Germanness, pimp my SAP and VW

SAP's CEO, Henning Kagerman, recently said somewhere, "SAP is a global company headquartered in Germany."  In a similar vein Shai Agassi mentioned  "Look, SAP is probably the most globalized company you can imagine. We have a headquarters in Germany, an hour south of Frankfurt. But the head of sales is in Paris. And the head of products is in Palo Alto. Our chairman is shuttling between all locations. We mirror our customers"

I've written before on the globalisation challenge at SAP. How SAP organises development clearly requies a global focus, and the HR and people management challenges are significant. I think, though, it is something that Kagermann and co take very seriously. SAP is probably one of the best examples of a global company, in that we don't force one dominant culture onto everyone. We make mistakes, but I think we understand how difficult it is, and that is the big part of managing this…

Over the weekend we had some Americans over to visit. Over coffee after watching a bit of the World Cup, they asked "have you seen the really funny new VW commercials showing in the US?"

 "obviously, no, haven't watched US TV recently, Duh" we said.

Then someone said "check youtube"  Here they are, courtesy of youtube. one, two, three 

This then got me thinking about SAP's marketing and positioning.

The VW adverts do a fabulous job

1) making fun of pimp your ride  

2) making fun of german stereotypes.

They cleverely position solid German engineering at the same time. Pretty cool.

I think we can learn a bit from the chaps in Wolfsburg about marketing in a global world.

1. Be prepared to laugh at ourselves occasionally

2. Being German is not all bad.

3. Enterprise software is serious engineering.

Like, VW, SAP is a global company, with sales, marketing, engineering and design spread all over the world. Like VW, SAP has a strong German heritage. This hasn't stopped VW making use of its German roots in its branding. shock horror,  the german engineering and design traditions and traits are pretty good building blocks for a great global software company too.???

German Engineering in the house….

 Another thought from the commercial….

It is trendy at the moment to focus on pimping enterprise software, adding a little cool bit here and this extra bit here with this funky new 2.0 thingy and so on. What makes VW cars cool in this advert is their design. SAP's long term success will be based on great software design, not the latest and greatest GUI fashion. 

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building relationships beyond IT departments

At SAP it seems that we are "relatively good" at building relationships with IT folks and CIOS. We are less good at building relationships with the people outside of IT -people who aren't that interested in SOA, but are concerned with running a part of the business. We'd like to fix this.

For a couple of years now, we have successfully built up the financials best practice network.  in EMEA. It works well, senior finance people from some very significant companies meet to discuss pressing finance and business related issues on a regular basis, and get value out of it. I recently ran a session on risk and compliance for the network. (Juergen Daum, one of my colleagues, has an interesting website for those interested in the future of the finance function)

Some people like Sig are sceptical about best practice I'm not. For most of what companies do, you don't need to reinvent the wheel.  Looking at what other people have done is one of the best ways to learn and innovate. (Isaac Newton thought so anyway) It also balances out. Perhaps one company is ahead  in shared services deployment, another has better treasury management.

I have been asked to build up a similar network for HR execs. This kicks off next month, just after the World Cup. (afternoon July 10- full day 11th) There are some interesting HR folks presenting, including Zurich Financial Services, AtosOrigin, JTI, HBOS, SAP's own HR. We have chosen Talent Management as the broad theme, and later in the year there will be a Chief HR Officer session in Brussels looking at employee engagement and sustainablity, as well as a best practice meeting in Nice looking at HR service models and BPO.

If you are interested in finding out more either check out the site here, or mail me if you are an HR person interested in attending.

I agree with Vinnie on something. shock horror gasp

I have just got back from Sapphire Europe. I was only there for the first day, had several customer meetings, a great lunch with Les Hayman and James Farrar (more about that on another post), had an excellent session with Amit Chatterjee and his team about GRC (governance risk and compliance), saw a super presentation about the SAP talent management implementation at KBC Bank and then later had a couple of glasses of bubbly with the GRC gang and then a steaktatar for dinner. I managed to see some partner and SAP folks too. All in all a busy day.

Sapphire though is a bit too much marketingspeak for me.  It reminds me more than a little of what G.B Shaw said when he declined an invite to speak at a vegetarian convention."The thought of a 1000 people simultaneously crunching celery terrifies me"

I agree with Vinnie that there is too much SOA talk at the moment. It is a tad theoretical, abstract, metaphorical and technical for me. I should leave that to James and the my birkie mates.

 I studied a fair bit of philosophy at university, and Immanuel Kant is easier to figure out than some of the SOA stuff. We are talking too much about the technology and not enough about the applications the technology helps create.

CIOs might buy and love technology, but I still believe business people buy applications. They want to eat the meal, not just read the cook book. 

I think we need to start moving back to messaging that resonates with business people. Governance, Risk Compliance business unit is a step in the right direction. I reckon we need to do more of this sort of thing- focus on the business issue.

Build teams of people who really understand the business issues, and deliver solutions to address the business challenge. You can only do this if you understand the business issues in depth, only then can the technology help. The combination of  Virsa  and some key from core ERP will make for a compelling foundation.

It was nice to see a big HR (sorry Human Capital management with mySAP(tm) ERP powered by SAP Netweaver) deal announced. the Bank of India

MUMBAI, India and PARIS, France – May 30, 2006 – May 30, 2006 — SAP AG (NYSE: SAP) today announced that the State Bank of India (SBI), India’s largest commercial bank, selected mySAP™ ERP to automate and seamlessly integrate its human capital management (HCM) processes across State Bank Group, part of the bank’s efforts to transform its operations and prepare for future growth. The enterprise resource planning (ERP) application from SAP would serve State Bank Group’s global strength of more than 370,000 employees and retirees, making it one of the largest HCM implementations in the banking industry globally

Well done to Amit Avasthi and his HR team in India did a fab job on this one.

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ruby and sapphires.

There is lots of interesting innovation going on in the SAP community that backs up Shai Agassi's excitement about SDN. I was very sceptical of it when it started, but I was clearly wrong. (not the first time)

Ross commented on SDN here.  I stumbled across Piers' stuff today while in frankfurt airport awaiting my plane. See what Piers is up to with Ruby and SAP. Here is the SDN entry. 

I read it, said "?????" and released I needed adult supervision, so I mailed a Birkenstock-wearing colleague who resides deep in the walldorf machine.

He told me, "I've been following Piers' work on SDN. it is great to showcase this kind of thing-its nothing new to see such innovation from the partner-consultant community, but very nice to see it showcased effectively." 

If you are interested in more on Scripted languages, check it out here, the post is written by a guy from Colgate. Thoughtful stuff. This SDN thing is working. The more people innovating on SAP, the better.


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excellent Sapphire summary and the need for some humo(u)r

For those of you who don't want to read lots of blogs, the best Sapphire summary comes from AMR's Bruce Richardson.  Succinct, coherent and timely. (score one to AMR)

 While Hasso Plattner, Henning Kagermann, and Shai Agassi are household names inside AMR Research, how many know Ian Kimbell? Derek Prior, our top SAP analyst in Europe, and I were talking about the SAP executive presentations this week. I said that they were always better when Mr. Kimbell was part of the product demonstrations. Derek turned to me and asked, “Is he the funny Brit?”

Yes, Mr. Kimbell is the very funny Brit. Please SAPPHIRE planners, if you’re going to make us sit for hours on uncomfortable folding chairs, at least entertain us. We mean no disrespect to this week’s participants, but bring back Ian Kimbell. Don’t make us start a petition.

The point about Ian Kimbell may seem a bit cryptic for those that haven't seen him in action, but a skillset we drastically underestimate and under invest in at SAP is the ability to present and demo complex concepts in a way that customers can understand and enjoy. Ian has this skill, yet far too often this is dismissed as just "blah-blah"

We focus too much on the powerpoints and not enough on the content delivery, yet boring is not a good sales strategy. As usual there is a gapingvoid cartoon to make the point better than I can.

i'm a speaker.jpg


corporate search, GUIs, Autonomy Google and so on..

Google will have us believe that search is the holy grail. (apologies Dan Brown)  Nicholas
Carr on roughtype comments on Google's attempts to surplant GUIs with search. I don't buy it. Charles, a fellow SAPler has some doubts too.

There is a lot of Google myopia at the moment with everyone wondering what will google do next. I'd like to stop thinking about Google and look at enterprise search more generally.

If enterprise search is such a big deal, howcome Autonomy isn't making SAP or Oracle kind of money?  By all accounts, the technology is brilliant (lots of maths PhDs)

Autonomy is founded on a unique combination of technologies borne out of research carried out at Cambridge University. Autonomy's strength lies in advanced pattern-matching techniques (non-linear adaptive digital signal processing), rooted in the theories of Bayesian Inference and Claude Shannon's Principles of Information, that enable identification of the patterns that naturally occur in text, based on the usage and frequency of words or terms that correspond to specific concepts 

 The company has 

  • a solid track record
  • is well run.
  • a very impressive government and blue chip customer base
  • Strong partners.

 It growing fast at the moment, but 50 million dollars revenue is not a big number. 

I don't think enterprise search is as bigger deal as Google and co think it is. If it was Autonomy would be 10x the size it is, or would have been snapped up by someone else for a big number.

If I'm wrong and enterprise search does end up being a really big thing, then Autonomy would seem to me to be a better bet than Google.  -Over 5 years track record in deploying search in the enterprise , understand stuff like security, ERP  and LDAP integration, have partners to configure the stuff, ……



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.


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