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.

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. 

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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. 

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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.

 

 

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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.

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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.

Moving off the lead SAP analyst role.

cross posted on my Gartner blog.

At Gartner, we have a regular cycle of changing the lead analyst role every 2 –3 years, so it is time for me to hand the SAP lead baton. 

It has been fun and challenging, I have learnt a tremendous amount about SAP, even though I’d worked there for ages. It has given me insight into Gartner too. I couldn’t  have wished for a better start at Gartner.

SAP has changed a lot in the two years, and it has probably been SAP’s most challenging period in its history. Coordinating the efforts of over 100 analysts that cover SAP has been eye opening.  Gartner’s breath and depth of SAP coverage is without peer, and has been a privilege to lead that effort.

Donald Feinberg will be taking over from me. He knows more about Database theory, DBMS and Data Warehousing than anyone I have ever met, and this is rather appropriate with SAP’s strategic plans for ICE, the in-memory computing engine, aka newDB, the juicy inside bit of HANA. He brings wealth of experience to the role. With Donald our SAP research agenda is in good hands.

I’ll not move away from SAP entirely, as I still cover them as part of my ERP / HCM agenda. I’ll be working closely with Don as he gets to know SAP’s inner workings. I’ll still take client inquiry on SAP, and I’ll be part of our SAP research community. However, I’ll now have more time to focus on other research interests such as social software in the enterprise, workforce analytics,  data protection law, design/hybrid thinking, usability and pattern based strategy. There is a world beyond SAP and I need to broaden my focus. 

I’ll take this opportunity to thank our clients, all the folks at SAP, Gartner, the SAP ecosystem, press and broader analyst community that I’ve worked with in the role. I’ll see some of you at CEBIT this week.

O’er lawyers’ fingers, who straight dream on fees

Shylock:
Most learned judge, a sentence! Come prepare!

Portia:
Tarry a little, there is something else.
This bond doth give thee here no jot of blood;
The words expressly are "a pound of flesh."

The Merchant of Venice

(painting by Alexandre Canbanel. The Merchant of Venice)

The jury has decided.  SAP owes Oracle 1.3 Billion dollars.  I’ll leave others to speculate on whether SAP appeals, if is a fair sum,  or whether there will be other legal ramifications.  

Watching it all has been fun. Good theatre, with some dramatic performance and and even more dramatic absence.  Tabloid stuff.

  1. The amount, while breaking records  for  copyright infringement,  will not impact SAP’s ability to do business.  It has plenty of cash, and there is a serendipitous symmetry with the recent 1,5 billion dollar credit facility.  While it could slow down share buybacks, I doubt that it will have a real impact on its development or marketing spend. It would be wrong for SAP to shrink into cost cutting mode to fund this, but I don’t think they will anyway. 
  2. The case illustrates the hyper-competitive and ruthless nature of the industry.  Neither firm emerges Persil white from the process.  I’m not sure that it will really make a difference to how CIO’s view SAP or Oracle. Most CIO’s know that this is a pretty ruthless and aggressive business.  Oracle’s field will have a bit of fun in the sales cycle with this, but I doubt it will really impact business.
  3. Most software executives and developers have minimal understanding of copyright law and its implications.  Coming out of this, I’d hope that software developers think a little bit more about intellectual property and IT law generally. This would be a good thing.  I’d like to see software companies funding more IT law research and studies, but then I’m biased.
  4. Software companies using intellectual property to beat each other up in court isn’t new, but this judgment will encourage more of the same.
  5. The judgment was not about the legality of third party maintenance.  The SAP-Oracle case and Rimini Street –Oracle case will be quite different.  I don’t think we should conflate them.  The SAP-Oracle case was good entertainment, but it was just about damages. In the long run the Rimini Street case is more important for the whole industry.  I ‘m not assuming that just because SAP admitted that TomorrowNow was toxic, all third party maintenance is somehow tainted. 

These are my musings, rather than a formal Gartner position.

(Okay, the heading was from Romeo and Juliet, and the quote from Merchant of Venice)

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. 

SAP Teched Berlin coming up

I’m off to Berlin tomorrow evening, to spend two days at SAP Teched.

photo via cc of Svenwerk. Thanks.

Earlier this year, SAP did a good job at Sapphire in laying out more compelling vision. I expect Teched to be about adding some details to that vision, and I’m looking of evidence of execution: These are the things I’ll be scrutinizing.

1. By Design progress, both in terms of customer adoption and as a platform for SAP to build new on-demand applications.

2. What is “orchestration” exactly?

3. River and the other on-demand efforts. What’s really flowing?

4. Mobile strategy. Apps, ecoystem, costs.  Beyond the hype.

5. SAP and databases.  newDB, Sybase, in-memory etc. Timings.

6. BW and in-memory impact.

7. Gateway, UI, UX and future of SAP portal.

8. NetWeaver 7.3 details

9. MDM, BPM impact on existing customers

10. Impact of “cloud” on Business Suite.

11. Running SAP cheaper. SAP and ecosystem tools that reduce the day to day running costs of SAP.

From a partner perspective, I’m looking for alternative UI work, or UI enhancements, such as RIA, iPad etc.  Making SAP easier to consume is a research theme for me and several colleagues over the next quarter. Also anything that makes SAP cheaper to run.  I’m also very  interested in chatting to users to gauge how they see SAP’s plans and execution. 

If you want to catch up at Teched, drop me an email, or tweet me at @vendorprisey

Gartner clients may wish to read our note on the state of NetWeaver. SAP NetWeaver: The past, present and future.

Many organizations are unsure what NetWeaver is, or what it will become. What SAP has delivered differs significantly from the original vision. Rather than the enterprisewide middleware platform SAP envisioned, it’s best-suited to deploy SAP applications and integrate SAP applications and processes.

Back to the Future.

Jim and I published a first take on the SuccessFactors deal with Siemens. Gartner clients see Siemens to Provide Important SaaS Talent Management Test Case (G00168920), 15-JUN-2009.

Last week I suddenly felt like one of those people you meet in IT who keep telling you that computing hasn’t really changed since punchcards or Fortran, and that everything just repeats itself. Either that, or I had stumbled upon the flux capacitor. I shuddered briefly.

Let me explain myself.

Just after I joined SAP in the mid-nineties, PeopleSoft won a significant deal at Siemens. This really shook SAP up, and led to significant investment in the HR part of R/3, especially for the global market.

Then PeopleSoft stumbled, sucked into the joyous complexity of German payroll.

A few years later, SAP won back large parts of the account. I didn’t really realise it at the time, but SAP was pretty agile in its response to the loss. It had long term positive benefits for SAP’s HR product.

At first sight this month’s win for SuccessFactors seems remarkably similar.

But history doesn’t always come around the same way. For history to repeat itself here, three things need to happen:

1. SuccessFactors stumbles.

2. SAP delivers a comparable offering via SaaS

3. SAP convinces Siemens to change back.

SuccessFactors today is more globally aware than PeopleSoft was in the mid-nineties, and it has the chance to learn from history. It has a broad European customer base, and well established operations here. It is also steering clear of German payroll.

In the mid-nineties, R/3 was already on the way to dominating the client/server ERP market. Today SAP is dabbling with SaaS in various forms, but I do wonder if it will react to this with the same agility and focus that it did back then. Also, the Siemens of today is different from the Siemens then.

Earlier this year I wrote a note about the SAP German HR congress ( Gartner clients see) Observations From SAP’s German HR Congress (G00165965), 06-MAR-2009 One of the things I said was.

“German organizations are in a good position. SAP perceives that it has significant competition in the talent management space and is strengthening its products, while best-of-breed vendors see an opportunity to gain an increased foothold in the market. There is nothing like a DAX 30 company selecting a best-of-breed vendor to focus the minds of SAP management and its development organization, as no organization likes to lose at home.

We will be watching with interest.