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.

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SAP, Microsoft, Duet, Dynamics etc.

I will avoid anymore naff musical puns.

A few weeks ago I caught up with Udo Waibel, the lead guy for Duet.  A bit of this post has been lurking in my inbox for a while, but the recent discussions of Duet v Microsoft Dynamics has made me revisit it and post it.

Dennis, sleepless in San Diego, has been blogging up a storm about the Microsoft convergence conference. From what he tells me MSFT are getting their act in order with Dynamics. The GUI screenprints I have seen look good. (see Mary Jo’s post here)

Mary Jo’s coverage of Microsoft is a must read. She has been at it for years.  And for now I’ll leave the “do Microsoft get SaaS or not?” story to Phil.  But I would like to pick up on the point that both Phil and Dennis make about Duet, it may not be as straight-forward as they suggest.

Phil notes:

Duet was just a learning experience and SAP is welcome to it. The strategic product for Microsoft is Dynamics Client for Office, which as Mary Jo Foley observed yesterday, “in addition to functioning as a new user interface layer — also is a new Client Access License (CAL) for Dynamics ERP users.” What’s interesting about this is that partners can use it as a platform for building new interfaces into the data and processes that execute on a Dynamics back-end. This is a perfect legacy migration strategy that allows Microsoft to keep its partners and customers hooked on Office and Windows without being shackled by the constraints of Microsoft’s ERP software. Crucially, by decoupling the user interface from the back-end, it also makes it easier to implement hosted ERP services without impacting the user experience

Dennis notes:

Dynamics through Outlook, the business standard for organising and representing communications for both desktop and mobile usage. All of which is a kick in the teeth for SAP. Phil Wainewright best sums up the feeling I got from many commentators attending Convergence:
Duet was just a learning experience and SAP is welcome to it.

I’d  have been flabbergasted if the Dynamics folks said anything else. I remember last year seeing bunches of sour grapes over on channel 9 from the Dynamics team. The reaction of the Dynamics team to Duet is exactly what my reaction was 5 years ago when I saw a demo from SAP portal guys of PeopleSoft HR in the SAP portal.   Obviously, in the greater good of things offering integration to PeopleSoft made sense, but as an SAP HR sales person, the last thing I wanted to hear was that we could seemlessly integrate with the darkside. This is a family blog, so I won’t publish what I said.

The business reality is that both are important to Microsoft. Slick integration with Office, Sharepoint and Dynamics will help blunt any potential shift to other office suites in the SME space. Sharepoint is probably the big winner, rather than Dynamics. Good move Microsoft.

Duet continues to help drive the upgrade to newer versions of office (it needs at least office 2003), especially in the the large enterprise space. Good move for Microsoft too.

Josh Greenbaum’s take is well worth a look. He has a frog fetish at the moment.

No good idea goes unchallenged, and today’s announcement at the Microsoft Dynamics Convergence conference that Office has become the new client for its enterprise applications suite follows on the extraordinary success that the Office gang has already registered in the SAP market. That success , aka Duet, has been one of the bright spots in SAP’s otherwise lackluster financial performance of late.

The comments on Mary-Jo post make for an interesting read too. 

I expected much more since Microsoft is at least a year later than the SAP/Microsoft Duet release. Microsoft promised they learned from Duet, but this stuff has worse usability, doesn’t work on Office 2003, and has about 1/10 the business processes covered compared to SAP Duet. If this is the best Microsoft can do alone, they should stay in a Duet rather than going solo!

Indeed if Dynamics was really that strategic to Microsoft, lots of this cool stuff would be on Office 2003 and XP. In cycling terms, Dynamics is a domestique to Office and Vista, helping them up the hill, but  in the end, dispensible. Having the Dynamics folks pushing outlook etc as a front-end will add momentum to Duet, not take it away. 

So let’s put Duet in context now, based on my chat with Udo.

Duet is rocking. It has sold over 300,000 users. (a recent deal announced here) Rolling out internally this year at SAP.

The functionality is growing, and attacking some thorny business challenges..something that is planned is –

Legal Contract Authoring (LCA) has been added to the list of scenarios becoming available in Summer 2007 with Duet 1.5. LCA offers an effective link between contract creation, negotiation, execution as well as the sourcing process within context of the mySAP SRM application in an intuitive Microsoft Word and Outlook environment. It is a rich process offering flexible collaboration and workflow capabilities that allow for the re-use of templates, automated integration of legal contracts with operational contract and sourcing processes.

(note this is not a statement of what will be delivered just in case some US Gaapers are reading this)

Several of the early adopters are consulting firms.  The cynical types will say this is so that they can have a competitive advantage in delivering the services around Duet, but I think otherwise. Consulting firms are notoriously skint when it comes to IT spend, or put more politely, I have found consulting firms to be very business case driven when it comes to technology deployments. Time and activity recording are key to consulting firms, after all, that is their main revenue source.  Knowing when employees are planning holiday is pretty important if you are running big projects.

And, I keep finding Apples in the oddest places. If you watch the demo video on www.duet.com, you will see what I mean. I guess it is running parallels.

Oh, and finally, I bring you the blog of a Duet developer based in Israel, Eran’s Developer Zen..

Technorati tags: SAP, Duet, Dynamics, Microsoft, enterprise irregulars

Duet and Coffee with Udo.

I’m getting old. Well, not really that old, but I felt it this morning. I had coffee with Udo Waibel, the development lead for the Duet project. I met Udo about 10 years ago when he was a uni student doing his work assignment at SAP (He built a travel expenses app in excel that interfaced with SAP, so in a sense he has been working on Duet for 10 years, on and off).

He then moved into ESS development and has since scaled the dizzy heights of development, being heavily involved with X-apps. We had a bit of a chat about SAP politics (as one does.)  For one so young, he is rather wise. If you are going to Teched, look him up.

We talked a lot about Duet though. Customer take up is excellent, and development is going better than expected. I was pleasantly suprised at what’s around the corner. Lots of language support, lots more scenarios and so on.

Something that he mentioned that I didn’t see in all the marketing blurb is that it is dead easy to publish any SAP report via Duet, so any classic SE38 report can be distributed via Duet. Cool. Think on-line payslip, think budget exceptions and so on.  He promised that they would be a number of “how-to” guides coming out to help early adopters do more with Duet. SDN will be a major channel for Duet knowledge, so keep an eye out there, and on the Duet.com site Personally I reckon the excel related features of Duet will be very useful, probably even more than outlook. imagine using excel etc for compensation planning, but with real-time data, and synchronisation with master data….

Duet just won an award from computer world, The Computerworld Horizon Awards were established last year to alert readers to especially cutting-edge technologies from research labs and companies that are “on the horizon.”  This was voted on by CIOs so hopefully those that think we don’t do innovation will pause for just a moment and check it out.

musical puns invade enterprise software. First Duet, now Harmony.

IBM have announced Harmony. "I'd like to teach the world to sing" will probably be coming to a Software conference near you soon. eeek. For those companies that have a strong lotus notes culture, the IBM play makes a lot of sense. Bringing SAP to more users is good for SAP. (avoided the notes-harmony pun as it would have been a bit flat)

Building new interfaces to SAP isn't a new game, but it has got a whole lot easier. With Netweaver, SAP did a lot of work to "decouple" application logic and the presentation logic. Customers are starting to benefit from this technical change. We are moving rapidly to a multi-UI world.

Duet and Harmony are two big plays that take advantage of this, but I expect to see a lot more. Already, blackberrys and other mobile devices are creating new ways to work with SAP. I'm hearing about all sorts of cool stuff with the latest voice technologies. There will be a lot more UI innovation taking place on top of the the SAP platform, and this is good for the customer. If 3M could develop a post-it version, I'd demo it tomorrow. 

I'm not convinced that the world needs to run in a browser either. I'm reminded of a piece that I read from Alan Cooper. in the distant past of 2001 he said.

The browser is a red herring; it's a dead end. The idea of having batched processing inside a very stupid program that's controlled remotely is a software architecture that was invented about 25 years ago by IBM, and was abandoned about 20 years ago because it's a bad architecture. We've gone tremendously retrograde by bringing in Web browsers. Now we have an infinite variety of computers all around the world and an infinite variety of remote sites all around the world. That's the power. And the power would be greater and the capabilities would be three orders of magnitude greater if we could get rid of this old, stupid, stinking technology of browsers. We have stepped backward in terms of user interface, capability, and the breadth of our thinking about what we could do as a civilization. The browser is a very weak and stupid program because it was written as essentially a master's thesis inside a university and as an experiment. Internet Explorer is nothing more than a master's thesis program.

put that in the the web 2.0 pipe and smoke it.

UPDATE:

Josh Greenbaum provides a view on IBM's strategy. Check it out here.

more thoughts on Duet- MBS etc..

Charlie  Jeff and  others have mentioned that Duet has miffed off some of the folks from Microsoft business systems (see here). Any significant alliance is going to upset part of a big business.

Oracle Application presales guys get really upset because more SAP applications run on Oracle databases than do Oracle applications. 

At SAP we have a lot of discussions about how Duet and the Portal work together and overlap. The guys who built the calendar feature in the SAP portal probably don't like Duet either.  I dont think we have all the answers yet.

For me, the interesting thing about Duet is not the product.

Okay, Yes, it does all that bringing SAP apps to the familiar desktop of the user etc, but Outlook has been arounds for aeons. SAP has been doing employee self service since the mid 1990s, we have sold over 13 million ESS users.

What is interesting to me,

1. It is a joint development. SAP developers and Microsoft developers working on the same product, together. In joint teams. SAP's dev lead on this is one of our best.

2. It will be sold and marketed by both companies.

The second point here is going to be key. How will we and Microsoft go to market, how will the Microsoft salesforce line up behind Duet? In the "early" accounts where I have been involved, I've seen strong colaboration between MSFT and SAP teams.

 If I was a top sales guy at MSFT, what would I rather be selling