is Netweavered

Great to see that Niel’s company, Newmerix has received the Powered by SAP NetWeaver certification for its Automate!Change product.

Since Automate!Change has been successfully deployed in the field for many years now, we were confident in the product’s capabilities and the internal process to achieve the certification” said Niel Robertson, Chief Technology Officer, Newmerix. “That said, SAP’s certification was a rigorous process, but the interaction with the SAP team generated new ideas for future product

Read the whole press release here. 

Newmerix focuses on reducing the cost of running and maintaining enterprise applications. They have an impressive customer list. I mailed Niel for a little more detail.

Our SAP strategy is shaping up in two paths. For those that want to use Solution Manager but need to enhance SAP capabilities with process centric transports, auditing, compliance management, separation of duties controls, web interfaces to approvals, impact analysis, advance reporting, etc.. we fit into SolMan nicely. For those that have more than SAP and want to only use SolMan to get patches and interface with SAP support they can use our Control product which integrates down into our A!CS product (the one that is certified) and run everything from one cross-ISV web interface. It’s a pretty slick setup.

They will be at the the GRC event in Las Vegas.

There is a lot of work going on at SAP and in the partner community (esp with HP I believe)  to lower the cost of running, maintaining and upgrading systems. 

Niel and Cote should chat. Niel has been busy it seems, but it is time he started blogging again.

I’d be keen to hear more about how we stack up against Oracle etc in this space.

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Talking about privacy

Cool. The European Privacy Counsel at Google, Peter Fleischer,  has a blog. And it is a good one. I found the  post on three ideas to update data protection especially interesting, as yours truly’s slowest PhD ever is looking at the failings of Data Protection Law, SOX and software.

Peter notes.

However, several principles of EU privacy law are out of date and need to be adapted to the global information economy. Foremost among these are the restrictions on transfer of personal data outside the EU. In past years, such transfer meant packing a computer tape or paper files into a box and shipping them to a far away location. However, nowadays almost any activity on the internet involves a transfer of data outside of the EU, so that strict application of these laws would cause the Internet to shut down

This post was lurking in my livewriter unfinished,  but the coverage by Dennis and James of the FSA fine of Nationwide, made me think about finishing it.

Dennis notes:

The FSA is clearly taking coaching lessons from the SEC, dishing out harsh fines for accidents and mistakes. The latest miscreant, Nationwide Building Society, got slapped with a £980,000 penalty after a laptop which contained sensitive customer data was stolen. The fine would have been £1.4 million but they were given a 30% early settlement discount

Dennis picks up on the audit failure angle in the case, and James and I both have an interest in Data Protection law and its lack of teeth.

James notes.

I recently wrote that from a shareholder value perspective it makes very little sense for companies trading primarily in the UK to invest significantly in more effective data protection controls because of a lack of penalties for not doing so. While it seems the Information Commissioner has done some useful lobbying work in this space lately, he has just been made to look rather ineffectual by the Financial Services Authority.

The size of the fine is impressive, masses bigger than anything the DP authorities have ever levied. 

Returning to DP law, the the lost laptop clearly falls foul of the 7th Principle of the Act.

7. Appropriate technical and organisational measures shall be taken against unauthorised or unlawful processing of personal data and against accidental loss or destruction of, or damage to, personal data

I’m not aware of any DP prosecutions for lost laptops. (If you know of any, please drop me a note btw If you follow UK technology law, then Nakedlaw is a must read.)

I’m all for a stricter implementation of privacy law. Why have a law if you can’t- won’t enforce it? If it had been a company outside of the financial services sector, and therefore FSA regulation, then who would have fined them?  I suspect that the FSA’a budget dwarfs that of the Information Commissioner.

Another James  commented on James’ post, and linked to  Ben Adida’s presentation.   It is well worth a watch, it is a short sharp introduction into why privacy matter.  Ben’s site is here, and his blog here.  He is now in my feed.

 The other day James wrote about the Sun Privacy Team, another worthwhile read.  Gosh, so much to read….

My prediction, warning:  I’m not great at predictions.

In about 10 years time, Privacy will be the new Green.

If you are interested in my thoughts on privacy and software, I recently had a paper published in the Computer Law and Security Report.  






SAP succession….and gravy

I tend to avoid publishing SAP press releases (unless I’m complaining about them) on my blog, especially as you can now get them with an RSS feed from 

The SAP succession thingy has been debated over on the Enterprise Irregulars Google group.  I kept silent, not because I had some deep inside knowledge of the decision, but because I’m really rubbish at speculation.   Also I’d probably be breaching a million laws and employment contract stuff. 

Vinnie and Dan had their theories on the SAP succession, but the news out is that Kagermann’s CEO contract has been extended til 2009.  

Folks seem to forget that SAP has managed several CEO changes in the past. First from Dietmar Hopp to Hasso Plattner, and then to Henning Kagermann, and for significant periods  SAP successfully ran with a joint CEOs.  SAP succession is quite boring really. Now Oracle’s succession, that could be a movie, or a modern intepretation of a Shakespearean  play. 


 Vinne doesn’t like our gravy.  Today we didn’t have any gravy, but yesterday…


And lovely it was too, though not quite up to the Google menu. 

While we are on press releases, the one from yesterday was rather nice too. especially when combined with Dennis’ Valentine.


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rethinking marketing

I’ve mentioned before that Wiki has really taken off here at SAP.  Every time I go and look, it has grown in leaps and bounds.  Perhaps Tesha and co should give Andrew McAfee a tour, as he is always on the look out for examples of emergence in action. The internal Wiki at SAP is probably as good an example as you’ll find anywhere. The one on SDN is pretty damn good too. Have a look

Over the last few months I’ve become fascinated by  ” social media in the Enterprise” adoption,  because I think it is starting  to fundamentally change how software is developed, supported  and marketed.  It is why I lurk on the fringes of the social media collective, and watch podtech every now and then.

Having been successful in the enterprise software for 35 odd years, some folks would think that a startup wiki vendor couldn’t teach SAP  much about selling and marketing to the enterprise.  I think those folks are so wrong. 

Read this post from Jeffrey Walker, President of Atlassian, titled how to ruin a perfectly fine product with marketing. It is sobering yet refreshing stuff, and a cunning plan.

He begins.

We’re about to release a new product, and someone asked how we are gearing up our marketing for its introduction. The answer is we’re not.

And concludes.

Introduce your marketing once you really have a grip on how people outside your company view your product.

He also has some wise and witty words about Google and Microsoft.

Yes, at this moment – fleeting as it may be — I do like both Microsoft and Google. Why? Because they are about to commoditize wikis for the masses and educate another 10 – 50 million people on wikis. In rather different ways. Wikis, which without doubt are one of the two killer apps to emerge from Web 2.0 Wonderland, along with blogs, will be spread and will benefit from the massive marketing budgets and reach of the Evil Empire and Do No Evil.

No wonder Atlassian is doing well.