research again.

Nice to see the Nobel prizes on youtube.

A German, Peter Grünberg, and a Frenchman, Albert Fert, won this year’s  Nobel prize for physics; for work done on  giant magnetoresitance. As I mentioned yesterday, without this work it is unlikely that the ipod and other storage devices would exist. These guys changed the face of storage.

The German government, academica and industrial legacies should be proud of the Max Planck Institute and other research initiatives and foundations that make this research possible, but Germany needs to rediscover the powerful link between research and the entrepreneur. This is where the Americans continue to show the world how it is done.

Part of it is continued and expanded funding for pure research, but equally important is helping encourage investment and entrepreneurship. This involves fostering a culture of risk taking. Germany needs to look to its history of innovation and rekindle it.  With a third of the EU budget subsidising farmers it is time for a radical rethink.


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Oracle playing GRC catch up?

In between all the SAP Business Objects pontifications, I just noticed this morning that Oracle has bought LogicalApps. This seems to be a rather delayed response to SAP’s acquisition of Virsa nearly 2 years ago, and another catch up attempt. In SAPspeak this would be a “tuck-in” but it is also an admission from Oracle that SAP is winning in the GRC space. It is a defensive play, and won’t really strengthen Oracle’s position beyond its core Oracle financials users. Nevetheless it makes sense.

LogicalApps plays in the SOX 404 and financial closing space, and from my understanding mainly sells to Oracle customers, and does well at it. Logicalapps has itself grown by acquistion, having bought Applimation earlier this year. Interesting also to see the focus on OMB A-123, a US public sector regulation. The customer base seems to be overwhelmingly US based. I’d not heard of them in a European context.

Over the last 4 years or so, there has been an explosion of GRC related vendors.Despite a rapidly growing market, more consolidation is likely. Perhaps I’m misreading this, but the venture funded 150 odd employee 300 customer, IPO unlikely for a while company is a tough place to be. Chasm jumping and all that.

I look forward to reading the Approva  Audit Trail blog take on this. Perhaps Mark Crofton could take a pause from winning GRC deals and do a post too?

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Institutional Innovation and a workshop

John Hagel’s post is one of best things I’ve read on innovation. (Suggest you read the whole post. Damn yet another book to buy )

In thinking about innovation, executives would be well served not to focus exclusively on finding talented product design maestros or even process design experts, but rather creative institutional designers who can challenge and re-think their existing institutional arrangements from the ground up.

These institutional designers will unlock a steady flow of product and process innovations.  Without their help, executives will continue to struggle with isolated innovation initiatives that show great promise at the outset, but rarely deliver on their full potential.  Even when the full potential of these initiatives is realized, this potential is inherently limited.  Far better to re-think the innovation opportunity at a much more fundamental level – a level that keeps on giving.

For those who doubt the power of institutional innovation, reflect on what has been the single most wealth creating innovation over the past several centuries.  The steam engine? The telephone? Ford’s assembly line approach to manufacturing? Fuhgeddaboutit.  It was the development of the limited liability joint stock company – a profound institutional innovation.

This backs up what I’ve been trying to articulate about Design Led Innovation. It can do a whole lot more than just design better looking products. Hagel’s thinking fits rather well with the stuff going on with co-innovation and business network transformation here at SAP (thanks Prashath for an excellent summary of the Sapphire talk). Product centric innovation is simply not enough.

At the last Chief HR Officer roundtable we discussed the workforce of the future and design led innovation, so we figured we’d bring these together into a hands-on workshop. . We have put together a hands on workshop on the worker of the future and its impact on HR lead by the DST. It will be held at TeliaSonera in Stockholm on the 28 and 29 of November. TeliaSonera has played a key role in helping us get this together. 

Event page here and agenda details here.

We are expecting roughly 20 folks, and would like participating companies to bring along 2 people -one senior HR person,and a young sparky person just out of University or school. We will also be connecting with the local university to tap into more youthful wisdom.

Perhaps we can start to shift the HR institution a bit. Drop me a email or a Tweet if you’d like to know more.

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Why "pure" research matters.

No research no ipod nano.

I think what is most interesting about today’s Nobel prize in physics is how quickly the discovery of a new effect, giant magneto-resistance, led to real devices including the iPod.  From the totally unknown to the utterly familiar in less than twenty years.  The world really is speeding up.

The Nobel Prize Foundation has a very nice write-up of giant magneto-resistance and its applications.

Thanks to the Marginal Revolution, a very interesting economics blog. Seriously, interesting economics blog exist.


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Outside in development,, democracy and the colgate twins is a fine thing. Ambient, not intrusive.  A gentle whisper, not the loud whine of a “may interest” email.  My life needs more via: and a whole less CC:RE:FW:

Courtesy of James Governor’s links I saw  Carl Kessler’s outside in development.  I’ll be ordering the book, as I’ve just read Eric Von  Hippel’s Democratising Innovation.  The user as a locus of innovation has been a recurring theme in this blog, and Von Hippel’s book is helping me frame this more clearly. 

Teched, IVNS, SDN, BPX seem to fit well with von Hippel’s  Innnovation Communities concepts, and validates his point that user-innovators are willing to reveal their innovations. And speaking of lead users, over in Vegas, at SAP teched, the colgate twins showed the greatly enhanced version of their Wii experiment, now dubbed Majority desk.


photo from  Marilyn’s marvelous Flickr stream. Ed in action.

  Check out the video, courtesy of Cote.  There are more details here,here and here.

[podtech content= &totalTime=277000&breadcrumb=e88ba36f1bf34090974acf2c3f595dde]


Cote from Redmonk is on a roll with his teched coverage

One thing is completely cemented in my mind after CommunityDay: Adobe and SAP are going to have a baby soon. I’ve seen plenty of hand-holding over the past few years and SAP-land developers innovating with Adobe products at the edge. But, now I’m pretty convinced that we’ll see Adobe’s RIA stack as one of the new front-ends and ways of “engaging” with SAP-land

That’s the kind of couple you’d never expect, right? Hip, Macromedia-skin graphed Adobe gettin’ fresh with suit’ed up SAP. The early dancing must have been awkward, but they seem to be working it out.

Also have a look at the enterprise UI blog’s coverage. There is lots of video  and second life for teched, and I’m going to watch the O’Reilly talk tomorrow, but it has had plenty of coverage already. SAP as a web 2.0 company.  (but why aren’t the teched vids on youtube?)

I bet most people would regard the title of this post as an oxymoron. Surely SAP is a big, boring enterprise software company, about as far from the furious consumer innovation of Web 2.0 as you can imagine. Yet it’s been clear to me for years that SAP takes the ideas of Web 2.0 very seriously

It seems to me that Von Hippel’s user led innovation fits very snuggly with O’Reilly’s “collaborative intelligence”

SAP is also doing some great “in vivo” co-development with customers, with customer innovators invited to spend six months working directly with the imagineering team at SAP, reporting what they learn back to their company via blogs, wikis, and podcasts. I’ve often noted that Web 2.0 actually began with open source and collaborative development as early examples of how networking changed business processes. Here’s a really practical way for enterprises to put new forms of collaboration to work

Much to ponder.


(photo from marilyn’s stream,)

I’m looking forward to teched in München. I’m lucky enough to be going as a blogger.  I’ll be at the community day, and it  will be fabulous to meet in the meat some of the SAP geeky gang that I’ve only met via the blog.  I’m especially interested in what Nigel has to say about SAP-wordpress integration. 


Stephen Fry has a blog.

It was down for several days because of heavy traffic. Finally I popped over to read his essay on the iphone. Simply brilliant. A joy to read. And good advice for all software sorts.

Break free, all you corporate software engineers and designers: the excuse that you are under the rule of dullards, greedy share-price number crunchers and visually and ergonomically illiterate yahoos is not good enough. Persuade them. Otherwise we all get a digital environment that’s a vile as a 60s housing estate.

I hope he continues to blog, as I’ve read everything else he has written.

As knackered hack put it

With such an erudite, philological creature dripping his honey-dew wit upon the blogosphere, the rest of us hack-a-day bloggers can start to feel a lot better about ourselves. He’s just raised our average considerably.

Stephen Fry was able to do justice to one of my favourite characters in literature, Jeeves. He has directed movies and TV programmes, starred in them, writes novels, screenplays, plays, poetry and non-fiction. He was on University Challenge, Black Adder, and have I got News for you. He has a TV show.He is violently witty without being mean or arrogant. A rare talent. A gem.

He also suffers from Bipolar syndrome, and he took the very brave step of making a TV series about mental illness.

A friend and colleague recently lost her brother because of this illness. The more that can be done to raise awareness about the very real damage that mental illness causes the better.

Welcome to the blogosphere, Stephen Fry.

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Big it up for Sun…and measuring Green

I continue to be impressed by Sun Microsystems.  Until I met James Governor and then started reading Jonathan’s blog, Sun wasn’t really on my radar.  Now I follow Sun quite closely.  It strikes me as a very innovative organisation.  I saw this announcement today about Measuring Green.  I’ve just been over to the site.  Goodness indeed.

According research on cited on Nick Carr’s blog, Roughtype, a considerable portion of the earth’s energy consumption is from computer usage.

a global basis, Sarokin estimates that the computing grid consumes 868 billion kWh a year, or 5.3% of total consumption

There are other estimates that put this higher.

It not at a Moore’s law level of growth, but as we continue to consume more and more services, buy more and more software, the word will require more and more hardware, and unless things change, use more power.

About a year ago Carr wrote about Frugal Computing. He picked up this quote.

 The computers we love so dearly,” wrote Timothy Prickett Morgan in 2004, “are among the most inefficient devices ever invented”; most of the electricity that goes into them is released “as heat, noise, and light”:

The heat of computers comes from chips and mechanical components, the noise comes from fans and disks, and light comes in the form of blinking lights and monitors. Once any kind of computer makes its heat … the energy cycle doesn’t end there. That heat has to be removed so the computers and the people near them can continue functioning properly. This, ironically, takes more fans and air conditioners, and therefore more electricity … And while the electricity bills for running and cooling computers are generally not part of an IT budget, a company with lots of computers has to pay for all that juice

I think it high time to add the role of the software vendor into this discussion.  I believe the software industry ought to do three things.

1. Start designing software that has a lower energy consumption footprint. After all people buy hardware to run software.  The equation is a simple one.  I like the concept of the Green API. (tip James)

2. Build software that helps others reduce and measure energy consumption. I’m thinking here of supply chain monitoring,  for instance, enabling customers to make buying decisions based on green criteria.  When I buy my next car, I’d be prepared to wait longer for delivery if my order was optimised for lower energy consumption in the production process.  I’m probably not the only one.

3. Ditch the fallacy that software is a clean industry without externalities.

So when I read about Sun’s involvement with a community to help cut greenhouse emissions,  I say brill and fab.  There is a goodly dose of 2.0 community is this too.  Making it open source also helps drive it out as a broader initiative-

Our goal is to lower the barriers for companies to measure and report their environmental footprint,” says Sun’s vice president of eco-responsibility, Dave Douglas. “For a company like Sun, figuring out how much energy you’re burning is pretty complex. So we’re trying to use open-source software development ideas to take the tools we’ve developed internally and make them publicly available.”

Forbes nails the significance of this when it noted.

Innovators in the green information-technology movement reap good publicity from their ever-higher standards of energy efficiency. The real goody two-shoes, however, inflict those standards on their competitors

Measuring environmental impact of a business becomes and important factor in evaluating the risk profile of investments, so investment bankers and the like are demanding more transparency on environmental risk.  This is already starting.  Look at Ceres :

The SEC exists to make sure that investors have the information that they need to make smart decisions,” said Mindy Lubber, president of Ceres, a group that promotes environmental standards among private companies. Ceres and the Calvert Group, an asset management firm, said in a January report that more than half of the companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index “are doing a poor job of disclosing climate change risk.”

SAP is getting its act together, but I think we should learn lots from what Sun is up to.  Part of this is about beefing up the GRC strategy to include a stronger environmental element, especially in the areas of risk management and disclosure, but a bigger part of it involves looking closely at the broader social implications of software.

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