hear hear and 1864

Just read Jason’s post. He is unhappy about software vendor mudslinging, and I agree with him.  I’ve suggested that the  software industry should remember-learn  some manners.  My marketing guru mate John would probably agree too.

Here is a quote from Jason’s post.

I recently heard a story where one of the larger vendors in the talent management space sent a prospective client a complete slide deck regarding the weaknesses of one of their top competitors including a statement saying the vendor was due to get acquired any day.  FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) in its greatest sense. With the increased pace of M&A in the space, some may consider this a brilliant move.  I think it downright stinks! 

It is a valid issue to raise the long term viablity of a competitor. Ask any customer of a recently acquired vendor whether this is important or not.   However I don’t think is  cool to suggest something that isn’t. That is I believe,  called lying. 

Understanding competitor strengths and weaknesses and positioning against them is good business, but mailing a slidedeck of FUD isn’t. That is dumb. I’ve got lots of slides from customers saying this is what the other guys say you can’t do.    This makes the next deal so much easier. 

If you are going to unethical and lie then don’t  compound it by leaving any evidence….

Jeff Nolan posted a thoughtful post  a few weeks  ago about the  Oracle-SAP tiffs.

The old rules like never talk about your competitor, as a primary strategy, are also out. While it is prudent, IMO, to not run the kind of full page ads that Oracle has been using against SAP (indeed, SAP did a pretty extensive survey of CIOs and IT decision makers and found overwhelming support for the argument that these ads were actually hurting Oracle by reinforcing biases against the company), I do think companies in mature markets need to run more aggressive anti-competitor campaigns. These will involve everything from websites to blogs to YouTube videos. The point is that you have to position against your competitor aggressively, protect your flanks from them doing the same, and fight to remove all the competitive oxygen from the room before you get there.

Yet undermining competitors by whatever  means possible is not a new thing,  so Jason’s call for a return to the good old days of true and fair competition is wistful at best.  

Fortiter calumniari, aliquia adhaerebit

The term mudslinging seems to  have  from US Politics, and it is not a recent invention.  The election of 1864 was particularly vicious, and it is from there that the term became widespread.


The election of 1884 was pretty mean too.

Sadly, it seems that negative advertising actually works.

Iacoboni’s brain imaging research from the 2004 presidential campaign revealed that viewers lost empathy for their own candidate once he was attacked.

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First thoughts from the German SAP HR congress.

This may be a bit disjointed……..

I’m “Fresh” from the UK user group meeting in Birmingham,  where I spoke about ERP2005, the room was packed.  Lots of interest in Duet and Muse. It was great to catch up with customers and partners. One of the best things that these sort of events is introducing customer A to customer B.  So many customers underestimate what they can learn from each other.  The SAP HR business in the UK is very busy, and growing. Partners have cross trained PeopleSoft consultants onto SAP, so this is a good indicator of market trends. 

I got home yesterday in time to see the kids, but then I was up early to drive to Nürnberg for the SAP-Kongress für Personalmanagement.  There are about 1400 people here.  45 partners are exhibiting.  It is good to be lurking and listening rather than presenting. 

I’m sitting here in the keynote address from  Michael Kleinemeier, the President of EMEA Central (DE, CH, AU, BENELUX). 

It is great to see management present in German, so often I see them in English, and it is tough to be sparkly in a second language. In German Kleinemeier has   the room laughing. What impressed me the most so far is that he is doing the demos himself!  He has done a demo of Duet, and showed the new HR administrator role.  Pretty cool that he has taken the time to learn a demo script in Q4.  If the MD can do an intro demo, then every account manager should be able to do the same.

Claus Heinrich, SAP’s board member responsible for internal HR  spoke next.  He explained how SAP  HR department functions, and the role technology plays to support it. Lots about talent management and shared services.  Later there is a focus session on the executive dashboard that Henning and co use, so I’ll attend that.  HR at SAP is by no means perfect, but we are doing lots of stuff well. 

The SAP HR market in Germany is really strong, despite the talk by many of a saturated market. 

The message from customers is not so much  where is the next great thing, but on execution and simplification. I have several meetings planned with large German Globals who are expanding their successful German shared service centres across Europe, or even globally.  Talent management has moved from talk to action too.

I’ve not seen many analyst types here.  (If they are any reading this that are here, then drop me an email)   The US centricity of much of the analyst research does concern me,  as coverage of the European markets is generally  weaker. The word global is bandied around with abandon, but I rarely read anything that provides in depth insight about the market here.  Asumptions made in the US or even the UK don’t always translate across the pond to the continent.

I would have thought presentations about  e-recruiting  at  Audi, The German Army on talent management, shared services at Swisscom and Lufthansa, Performance Management at BASF, Learning management at Schindler, Dresdnerbank on the future of HR, Commerzbank on talent management,  HR transformation at Continental and organizational development at the METRO Group would be interesting. 

These are all world class firms doing great stuff with our software.  Not hype, but HR executives talking about their business.

The first presentation tomorrow morning is from the SAP CFO, Werner Brandt. He will be talking to 1400 HR folks, the Topic: The transformation of the finance function as a model for HR transformation.  I’m looking forward to this, as it is exactly what I have been talking about for a while.  Dennis, I’ll send you the slides.



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Dave Ulrich, Intangibles, Zürich and Borris Bottomline.

Dave Ulrich is HR’s leading academic.  I had the pleasure of attending a workshop in Zürich organised by the ZFU. Dave spent a full day taking a group of senior HR folks through his latest thinking. He is an excellent, engaging, witty speaker and has the right mix of theory and practical examples.

He took a break from academia for 3 years to work as a missionary, but he is now back into his research.  I’d urge any one in HR to read his stuff, and get to hear him if at all possible.  I learnt lots. 

I enjoyed it when he said if you dont have e-HR, then go and buy it now, but his main takeaway was that HR needs to focus on how it adds value to the business. HR theories and fads mean nothing if they don’t have a clear business impact. He stressed that value is measured by the receiver, not the giver. He is so right.  His 14 Criteria model is easy to grasp, but it demands a fundamental action shift for many HR practioners.  

He suggested that all HR folks take the following test. (or similar)

1. What is the turnover and profit of your company?

2. What is its P/E ratio?

3. Who are the main competitors?

4. What are their P/E ratios?

5.  What are the main industry challenges?

6. Where is your company weak/strong?

7.  How fast is it growing or shrinking?

Unless HR folks can engage in a sensible discussion with the business, then it is really tough to add value. He also suggested getting an equity analyst to brief the HR management.  Analysts are more and more concerned about intangibles. The Economist  once defined  an Intangible as, “Anything in a firm that generates  value that you can’t drop on your foot.” Human Capital is the normally the biggest one,  yet most CEO’s don’t really talk about it with investors.  That is dumb.

Dave made the point that if marketing can come up with a model for valuing something as  fuffy as brand, then it is high time that HR started to articulate the value of human capital and talent  in financial terms.  This is a pet topic of mine.

His advice for HR Executives..

HR executives have many conversations that lead to action. With the HR value proposition as a foundation, these conversations focus on results relevant to each stakeholder.
· With investors, conversations focus on how intangibles become a determining factor in the creation of sustained market value. Actions focus on intangibles audits and how these audits can provide specific insights on how to improve shareholder value.
· With customers, conversations focus on customer needs and how HR practices can be aligned with customer expectations, with a view to increasing customer share. Besides adjusting practices, action may involve ways to engage customers in designing and delivering HR practices.
· With line managers, conversations center on delivering business strategies through prioritizing and creating organization capabilities. Actions follow as the concept of capabilities translates into investments of budget, time, and energy.
· With employees, conversations provide insight into an employee value proposition that assures that if and when employees deliver value, they will get value. Actions may then be specified to ensure that employees have both the ability and the attitude to do what is expected of them.
· With HR professionals, conversations capture both the roles and competencies they require to deliver value. This helps HR professionals realize their roles and demonstrate their competencies.

There was much more to it than what I’ve said here, so go and buy his books.

I’ve commented on the links between HR and Finance before, but I think it is vital for HR and Finance folks to talk to each other more…

I was good to catch up with the Kevin Delany, the HR practice partner head from PWC Europe.  PWC accquired Saratoga, one of the leading HR benchmark firms. If you are interesting in looking at the latest in measuring intangibles, then Kevin is well worth getting in touch with. 

I also had a quiet beer with Armin Trost. He is a German HR academic, teaching in theBlack Forest.  He used to run Recruiting at SAP.  I like his business model of teaching, research  and consulting.  He is planning to start a blog.

Thomas Sattelberger, the HR Head at Continental, kicked off the second day. He explained forcefully and lucidly how Continental HR has transformed. Impressive stuff, and it provides the Ulrich theory with a really good practical proof point. He is also speaking at the SAP HR Congress in Nürmberg next week. (I’ll be there too)

Michael, Arne and I ran a workshop  case study on the second day.   We had senior HR types from several Swiss, Finnish and German companies in attendance.  Instead of the typical SAP death by powerpoint, we experimented with a new approach. I’d read Ulrich’s research, so we put together a case study that picked up on some of his key themes.  We modelled it on the traditional business school type case, but with a little more humour. 

You can try it too if you like. (I’ve removed the corporate slide layouts..) Meet Borris Bottomline, Christina Cashflow, Peter Paperbased, Brian Banker, Andrew Android,  and Thomas Trotsky… Any suggestions for improvement welcome.

(wordpress.com won’t allow slideshare embedding yet, but hopefully it will soon.  Slideshare is really rather neat) 

The session worked suprisingly well.  Lots of discussion, and we wove in some real customer examples. The bit of humour tends to relax people, especially if they haven’t met before. 

The advice Dave Ulrich gave the HR folks, that HR professionals should be able to cogently discuss these external realities – the technology, regulatory and economic factors, and demographics of the global business environment – and connect them to their day-to-day work,  applies equally to those advising and selling. 


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BBC’s Nigel Paine on Podcasting wikis and blogs


Podcasting, wikis, and blogs.

Andrew McAfee put out a call for Enterprise 2.0 case studies last week.

I picked this cast up via the  university of St Gallen e-learning newsletter. 

Nigel Paine at the BBC is really on the ball.  Anyone interested in Learning, HR  and real life  emergent technology deployment in the enterprise should check it out.  

It is a long cast, 90 minutes or so, but it provides a deep insight into the BBC,  and a fabulous explanation of the tools and how they work. If anyone doubts the power of blogging and Wikis they should watch this.  

It is simply the best guide to enterprise emergence that I have ever seen.  The IPTV is pretty damn good too.

A new canon. Understanding IT.

Just after I left  university there was quite a lot of controversy about  Harold Bloom’s Western Canon. Bloom stripped the veneer of literature as politics or sociology away, and suggested that we enjoy literature for its aesthetic value. He was criticized by some as perpetuating the dominance of the DWM. (Dead white male), but  I do like the idea of a set of great books, things that we should read. Sometimes it is great to read light and fluffy stuff,  but I also like to return to the classics.  

IT as a discipline is relatively new. It has to borrow from adjoining disciplines like computer science, economics, and law. It is still finding its place in curricula at business schools, business literature  and in undergraduate teaching.  Sometimes it is hard to define what information systems study really is.  Studying the Internet and its impact is even newer, and therefore even harder to define. 

Politics, Law, Economics and Maths all have their Canons.  Keynes, Friedman, Smith, Ricardo, Marx,Schumpeter, Rousseau, Hobbes, Locke, Fuller, Hilbert, Euclid, Plato, Riemann,  Gaus, Boole … If you study any of these subjects, you get to read some classic works, and study how they have succeeded or failed. Many of these theories wax and wane, but they remain lodestones. No one theory is ever perfect, but they help us shape our thinking.

I’m really pleased to see the Web Science Research Institute  announced by the University of Southampton, one of the UK’s top universities, and MIT. 

The Web Science Research Initiative (WSRI) will generate a research agenda for understanding the scientific, technical and social challenges underlying the growth of the Web. Of particular interest is the volume of information on the Web that documents more and more aspects of human activity and knowledge. WSRI research projects will weigh such questions as, how do we access information and assess its reliability? By what means may we assure its use complies with social and legal rules? How will we preserve the Web over time?

The academics involved are heavyweight indeed.

Tim Berners-Lee, director of the World Wide Web Consortium, senior research scientist at MIT and professor at the University of Southampton; Wendy Hall, professor of computer science and head of the School of Electronics and Computer Science at the University of Southampton; Nigel Shadbolt, professor of artificial intelligence at the University of Southampton and director of the Advanced Knowledge Technologies Interdisciplinary Research Collaboration; and Daniel J. Weitzner, Technology and Society Domain leader of the World Wide Web Consortium and principal research scientist at MIT.

I look forward to seeing this research move into teaching programmes, not just in computer science, but in the social sciences and business too.

I can’t help thinking that information systems and the study of the web badly need a core body of theory, too often we lurch from trend to trend.  I’ve quoted This one from Prof Thomas at Oxford elsewhere in my ramblings, but it is relevant here too.

 We are as an industry very much in the early stages. The industry is only 50 years old. If you compare that with civil engineering, which is several thousand years old, we are tackling some of the most complex engineering designs and building some of the most complex engineering systems that the world has ever seen, essentially using craft technology. If you looked at the methods that are employed in most companies you would come to the conclusion that actually IT system development is a fashion business, not an engineering business, because they jump from one methodology to another year after year so long as it has a whizzy name, “Agile this” or “Intensive that”. The underlying engineering disciplines that every mature engineering discipline has learnt it needs to use in order to be able to show that the system it is building has the required properties have not yet been employed in software and systems engineering, and that is at the heart of why these things do not work.

Perhaps the students of today have access to sound body of research  but as a someone working in Information Systems in the industry,  I’d appreciate the opportunity to read the 30 great books or articles that have shaped the space.

What would be the ideal reading list, not only in order to get  through an MBA or other course, but one that would give pleasure and insight?  Something to dip into when the latest wave of buzzwords  threatens to drown out the basic truths.

 I would like to see an IT canon.  What are the works in Information Systems that anyone deeply interested in the topic should read?  For something to be relevant for the Canon it must have stood the test of time, and it should have some canonical strangeness.  That is tough in IT, as we seem to invent new trends and concepts weekly.  There is a  marketing msima that is hard to penetrate.

Where are the texts that will not date, that will serve as the key building blocks for future endeavors, and that continue to challenge our thinking? Can we project forward? What are the books or articles written today that we will continue to find relevant 5 -10- or 15 years’ hence. Guessing them might be fun too.

Where would you start?  What are the 10 key works that shape our understanding of IT and the web? Perhaps it would be worthwhile setting up some sort of list where folks can add and maybe vote. It might be fun to come back and reassess it over time. Any suggestions on how to set up such a list? There is probably some cool  site somewhere that we could run this on. 

The categories

The Canon. Historical stuff, I’ll suggest here  pre 1990.


 this year.

Any takers? 


Slashdot and Harvard Business Review

I seem to spend an inordinate amount of time on this blog writing about things Andrew McAfee has written. I’m not sure that this is healthy.  He  posted  yesterday about the slashdot response to his  HBR article.  He was surprised about the number of negative comments.  I wasn’t.

HBR is  aimed at manager types. The pointy headed managers in the Dilbert cartoon if you will.  It is a generalist management publication, not an academic heavy read journal.  Look at the edition in which the McAfee article appears.  I’ll be listening to the Kanter podcast on innovation next time I fly.  HBR  has been around for a while..

The Harvard Business Review has one goal: to be the source of the best new ideas for people creating, leading, and transforming business. Since its founding in 1922, HBR has had a proud tradition as the world’s preeminent management magazine, publishing cutting-edge, authoritative thinking on the key issues facing executives

Many of those who lurk at slashdot are heavy technology types.  A good number of them write code for a living.   They weren’t Andrew’s intended audience, but I suspect he enjoyed the readership spike that being slashdotted brings.  

There is something rather teenage about how software developers of a certain type react to those from outside the clique who dare stray on their turf, even unwittingly.  They are mean, cutting,  churlish, they think it is cool to be abusive and rude, but in fact, it is merely a poor guise for insecurity. I have lots of respect for people with deep technical prowess, but little respect for those that use that prowess to insult others.

They complain one minute that no one takes them seriously, or respects them, and then they get angry when anyone from outside attempts to get to know them better.  Andrew’s piece is an attempt to create a simple framework to help managers understand IT better.

I have read a number of articles in HBR that provide insight to things that I don’t know much about, like hedgefunds, or global  supply chain management. I don’t see hedgefund  mathematicians getting in a hissy fit because I’ve never done a monte carlo analysis.  I met one at a dinner party a few years ago and he explained in simple layman’s terms how he makes his living.  He enjoyed seeing the light go on in my head when I understood the difference between alpha and beta.  Judging by many of the slashdot comments on the post,  if I’d asked  want is the difference developing with Rails and Java,  I would have been cut off at the legs, or had the merlot split on my lap. This quote is from the article comments..

Dear Sweet $DIETY, I sincerely hope your head doesn’t pop-up over a cubicle wall in my building. I recently met a gentleman in a Starbucks, who started a conversation with me regarding IT after seeing my purchases from the adjoining bookstore.
          His philosophy was quite similar; “IT is by no means important, it’s just a necessary evil. A means to an end.” He then went on about how no one is even truly dependent on IT, computers, or information.
          I mentioned my point of views differ, as I have made a career of IT, and I don’t see myself as a “glorified secretary”. Then I steered the conversation towards his laptop, a rather beat-up looking Dell, with an 802.11 PCMCIA card sitting next to it. Turns out my new friend is a writer, been in my hometown for almost two weeks, and hasn’t been able to upload his work off of the laptop the whole time (PCMCIA card not working, Dial-in line for his company was always busy, etc).
          Long story short; there was an “incident” involving my recently topped-off 20oz coffee thermos, and his laptop, which was aptly on his lap at the time. Not only did the poor Dell unleash the magic smoke the instant my thermos slipped, but it’s display didn’t survive the fall off of his lap as he started hopping up and down like, well, someone who’s “valuables” were drenched with hot coffee.
          Something tells me that he spent the better part of the evening begging a physician to be gentle with him, and begging a “glorified secretary” to recover two weeks of his work off of his Almond-Morning-Expresso soaked hard drive.
P.S: Yes, I am aware of the fact that I am a bastard. Thank you.

I think it is time for those sort of software developers to grow up.  If you want to be treated as a professional then it is time to start acting like one.  Buy the FT occasionally, read HBR every now and again.  You give your industry a bad name. 

If, developer, you can’t engage in any sensible dialogue with management, in a language that management understands, then you are right to feel insecure. Job insecure. There is a polite guy in  Bulgaria who can code better than you.

Andrew, these two may amuse..


The Financial Times Rocks

I’m on the plane on the the way to Nice as I write this. ( I’m using the windows live writer as  my new blogging frontend. Cool tool)  I’m meeting with Shell, BASF,  Siemens,  JTI, Tetrapak,  Renault, TeliaSonera, Danfoss,  and Henkel  to discuss and debate HR shared services.   Shared services is well on the way to being the main mechanism for delivering HR administrative processes.  There is a growing process mentality in HR today, and this is good news.  More on that on the flight back.

I  picked up the paper as  I boarded the plane, because I left the novel I really wanted to read at home.   In today’s FT I read several interesting articles. 


A  new proposal from the accounting firms, suggesting that we move away from quarterly reporting to real time reporting.  There is dissent about IFRS, Lord Browne of BP commenting.

some would argue that IFRS neither produce a record of the accountability of management nor a measure of the changes  in the economic value of  the assets and liabilities. I would agree with them. What IFRS actually does is make our results more difficult to understand

KMPG etc would like to replace the quarterely reporting with real-time Internet based reporting. This would, they suggest, enable investors to gather information whenever they want it. I look forward to reading the report and seeing what Dennis and other accounting types have to say about it.

We all talk about blogging as a real time dialogue, but imagine if the financials of a  company were the same.  The systems implications of such a change would be considerable, but if I would make the market more transparent then I’m all for it. Some bloggers I know will  moan about the cost of it all.


Bill Gates continues to impress me. 

According to Mr Gates, tech companies have made the mistake before of believing in overnight transformations.

When it comes to back office ERP, we’ll have some things on-premise and somethings published out on the web. We think few companies will be  purely on premise, or purely on the web.

Sounds like Microsoft and SAP both worship at the Hybrid Church.  


Japan’s financial reporting scandal. Mr Horie sounds just like the US CEO’s in court. …I know zip about accounts. Blame my CFO. “I never studied accounting, A management book I read said to leave that to the specialists, so that’s what I did.” hmmmm. 

other stuff

TCO, Romanian innovation,  Where are all the women in IT,  How to guess a password, Strategic IT consultants,  a full page advert from Novell and Micrsoft declaring undying love, technical woes at the LME, and a funny quote about Google.

“I can offer one straw for Yahoo to clutch at though. As I type this in Google Docs, “Google” is still showing up as a spelling error.”

The FT rocks.  I’d even buy it.



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