A non-SAP post. The sun is shining in Walldorf, Spring is in the air.One of the things that I miss living in Germany is cricket. Well, resting in front of the TV of a weekend in front of the cricket, corridor cricket with a rolled up magazine, a wastebin as the wicket, a piece of paper covered in sticky tape as the ball.

The web is a saviour at bringing ball by ball commentary, either text based or via radio to my desktop though. Cricinfo is my favourite web site in the world.  It is comforting to have a ticker reminding me of the score, except when the bl**dy Australians are winning. It doesn’t distract, merely informs…5 day cricket is a fine thing. The world would be a better place if everyone played it.

I’d like to ask all cricket lovers to start peppering their blogs with cricket related metaphors. I’m tired of stepping upto the plate, making first base, being at bottom of the ninth and coming out of  left field. We need more leg-breaks, plumbs, stroked through the covers, sticky wickets, googlies, wrong uns, chinamans(men), doosras, picking seams, all ends up, long hops, square legs, back over the bowler, and ducks (australian ones)

Oliver, my 11 month old son, shows every promise of being Germany’s opening bowler, he will bat at number 4, and field at cover point. 



HR (well mySAP ERP HCM) and Adobe forms.

Sometimes people still ask me "what exactly is Netweaver?"  It is alot easier to explain now than a couple of years ago, (partly because we have had some serious practice and 170 metric tonnes of ppt) but there are a lot of cool examples in the application today that wouldn't have been possible BN. (before Netweaver) Showing beats ppt anyday.

The Adobe forms stuff is a good example. This is revolutionising a lot of the more complex HR processes. 10 years ago we would have locked some very clever folks in birkenstocks in a room and said come up with a forms handling tool. Instead, we now work with the people that really understand forms and develop a significantly better solution in shorter time. In this case, Adobe.

It provides the bedrock to manager self service, and the new Administrator role. For those consultants and business analyst types reading this, I suggest you learn more about this tool, as it will change HR admin processes fundamentally for the better. ERP2005 makes a lot more use of this technology than in ERP 2004. the underlying Netweaver stuff also makes it much easier to develop bespoke forms.

The Visual composer developments, using Macromedia, (now merged with Adobe)  are also really impressive. Check out this SDN blog from a few months ago for a funny (well developer funny) look at the macromedia awards 

I'd love to see some more customer examples of Visual composer or flexible forms. If you have any screenprints send them on over. 

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The Deal Architect blog by Vinnie Mirchandani recently looked at Analytics. Here are my two pennies' worth.

At SAP we spend much more time talking about analytics to customers today than ever before. Analytic software has come on leaps and bounds over the last few years. (not just the SAP stuff, but then I'm biased). The challenge isn't getting the data out anymore, or putting it into nice graphs or charts. It is that analytics really only starts once you have the results.

Innumeracy is a big issue, especially with many of the HR management types I deal with. (Fabulous book on innumeracy by Paulos made me wake up after avoiding the topic for 20 years- math teacher and I didn't get on at high school)

I spoke with  a senior HR guy at a major German auto manufacturer a few months ago. He was doing some tremdenous stuff on the implications of the ageing workforce, combining it with all sorts of demographic and market data and providing his board with some key scenarios to ponder. He could talk about causality, statistical significance, probablities, deviations and the like.  Analytics is a tremedous competitive advantage for this company. The difference between him and most "end-users" of analytics was vast, but then he had a PhD in statistics.  He could also explain things to people who didn't.

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There is an Australian, Peter Howes, who is on a mission to fix HR innumeracy. I hope he succeeds.

Bluntly put: Analytics is only as good as the person doing the analysis.

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an HR Challenge that software can’t solve.

Because I spend much of my working-waking hours on HR software stuff, I try and find the time to understand more about what HR folks actually do. I browse the HR websites and blogs fairly often.  I came across this yesterday on the excellent (despite the Oracle logos)  UK HR website.  

Dealing with smelly staff.

We have a staff member with a long standing personal hygiene problems, he has been spoken to about it several times, both by the department head and myself as HR, it gets better for a while but then he slips back and it becomes worse again. He has been to the doctors and there is no medical reason for his symptoms, his departmental manager is really getting fed up as people from other departments continue to make (very unsubtle!) comments. I am going to sit down with him again in the hope this will shock him into action again but I am sure we will be in the same situation in a few months time, I’m thinking that if this does happen to commence formal disciplinary procedure (it really is that bad and affecting everyone else in the department) as essentially he is able to do something about it (as it does get better for a while) and it is affecting others- I’d welcome your thoughts on this awkward situation !!

You need to log on to the site to get the rest of the story. 

I wonder what job he does?

Viral marketing and ERP of the Century

There is a friend of mine, John Pollard lives in Madison Wisconsin. (Yes, I have American friends, and Madison is a cool spot). He is a musician (drummer)  and really creative guy. He used to work at SAP, but now works in advertising. He wrote a rap song last year relating to ERP and SAP, (called ERP of the century) and the thing was downloaded over 20,000 times.  Most of SAP has heard it, but in case you haven't, the lyrics are really funny. You may want to check it out at Morsekode.  There is another song there too, using the same tune. If someone has some budget, he can write another tune, promise.

I'm not in marketing, but I think we need more of this sort of thing. We need more humour in our lives.

Speaking of friends, the ex-md of SAP South Africa is currently racing across Africa. From Cairo to Capetown!!!! over 12000kms  have a look at  I reckon he must be the world's fittest manager.  He is in second place at the moment, but knowing George I wouldnt be suprised if he crosses the line first. 

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Compliance stuff.

Wrote this on the plane on the way back from Sweden. They speak better english than anywhere else in the world, even England.  

I spent the last six months of 2005 working closely with the Virsa systems and the Virsa team. For my sins I managed the relationship between Virsa  EMEA team and our field organisation.  Virsa is in the right place at the right time. Jasvir Gill and his team are really on the ball.  I wish I had some shares.

It is a great example of how SAP’s ecosystem model can work well. The partner gets to leverage the SAP sales channel and brand, reaching a bigger and better target audience. SAP gets to market with a solution quicker than we could have done by playing catch up. The customer wins because they get the support and the integration commitment from SAP, yet the focus of a niche player.  I’m looking forward to seeing this ecosystem model grow with other organisations. We are still learning  a lot from working with Virsa about how to make a small company leverage the SAP machine.

Compliance is going to be big and just get bigger. SOX is just the tip of the iceberg. People that understand the legal issues and the technology solutions are going to be in serious demand. As the laws get more complex and demanding, technology will need to play a much greater role in policing, warning, optimising and reporting on compliance. (I hope so as I’m the middle of a the world’s longest lasting PhD on the relationship between law and enterprise applications.) I’m keen to share ideas with others working on compliance related issues, either from a law or technology perspective. Let me know what you think about the convergence of enterprise risk and compliance

Those boring things that SAP has always been pedantically disciplined about, audit, security, authorisation, rules, workflow, access control and so on have suddenly become trendy. In the past it was sometimes seen as “German” overengineering, especially in the sales cycle.  Audit information systems and internal controls weren’t cool things to demo. Now they are. Thanks messrs Sarbanes and Oxley. Keep it coming.

There is lots of good stuff out there on the SAP community. Check it out.  hug an auditor today.

Some thoughts on SAP’s competitive advantage and Germany

The ongoing workers council discussions at SAP  prompted me to write this, without really thinking what to do with it.  Reading a couple of blogs and many newspaper articles made me think it might be worth posting here. (my blog is all of three days old, so I cant be too picky)

Again, my views, not those of my employer.

I figure if Jeff in the US can write about it then I might as well too. 

SAP isn't about to be unionised, just that a union (the metalworkers union, go figure)  is pushing for SAP to have a formal workers council like just about all other German companies and german subisidiairies (IBM for instance) with more than 5 people and a dog do.

 More than 90 percent of employees voted  against the idea, but the German law states that three employees can ask for a works council to be voted in. (dumb law?). .

 This article. covers the story in English with some minor errors..  Lots of the non-German blogs don't really get the German company law stuff.  (sorry Jeff)

 There is lots of German press coverage

My main thoughts are on the broader "Germanness" thing and SAP

Continued globalisation is clearly key for SAP's long term success, more and more revenue comes from outside of Germany, and more and more development will take place in Asia, Eastern Europe and around the world. Our board is clearly right to search the world for the best talent and bring them to SAP. If we are to succeed we need the best developers, sales people, consultants, marketeers,  administrators and managers at SAP, irrespective of their background or nationality. We need new ideas, we need to be challenged by people with other experiences, views and concepts. What worked before will not necessarily work in the future. The Austrian economist Schumpeter's "creative destruction" thesis has never been truer than today, in our industry especially. Bangalore, Palo Alto etc bring new ideas, clearly we need to be part of the world's major innovation clusters.

In Walldorf we hear a lot about this need to be "global" and some employees based in Walldorf feel uneasy about the perceived powershift to Palo Alto and elsewhere, and the relative ease in which those that used to work at Oracle, PeopleSoft or JD Edwards have moved across to SAP, hailed as the new messiah, or at the least as the new VP.

I'm neither American or German, so I'm something of a spectator of this "americanisation" angst.  I moved to SAP in Germany from Africa at a time when all emails were in German, and as a foreigner you learnt quickly that you needed to invest in understanding the German culture if you were to succeed at SAP. It was a big investment learning German (still trying)  and figuring out how the Germans function (also still trying). Ordnung muss sein was one of my first sentences. It was also fun.

I've also lived and worked in America, so I have some idea how that functions too. I understand the most of the rules of baseball.

As SAP continues to globalise though, I think it is worthwhile to pause and think back to what has made SAP the success it is. A big part of that success comes from that very "Germanness" that is now perceived by some as unfashionable and irrelevant.  Discipline, debate, deliberation, diligence, a focus on detail, a healthy skepticism of "marketing blah-blah", consensus, thorough execution, and a strong ability to self-criticise are key to SAP's success to date.
Many of the world's greatest industries were founded within 30 minutes drive of SAP. The first car drove from Mannheim to Pforzheim, or there abouts. Soon after that Benz built the first car garage in Ladenburg. Friedrich Engelhorn's BASF, the world's biggest chemical firm, is just across the river. Many of the world's great philosophers and mathematicians were German: Gauss, Reimann, Hilbert, Jacobi, Kant, Runge, Hegel, Marx and so on. More recently,  MP3 is a German invention. SAP is part of a long line of German innovation.
SAP's german roots are part of its success and its long term competitive advantage. We should not ignore them. As we grow as a global company, we shouldn't forget that  innovation and engineering are at the core of SAP's success. At the same time, we need to be open to new ideas from abroad and from people from other companies, and adapt to those new ideas and ways of working. Other great German brands, although global, leverage their German heritage. Vorsprung Durch Technik, for example.
But Max Weber, another famous Heidelberger , wrote of "The passion for bureaucratisation drives us to despair."  and the "the iron cage of bureaucracy".

I know which Germany I prefer. The SAP and the Germany that attracts people like me is the Germany of innovators, not of stagnators. Those that fear globalisation will not find safety in further bureaucratisation. To compete, innovate and grow we need less rules, not more.

As the TV campaign notes, "Du Bist Deutschland"  Wir auch SAP.