Of Cobblestones, Solomon, Paula, Gunter, Joseph and the GDPR.

I’ve been reading a fair bit of software vendor marketing and press from around the world about the GDPR. It seems to me that a lot of it misses the point. GDPR is seen as a compliance burden, an unwelcome dose of EU bureaucracy or at best a useful opportunity sell security software.  It is perhaps useful to reflect on why the GDPR and its predecessors in data protection legislation came into being.

I was walking to the train station in the rain this morning, and I paused for a moment by the pair of  Stolpersteine (tripping stones) on the corner of the street where we live. I’m not sure why I took the picture today,  perhaps they glistened from the drizzle.  I  wondered what Salomon and Paula were like, what were their hobbies and their foibles, did they watch football or play tennis together, what jobs did they do, was she left handed, who were their friends, what colour was his favourite tie,  did he make puns that made her smile, did she play Chopin on piano so that the notes drifted down the street on the breeze, did they hold hands as they walked beside the Neckar on that summer’s evening for the last time?

stolperstein image. two next to each other. Deutsch family.

Gunter Demnig began this art project in 1992. The first stone was laid in Salzburg, Austria, and now there are over 27,000  plaques across  22 countries, and growing.  Think of it as a distributed  museum.   They all follow the same format, size and font.  In situ, on the doorsteps of houses, for me they are more powerful and poignant than any centralised memorial or museum. They bring an uncomfortable intimacy and they force me to think about  how easily such an evil could come into being.  (check out more about the stones  here).

The GDPR exists to protect our data (and our person)  from abuse.

This Regulation protects fundamental rights and freedoms of natural persons and in particular their right to the protection of personal data. (Article 1 (2) GPDR) 

Software has the potential for enabling goodness, yet it can also empower evil. Software can encourage democracy, but it can undermine it too. Software can level the playing field, or it can entrench privilege.   The power of software to find, sort and group people is both awesome and awful.  It is a mighty thing that we wield.

As an industry we need to see people’s data as something to treat with care and respect. The GPDR is a long overdue firm nudge for us to remember that.

One of the pioneers of artificial intelligence,  Joseph Weizenbaum, fled Berlin for the US as a child in the 1930’s.  I suspect there is a stoplerstein for his family on a street in Berlin. His book, Computer Power and Human Reason, should be required reading for all those building software.

““The computer programmer is a creator of universes for which he alone is the lawgiver. No playwright, no stage director, no emperor, however powerful, has ever exercised such absolute authority to arrange a stage or field of battle and to command such unswervingly dutiful actors or troops.”

We proclaim gleefully that software is eating the world, and data is more valuable than oil, so it is high time the software industry took its human rights responsibilities more seriously.

I, for one, welcome the GDPR.

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London here we come

Next week is SuccessConnect. I have been to a goodly number of these now. My first one was as an analyst. The event was in Amsterdam. I remember an excellent, if somewhat extended keynote from Lars.

I’m looking forward to being on stage with Dave Ragones. Over the last year or so I have learned more about the management part of product management and getting things done from Dave than I have from anyone in my career.  James Harvey, our Engineering, Operations and Service Delivery head will join us in the keynote too.

We have an awesome line up of customers, and SAP colleagues. And we will be making a special award. The demos will rock, thanks to Abhijit, Martin and Gerald, and the cast supporting them.   A special thanks also to Helen Arnold, who now leads the SAP Data Network. We are working on some funky stuff with Helen’s team that we will chat about and show. There is a buzz at SAP about Leonardo, so we will look at how that will benefit SuccessFactors customers.  But I don’t want to give it all away here.

I will also get to spend time with our new leader of product management and product marketing,  Amy Wilson. I have known Amy for years. She helped build the Workday products into a formidable competitor, and having her lead our team will only make us stronger.  I’m biased, but I don’t think there is a better product team in the HR Tech industry than the one SAP SuccessFactors has assembled. Welcome Amy.

The day one keynote will be led by our own CHRO, Stefan Ries. He is of the staunchest supporters of our product, and he can be our fiercest but fairest critic  too. Our partnership with our own HR department has helped make better product. Thanks Stefan and team.  His keynote is packed to the brim with customers.

With a bit of luck I might even get to say hello to Richard Branson, but that would be a bonus.

The rest of the week will be filled with customer meetings. I think I have at least 14 meetings. The names that were prospects last time are live customers now. I get to hear from them what’s working well and what could be better. I’ll get to bump into many other customers and partners too. I’m especially curious to catch up with extension partners like James from Enterprise Jungle. Extensions are going mainstream. sweet.

My one disappointment is that I don’t get to see the breakout customer sessions. When customers get up and present what they do with our stuff, and we get to see how the software makes their organisations better, it is the best vindication.  My special thanks to those customers like Lionel Safar from Essilor that tell their stories.

The real reason I’m going to London though, is to watch the cricket. India v South Africa at the Oval. Now that will be magnificent. Watching  De Villiers dispatch Ashwin  nonchalantly over the Vauxhall end, or  Kohli’s off stump spiral in the air from a quicker Radaba ball will make my day.  Seeing my colleague and friend Murali’s face when that happens will make my year.

 

 

A conference, cupcakes, and a sprinkle of serendipity.

Last week I was at the HR Tech Europe Conference. A mighty fine event, although I spent most of it in a meeting room. I did escape for 20 minutes to present with Simon Bouchez on our new Work Connect solution, Business Beyond Bias, and the cool mobile stuff we are doing with Apple. As always, these events are an opportunity to catch up with colleagues and customers old and new.  Marc Coleman and team run a top notch show.

Having Serco and BAE Systems speak at the event was excellent. Customers make the best story tellers.  Seeing the digital boardroom in action on our stand was pretty neat too. Watching customers and prospects reactions to the product demos is illuminating.  Continous Performance Management, Mentoring, the New Org Chart all got lots of smiles. Our products have come a long way since I was last at this event in London.  I bumped into several partners, all eager to tell me about go lives, and things they need us to build. Our ecosystem is thriving. Thanks also to ATK for the after party.

Sometimes twitter has a lovely serendipitous juxtaposition of tweets. Other times it is plain weird. As I was boarding the flight back home, I noticed this pairing.

live

Shakti from PepsiCo and Chris Paine, a partner (Discovery)  in Australia celebrating go lives. Chris pinged me later, and we briefly chatted about how he took two Aussie companies live on EC and other modules, with deep SAP ERP integration. Chris, next time I’d like a cupcake too.

We hit another milestone the other day. We had 2 million log ons in a day. All in all, a good week.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.