Eric Norlin, organizer of Defrag, Blur and Glue Conferences and seed investor, has a good post up today about what enterprise development means in the age of big data, mobile and cloud and the coming age of convergence of these big innovation spurts.
I really recommend that you take 3 minutes to read his post for proper context but here’s the quote that summarizes his stance:
Amidst these three mega-trends [Mobile, Cloud, Big Data] sits a lynchpin. The developers know it because they’re building. The buzzword maniacs haven’t caught it yet, and they may never (we can only hope), but it’s there. That lynchpin: APIs. APIs tie together the mega-trends in a fundamental and unalterable way. APIs are the lingua franca of the new wave of enterprise development.
So, as these three mega trends (and our super top-secret, don’t tell the marketers, lynchpin) converge, we’re seeing one overriding trend: the opportunity, means and necessity for the developer (engineer, architect) to play the central role in building and rolling out new enterprise IT capabilities.
He’s right. I wanted to build on two specific repercussions or elephants in the room in this discussion around what convergence means for the enterprise developer community:
Changing Customer Expectations: Cloud and SaaS have once again started to move the buying pendulum to a decentralized model and towards the Line of Business buyer. And whilst its way early in the enterprise setting, mobile is threatening to move the buying power even further way towards the end participant. Enterprise developers need to understand what selling and supporting into the Line of Business and appealing to the end participant means. Whilst IT might have hired a traditional analyst firm to do a feature shoot out or looked at a Quadrant, the Line Of Business will want an integrated result of cloud, big data and mobile that speaks to specific business scenarios and use cases. So if enterprise software developers were to build competing products, feature parity is price of entry. You can’t shy away from really really understanding usage models and design thresholds. That’s a big cultural shift at least for those developers who’ve been supporting IT – which includes most on and offshore SIs.
Monetization: In my mind, each of these three technology trends (on their own) will be on the fast track to commoditization and will risk facing the same fate as did most social business software plays. The magic and the premiums will come from contextual application of this innovation and as Eric says, smart integration. Take storage for example: Dropbox as storage without document and device sync is commodity. Box.net as storage without document and device sync and collaboration is commodity. Apple’s iCloud as storage without ubiquitous local and iTunes media sync across devices is commodity. And Google Drive (as discussed here in Ben Kepes’ CloudU community) is also a commodity business not worth getting into had it not been for Google’s services such as Google Apps, Piccasa, and its media and unified communication capabilities under the Google Plus brand. The premiums from big data, mobile access and cloud comes from a) dynamically assembled media and content, and interpreted data in the cloud, b) available wherever you need to consume and / or collaborate and c) insanely focused and simple interfaces to complex backends. That’s what enterprise developers are looking at if they really want to be on the money making side of these innovations.
These are the elephants as I see it.
Side Note/Disclaimer:Eric puts on mind-bending summits (he calls them conferences but I keep telling him that that doesn’t do justice to the content he produces). I’ve been an advisor to Defrag and I’ve been privileged to keynote Defrag before and will be doing so again, later this year. But this is about Glue.
TechCrunch quotes a warning of sorts by Venture Capitalist Josh Kopelman who basically says 2012 will be more like a correcting 2008, as opposed to a euphoric 2011. Lots of good for and against arguments on the VC investing front by the likes of Dave McClure and others in the comments on TC.
Regardless of who is right, I’m optimistic on the enterprise front.
In 2003, in the midst of the dot bust, I founded a consulting firm that had a singular value proposition. Work with CIOs and LOB leaders at large organizations to help them with a specific strand of operational efficiency. The idea was to capitalize on two realities:
1) Whilst budgets were nose diving, the long list of performance objectives that kept executives up at night showed no signed of dissipating.
2) The blank checks during the preceding dot com boom days meant lots of purchased technology was now sporting cobwebs on CDs in a drawer under a sys admins desk or in data centers.
So we set out to do two things: 1) Bring in the right business and technology strategy muscle that could help sales and marketing, HR leaders and CIOs understand how to do more with less and 2) once operational efficiency and performance objects were set, scour the basements and attics for procured technology that could best facilitate realizing critical revenue and optimizing objectives.
Customers got to do more with less and without antagonizing the CAPEX Gestapo, in exchange for a reasonable services spend. And our lean structure consisting of very available strategists, marketeers, designers and technology architects meant we made out like bandits.
But it was much harder then. Systems didn’t talk to each other easily, data came from a plethora of external and internal systems and immature offshore development was the only way to afford execution skills. You had to prioritize what you could afford and given the cost and difficulty you could only take on a few things. And by the time portals, customer support and channel extranets went live, the requirements changed. But you did the best with what you had. And smart customer executives always find a way to ‘make it happen’ come hell or high water.
If 2012 looks more like 2008 for executives looking for opportunities to get operationally efficient, I’m even more optimistic than I was in 2003. I’ll cover this in my year end post in detail but a couple of quick reasons why:
The plethora of cloud based systems means you don’t have to make incumbent technology do unnatural things. Chances are very good that there’s a OpEx-enabled technology solution that’s designed to solve precisely the problem you have. Every single system of record has either a cloud based forklift solution available, or a powerful add-on that helps you to keep the ball moving forward at a palatable cost. Even on-premise purveyors such as Oracle and SAP are going to offer cloud based off-shoots.
APIs for most systems were dismal back then. More systems are built with integration in mind from the get go than ever before. And the likes of SolutionSet or Appirio would be happy to integrate your gnarly on premise File Management system with say Jive or Tibbr or Chatter in the cloud.
Sources of competitive, customer and market intelligence is much less intermediated, now. Back then, we had to go to brokers (HarteHanks, Factiva, etc) to get lead, customer, competitive insight. Today that data sits at the edge, either available directly via the firehouse from say Yelp or Twitter, crowd sourced from a band of enthusiastic customers by say Spigit, aggregated and process-ized by GetSatisfaction or Assistly, or crunched by the likes of InsideView, The Dachis Group Social Business Index Service or Radian6 (based on the use case).
There’s many many more but you get the idea. Fundamentally, this adds up to radically more approachable access to both sources of insight and the platforms that enable them.
It’s also important to note that the stakes are higher this time. In the 2003 post-crash world, relatively speaking, we were still serving the same pre-crash customer persona. Sure, we saw the likes of Amazon eat into brick and mortar commerce. But not at the scale that were witnessing at this time. Whether 2012 looks like 2008 or 2011, this market has some unique characteristics that demand that organizations can’t sit it out when it comes to specific trends that will impact who wins and who loses in the next few decades. Broadly speaking:
1. The customer contract has changed, forever. A prospect or customer’s expectations of how we engage and service her is now wildly different thanks to the social web. This requires a change in not just how we work at the edges (sales, marketing, support) but also depends on how nimble we are as organizations to rally employees, partners and suppliers around the prospects cause at hand.
2. I still remember the CEO of one of the largest spirits distributors sitting across the table and literally shaking at the idea this his business could get easily “Amazoned”. If Amazon was a threat to Barnes and Noble in 2000, imagine what the world looks like when I can walk into a BestBuy, scan a bar code on a SKU, have Amazon send me the best price online and proceed towards the exit. That’s a frightfully more radical scenario in any economy, good or bad. Service starts to become much more important if price arbitrage starts to become a thing of the past. Coined by Get Satisfaction, “Customer Service is the new Marketing” starts to become more of a striking reality.
3. Building on the Amazon / Best Buy example, a location aware mobile-first interaction with your business means that the lines are blurred between brick and mortar and digital for the foreseeable future. Fry’s Electronics here in Palo Alto gave me a discount when I showed them a lower price at Amazon on my mobile device. If the market is going to take a step back, you need to understand these dynamics so you can widen your customer footprint as much as you can. That means both find prospects wherever they are hiding but also have access to your best talent at all times to service this more demanding potential buyer.
This might sound like FUD but it’s not. Its an opportunity to understand and then react to a changing market. Same thing you’ve done as executives in down turns and customer shifts in the past. But more practical to do this time and in a way that won’t make your CFO reach for the antacid.
All of this makes me optimistic for the near term future of our industry. On one hand, it’s going to be more important to keep moving the ball foreword in 2012. But the mechanisms to do that thanks to easier interoperability, comprehensive availability of cloud based application services that looks like the longest Chinese restaurant menu you’ve ever seen, and finally, unfiltered visibility into what a prospect and customer expects from us has never been clearer. This results in a much more efficient approach to deciding where to spend dollars that really really matter. Note, I didn’t say easy. I’m saying necessary yet, much easier.
That to me is optimism not only to keep the lights on in a presumably tough 2012 but also to set the foundation for what competing means way beyond the living embers from this coming forest fire.
Lets cut to the chase: The business intelligence we rely on as enterprises to perform better can suck at times. I remember a famous dot com era business systems accomplishment that was touted up and down silicon valley. I paraphrase but it went something like this: “Cisco has the ability to do a virtual close on its books every night. That’s real time IT enabled management”. Well, fat lot of good that did with respect to anticipating the coming economic nosedive and preparing accordingly. Just like everyone else, Cisco stock fell from a high of about $80/share to under 20 bucks. This isn’t a ding against Cisco. Many organizations did the best they could to be operationally efficient with the tools and process thinking available at the time.
Our ability to track, forecast, measure, analyze and then tune or change course has been a wild west effort for a long time. For a number of primary reasons:
1. The intelligence we need is often in the wrong hands. By being top loaded primarily for the management ranks, we still faced the same down stream do-something-about-it execution risk.
2. Rolex watch style exclusivity for the chosen few that monitor as opposed to those that have the skill and responsibility to act and course-correct.
3. Almost zero ability to federate tough problems and let the best minds even get wind of the problem, let alone contribute to solving it.
It’s as much a people and a design problem as it is a technology feat. But as I’ve said numerous times, it’s a hellava lot easier when the technology plays nice. Last week I had the opportunity to see some new enterprise performance management technology from TideMark that brings a fresh approach to an age old business problem: Really complex and expensive technology that produces reports and charts that few and sometimes the wrong people inside organizations read and react to.
Ben Horowitz of Andreessen Horowitz (investors in TideMark) characterizes the problem in a different way but it captures the essence of the fundamental change in how we need to look at the health of our businesses:
“Beyond these platform advantages, Tidemark changes the nature of data analytics by ditching the two fundamental and problematic questions on which the existing industry is based:
What data do I have?
What reports do I want?
The trouble with these questions is that a) it is highly unlikely that you’ve gathered all of the relevant data in the right schema and format prior to needing it, b) businesses are not best represented in reports and c) the reports generally say very little that’s interesting about the future. “
I dont cover software releases often here but this one is different. Why? Because it speaks to what you’ve read here since 2009: How performance acceleration comes from leveraging the best of structured data and insight on one had, and manipulation smarts of our employees, our customers and our partners. All in the context of a business problem or an opportunity. TideMark strives to do just this. By leveraging the efficiency and agility of the cloud and contextual collaboration, and in harmony with more current data sets that include not just critical internal data in your business systems but also pubic and public social data, they want to give you a more holistic answer to critical business questions. Not after the fact but when there is time to course correct.
TideMark seems to come at the problem with very promising elements. See what Dennis Howlett has to say about the state of financial insight, and Larry Dignan‘s take on the intricacies of Enterprise Performance Management. I distill down the value that TideMark brings, to three big elements:
1. Analytics in the hands of those that can DO something about the insight.
TideMark is designed as much for mahogany row as it is for those on the line managing critical execution and decision-making tasks. A huge distinction as compared to traditional reporting and metrics data which is limited to more senior people. Ultimately, its the store manager at Starbucks, the Factory Planner in the warehouse, and the UPS driver that can tell you how likely you are to meeting business objectives. And more important, fix the problems that can derail a business plan.
2. Collaboration at the point of context.
It fascinates me how we’ve lived such unnecessarily risky lives as business managers by limiting entire processes to a few chosen few that we think are the best people for the job, from concept to finish. The marketing expert can’t easily reach out to a product manager, the sales rep doesn’t even know who designed the products they sell. By enabling collaboration between anointed experts and the rest of the organization, we can plan and predict far more effectively. To do that we need to enable collaboration at the right points in our data consoles and our workflows. Its early days and TideMark has ways to go to enable silo-free collaboration but what is important is that they recognize the pivotal role of collaboration, enough to include it in version one. This how enterprise systems need to be built in my opinion and they have so, from the get go.
3. Designing for today’s dataset.
The public web gives you more unfiltered data on what your customers really think than we’ve ever had in the history of marketing. But to date, our collection and understanding of this data has been through brokers and manipulators of this information, and at latency levels that would just never work today (e.g. 4 months for a competitive assessment from your favorite management consultancy). Any business intelligence and performance management tool today needs to be able to take in first hand data and create insight that sits alongside what our ERP applications can tell us. That’s a true amalgamation of not just what we think about our businesses but what our customers and partners objectively think as well. Tidemark proposes to account for this holistic view.
Beyond this, they have the other elements of what makes a 21st century business application relevant, let alone useful. Device-first design to get you analytics and performance data that cannot wait till you get back to your desktop. And native integration into existing systems such as SAP and Oracle that house underlying data.
The devil is in the details but this is clear: This fight is going to be one that’s fought with knuckle-dusters. Incumbent providers such as SAP, Oracle and others have cloud based BI and EPM solutions, complete with tablet consumption abilities and an established distribution channel to boot. And we’ve already seen cloud based BI such as Lucid Era fail to get off the ground indicating that this isn’t simple. But TideMark seems to have thought through the simple elements of what makes performance management well…perform: be available where decisions need to be optimized and committed, understand the needs of public and private raw intelligence, and finally – democratize collaborative decision facilitation to get the best possible insight.
Dennis has this right. It’s early days but TideMark has the opportunity to fill the glaring void in the emerging ‘Cloud Cabal’. Salesforce.com offers CRM, the underlying force.com platform and the social layer in Chatter; Workday currently offers HCM and Financials and pipes data into and out of Chatter; Kenandy brings Supply Chain/MRP to Force.com subscribers. And now TideMark offers EPM with ready hooks into Workday.
Device ubiquity across home and work is the new item on the CIO’s to do list.
Interesting stat in The Telegraph about how employees are more productive if they use their own gadgets:
According to a YouGov survey, businesses who let employees use their own technology see productivity increases of up to 30 per cent.
That makes it more important than ever that technology is as good for the home as it is for the office – with 45 per cent of businesses already allowing employees to use their own computer equipment, the number of reasons to put up with poor kit are diminishing. […] in 50 per cent of cases, a personal device offers greater functionality or flexibility than the one provided by the employer.
Single-purpose devices are looking a lot less attractive. In the consumer space:
iPads for educational games are more practical than say a LeapFrog device.
Tablets serve as dual purpose in-car entertainment consoles.
Less proven but iPad Kindle app vs. the Kindle itself. Personally, I wont carry 2 devices and would ‘deal’ with the sub optimal experience for convenience sake.
It’s important to baseline todays consumer experience that we’ve all come to expect. Think Amazon’s mobile barcode scanner for a price check when you’re in a retail store. Or Evernote’s voice transcriber. Or using your iPhone as a tile rack when you play Scrabble on an iPad. Or Plants vs. Zombies, the tablet game my kid is hooked on to (damn you, thank you Josh Moore). The Jetsons have in fact arrived.
On to the Enterprise….
Single purpose devices for work vs. play are starting to make less sense as well. But for CIOs, deciding whether to relinquish control of devices has more to it than just ignoring Dell or Apple’s sales call.
Beyond governance (see Maribel Lopez’ post) and structural/economic issues (see Dennis Howlett’s post) with the enterprise mobile subset, we risk tripping over the following two cinderblocks:
Consumer device proliferation has far exceeded the pace of enterprise software design for the most part and so, expect the opposite problem where its our software that can’t handle our hardware. Using our personal hardware is really going to expose how terrible our interfaces are in the enterprise. Just think about the devices you use in your personal lives and imagine double clicking on the iPad button to toggle between say Evernote and your kludgy ERP Expense Workflow. The contrast is blinding. And because the presentation layer is still so deeply hard wired into the back end with limited OR nonexistent access to a presentation layer APIs (think Twitter.com vs. Seesmic or Hootsuite), I shudder to think of trying to maneuver most ERP financials or even a tangled SharePoint web part on a 2011 era device.
Getting Work Done
This is far more critical. Historically, enterprise software has focused on a) Executive benefit and b) Manager benefit. This translated to: Get the right input forms and workflows in place with a database at the backend so you can control execution and monitor progress.
But we’ve ignored a third wheel and that’s helping employees, customers and partners get-work-done, by focusing on their needs.
No doubt there’s newer, approachable technology being built these days, often powered by cloud computing. But we’re getting somewhat hypnotized by this elegantly designed enterprise software just because it looks and feels warmer than the klunkware we’ve been subjected to over the years. And there’s a good chance were forgetting to consider whether the same degree of end user utility we’ve come to expect from our consumer software is in fact available in our work software.
As you look deeper, its pretty easy to spot enterprise software that has gone so far as to provide compelling interfaces but only far enough to get you to do more of what traditional software did – fill form based screens for executives and middle managers. Contrast that with those who truly re-think the business activity instead of, say, just force fitting a web app to a mobile browser. In many cases, the get-work-done factor for employee/customer/partner hasn’t really been addressed in a meaningful way. That comes from a) re-thinking the process or activity from the end users perspective, b) a more balanced approach to catering to the needs of managers, executives and end users and c) leveraging state of the art hardware and software design innovation to make it happen.
The business of collaboration and at a meta level, “the future of work”, often puts us squarely in the midst of these discussions as collaboration and systems of engagement are often seen as but one important way to deliver technology and working environments that account for the “get work done” factor for end users. But consider the broader innovation kitchen sink that impacts people centric software design: device capabilities, open APIs, app stores, in-memory processing, location awareness and browser technology advancements. Get-work-done capabilities emanates from carefully combining these advancements for the benefit of the end user. In the enterprise context, that’s the employee, the customer and the partner. All in an effort to do more and with better accuracy and at faster throughput.
We often take it for granted but it is this culminated magic that we experience when we fire up our personal devices and use software designed for them. And that’s a high bar to keep front and center, as we start to use work software on our own devices.
A great example of get-work-done software is Expensify, an app that ties mobile photos of receipts to line items on your credit card statement to generate expense reports in minutes (H/T Jeff Nolan). Echosign for speedy contract execution is yet another. And DoubleDutch is coming at the mobile enterprise with a suite of get-work-done’ offerings. And on and on.
Whats important to note is that increasingly, customers expect get-work-done facilities not only from stand alone social software vendors or start ups. But because the benefit comes from so much more than just collaboration or ‘social’, customers expect to see it from their CRM and HR and even ERP vendors.
The technology vendor conference/summit season kicks off in a few weeks and around this time of the year, I have software on my mind. I’ve already had the chance to see how Oracle and many of the social software vendors are treating this. More such opportunities to come in the next few weeks, starting with Workday and Salesforce.com. I’ll follow up on this post with what I’ve learnt in early September.
This third wheel in the enterprise software stack that delivers on the get-work-done promise is going to be the most compelling benefit that your organizations realize as you democratize the value of your technology investments beyond just the bean counters, LOB heads and line managers, and on to the do-ers. Re-balancing the value of enterprise software amongst all three constituencies will not only improve uptake of your purchased technology (a chronic problem in many organizations ) but will also significantly improve accuracy of numbers reported upstream. And so I’ll reluctantly extend my least favorite phrase in the world and call this a ‘win/win/win’ for all stakeholders concerned.
As I flew into Orlando for SAP Sapphire 2011, I revisited a bunch of review posts from last years Sapphire Event to see what was promised. In my post last year, I summarized SAP Sapphire 2010 themes:
In-Memory / Hana
Cloud and Devices
“People – Centric”
To cut to the chase, Sapphire 2011 came back strong on 1) and 2) and has its work cut out on 3).
I’m going to quickly summarize developments on In-Memory / HANA and Mobility but point you to other posts on the topic for more detail. I’ll spend my time on the areas that promise to blend the best of people and process to improve business outcomes.
The keynote message was dominated by infrastructure progress to date. Speed was the single most important Co-CEO message at the event and as you would expect, Hana was all the rage. I’m a sucker for business execution and the customer case studies were really good. Colgate-Palmolive, Lenovo, Medtronics and many more. One striking example was that of Infosys: The global services firm uses Hana to get real time updates on margins, down to the individual project level. If you stop to think about that for a second – across thousands of projects underway – to be able to get roll up data as well as identify precise trouble spots at a unit level in near real time so you can course correct. That’s pretty incredible. More on Hana from Mike Vizard at ITBusiness Edge.
The acquisition of Sybase is coming to fruition and a number of apps were available for viewing on the show floor. There’s no question that SAP has extended its process tentacles to be available where ever the end user might be. Frank Scavo has a post and a video, and ZDNet’s Dennis Howlett has a somewhat measured view on uptake and operational details.
By far, the most promising news that broke at the event, in my opinion. This piece of technology connects SAP back end applications to other apps and services at the edge. Think third party business applications, tiny and large mobile apps, Twitter, Linked and Facebook data, and more. Says customer Manish Choksi, CIO of Asian Paints:
"The pilot using SAP NetWeaver Gateway allows us to leverage the power of social media sites along with our SAP applications and create enhanced customer engagement, while deriving immediate business benefits. Insights from these social media interactions are captured through SAP NetWeaver Gateway in SAP Business Suite and are used by our product and marketing teams, providing them a true customer ‘pulsecheck.’
There’s plenty of applications for such technology, not the least of which is giving end users extensibility to marry apps and data they like at the edge with critical ERP process and data. I saw this Asian Paints demo in-person. Whilst I think those of us close to social data aggregation /sense making of said data would find the first deployment to be primitive (e.g. connecting the raw twitter fire hose to CRM and Call Center), it’s good to see SAP begin to go down this road. When it comes to customer and prospect data in particular, this move will also provide SAP with good customer feedback on the kinds of semantic and filtering technology it needs to procure/OEM/ build to really scale and meaningfully apply social ‘big’ data to improve process performance.
This technology is also the basis for Duet Enterprise – the connector that enables sharing and socializing of SAP data and workflow inside SharePoint 2010. More on Duet and the Microsoft partnership by Mary Jo Foley.
This is where things fell off the rails for me. Last year, CEO Bill McDermott said the following:“This is an era of people empowerment”. In turn, Dr. Hasso Plattner had a huge slide behind him on the podium labeled “The real Enterprise 2.0”.
But a year later, the effort to leverage social and collaborative constructs to augment transactive and workflow process with Hana providing the jet fuel, was tepid at best. To me, these three elements, combined with new extensibility offered by Netweaver Gateway is an honking opportunity for SAP to redefine how work gets done in the year 2011. Whilst I get that for many customers speed of transaction is sufficient, I was a little disappointed that the focus was solely on using Hana to do what SAP currently does, just faster. Back to the drawing board business activity redesign that blends the best of process, data and people was missing and could go a long way towards filling in those white spaces in ERP enabled process where end users scramble every day to find reliable experts, content and answers to get the job done.
Talking about back to the drawing board, Sales OnDemand is an exception and was, far and away, the best example of innovative task facilitation thinking at SAP. It shows that the company has the guts to re-think a foundational enterprise application, strip out bloat, and understand where collaboration accelerates business process (more on this topic in this older post). That’s what Sales On Demand does and here’s Paul Greenberg and Jon Reed on the topic.
However, to truly leverage the best brains to get the job done, business networking and collaboration can’t work in a silo (in this case sales) and shut others out. It needs to be cognizant of people who otherwise were considered outside the traditional loop, to truly get the best insight. And so, a sequential roll out of social capabilities ERP application by ERP application can complicate participatory patterns at execution time and seriously discount the value of a connected enterprise. SAP’s efforts to get ‘people centric’ needs to happen across traditional functional areas, in tandem.
Next up was SAP StreamWork which is yet to find its footing as a social software system of record, in spite of SAPs envious rolodex of incumbent customer. I’ve spoken to SIs implementing StreamWork and on a case by case basis there certainly is value, but from a go to market stand point, repeatability of use cases across SAP customers needs work. The good news is that SAP announced the availability of StreamWork across SAP business apps (Kathleen Lau has more, here) and to me that’s promising. With Jack Miller just recently taking over the reigns at StreamWork and along with Holly Simmons, we can expect some fresh thinking on how this product will stick its neck out in the very crowded social software market.
So stuffs happening on the people centric apps side of the house, albeit slowly and in pockets. But given the rapid pace of innovation in this area, SAP really needs to step on it and in a cohesive manner if it wants to be a contender for purpose driven collaboration. Chatter + Radian6 + Salesforce CRM and Service Cloud, Socialcast Reach, Yammer + NetSuite and others, Jive Apps Market, Saba People Systems and even early whiffs of social and unified collaboration across Oracle Fusion Apps clearly shows a trend towards social and collaboration, coming to a process near you. At Sovos, we’re working with a number of clients who are increasingly executing their social and collaborative strategy in harmony with process, and some of the combinations allow customers to concentrate on strategy and execution when the software plays nice. Once implemented, collaborative systems that power a vibrant maze of relationships and conversations are extremely difficult to rip and replace (imagine trying to even re-build your LinkedIn or Facebook network on a new platform). So if they want to play, SAP really needs to get in on the land grab, pronto.
Closing thoughts on Sapphire Now 2011
Net net, SAP customers looking to do ERP faster, and where ever they want, be that in the cloud or on a tablet, will like a lot of what they saw at the event. Those customers looking for fresh ideas to improve employee/ partner/ customer activity and engagement, will want more.
The event itself was near flawless from an organizational stand point and thanks to the Global Communications Team, the influencer / blogger cadre continued to get direct feedback from the right folks – be those partners, customers or SAP leadership. SAPs social media relations team, led my Mike Prosceno and ably executed by Stacey Fish, Andrea Kaufmann and Craig Mehil, and Amisha Gandhi is, without question, the gold standard in the tech industry. They make it look easy which it certainly is not.
I’ll leave you with a killer video of Hana + Microsoft Kinnect (xBox 360) that captivated the gadget lover in me. We truly live in amazing times… – )
A panel I sat on at the GigaOM Mobile Enterprise Summit a few weeks ago got me thinking a lot about how mobility is taking shape in the enterprise.
There’s little argument that Mobile is going to have a profound impact on how we work. Here’s my colleague Maribel Lopez, one of the sharpest minds on Enterprise Mobility, sizing up the opportunity:
Mobility represents one of the most fundamental changes in technology over the past two decades. Mobility will change business in three ways: 1) what we connect 2) How we connect and 3) how we interact with data and services. What we connect moves beyond smartphones to billions of devices including tablets, cars, equipment and sensors. How we connect discusses the changes in operating systems and the move to the web. How we transact business also changes as mobile allows us to move to anytime, anyplace operation. It requires a company to rethink its computing and business process strategy.
She’s right. But as many of us partake in the great mobile enterprise land grab, a noticeable rift is emerging between process and data, and people connectivity where round one of mobile enablement strikingly resembles yesterday’s disconnected workplace. Todays enterprise mobile enablement strategy has three exciting but parallel streams:
Mobile versions of our social and collaborative programs for the office worker.
Mobile interfaces to systems of record (BI, CRM, ERP, SCM ECM, etc.).
Remote worker-to-machine mobile solutions for those not traditionally at a desk.
On the collaboration front, the first wave of leveraging Mobile for collaboration and enterprise social networking has focused on emulating desktop functionality on a mobile device. And for good reason. Organizations are yearning for a mobile-ready experience of their internal and external social and collaboration efforts to fire up employee, customer and partner connectivity. We see numerous instances of execution plans mandating something to the effect of “we need to mirror everything desktop web browser feature and capability on our mobile phones and tablets”.
Over on the data enablement end, two things are happening. First, real time access thanks to in-memory advancements (try this post for size), a new focus on attractive user interface design and cloud-enabled flexibility are leading to device agnostic ‘mobili-fication’ of ERP, CRM, CMS and BI, again to better arm desktop workers where ever they might be. Second, there’s (finally) been a recent surge in capabilities showing up for non desktop workforces today that leverage data and location in creative ways. For instance, Roto Rooter employees in the field use location aware apps on their phone that automatically time stamps the service and application POS capabilities to close out transactions. PRN Medical Services, uses bar code scanning apps on a mobile app to manage inventory management for home based health care equipment.
In totality, we’ve got some amazing capabilities that can significantly improve performance. Enterprise mobile social and collaboration gets us access to the best insight even when our rock stars are not tethered to their desks (dirty looks from our spouses, notwithstanding). On the other hand, as remote workers, as illustrated above get productivity bursts when location based data can now tango with back end systems, thereby removing time consuming and error prone manual input. Awesome.
But here’s the ‘but’. Once again remote workers who presumably know most about customer needs and our products are connected back to people and systems on a different radio frequency, leaving them out of our social and collaborative efforts for the most part. Why do we need them in the same connectivity loop? Some illustrations:
The assembly line employee (or contractor) or component supplier knows more about the components that make up your product.
The physician standing over you on an operating table wants to tap into private doctor networks about an ongoing procedure.
Even customers who walk into your retail store armed with location-aware mobile apps can express preferences and trends by their gestures. Todays marketing campaigns only get them to the parking lot.
These are a but a few examples of where critical questions and answers lie a) at remote locations, b) between remote peers and c) experts back at HQ, partners or suppliers. Todays Enterprise Mobile business and technology strategy just doesn’t take this into consideration in any holistic way.
I asked noted ERP specialist Vijay Vijayasankar, an Associate Partner at IBM and good man all around on how these worlds might come together:
Remote workers are an often ignored part of enterprise collaboration story. Remote workers are usually the only face of the company that customers and partners see. They often have to be a sales person, marketing person, pricing expert etc., all turned into one. If these folks don’t get a chance to collaborate bi-directionally with rest of enterprise; more often than not – they will improvise in ways that don’t align with rest of the company. The cost to fix that might be higher than cost to prevent it.
If remote workers can collaborate freely, useful information on new trends in product demand, changes in customer buying behavior, etc can be identified a lot sooner, and acted up on.
The various technology options today shows tremendous promise to truly connect the enterprise, as presented by Maribel and Vijay. As you size up the prize and consider the plethora of mobile tools and applications that can help you get to the finish line, step back and think through the right combinations of process, people and data to leverage the collective brain in a way that can drive process / operating / financial performance. Make sure your strategy can leverage these trends in the right combinations, and that your application vendors have ready hooks and needed extensibility to help execute a more cohesive strategy. The good news is, relatively speaking, technology today is getting ever more cost effective and platforms offer simpler connectivity between each other. And Enterprise social and collaboration platforms are increasingly becoming layers that permeate systems of record that those very remote and desktop workers can use in context, if executed correctly.
The promise that is mobile is not just about mobile enabling existing unconnected parts of our organization or creating a tablet view of data and people. That’s how we did it decades ago (well before my time, I might add) when we went from paper to green screens. It’s about mobilizing the skills across your entire ecosystem of customers, partners and employees, in concert.
If you know of situations where this is starting to happen or have a view on what needs to be done to make it a reality, chime in.
Last month, I had the privilege of joining Mike Wolf and JP Finnell on the opening panel at the Mobile Enterprise Summit hosted by GigaOM and Appconomy.
Mike Wolf is the super smart VP of Research at GigaOM Pro, who by the way so totally needs to sit on the interviewee side of panels more often. Also with us was JP Finnell of Mobility Partners, one of the deepest thinkers on mobility and devices as it relates to the enterprise.
We talked about topics ranging from the state of collaboration and mobile today, to device proliferation and where entrepreneurs should be looking for the next big thing.
Later this week I have a post coming that expands on this topic.
For now, here’s the video of the session, below. The Appconomy website has more details on the panel here.