On Corporate Burghers

Cross posted on my work blog.

While taking a break from a flurry of  inquiry calls about ERP upgrades vs SaaS replacements,  I ambled over to facebook with Nespresso in hand.  A few years ago I met Dave Duarte, who  introduced me to  the Ogilvy Digital Academy   in South Africa. There is a lot of innovative stuff going on in the land of my youth, so I follow the SA scene  on  Facebook and on Twitter.  South Africa has had a lot of innovative advertising over the years, and I’m pleased to see this has well and truly moved over into the social side of things.  Today’s offering really hit home powerfully.

Have a look at this video.

A couple of things stood out for me.

1. Innovative idea and great execution. Genius. Braille on the burger bun.

2. Wimpy get the fact that People with Disabilities spend money just like other demographics.   Designing solutions and marketing for that segment makes business sense.  Part of this is about equal rights and access, but it isn’t charity.  Humour works.

3. The power of the referral. See the stats at the end of the presentation.

As part of my academic research, I’m looking at how enterprise software companies approach accessibility. Wimpy puts them all to shame.  Well done Wimpy.

On SAP’s Q3 2010.

Cross posted on my Gartner blog.

 

Here are some quick thoughts on SAP’s Q3 performance. It was was okay. It wasn’t awesome, but it wasn’t grim either. Have a look here for what the FT says.

The headline number of 20% revenue growth seems impressive but strip out the Sybase numbers and it is very similar to Q2. You can read what John Rizzuto and I blogged about Q2 here.

As Per Q2, for the deeper financial analysis I’ll defer to John.  

Core software product revenue again saw double digit increases, which signals that end-market demand remains relatively robust and SAP is benefiting from the increase in spending.  With double digit growth year to date thus far, it is safe to say that SAP has gained market share or growing ahead of the market.  However, was is troubling is SAP’s difficulties in expanding operating margin or meeting targets it has set.  While not troubling, i.e., it is still very fiscally fit, it does speak to the challenges the company is having in managing its business to create incremental leverage – although it is self evident from Wall Street’s perspective why we want comparable margins, it also matter from a competitive standpoint as well.  Specifically, it begs the question from any industry watcher, what is it that enables the other megavendors (i.e., MSFT, IBM, ORCL, even HP and Cisco) to run their business at operating margins, on average, 10%-15% higher? 

Gartner Clients might want to look at some of his other SAP related research.

Personally, I’m less concerned with the margin question, and more interested in the areas of customer satisfaction and new product innovation, as that is what I spend a good part of my day dealing with. 

Snabe and McDermott both continue to paint a more positive and upbeat picture than their recent predecessors did. Both Sapphire and Teched were more energized than my in-memory can remember, as indeed are the last couple of  earnings calls. The infectious exuberance in SAP-Land continues. 

The anti-Oracle posturing has its place on earning calls, and trading taunts makes for good headlines. Nevertheless, it is not nearly as relevant for SAP customers as many observers think. 

The challenge over the next 2 quarters is to show how the investment in newer technologies and applications is having a meaningful impact on the numbers. The market is the arbiter of innovation, not the vendor. 

At the same time, the existing customer base needs to be brought along to the party. This means clear communication is at a premium. This is improving, but as the UK and German user groups note, there is still work to do. 

SAP has a plan. Now it all comes down to execution. 

The iPad and the Enterprise

(photo cc attrib. pntphoto thanks!)

 

I have seen several keynotes from software executives lately. I recollect that all of them had iPads in them.  Seasoned software executives have been getting positively giddy about the iPad.

It has given Steve Jobs a sales force that he didn’t know he had. It seems without really planning for it, the iPad has become the must have enterprise device.

But what I’ve not yet seen is the must have enterprise application on the iPad. Yes, I’ve seen some neat repurposed reports and simple entry screens  but I’ve not yet seen an application that makes me sit up and say wow, that is a new and fundamentally better process enabled by the device.  So far the innovation is all about Apple.

If the iPad  means that enterprise software companies build executive dashboards and actually get executives engaging with the software, then fine, okay, that is an improvement from where we are today, but it misses the big opportunity.

Just  fixing the executive user experience has a whiff of the Potemkin about it. It would be a whole lot better if the iPad helped to prompt a rethink of how everyone interacts with enterprise software. Today the iPad merely illustrates the chasm between the typical enterprise software user experience and delightful design.

The World Cup and HR analytics.

Several vendors have sent me links to World Cup related versions of their analytics tools. Some of them are really clever. I can drill down into skills, real time results and so on.  Neat stuff, mashing up data sources from all over the place, with compelling charts and stats, and good social sharing features. Easy to use, no training required.

Yet it is a sad indictment of analytics space in that vendors can quickly cook up engaging, immersing and rich dashboards for the World Cup, whereas most HR dashboards are poorly designed, unimaginative, dull and have very limited adoption. 

  • My advice to analytics vendors. Take the learning from how you have visualized football players and apply it to your workforce analytics offerings.
  • My advice to HR departments. Look at the World Cup dashboards and do it with your workforce data. You have the data, you have the tools. By the time Germany are crowned champions in a few weeks time you could have it built and deployed.

Ada Lovelace day. Two academics.

I’m featuring two academics for this year’s Ada Lovelace day. It is an international day of blogging to celebrate the achievements of women in technology and science.

 Firstly: Dr Sue Black. 

I’ve not met Sue, except on twitter,  but I have admired her efforts to support Bletchley Park for some time now. She blogs about them here. 

I think Bletchley Park should be a global heritage site. It is one of the cradles of the our industry, and the work of the people there was as heroic as that of any soldier. Sue’s work in raising the profile of Bletchley is my main reason for featuring her, but her campaigning for women in technology is relentless, and her academic research is well worth a read too. 

 Secondly:  Theano.

I’ve not met her either, and she isn’t on twitter.

Theano of Crotona was the wife of Pythagoras.(born c. 546 B.C.),

According to tradition, Theano was the wife of Pythagoras. She and her two daughters carried on the Pythagorean School after the death of Pythagoras. She wrote treatises on mathematics, physics, medicine, and child psychology. McLemore writes that her most important work was the principle of the “Golden Mean.” But discerning what Theano actually did is extremely difficult. As stated in the article in the Biographical Dictionary of Women in Science,

That Theano continued to operate the school of Pythagoras after his death is often affirmed but not confirmed. Thus, it can only be stated that, according to tradition, Theano was a mathematician, a physician, and an administrator—someone who kept alive an important training ground for future mathematicians.

In addition, Damo (ca. 535-475 BC), the daughter of Phythagoras and Theano, is said to have published her father’s treatises on geometry as well as treatises on the construction of a regular tetrahedron and the construction of a cube.  via this site.

According to one source, Theano’s principal works included a Life of Pythagoras, a Cosmology, The Theorem of the Golden Mean, The Theory of Numbers, The Construction of the Universe, and a work titled On Virtue. None of the primary sources that remain, however, reveals anything of her personality.

Theano’s most important work is said to have been the principle of the Golden Mean. Like the geometrical constant pi, the Golden Mean is an irrational number that shows up in many relationships in nature. Its decimal value is approximately 1.6180. In geometry, a “golden” rectangle is one whose sides are related by the Golden Mean ratio, for example 13:8. Both the ancient Greeks and Egyptians designed buildings and monuments with proportions based on the Golden Mean. It is now known that some growth patterns observed in nature occur in accordance with the Golden Mean, examples being the spirals in the nautilus shell and the ratio of clockwise to counterclockwise spirals in a sunflower.

In a treatise on the construction of the universe attributed to Theano, she reportedly argues that the universe consists of ten concentric spheres: the Sun, the Moon, Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Venus, Mercury, Earth, Counter-Earth, and the stars. The Sun, Moon, Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Venus, and Mercury move in orbit about a central fire. The stars are fixed and are not considered to move. In Theano’s theory, the distances between the spheres and the central fire are in the same arithmetic proportion as the intervals in the musical scales. via this site.

It is a shame that the work of both Theano and Damo is lost in the mists of time. It is my view that many of the great scientists of the past owe much more to their spouses than history lets on. Programmers may have heard of Theano as a python library.

A review of Andrew McAfee’s Enterprise 2.0 book and a bit of related Gartner research.

Cross posted from my Gartner blog.

I received a review copy of Andrew McAfee’s Enterprise 2.0 just before Christmas, so I added it to my book pile as an extra Christmas present. Thank you Andrew and the publisher, HBS.

In reviewing books, I have a simple test. Would I spend my own money on a copy? This book passes that test.

There are a goodly number of reviews on the web already, so I’ll keep this review relatively short. I found Jon Ingram’s review to be particularly useful.

The book is clearly written, well structured and it is refreshingly devoid of hype (other than the slightly jarring tagline). McAfee writes well, aiming at a management rather than a geeky audience. It is an easy but nutritious read, there is little technical jargon yet it doesn’t over-simplify or seem condescending when explaining technology. More importantly It isn’t just preaching to the enterprise 2.0 choir, nor it is the Iskra for the Enterprise 2.0 revolutionaries, whomever they may be.

In the same way that technologies and new business practices have changed businesses in the past, so to are new technologies and business practices changing things today. McAfee shows through 4 case studies how collaborative technologies are changing the way we work, and will work.

The term emergence is important to Enterprise 2.0, and McAfee explains this thoroughly. I particularly liked this sentence, Emergence is the appearance of global structure as a result of local interactions.

The section on ROI is also very useful, and not just for Enterprise 2.0 projects. He goes through the limitations of ROI models in some depth, even though he uses baseball examples, it makes sense.

It was also good to see that Argyis and Schön’s Model 1 and Model 2 theory of behaviour, Granovetter’s The Strength of Weak ties, and Burt’s Structural holes were referenced in the book. I’m of the view that we need to be applying more organization design and sociology to business and IT thinking. There are many models in the sociology that we could use to better understand organizations and how they change.

McAfee also references von Hippel and John Allen Paulos. Both are essential reading.

I would have liked to have seen a further reading section. The HBR book site  wasn’t available when I looked today. This book would be well served by a supporting web site, emergent or otherwise.

The final 2-3 pages of the book are key. They link the Enterprise 2.0 proposition back to his broader research (with Brynjolfson, Zhu and Sorell) into IT and competitive difference. He briefly makes the case for how Enterprise 2.0 can improve ERP, and I wish he had made more of this argument in the book.

With regards to the relevance and the extent of emergent technologies and social software in an enterprise context, let me take the liberty of pointing to the blogs and / or research of several Gartner colleagues, for instance Anthony Bradley, Jeff Mann  Andrea DiMaio  Carol Rozwell, Nikos Drakos and Adam Sarner.  For Gartner clients have a look at The Business Impact of Socialization: Real-World Measurable Results. This collection of research highlights 16 examples of social computing that were not open-ended, undefined experiments, but rather were purposeful engagements resulting in actual measurable business benefits. (client access needed)

Somewhat selfishly, I would have liked to see more on the HR implications of enterprise 2.0 in the book. I’m doing a lot of work in this area at the moment. I have recently published a collection of short case studies on social software’s impact in HR as part of 2009 Business Impact series and I field a lot of calls from HR and IT who are looking at the HR implications of social software, both behind and beyond the firewall. In 2008 I published a note, The Business Impact of Social Computing on HR Data. (client access needed) but here is an excerpt.

 Social computing’s impact: With social computing, we’re seeing a new set of HR-relevant data: volunteered data. Employees, managers, executives, applicants and customers share HR-relevant data, but only in ways that suit them, rather than in the structured format that is required by traditional HR processes. People are sharing data to get things done and to socialize. Examples include employees maintaining internal blogs, in which they discuss their skills and interests; workgroups and document sharing via wikis; and social networks. In addition, networks such as Facebook and Xing often offer richer, deeper insights into career history, skills, qualifications and business interests than traditional HR skills and career history databases do. Organizational changes often are reflected in LinkedIn before they appear in the transactional HR management system.

I made this strategic planning assumption then.

By 2012, volunteered, HR-related data will exceed mandatory HR data in volume and value. Leading HR organizations will invest more time and effort in managing and exploiting voluntary data than they spend on mandatory data.

This is similar to the points McAfee makes about imposed, emergent and competitive advantage.

I look forward to reading his next book, and continuing to follow his academic research. As a final aside,  McAfee cites JP Rangaswami in the book. I’d suggest reading his blog. JP is high up on my list of people who I’d like to have write a book.

Thanks again, Andrew, for the copy.