London here we come

Next week is SuccessConnect. I have been to a goodly number of these now. My first one was as an analyst. The event was in Amsterdam. I remember an excellent, if somewhat extended keynote from Lars.

I’m looking forward to being on stage with Dave Ragones. Over the last year or so I have learned more about the management part of product management and getting things done from Dave than I have from anyone in my career.  James Harvey, our Engineering, Operations and Service Delivery head will join us in the keynote too.

We have an awesome line up of customers, and SAP colleagues. And we will be making a special award. The demos will rock, thanks to Abhijit, Martin and Gerald, and the cast supporting them.   A special thanks also to Helen Arnold, who now leads the SAP Data Network. We are working on some funky stuff with Helen’s team that we will chat about and show. There is a buzz at SAP about Leonardo, so we will look at how that will benefit SuccessFactors customers.  But I don’t want to give it all away here.

I will also get to spend time with our new leader of product management and product marketing,  Amy Wilson. I have known Amy for years. She helped build the Workday products into a formidable competitor, and having her lead our team will only make us stronger.  I’m biased, but I don’t think there is a better product team in the HR Tech industry than the one SAP SuccessFactors has assembled. Welcome Amy.

The day one keynote will be led by our own CHRO, Stefan Ries. He is of the staunchest supporters of our product, and he can be our fiercest but fairest critic  too. Our partnership with our own HR department has helped make better product. Thanks Stefan and team.  His keynote is packed to the brim with customers.

With a bit of luck I might even get to say hello to Richard Branson, but that would be a bonus.

The rest of the week will be filled with customer meetings. I think I have at least 14 meetings. The names that were prospects last time are live customers now. I get to hear from them what’s working well and what could be better. I’ll get to bump into many other customers and partners too. I’m especially curious to catch up with extension partners like James from Enterprise Jungle. Extensions are going mainstream. sweet.

My one disappointment is that I don’t get to see the breakout customer sessions. When customers get up and present what they do with our stuff, and we get to see how the software makes their organisations better, it is the best vindication.  My special thanks to those customers like Lionel Safar from Essilor that tell their stories.

The real reason I’m going to London though, is to watch the cricket. India v South Africa at the Oval. Now that will be magnificent. Watching  De Villiers dispatch Ashwin  nonchalantly over the Vauxhall end, or  Kohli’s off stump spiral in the air from a quicker Radaba ball will make my day.  Seeing my colleague and friend Murali’s face when that happens will make my year.




Test Match Sofa. This is what the Internet is for.


Regular readers will know that I’m a cricket fan. Being a cricket fan in Germany is awkward, as unless you con the beeb into thinking your computer isn’t in Germany, you can’t get decent audio or  video coverage.  This post will not be about the dumbness of DRM, but if the BeeB is reading, I will pay handsomely for legal iplayer access to cricket.  See my earlier moan here.

At the moment the Ashes are on. I never thought I would say this  but I’m supporting England this time around.  Partly because a good number of the line up have the same accent as I do, but mainly because of testmatchsofa. 


Rob, Dan, Jarrod and Nigel

Testmatchsofa, where Goethe, a bit of  swearing, leg breaks, comedy jingles, Chardonnay, Twitter, profound cricket knowledge, more than a smattering women commentators  and dodgy South African accent imitations  combine for compelling listening.

Their show exploits a lot of the web 2.0 technologies and concepts that I discuss and analyze as part of my day job.

1. Creation and broadcast costs are close to zero.

2. Multi-channel delivery. flash, iphone, native web, gadgets etc.

3.  Audience participation.  The sofa team don’t just use twitter to broadcast messages, they answer questions and chat with their audience.

4. Mashups. The combination of the cricinfo text feed, twitter and the broadcast gives a better experience than radio alone.

Sofa works because the gang actually know cricket. They may not have opened the batting for England half a century ago but they know their way around the Wisden, and they love the game. 

The game of cricket is now thoroughly professional, but is good to see that the cult of the amateur is alive and well beyond the mid-wicket boundary. 

To the gang at testmatchsofa, keep the commentary coming. Just drop the KP accent imitation, please.

Banging on about HR analytics.

Regular readers will know this is one of my regular themes. HR,  analytics and a bit of cricket.

Tom Davenport, over on his Harvard blog, picks up on how HR could learn from Basketball.

How do analytics spread in sports? It usually starts with a few individuals who have seen their application in other domains (Daryl Morey of the Rockets, for example, was a fan of Bill James, the baseball stats Geek of Geeks), and figures they will work in a new context. Some like-minded rich people bankroll the experimentation (in the Rockets’ case, owner Leslie Alexander), and the team starts to perform pretty well (Houston had a 22-game winning streak last year despite injuries to key players). New metrics get developed–both by teams and amateurs outside them. Then other teams catch on. The last time I checked about a year ago, roughly half of NBA teams had statisticians on staff.

I wonder how many HR department have statisticians on their staff?

As a boy I wasn’t good enough to be in the cricket team, so I ended up being the scorer. I enjoyed it, and since then I have had an interest in how to measure performance. My German friends think it very odd that I can derive enjoyment from following a text based cricket commentary for 5 days, but anyway. There is beauty in these numbers (unless you are an Australian cricket fan).


  I’m continuing to focus on HR analytics in my research, I recently did a note on absence management. Absence  costs UK organizations 3% of payroll, yet less than 50% of organizations measure or analyse it.  Time to train up a few scorers I think.


photo from vapours cc flickr. thanks.

HR, Baseball, Cricket and statistical deviation.


(photo from the cc flickrstream of diongillard. thanks)

If I was to live in America, I would become a baseball fan. I grew up with cricket, so despite my current German domicile,  I’m a cricket fan.  In many ways the games are different, but both games are bound by the common thread of bat and ball.  Also, both games rely on extensive use of numbers and stats to provide both real time and historical data.

If one mentioned that England were 34/5 , it would enable me ( or any cricket fan)  to make a precise judgement about the state of the game.  Several hours of play summarised with 2 numbers.  From this one can make some deductions about the wicket, the bowling and the brittle state of the English batting line up.

It is this clever use of numbers to create an immediate summary of the game that makes it easy to follow a cricket game while getting on with the rest of your day.  2 seconds on cricinfo brings me up to speed.  A test match can last 5 days,  but cricket, allows and encourages one to get on with other things while at the same time feeling part of the action.  Cricket is the master of continuous partial attention, long before the phrase was invented.

As junior schoolboys someone would sneak a radio into class hide it in his desk, and then pass around a scrap of paper with the score on when anything happened.  I think the teacher knew what was going on, but as long as play was relatively slow, he didn’t seem to mind.

I suppose the modern equivalent of that is the cricinfo applet running on my toolbar, and DRM permitting, the tones of Aggersm Boycott and Blofeld on TMS.

I really enjoyed reading Andrew McAfee’s post on baseball statistics and IT competitiveness. Even if you aren’t a baseball fan read it.

Full House is a true geek’s book. It combines paleontology, evolution, and baseball statistics to advance an elegant argument: that we humans have a counterproductive tendency to focus on averages and trends over time, rather than on variation around the average. For Gould, variation is where the action is.

Image a world where HR people were able to derive as much value and pleasure out  of  analytics as cricket and baseball fans do.  At the moment most HR  departments can’t even really  keep score. 

Hair and cricket

I’m a cricket fan, odd that,  living in Germany, I know.  Over the years I’ve picked up various bits of cricket memorabilia including this magazine from 1902, Cricket of Today and Yesterday.


Not a lot has really changed, quoting from 1902.

“in a word the spring of the coronation year found the British public on the  tiptoe of expectation with respect to the doings on English grounds of the Antipodean cricketers who has so manifestly outclassed our representatives on Australian grounds.”

This isn’t about the Australian umpire, Darrell Hair. But about cricket’s odd relationship with hair growth advertising.


This tradition has continued. Graham Gooch, former England captain became the pinup for Advanced Hair Studios. Actually the fellow in the advert above looks rather a lot like Mr Gooch.  It is a pity  has gone into hibernation, as they have a penchant for collecting Gooch look alike images. 

You can see the apparent before and after effects here.  (this is a novel use of flickr)

The greatest spin bowler ever,  Shane Warne, has also  advertised the merits of  these hair-growth products. 


Incidentally, the firm in question, Advanced Hair Studio,  has been rebuked by the advertising standards folks about misleading adverts.

Not much changes. The Australians are still the best at the game,  and we still are on receiving end of  meaningless  celebrity endorsements.

football and cricket…

Today there is an air of quiet mourning in Walldorf, except in Italian payroll development team where it is party city. The positive vibe that the world cup has created here in Germany will hopefully stay though. The lads did Germany proud, the Italians just played that little bit better.

On a different, sadder note. Fred Trueman died or cancer on the 1st July. He was one of the greatest fast bowlers ever. He is spoken of with awe in cricketing circles. For those baseball types who read my blog, bowler is the the equivalent of your pitcher, just a bit nastier. (This post may be a tad cryptic for those that dont follow cricket.) Dennis also comments here.

 Fred was the ultimate intimidator of the opposing batsman, a great bowler, but even better at finding a weakness and exploiting it. He was the first man to 300 wickets in test cricket, the days when there was much less played than today.

I never met the man, but as boy I remember him commentating on the radio. He always had a funny comment when play was slow, and a couple come to mind. “Lovely boy that, I played golf with his father.”  He was on duty one day when Allan Donald first came on the scene in South Africa. He said “eee that boy is quick, but them slips is far away. I don’t go that far for me holidays.”  He never let the game get in the way of a good story.

He also said that he looked slower in black and white. (If anyone has any other footage, please stick it on youtube.)

He had some advice for fast bowlers wanting to intimidate the batsman. Take a really big step or two over the no ball crease and give it your all. The umpire will call a no ball, but he can’t pull you back by your shirt…

For those interested his averages are here.

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