Z is for…

Zoli writes a deeply  cool blog. It is a beguiling  mix of the serious and the silly.  He is a mine of information on SaaS cloud stuff and bizarre trivia.  Once upon a time he was an SAP consultant.

It was on Zoliblog  that I first heard about Zoho.  I have not paid much attention to alternative office tools.  I have Microsoft Word on my enterprisey IBM laptop and I’ve not felt the need to try anything else at work.  At home we use  Apple iwork and it does the job. I use Livewriter to write blog posts, as I found the wordpress.com editor prone to the occasional Great Harry Houdini moment.   Perhaps though, it is time to have a play with the office in the cloud.

Over on SDN,  Craig I never sleep Cmehil has started to document his experience of integrating Zoho and SAP.  (you need to read it all)

At this point I would normally have a captive audience of 3 or 4 people so I could spin off into a little experiment I had put together. The main idea of what I did was to demonstrate how easy it was to connect my NW04s system (the one running on my laptop – that blew some minds in itself) to Zoho. Now Zoho is the leading online office suite company who were the first to launch the complete package of office style applications as well as the first to offer full Sign on and now they’ve also launched an API.

Next time someone spins me the old old SAP is hard to integrate with lament,  I’ll point them there and here.   Apparently this is SOA.

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Microsoft and the Cluetrain

This continues my thoughts and ramblings on the changing face of software marketing. I have followed Hugh’s blue monster experiment for some time.  (Hugh wants to sell wine, not Microsoft software, but it is a great way to follow grassroots marketing in action.)

I’m really impressed with what Steve Clayton at Microsoft had to say. (quote from Hugh)

The Blue Monster was designed as a conversation starter. To paraphrase the ongoing dialogue between Steve and I:

For too long, Microsoft has allowed other people tell their story on their behalf- the media, their competition and their detractors, especially- instead of doing a better job of it themselves.

We firmly believe that Microsoft must start articulating their story better- what they do, why they do it, and why it matters- if they’re to remain happy and prosperous long-term.

This is gaining some traction at Microsoft

 James Governor’s blog  pointed me to Jon Udell at Microsoft. I have raved about Channel 9 before, but I stumbled across this interview with Marty Collins. It is a great discussion on blogs and technical marketing, and I’d urge anyone interested in software marketing to have a listen. This then led me to the skyscrapr site, which Marty is also responsible for. I’ll be showing it to some folks here. I’d like to see a lot more solution managers having similar conversations. Although this is a Microsoft site, it is first and foremost about architecture. The site branding is refreshingly neutral. It looks as if they have lots of freedom with site design, no brand police with pages of rules on font sizes and logos.

The other day, David Terrar blogged about Microsoft’s SaaS platform. He didn’t link to the official MSDN site. but he linked to a blog by Gianpolo,  an architect on the team. On skyscrapr there is a behind-the-scenes look at how the solution was created, lots of demos and video. Also lurking on the Skyscrapr site is the same youtube clip about SOA that Dennis pointed to a couple of weeks ago.

This approach is so much more useful than traditional marketing collateral. More for Steve and his team to ponder on.

It seems to me that the goal of a modern marketing function shouldn’t be to  dictate, determine and control product messaging and branding, but to facilitate and encourage conversations between those that actually know stuff about the solutions and those that are looking to buy them. Those that know stuff could be the product manager or the developer, or even better, another customer using it. 

German bureaucracy, coming to your email now

I received a mail from our legal department. I’m sure similar ones are winging their way around German companies.

With the implementation of the Electronic Commercial Register, Cooperative Society Register and Company Register Act (Gesetz über elektronische Handelsregister und Genossenschaftsregister sowie das Unternehmensregister), or EHUG, which took effect January 1, 2007, in Germany, new regulations apply to the contents of business-related e-mails.

Effective immediately, all e-mails with business content must include a supplementary text that contains the following details: legal form of the company, location of the company, applicable register court, commercial register number, and for joint-stock companies the names of all members of the  Executive Board and the chairperson of the Supervisory Board.

Any infringement to this new disclosure requirement will result in fines and may also lead to additional costs incurred from written warnings. The new regulation concerns the words and meaning of all external e-mail communications with business content. It not only applies to e-mails with obvious legal content, such as offers, orders, or notices of termination, but also to any business e-mail sent outside the company. This also applies to Blackberry mails.

This means that the footer on my email is 1099 characters long.

I wonder if there will be a new government jobtitle? Elektronischeunterzeichnungkontrollebeaftrager

Changing your signature on Outlook is a mission. (tools, customise, mailformat, signature, edit….)  also it isn’t server based, so I think you need to do it on every PC you use.

I understand that this isn’t just an odd German rule, it is also an EU Directive.

UPDATE; Dear German government please accept my apologies for singling you out, the UK has also implemented a similar law. See Naked law for details

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German IT departments and SAP related innovation

Just about everytime I visit a customer, I’m impressed with the add-ons that they build on top of SAP, often with SAP tools.  Usually these remain hidden under a bushel, either deliberately (perhaps because of a perceived competitive advantage), or because no-one talks about it beyond the company borders. We vendors should do a lot more to highlight customer driven innovation, because there is lots of it out there.

Two examples of innovation.

A few years ago, many of the German Multinationals spun off their IT departments into separate companies. These firms then charge the other members of the group for their services. Some of these firms have developed successful secondary businesses providing implementation and hosting services to other companies. BASF, the world’s biggest chemical company is a good example of this BASF IT Services has a very successful SAP based payroll and HR service. They have been running SAP for years themselves, so they have turned this competence into thriving business. They run the SAP German pension engine on behalf of several other German employers, and the HR systems for many of the local towns and authorities. …  Over the years they have established themselves as a key SAP partner, especially in the German speaking market. They are growing outside of Germany too. BASF have been one of the pioneers of Kiosk based Employee Self Services in factories, and it is really impressive to see the stuff that they have added to the standard.

BASF IT Services was created in April 2001 with the consolidation of BASF’s IT units in Europe. Including the results for 2005, the subsidiary has to date made savings for the BASF Group to the tune of some 300 million euros.

Impressive, customer-driven innovation. Driving down costs for BASF Group, adding to the bottom line, and providing a service to the broader supply chain.

Just up the road from SAP is the pretty town of Weinheim. 

 

Well worth a visit if you like quaint half-timbered houses and old castles. It is also home to Freudenberg, World leaders in  seals, vibration control components, filters, automotive carpeting reinforcements, engine compartment insulation and auto headliners, lubricants and release agents. Freudenberg produces nonwovens for the textile and clothing industry  and Freudenberg nonwovens are used as carrier material for roofing membranes or for insulation and soundproofing in metal-profile ceilings. Freudenberg’s  rubber floorcoverings are laid in airports, hospitals and other public buildings. They also make really funky cleaning products. It is a family business that is probably why not many folks outside Germany know about them.

They have also spun off the IT department into a separate business called F-IT, and turned strong internal SAP competence into a successful services business.

I read today about F-IT producing a new X-app, called Dispute Management. The press release is in German, but I’ll vaguely translate a bit here.

F-IT has used the SAP Netweaver Visual Composer to built a new application, Dispute Management. The integrated SAP solution connects heterogeneous data sources, and provides a user friendly graphical interface.  The solution has been certified by SAP as part of the SAP xApps (Packaged composite Applications framework.)

This is great. Customer-driven innovation, using SAP tools.  I’d love to see more companies doing what F-IT has done, take in-house SAP competence and turn it into a valuable service, or better still product. 

The German SAP consulting market is highly competitive, partly because of this IT service company model. It probably explains why the big SIs have less market penetration here than elsewhere.

 

SOA and complexity.

This continues my simplicity series (rant).

Joe has a very interesting post over on ZDNET. If you are in Enterprise Software marketing, you should read it if it is the only thing you read this week.

He picks up on a podcast he was on with Dana GardnerSteve Garone, Joe  Neil Ward-Dutton, Jim Kobielus and Trip Chowdhry,  an equity analyst MD  at Global Equities Research.

Trip’s message is very simple and straightforward: Vendors, please start making some sense to the rest of the world when it comes to SOA. Trip said that the SOA concept holds some promise, but vendors aren’t articulating the message too well. “SOA is definitely a trend, but it seems like the messaging, the product, and everything else need to be simplified, so that people can know how one initiative can correlate and coexist with other initiatives they have going,” pointed out. 

Trip bashes SAP:

“If you think about companies like SAP who have very long implementation cycles, they have a lot of moving parts,” he explained. “It’s a complex product, and the problem that SAP has — and to some extent, most of the SOA vendors have — is that they’re trying to solve complexity with complexity.

When it comes to mass adoption — or the second phase of product adoption that needs to occur to show growth — then you really have to ease the product, ease the message. You have to tell what you do in one bullet point.

This worries me, not just for perpetuation of the SAP is slow to  implement myth, but because the the abject failure of enterprise software marketeers from all the major vendors  to articulate SOA in a way that customers and the investment community can understand.  

(I suppose the one positive from this is that Joe and co picked SAP as a SOA vendor.  Normally the analyst types moan that we aren’t SOA enough.)

I’ve been critical of the SOA marketing for sometime, here and here for instance. I commented last year.

The only thing in the world harder than learning German is trying to explain SOA to an audience of HR executives without causing them undue pain and suffering.

Business people want to talk about leaner supply chains, better margins, and fast implementations.   

Sam commented a while ago on James’ blog, the post was  discussing SOA

I’d go even further James and say that not only is it often superior to present an architecture without mentioning the supposed name of the architectural approach/style used, but often it’s best not to mention the concept of architecture at all.

The desired outcomes and value of the solution to the audience you’re talking to should press the right buttons.

Unless of course the audience is pure software people or technical architects and then their desired outcomes and value can be the architectural approach/style itself. Hence the problem of course … I like to call it supply-side thinking.

At the moment there is far too much recipe and not enough meal.

Every software developer I meet, not just here at SAP, but all over the place, tells me that SOA makes it simpler and faster to build flexible enterprise applications.  This stuff then is real,  it works.

If folks like Trip, who can probably do Black-Scholes calculations and build value at risk models while in the airport queue, don’t grasp what the marketeers are on about, then perhaps it is time for a big glass of Simple. 

The way to talk about SOA is not to talk about it, and just showcase the solutions that it enables.   Repeat after me.  Short sentences. No jargon. Real examples. Simple is goodness.

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SAP upgrades- a response to Vinnie.

Vinnie Mirchandani’s deal architect blog is one of my regular reads.  Vinnie advises CIO’s how to beat up vendors on pricing, so it is in his business model to come down hard on vendors like SAP.  That’s fine with me.   I bat squarely in the SAP corner,  so it is likely that we will have the occasional disagreement. 

I believe his recent post (Instant Miso Soup) about upgrades  has some inaccuracies.   I’d like to try address them here. 

1. firstly he comments.

Last year SAP (and Gartner) threw a hissy fit over an Oracle ad which claimed only 4% of SAP customers had upgraded to its latest version. Oracle withdrew its ads. Now SAP issues a press release basically confirming what Oracle said was true – 1,000 customers, out of its 30,000+ customers And calls it “record speed customer adoption.” You want to see speed in migration go to the Serengeti.

Vinnie  mixes up the mySAP ERP 2004 and 2005 upgrade numbers.  mySAP ERP 2005 only went into general availability from ramp up in May 2006,  so to use these numbers to  lend credibility to Oracle’s dubious advertising campaign of last year would require a time machine.  1000 customers have gone live with ERP 2005 in less than 8 months since its general availability, by any measure that is pretty damn good.  BTW, according the report I received in December there are over 4000 live mySAP ERP  customers.  (slide below cut from Kagermann’s  recent analyst presentation, and please see the ASUG study mentioned below)

 (SAP naming conventions would be a worthwhile rant in itself– here Vinnie and I might actually agree)

2: Then he comments.

(upgrades) They are usually risky and they are usually low ROI. But instead of making migrations easy, most vendors are more jazzed about cool new developments, not upgrade tools and processes

The SAP’s investment in tools , methodologies  and services to manage upgrade risk and reduce upgrade times  and automate testing  has been significant.  Perhaps have a scan of the tools such as the new solution manager?  

Talk to folks that use them

Spend some time in the service marketplace?

Some customer examples that I dug out this lunchtime.

Upgrading in  45 Days
“Fischer Advanced Composites upgraded to mySAP ERP 2005
in 45 days.”

NOVA Chemicals: Moving Toward Continuous
Productivity and Innovation

“The upgrade [to mySAP ERP] is our first step in realizing the increased value of mySAP ERP to drive continuous business process productivity and innovation. The upgrade was accomplished easily, quickly, cost-effectively, and with minimal disruption to our business,” says John Wheeler, CIO, NOVA Chemicals.

Erdgas Zürich AG.

“The upgrade to mySAP ERP 2005 provides us with the flexibility we need to master future challenges in the gas industry,” says Bernhard Hegmann, project lead, IT and Organization, Erdgas Zürich AG. “The ramp-up program was completed on time and budget and runs reliably. The direct communication line to SAP via the ramp-up coach was a key success factor.”

Provincie Noord-Holland

The move to mySAP ERP 2005 provides us with the newest functionality,
which is closer to our business processes and [to the] primary process of grantor management,” says Derk Riesthuis, program manager at the Provincie Noord-Holland. “We completed our ERP upgrade on time and within budget, and are now up and running with a robust application and technology that helps
improve our business processes and enhance visibility for our managers. The new architecture of mySAP ERP allows us to collaborate more effectively and operate more flexibly at a lower overall cost.”

Bitburger

“With the upgrade from SAP R/3 [software] to mySAP ERP 2005, we built a robust technical platform to support our core business processes and enable us to cope with the challenges of our industry. After a very smooth upgrade, we are
now up and running with stable applications and technology.”  Uwe Siller, CIO
Bitburger 

I’d also suggest checking out the upgrade symposium running soon in Colorado. Talk to companies that have done the upgrade Maybe Air France?  Gillette? Nasa, Canadian Broadcasting Company, Tyson Foods, Inc. These guys see a significant ROI, and so do lots of others.

Have a glance at the latest edition of SAP info and see how we are working with user groups around the world. And picking up on the user groups, herewith some  User group commentary on upgrades.

This is what the German user group (DSAG)  had to say recently.

DSAG can confirm the trend of the DSAG investment survey –  conducted in  March 2006 – that customers are performing  upgrades more intensively from SAP R/3 to mySAP ERP 2005 this year and also in the forthcoming months. With this step, businesses are able to lay the foundation to leverage the next generation of ERP-software and an enterprise serviceoriented architecture (enterprise SOA). Early finalized mySAP ERP upgrade projects from enterprises organized in the DSAG CCC/Service & Support work council confirm that technical release upgrades are easy to handle and were completed smoothly.
In this regard, SAP upgrade offerings contributed significantly. “In the last few months, SAP has invested a great deal“, Andreas Oczko, DSAG board member and spokesman for the DSAG CCC/Service & Support work council was happy to report. Based on their current situation and needs, SAP customers are able to receive competent assistance from SAP with tailored knowledge transfer, tools, and service offerings. Focused specifically on the information needs of IT  managers, the SAP Upgrade Information Center  provides the best overview on upgrade information in preparation of an upgrade project. It also allows you to directly access the Solution Browser for mySAP ERP. Andreas Oczko, also representing arvato systems Technologies in the work council, speaks from experience when he states, “This is an ideal tool for SAP business users– it is really simple and intuitive to analyze and assess in detail new processes and functions provided with latest releases.”

According to a recent ASUG (America SAP user group) benchmarking study (May 2006), only 5% of upgrades were reported as significantly overbudget.  87% met or exceeded ROI expectations.   90% of respondents plan to upgrade (or are currently upgrading)  in the next 24 months. The study goes on to document best practice for upgrades. (available to ASUG members at the ASUG website)

SAP isn’t by any means perfect on upgrades, but there is a large team of people dedicated to improving the  process, and every release, we get better at it.  We are working very closely with customers and user groups  to continuously improve the upgrade process.  We also actively support partner tools that further aid the process.

I’m not sure Oracle and the others are up to, but  Vinnie, to comment that  “But instead of making migrations easy, most vendors are more jazzed about cool new developments, not upgrade tools and processes.” smacks of vinniedictiveness.  It flies directly in the face of the facts here at SAP, and at the 1000’s customers that have successfully upgraded.

 

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Loïc talks to Shai at Davos, on Green and SDN.

Dennis, the man who doesn’t sleep in his quest for interesting enterprisey stuff pointed me to Loïc’s video interview with Shai Agassi at Davos.  It is well worth a watch, firstly because of the Green stuff he discusses and then secondly, of all things  SAP he could have talked about, he picked SDN.

Click here to watch it over at Loïc’s spot.

Despite my best efforts, wordpress.com wasn’t keen on me embedding this.

 

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Selling and simplicity

My regular readers will have noticed that I have become enamoured with Design Thinking.  At first I thought this was a good thing for product development, as it would help drive more simplicity into our products.  I’m seeing evidence of this simplicity in things like Duet and Muse,  and the early sneak I have seen of thenewdon’tblogthis stuffonthepainofdeathproduct, all goodness….

Yet the more I think about simplicity and design, the more I have realised that it isn’t just in the product development that we need to nuture a culture of simplicity by design. It is everywhere.  If the product is simplicity manifest, but the marketing and sales are complicated, then we will have a problem.

 Steve Mann is a senior chappy in the marketing dept here at SAP. He is based in NYC. (Mark Crofton is in his team)  I enjoyed what Steve had to say here. I hope he doesn’t mind me lifting the almost the  whole post. .

We conducted some customer ethnographic interviews today as we continue in our design of a new experience for SAP.  We received very explicit feedback:

  • Get to the point – give me the info I need right away and in a no-BS fashion
  • Stay away from the SAPanese
  • I want to make a decision on whether to explore further or to go away… and I want to make that decision quickly
  • KEEP THE DESIGN SIMPLE
  • They threw up all over the content
  • Show me exactly what the components are and how much they cost
  • Overall, give us a buyer’s view not a technologist views of the world
  • As far as the products themselves, tell us what they do right away
  • Communities.. get me right into the forums and I want to see references and case studies, events calendar, and they want to be tied geographically to other users and partner offerings

Now this is seriously radical, because it means we are actually, shock horror gasp, starting to ask folks how they would like to be sold to. Clearly with all the stuff going on with new products, we need to figure some new ways to sell and communicate with the market.  Reducing cost of sales, yet delivering a better experience is important and not just because it will give Vinnie one less thing to moan about.

Steve mentions more in another post here.

 We believe that its not enough to run a sales cycle but the big guys must loosen control over that sales cycle and empower the customers/prospects to be in control of that sales cycle. 

I can join a community of interest to interact with other prospects and to actively gather the information I need from my peers rather than from a vendor

I can use Web 2.0 capabilities to subscribe, create and collaborate on content that is important to me

I want to give you feedback any time, any where, and  I want my vendors to take it seriously

I want my vendors to maintain context over the course of my engagement with me – I should never have to repeat myself

Procuring solutions should be fast and easy

This is all rather cluetrainy, and it reminds me a lot of what James Governor was on about the other day, every blog a potential RFP?

Steve is suggesting a fundamentally different approach to selling software. I’m all ears. I have spent too many days and nights filling in 600 page RFPs and I have inflicted many a powerpoint slidedeck on hapless visitors to starship enterprisey.  Death by demo doesn’t do anyone any good. 

My Lord, it is a plan as cunning as a fox who’s just been appointed Professor of Cunning at Oxford University

If I was in marketing, and looking how to apply Steve’s first two  points, I  would start by changing how we write press releases.  At the moment they are a paper based form of Chinese water torture.  The PR folks should be reminded about the Geneva Convention and its prohibition of cruel and unusual punishments.  The English makes me bilious and the jargon per square inch is ridiculously and perilously high.  To be fair this is an industry illness, but SAP has it bad.

Many of my fellow enterprise irregulars were confused about the recent A1S and All-in-one announcements, and reading the press releases, I can see why. 

 I suggested to David that he watch the analyst conference instead, and was kind enough to take the time and do so he posted his views here.  IMHO Kagermann was clear, precise and to the point in his press conference, and the slides are well worth a look if you want to understand SAP’s plans.  But not everyone has the time or inclination to sit through a press conference. 

 If all a press release does is generate a “huh?” and grammatical queasiness, then why do it?  A few decent blogs could get the news out much more effectively. 

As A1S sheds its cloak of secrecy I’d like to see its  solution managers blogging,  over in SDN and out in the blogsphere generally. Conversing directly with the market, announcing new features and ideas as they are ready, gathering direct feedback, building  communities.  There are solution managers blogging already, but there should be more.

 SDN is a fabulous conversation, and a real competitive advantage.  Indeed, SDN may well be a  channel that meets a some of the goals Steve outlined above.  Selling by conversation. Imagine that, a cunning plan indeed.

 

Wikipedia case study

Harvard’s Andrew McAfee and colleagues have published a case study on wikipedia and enterprise 2.0  What a business that was.

But the last word on Wikipedia and blogging comes from the Chaucer blog. 

the bloviatrivium
I. angrye commentes that run for pages
II. lengthie monologue advocatinge my political posicioun
III. bringing nazis yn to an argument
the procrastidrivium
IV. memes
V. quizzes and surveys
VI. makynge avatars
VII. poosting pictures

Anothir Update: For thos consultinge the internet, Ich haue discoverid that wikipedia is soorely incorrecte concernynge oon of the answeres. Be war er ye be wo!

( check out Chaucer’s 5 things meme)

 

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