A moment I’ll cherish.

Loyal readers of my personal blog may remember in my distant past I ran a fashion blog called DFOF (dedicated followers of fashion) with a couple of friends. As with many blogs, it was fun while it lasted.

This week at SuccessConnect my interest in fashion and my day job came to together in a rather special way.

I moderated a panel with 4 live, happy Employee Central customers discussing global HR. They discussed their projects and implementations, successes and so on, answering questions from the audience. Having Nitin from Boston Scientific, Judith from Amway, Justin from Brooks Brothers and Jermaine from Edgewell (Energizer) showcasing EC and other SF products was pretty neat.  We had a full room of over 200 people. I asked  questions, and passed a microphone around, and just listened to them saying great things about our products. Seeing the genuine belief that these customers have in our solutions was simply lovely. There is nothing better than customers telling their stories.

But the magic moment for me was not in the panel, it was just afterwards.

The day before flying to Vegas I went into the Brooks Brothers shop in Philly on Walnut street, and bought a shirt to wear on the panel, partly to help open the discussion, but also because I like an excuse for a bit of retail therapy, state of the Euro notwithstanding. Justin from Brooks Brothers was rather pleased that I had splashed out, and asked me how the shopping experience was. I had brilliant service in the store, in fact, I bought two shirts, not one. He then asked me to remember who had served me. I couldn’t remember his name, as I’m rubbish at remembering names, but quick as a flash, Justin clicked on the SF app on his phone, opened the org chart and drilled down to the photo and found the store employee. He gave him kudos immediately, almost before I finished my sentence.

With 2 or 3 clicks, probably without realising it, Justin had proven, in action, precisely what we are trying to achieve with our products. This wasn’t just about EC, it was about mobile, EC, platform and talent all working together. Without our software that feedback would have been lost. Without the mobile org chart, Justin wouldn’t have been able to get to the info. Without EC, he wouldn’t have known precisely who was working the store. Without Talent  he wouldn’t have been able to do the kudos, and quickly let the store manager and regional manager know.

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This really made my day. I look forward to talking further with Justin, about how technology can make HR more human, but more importantly, I’d like to mourn the demise of the tie in corporate attire, and figure out to destroy the evil that is business casual.

A fitting farewell to a remarkable man.

Yesterday I attended the memorial for Klaus Tschira, the SAP founder, who died suddenly on the 21st March. It was a fitting tribute to a brilliant, modest and kind man. Thank you to the team that organized it. All the speeches were very moving, and the SAP Symphony performance was very fitting. The  local paper covered it here.

My thoughts are with his family.

Bill McDerrmott asked several of us to contribute our reminisces for his speech, and I thought I’d share what I sent him here. Thankyou Bill, for delivering them so poignantly.

When one reviews the press obituaries for Klaus, they rightly mention the enormous financial and personal investment he made into science and science education. My kids go to a school where the science lab is funded by his foundation and largesse. His impact on research over the last 20 years has been profound, spanning core math, computer science, life sciences, physics and astronomy research . Klaus has helped 1000s of children and adults understand our world better. That is an immense legacy, and he will be remembered as one of Germany’s greatest philanthropists.  As a parent, I’m grateful for what Klaus has done for science education.

My personal relationship with Klaus highlights a different side of the man. I first joined SAP in South Africa in 1995, working on the HR product, and I was  sent to Walldorf for training.   I met Klaus in a meeting and I was totally captivated by his vision for how SAP technology  could revolutionise HR and business, and he listened intently to my rather naive views on HR systems. He took me aside, and together with Steve Lamy, he suggested that I move to Germany.  Klaus’ vision for HR technology remains the lodestone upon which SAP built the leading HR solution in the world. It is as relevant then as it is today. He understood the power of globalisation, and more than anyone else, he grasped the power of integration. I remember him saying the goal of the HR system should be to help the business run better. Make plants safer, have the right people, with the right skills in the right place, and  use technology to help managers and employees do a better job.The payroll that he built still pays more people in the world in more countries than any other solution.

I worked for a short while as Klaus’ assistant before he retired. I stayed in contact with Klaus, occasionally visiting him in Villa Bosch.  He was a crime fiction fan, and I fondly remember introducing him to the works of Elizabeth George. Klaus had a wicked sense of humour and word play, and a whimsical taste in sculpture and ties. He had an encyclopaedic knowledge of the history of science,  he was fascinated by languages, and he was an avid collector of facts of all varieties. He had an insatiable curiosity, but he had no interest in cars, or sport.

Before his focus on HR technology, Klaus played a fundamental role in developing ABAP, so his impact is much broader than just as the inventor of SAP HR. Klaus was a mentor and friend to many. He inspired love and loyalty in those that worked with and for him. He will be missed by many, and the HR technology community has lost a giant, but his vision and ideals remain an inspiration.

My colleague, Andreas Elkeles, said it best, though. Here are some of his comments.

I met Klaus the first time in 1988. I was a young university graduate and went to CEBIT to look for a job. I knew that SAP was my favorite so I went to the SAP booth and asked to speak with a recruiter.  Luck meant, that Klaus was the recruiter in charge for the next available slot.  I introduced myself and found an easy connection with Klaus. No idea had I that I was talking with one of the company’s  founders. Klaus asked me whether I would mind to work in development for the HCM module (it was called RP in those days), and the rest became history. One of my first tasks was to take over a program Klaus had written in one of those weekend coding exercises. It was the program which managed the integration between payroll and financials, then called RPRIBU00. I was amazed how clearly the program was structured,  how elegantly it was programed. And Klaus was actually inserting practical jokes into the program documentation. I am using the analogy of Mozart composing  a piece of music with the same amount of time other people would take to play the same piece of  music. In a way Klaus was like a Mozart in software development.  I know that Klaus loved music, so he probably would like this analogy.

The Mozart clarinet concerto in A, 2nd Movement has always been one of my favourite pieces of music. Now, every time I hear it I will think of Klaus. Here it is, performed by Martin Fröst.

A charity ride for Autism.

Every couple of years I like to do something dumb on a bicycle. Ride over the Alps or the Rockies or similar, and I usually combine it with raising a bit of money for charity.  I have not figured out why me riding somewhere makes people reach for their wallets, but as it works, I don’t plan to knock it.

This year I signed up for the the Rapha Manchester to London ride on. It is rather long. 220 Miles, which is over 300 kms, in one day.  We are raising money for Ambitious about Autism.

Autism care and research could do with a lot more attention, so hopefully this helps.

Some background

Rapha’s Manchester to London Challenge is a unique one-day event travelling through the heart of the UK. Setting off at dawn from Manchester Velodrome, each rider will attempt to complete the 220-mile parcours before midnight, arriving at the Lee Valley VeloPark on Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London. A tough day out for even the most seasoned sportive riders, this will be a celebration of British cycling and culture.

Held on Sunday the 7th September, the route will travel along quiet roads through the Peak District, the Midlands, the Chiltern Hills and across to east London. There will be four feed stops along the route, positioned in quintessentially British villages serving local fare. There will also be roaming mechanical support, but self-sufficiency will be key.

After the success of the Bordeaux-Paris Challenge in 2013, the aim again is to raise money for Ambitious about Autism. Autism is a lifelong developmental disability which affects 1 in 100 people and the charity is one close to Rapha CEO and founder Simon Mottram, whose son Oscar has autism.

I’ll be riding together with my wife’s cousin, James Hart.

Should be fun and pain. I would appreciate your hard earned cash. So head over here and sponsor me please.

I also need to get training. eek.

This also fits in rather nicely with what my employer, SAP,  is up to, with regards to employing people with Autism.




Bringing the Hack into HRMS

I’ve not blogged or written for a while, but I figured it was time to start again. No promises on the regularity of posting appearance. I’m not a comet. 

Deliberate, consistent customer engagement drives most product enhancements. There is a profound skill in listening to a specific customer need, and turning it into a design that solves not only that customer’s need, but that of other customers too.  This is why product managers should spend lots of time talking with and listening to customers and prospects.  This is partly why I’m on first name terms with most of Lufthansa.

However, it is important to remember customers are not the only source of ideas. Listening to your own engineers is fundamental too. In the rush to be customer centric, it is easy to ignore the innovative ideas from your engineers. 

 I’m looking forward to SAP D-Code. 

We need to celebrate the maker,  as my mate James Governor puts ii. That is in essence what the D-code event will be all about. I’ll be attending the German event, at the sport arena, and then on campus.  There are other events across the world. (Bangalore, Shanghai, Palo Alto…)

At FKOM in Barcelona a couple of weeks ago, I renewed my respect for the scale of the SAP sales machine, but engineering is what makes SAP what it is.  

Some of the engineers I work with will be demoing stuff they are proud of to a massive audience of their peers.  While over the years I have grown comfortable and vaguely competent at talking to a large audience, I know it takes a lot of courage for those not used to it, often in a second or third language, to get up and present. 

Having played a bit with a PI Raspberry over the holidays, I saw the moment of magic when my kids actually figured out how a computer really works. That instant when the command line becomes a gateway to something special. Code is cool. 


While D-code is about the broader SAP engineering community, I think it is also important to foster innovation and experimentation on a smaller scale. SuccessFactors has a strong tradition of internal Hack days and demo jams in our San Francisco office, and we are doing the same in a couple of weeks time in Heidelberg. We are bringing together the engineers from the cloud team and the on-prem team. I’m really looking forward to see what comes out of this. We are taking this seriously, as we have roped in the best demo jam MC in the world, Craig Cmehil, and are making use of the the new ultra-hip Apphaus in Heidelberg (I sense there is a subtle homage to Walter Gropius in the Apphaus name, but I’ll explore that another day). 

I hope to see many of my engineering colleagues at the event. It will be a lot of fun, and I fully expect that the ideas that emerge will be finding their way to customers soon. 







HR Tech conference. In Vegas.

Hello all,

Yep, it will soon be time for that HR tech thing again, October 7-9. Vegas nochmals. I reckon I’ll be there, just not as a speaker, now that I’m on the vendor side of things. Bill runs a fine show, and as this is his last one before retirement, I’m looking forward to him buying me a drink for the first time ever. 

Just use the Promo Code OTTER13 (all caps) when you register online www.HRTechConference.com<http://www.HRTechConference.com> to get $500 off the rack rate of $1,895. The discount does not expire until the conference ends on Oct. 9.”

SuccessConnect starts directly after HR Tech, also in Vegas. So no excuses.




On speed and decisiveness

The first week in the office in St Leon Rot has been all about listening and learning. I’m spending my time getting to know people, product and processes. It is a surreal mix of familiar and new, of different and similar. Lunch is the same, but many things have changed.

What has surprised me the most  is the speed at which product decisions are made. I sat in on the call that reviewed what was built in the last release and I was flabbergasted as to how much happened in 90 days. I also listened in the on the first sprint call for the next release. Lots happening. Much less hierarchy, more autonomy.

The let’s get done attitude is contagious, and it has seeped into the SAP colleagues I have met this week. I see a spring in the step inside SAP that was largely missing when I last worked here.    The quarterly release business sharpens the mind.  Less powerpoint, higher velocity. Some of this is due to the cloud delivery model, but there is a cultural element too.

I like. I have much to learn.

Today is my last day at Gartner.

Today is my last day at Gartner.

The last 5 1/2 years have flown by. I have learnt more than I imagined I could, and probably forgotten more too. I’ve done over 3000 inquiries, written over 100 research notes, led several magic quadrants, attended 100s of Research communities, spoke at numerous conferences and strategy days.  I’ve worked with fascinating colleagues, users and vendors from around the world.  I consider many of them to be friends, even though we have met so rarely in person.

It has been a blast, and I will look upon my time at Gartner with a deep fondness.  The way Gartner has handled my departure only increases my respect for the organization.  I expect to see Gartner’s HCM research grow from strength to strength.


5 years of conferences.
So if it has been so good, why change?  As an analyst, you advise, you can suggest and you may even influence markets. That influence gave me a tremendous sense of satisfaction and respect for the responsibility that the role brings. But for the past few months I’d begun to wonder whether I wanted to remain an analyst for the rest of my career or not. I wasn’t really sure, but I felt a nagging itch. It took a while, but I have figured out what that itch is. It is the itch to build something.
This weekend I will be getting on a plane to Sapphire, the SAP annual conference,  not as a Gartner analyst, but as a SuccessFactors employee. I’m going to be the product manager for Employee Central. You can see the welcoming press release here.
I’m nervous, as I will need to learn a whole new raft of skills. I’m excited for the very same reasons.
Some of you reading this will know that I worked for SAP before joining Gartner, so you may be wondering why join SuccessFactors, which is part of SAP?  Here are my reasons.
  1. I reckon this is the most exciting job at the most exciting company  in HCM technology today.
  2. More broadly, HCM technology is the most dynamic place in application software now. What happens in HCM today will shape enterprise applications for the next 20 years. The investment, focus and market landscape is fundamentally different from where it was 5 years ago.
  3. Successfactors very rapidly developed a market leadership position in Talent Management software, and they have the opportunity to do the same in cloud core HRMS. Combining SAP’s deep experience and massive presence  in core HRMS and Successfactors will make for a powerful combination.  I think I can help make them work better together.  I understand  some of SAP’s strengths and weaknesses, its culture and how to get things done.
  4. There is no better salesforce in enterprise software. When aligned, is remarkable.
  5. The leadership team at SuccessFactors and SAP have very clear idea of what they would like me to do. I have seen too many analysts be hired into strategy roles, and then whither on the vine of large vendor politics. It is crystal clear that my fundamental job is to lead the team building Employee Central. This will be a massive challenge. I look forward to the learning curve.
  6.  In the 1995 Klaus Tschira, one of the SAP founders, impressed me so much with his vision for HR technology that  I convinced my wife that we needed to move to Germany. There is much in that vision that still needs to be built, so in a sense I have unfinished business with SAP.
My day today is tinged with feelings of farewell, but I can’t wait to start my new role .
To my colleagues at Gartner, I’ll reiterate my thanks for 5 fabulous years.
To my new colleagues at SuccessFactors and  SAP, thanks for the lovely welcome.