Back to the Future.

Jim and I published a first take on the SuccessFactors deal with Siemens. Gartner clients see Siemens to Provide Important SaaS Talent Management Test Case (G00168920), 15-JUN-2009.

Last week I suddenly felt like one of those people you meet in IT who keep telling you that computing hasn’t really changed since punchcards or Fortran, and that everything just repeats itself. Either that, or I had stumbled upon the flux capacitor. I shuddered briefly.

Let me explain myself.

Just after I joined SAP in the mid-nineties, PeopleSoft won a significant deal at Siemens. This really shook SAP up, and led to significant investment in the HR part of R/3, especially for the global market.

Then PeopleSoft stumbled, sucked into the joyous complexity of German payroll.

A few years later, SAP won back large parts of the account. I didn’t really realise it at the time, but SAP was pretty agile in its response to the loss. It had long term positive benefits for SAP’s HR product.

At first sight this month’s win for SuccessFactors seems remarkably similar.

But history doesn’t always come around the same way. For history to repeat itself here, three things need to happen:

1. SuccessFactors stumbles.

2. SAP delivers a comparable offering via SaaS

3. SAP convinces Siemens to change back.

SuccessFactors today is more globally aware than PeopleSoft was in the mid-nineties, and it has the chance to learn from history. It has a broad European customer base, and well established operations here. It is also steering clear of German payroll.

In the mid-nineties, R/3 was already on the way to dominating the client/server ERP market. Today SAP is dabbling with SaaS in various forms, but I do wonder if it will react to this with the same agility and focus that it did back then. Also, the Siemens of today is different from the Siemens then.

Earlier this year I wrote a note about the SAP German HR congress ( Gartner clients see) Observations From SAP’s German HR Congress (G00165965), 06-MAR-2009 One of the things I said was.

“German organizations are in a good position. SAP perceives that it has significant competition in the talent management space and is strengthening its products, while best-of-breed vendors see an opportunity to gain an increased foothold in the market. There is nothing like a DAX 30 company selecting a best-of-breed vendor to focus the minds of SAP management and its development organization, as no organization likes to lose at home.

We will be watching with interest.


Via a comment via a link. The three sexy skills of data geeks.

Readers of this blog and my Gartner research will know that I am a big fan of analytics. Not the really the tools, but the skills to take numbers and turn them into something useful. I’m not a statistician, but I know several. I’m even friends with a couple (meaning, in this instance, more than one, rather than two statisticians in a significant relationship).

Tony Hirst, who I linked to the other day about the UK politics mashup, came back and commented on my blog, so I followed a couple of his links and I ended up at the delightful Dataspora blog.

The post the three sexy skills of data geeks is excellent. Here is the concluding paragraph, but read all of it.

Put All Three Skills Together: Sexy. Thus with the Age of Data upon us, those who can model, munge, and visually communicate data — call us statisticians or data geeks — are a hot commodity.  I grew up before the age of geek chic, when the computer wizzes were social pariahs, and feature-length movies were dedicated to nerds seeking revenge.  But in the last decade, Steve Jobs became an icon, the Internet became cool, and an entire generation of tech kids grew up well adjusted.  They even built the social web to prove it.   I believe the same could happen to statistics and data geeks too.

I spent Friday night on the phone with a large company asking about how to sort out their HR analytics issues. My advice was to hire such a person, and not worry too much about whether you need to do the charts on tool a or b. I didn’t put it quite as eloquently as model and munge though.

Well done Ushahidi

Sometimes with web 2.0 technologies I feel as if I’m seeing demos of solutions looking for problems in a technology bubble, but this example really shows how mashups, text messaging and blogs can have a real impact on the quality of life and democracy. In this case, in Africa.

via the TED site. Ushahidi — a crisis-tracking tool with roots in TEDGlobal 2007 — has been awarded a $200,000 grant for development from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Spend a moment watching Erik in Action. link here if it doesn’t display in your reader.

Well done Erik and the gang.

Web 2.0 technologies are having an impact on UK politics too.