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... blogging on what is happening in enterprise software, with a focus on Future of Work and Next Generation Applications, sparkled with occasional musings on the the state of the industry and outlooks where we are heading.

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     Ultimate Software is having their 25 year anniversary this year and having their user conference in Las Vegas at the Bellagio Hotel and Resort (again). The conference is well attended, with a record 2500 attendees, and participants are generally positive, excited of things to come and loyal to their vendor. One sign is how Ultimate manages to flood the airplanes with their customers wearing the conference shirts.

    Here are my top 3 takeaways of the conference (my day #1 keynote takeaways are here):

    A rich roadmap– Ultimate stick to its practice to share two years of roadmap, and went even further with sharing the leitmotivs of the 2+ years (and even further with the analysts where the 2017 roadmap was shared under NDA). So kudos first of all for keeping up the visibility and transparency that is vital for prospects and customers to plan and align their roadmaps and rollouts of their HCM projects.

    For 2015 Ultimate is strengthening its Talent Management capabilities on the Recruiting and Onboarding side, which makes sense as both functions are relatively junior in the portfolio. But Ultimate also adds new Performance Management and Succession Management capabilities as well. On the Compensation side the major enhancement will be new Benefits capabilities, in time available for the fall benefits enrollment ritual. On the Payroll and HR Core side the major new module is Organizational Modelling. Ultimate has put a lot of thought into this key function and the first version has an attractive user interface, and robust functionality that makes us believe it will show instant value to managers. And on the Integration side Ulimate is adding a new Integration Studio that should make integration with 3rd party systems and applications easier.

    For 2016 the Ultimate agenda gets more ambitious as the leitmotivs are centered on broader predictions and actions and culture and the organization. On the large ‘tectonic’ functional HCM pieces, Ultimate plans to deliver new Workforce Management and a (person centered) Learning Module. On the Payroll side Ultimate wants to deliver Global Leave Management and on the Talent Management side an almost ‘mythical’ function ‘Fulfill your Potential’. But if you think people centric as Ultimate does, fulfilling potential is a key functionality for employees / people. And on the Integration side Ultimate will support self-service imports – key to empower end users – and extend its developer network.

    Along the way Ultimate is planning to become more global, with support of more statutory requirements and languages. The vendor just announced the support of German and Dutch during the Day #1 keynote. 



     
    The Ulimate Roadmap for the next 2 years

    A strong analytical agenda– Ultimate keeps pushing its ‘true’ analytics (see more here) agenda – for now the vendor has three analytical applications in the field, around performance and the ‘infamous’ flight risk scenario that is the bread and butter analytics of the industry. As with all analytical applications it all comes back to ‘does it work’ – and the good news for Ultimate is that they have enough customers in production to tell their experiences. We heard from a bank that found that both performance and flight risk indicator worked better than the human judgement of its managers – a great proof point for analytical apps. And more is to come – and Ultimate has a ‘problem with plenty’ already – with a ‘Predictive Analytics Console’ planned for 2016, that will tie together all the analytical capabilities the vendor has created by then.
     
    Ultimate's Person centric product philosophy

    Partnership with NetSuite– The partnership with NetSuite was a surprise for the audience and we had the chance to sit down with both NetSuite and Ultimate leadership. NetSuite CEO Zach Nelson took the time to fly out to Las Vegas, which certainly shows that NetSuite is serious on this partnership. NetSuite has a long history of pivots in the HCM area – from doing all themselves, over partnering with many, partnering with Oracle at the high end, acquiring TribeHR till today. What all this shows is that NetSuite needs a strong HCM automation story and that Ultimate was the right partner for them. For Ultimate it means access to opportunities where customers are looking for more than HCM automation, given it competes with HCM vendor that have their own in house ERP capabilities. Both vendors are actively working on product development supported integration, a partnership integration level that is the ‘must have’ standard in the cloud world today, meaning that the vendors (and not a partner, or the customer) needs to maintain the integration. Both vendors have a number of joint customers together and answered all the questions the right way. Now the future will tell how well the partnership will work in day to day operations and ultimately customer success. You can find the press release here. And more on NetSuite here.


     
    From the joint Ultimate and NetSuite presentation



    Analyst Tidbits

    • Engaging user interface– Ultimate is investing a lot of time and effort on usability – last year the first fruits of that work were shown at UItiConnect. The vendor is keeping up the commitment and the UIs seen at the conference are consistent, engaging and often deserve the moniker ‘beautiful’. The vendor has also done a good job of keeping the user interface consistent across the various applications, something never easy. We also saw some interesting prototypes and early thoughts around analytical applications that are encouraging. 
    • Modern architecture– Equally a year ago, Ultimate unveiled its go forward architecture, which showed an opening to open source and a ‘best tool’ approach to architectural decisions. A good example is the new organizational modelling functionality that takes advantage of mongoDB, which is a perfect database for the job of administering a large number of organizational models. A new configurable workflow, more in memory capabilities and a new person search are further examples. And finally the vendor is actively looking into micro-services, which is the craze of the year – but a key capability for HCM vendor as you can bring the code to the data, which is governed by statutory restrictions. 

    • Developer Network– Ultimate has realized that it cannot be the sole source of innovation for its products – opening the technology stack more up for 3rd party developers. And Ultimate needs these to validate the platform and constructs like e.g. APIs, but also create a network effect that the vendor needs to accelerate growth. 
    • Partner momentum– Ultimate is enjoying a lot of momentum on the partner side, as it changed its approach from doing all services in house to opening them up to partners in 2013. In less than 2 years Ultimate has garnered a lot of interest and investment from partners, one example is the number of partners exhibiting being up from 12 to 34 year over year. And Ultimate is doing the right things around partner enablement with training, material and certification, too. 


    MyPOV

    A very good conference for Ultimate – which is on the run at the not so tender age for a sotware company at 25 years. It’s great to see the momentum on the partner side and it is good to see that Ultimate can attract strategic partners like NetSuite. One can argue though who needed who more – but at the end that doesn’t matter for a synergetic partnership.

    But all the good work should not distract from the fact that Ultimate has to do some heavy lifting behind the scenes, moving older parts of its product portfolio to its next generation architecture. The vendor has an experienced product leadership team in place and a deep commitment to R&D budgets that make us optimistic on the effort, but it is not trivial and needs to be something for prospects and customers to be aware of. With end of 2016 concluding the Talent Management functionality with people centric learning, the vendor has a near enough complete date for this critical functionality, which is not only important going forward but a significant upsell potential for the vendor. But in the meantime a lot of interesting HCM functionality is being built by Ultimate that no HCM system prospect should miss to take a thorough look at.



    More on Ultimate from me:
    • First Take - Ultimate Software UltiConnect Day #1 Keynote - read here
    • Event Report - Ultimate's UltiConnect - Off to a great start, but the road(map) is long - read here.
    • First Take – 3 Key Takeaways from Ultimate’s UltiConnect Conference Day 1 keynote – read here.

    More on NetSuite here:

    • Event Report - NetSuite powers on with targeted innovation - read here
    • Why NetSuite acquired TribeHR - read here
    • Act III the cloud changes everything - Oracle and NetSuite with a touche of Deloitte - read here
    • Act III and final day - A tale of two conferences - Sapphire and SuiteWorld - read here
    • The middle day - 2 keynotes and press releases - Sapphire and SuiteWorld - read here
    • A tale of 2 keynotes and press releases - Sapphire and SuiteWorld - read here
    Find more coverage on the Constellation Research website here.

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    End of the year is a good time to review on what happened through the last 12 months – so I took a look at what made me blog about vendor events. Of course there are many other ways to look at this, but I guess the marketer in my brain looks at the timing and sequence of messages, where the calendar months play a role… there is only so much time in a year, for news, events and briefings. Layer that with acquisitions, which are not so well plannable like other events and it makes a busy year.





    So here you go:

    January - Workday

    An easy choice, also because not much happens in January, but it is certainly Workday’s Release 21. Workday did a remarkable job on the new user interface, and moving the complete application must be a Herculean task – even though the vendor downplayed it. And as market leaders should, it started a year of UI renovation and innovation. Later in the year – just from the major vendors – we saw (in alphabetical order) remarkable UI progress with ADP, Infor, Oracle, SAP / SuccessFactors and Ultimate. The winner has been the HCM user that probably has the best user interface experience at its disposal – when you compare with the large ‘tectonic plates’ of enterprise software – Financials, CRM, Manufacturing, Purchasing. The consequence for vendors is that UIs stale faster than ever – once you had a 2-3 year break when you moved an application to a new UI, now 12 months makes a UI already look old and staled in some areas. The blog post on the Workday release can be found here.


    February - Oracle 

    Not so easy, as already a busier month – but at the end Oracle with its first HCM World conference wins. First of all remarkable as the vendor broke off a subset of enterprise software in a separate event. And Oracle showed commitment with both Mark Hurd and Larry Ellison speaking, and showing they understand HCM. And Oracle at the point had made enough progress with Fusion HCM to get attention. Kudos also to Oracle for being the first (and only) vendor in 2014 to let us – the analysts – play with their software: 20 or so analysts played with the simplified UI and got a better and more user centric insight than with any other vendor in 2014. Read my blog post here.


    March - Ceridian

    A pretty tough month to call on – but Ceridian make the cut of the most remarkable HCM event in March. Kudos goes to David Ossip and team to acknowledge what Ceridian was missing (mainly in the Talent Management space) and laying out a product development agenda for the next 48 months, reaching all the way into 2016. And with that Ceridian certainly contributed in Ultimate doing the same a month later, Oracle and SAP expanding their planning horizon, even ADP extending insight into the functional road way more ahead than usual. But only Ultimate matched the complete and detailed vision, something HCM buyers and users deserve and need to know to plan out their HCM roadmaps for the years to come. Vendors tend to forget how important the 2-3 year view for their clients is, so a great step in the right direction by Ceridian. Read my blog post here.


    April - Ultimate

    Again a pretty busy month, Ultimate’s user conference and the takeaways make my April cut as the key HCM event in April 2014. Ultimate matched insight till ‘roadmap’ complete to what Ceridian did in March, a move their user base very much welcomed. At this point UI innovation was no longer a surprise, but a necessity, given the success of Workday’s Release 21 from January (see above). But Ultimate also built and gained the important trust of customers and prospects to deliver to the roadmap with a new Onboarding module and Succession and Performance management being demoed. Last but not least Ultimate broke a first with (real) analytics (more hereon ‘real’ analytics) having shipped a retention predictor (anyone remember the 2011 HCM buzzword ‘flight risk’) and announcing a performance predictor. Read my blog post here.


    May - Cornerstone

    One of the busiest months of the year, easily. Cornerstone makes the cut with its vision of unified Talent Management. With the vendor making clear that the ‘world does not need another core HR system’ and with that focus on purely Talent Management and doubling efforts in that area. No surprise, a new UI got traction and again ‘real’ analytics were hinted at, maybe already hinting at the later in the year acquisition of Evolv (mentioned in my weekly recap here) – showing how important analytics have become for HCM. And Cornerstone launched their Marketplace, one of the first (if not the first) HCM vendor to do so. Read the blog post here. Honorable mention and key as the reverse trend in the industry – Workday launches the long awaited Recruiting functionality – read here.


    June - NGA HR

    In a still very busy month – I was told June was when things slow down by industry veterans – but slower on HCM events – NGA HR makes the cut as the main event in June 2014. New focus under its new CEO Adel Al-Saleh is taking shape and if the vendor can deliver the majority of what it outlined as its ambition for 2015, then enterprises will have a very attractive BPO offering coming from NGA HR in 2015. The bigger questions in the market is – when will BPO pick up (again) – after the first wave of BPO euphoria 10+ years ago has fizzled and largely disappointed. But the value proposition of BPO with major trends like Globalization and aging workforce looming, remains very attractive to enterprises so it will be interesting to see what will happen in 2015. Read the blog post here.


    July - Hirevue

    Finally a more quiet month, and the prize goes easily to Hirevue announcing (and later in 2014) delivering its Insights analytical capability. And Hirevue did everything right – it is ‘real’ analytics, so it takes and action or makes recommendations. It is trained by the business user, creating buy in ownership and personalization to get off the ground. It also creates instant value by shipping with a global model, then refined to an industry, enterprise and potentially even to a specific position. And Insights learns and improves all the way during its usage. There is very little more an analyst can ask a vendor for building an analytical product in 2014 and Hirevue pretty much nailed it. Read my blog post here.


    August - Skillsoft

    Also very quiet – but ended with a bang, Skillsoft acquiring SumTotal. It shows that though Cornerstone may succeed with a Talent Management only strategy, but for a Learning giant like Skillsoft, Learning was getting too small. Or at least for the new private equity owners. Not much has happened news wise since then – but than this can be a good sign - as it can be a sign of concern. 2015 will show how quickly the new vendor can go beyond Learning, the first (and maybe too soon) check-in at HR Tech in Las Vegas still showed slides of Learning and Talent Management vis a vis. Read my blog post here.


    September - ADP & SAP SuccessFactors

    A very busy month – and the only one I could not find a clear winner, so the prize gets split between (alphabetical orders – as the avid reader knows) to ADP and SAP / SuccessFactors. 

    Let’s start with ADP that faced the challenge to have 30 or so analysts in town for a yearly briefing and having to announce that long tome Product leader Michael Capone was leading. The way how ADP and all executives communicated this, was certainly school book A+ grade. But also on the product front ADP shows a lot of progress, rolling out its new benefits enrollment to mid-market clients and sharing a roadmap for 2015. There is a lot of new ideas and innovation at ADP, that most importantly are now followed up with first products in the market, not with 100s but Millions of customers. Read my blog post here.


    And SAP / SuccessFactors had their user conference in Las Vegas, for the first time with the new leadership of Mike Ettling in place. A good passing the baton symbolic message with Lars Dalgaard, but SAP did not muster the same presence like e.g. Oracle did in February (e.g. Bill McDermott attended a pre event, and Robert Enslin opened for Ettling). But SAP had some key announcements in store – better roadmap sharing, services improvements and a renewed focus on Learning. Integrated Learning is a smart move by SAP, as it positions itself as the organic (or ‘unified’) learning provider vs. market foes like Oracle and Workday. But maybe I have missed it – the more detailed roadmap that was announced in Las Vegas, is not out yet, but coming soon. As I blogged – work remains to be done – read here.    


    October - HR Tech Conference 

    A super busy October had a number of HCM announcements – but the key happening was HR Tech in Las Vegas, under new leadership of Steve Boese, a great first event. True to what Constellation advises our customers, be disruptors, I decided not to keep my 30+ briefings with vendors quiet and a little bit to Twitter – but shared my takeaways of the briefings in the form of a short video. And it was widely and positively accepted – so I guess I need to repeat the same going forward – but for now checkout the takeaways of 30+ vendor briefings here. Needless to say, there is a lot of investment happening in the HCM space. Better stay on top of it as otherwise your enterprise may use sub optimal software.


    November - Workday

    Another busy November, as expected. The most important November 2014 announcement goes to Workday, making (real) analytics the main focus of the keynote at the Rising user conference. No enterprise vendor in the past has given even close that space for analytics, so definitively a pioneering act by Workday. And all vendors know that analytics has a lot of promise in the future – but kudos goes to Workday for being the first to give analytics that much space. But with that comes a lot of expectations for 2015, so it will be key to see how Workday will put the six announced analytical applications in action, both product and revenue wise.


    December - Constellation 2015 Advice 

    As expected – a slow month – so I share my 2015 predictions and advice from the Constellation team post:


    In the next ten years 10% to 20% of the North American and European workforce will retire. Leaders need to understand and prepare for this tremendous shift so performance remains steady as many of the workforce's highly skilled workers retire.

    To ensure smooth a smooth transition, ensure your HCM software systems can accommodate a massive number of retirements, successions and career path developments, and new hires from external recruiting.

    Constellation fully expects employment to be a sellers’ market going forward. People leaders should ensure their HCM systems facilitate employee motivation, engagement and retention, lest they lose their best employees to competitors. Read "Globalization, HR, and Business Model Success". Additional cloud HR case studies here and here.


    MyPOV

    So a really busy year in 2014 – but don’t count on 2015 being any slower. There are too many very talented startups that are likely going to get a chunk out of the established vendor’s revenue streams. The existing vendors are not idling either but have major functional pieces coming in the next quarters. And I expect new HCM software categories to emerge… but now I get carried away into predictions… this was all about a review of 2014.


    What were your key activities of 2014 – please share them!



    Find more coverage on the Constellation Research website here.

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    We had the opportunity to attend the 2nd edition of Oracle’s HCMWorld conference in Washington last week. The event was well attended, the audience had more senior HR leaders than the audience we say last year in Las Vegas. Customers were generally curious and excited of things to come and using the whole spectrum of Oracle HCM products. My First Take impression of the Day #1 keynote is here.


    So here are my top three takeaways:

    New Learning Module– Oracle has been sharing its roadmaps actively at HCM World and OpenWorld, but those did not contain the creation and shipping of a brand new Learning product in spring of 2015. That Oracle could keep the delivery of a new major Talent Management module under the wraps is both an indication of professionalism and the vast resources Oracle has working on its HCM products. 


    New Learning - Notice - not 'What to learn' - but 'What to watch'

    The new Learning product has been built from scratch, uses the Oracle HCM data and object model (formerly known as Fusion HCM) and leverages Oracle Cloud foundation functions like Oracle Social Network (OSN) to make the product more powerful from the get go. The Learning module is a good proof point of the platform capabilities, as it heavily leverages OSN to provide in context learning suggestions and access to learning content. It is unlikely Oracle would have been able to ship as quickly and as powerful a business users without that, the module is tagging to specific content and creating learning scenarios. It also supports streaming of the content to various devices even considering bandwidth optimization. So a working first version of Learning, with all the new, 21st century requirements of self-created content, cross platform delivery and in context access. The roadmap will provide necessary compliance training in fall, with SCORM capabilities, class room training and external training capabilities coming in the next releases.

     
    Leone talks Digital Disruption


    Digital Disruption meets HCM– Next to Globalization and the Workforce Retirement situation, we see Digital Disruption as a key trend enterprises need to account for. But so far even the term Digital Disruption has not been mentioned in HCM (vendor) keynotes. So kudos to HCM product leader Chris Leone to combine this megatrend in its keynote. We are still at the early stages of realizing what Digital Disruption means for the HR departments but it is clear it is a key trend to reckon with. Leone presented well on disrupters, tied in the generations of users in the workforce (something frankly we are getting tired of) and then structuring the keynote along the acquisition, the engagement, training (sic – see above) and retention of talent. Good to see a keynote not following the well-worn down paths of too many HCM vendor keynotes.
     
    A screenshot of Career Planning
    Oracle Momentum– Oracle has found momentum in cloud sales, as shared already in its Q3 earnings call. And Oracle would not be Oracle setting its sights on cloud leaders like Salesforce.com (goal is to surpass that vendor in revenue) and Workday (goal is to surpass that vendor in customer count). It is clear that Oracle has work long and hard, invested billions to get to that stage – so it’s clear that executives are proud to be there. Unheard sales incentives with significant accelerators certainly help to keep the sales force motivated, and if continued in Oracle’s traditionally strong Q4, may accelerate the path to cloud for many enterprises, as the competition cannot and does not stand still. What is remarkable and CEO Mark Hurd made very clear that his proud of this fact is – that the on premise revenue was almost completely stable. So all eyes on Q4, earnings call likely toward the end of July.

    MyPOV

    A good event for Oracle customers and the vendor, who keeps showing traction in HCM. Oracle believes, as Hurd shared that when you have the ‘foot in the door’ with HCM in the cloud – the rest of the enterprises will follow. As much as we agree that the ‘golden rule’ of enterprise software that ‘suites always win’ should remain true for the cloud era, we also know that the PeopleSoft history (on premise of course) has shown us differently. But PeopleSoft lost a fair number of HCM installs in our view because the approach how the PeopleSoft suite was different than Oracle’s and SAP’s – something that does not apply to Oracle Cloud offerings these days.

    All vendors with on premise business are working hard to ramp up their cloud revenues, it is good to see that Oracle has made progress on the sales side. When I asked about the implementation phase following the sales contracts, Hurd jumped right away in the provisioning of customers in the Oracle cloud – which seems to be going well. And anything else would be a surprise if Oracle cloud not handle the scale out of these customers. What remains my area of concern is in regards of skilled ‘hands’ to implement these customers – both internally and with partners. As we all know people don’t grow on trees and getting them qualified and trained quickly will become the critical path for Oracle soon. But as Hurd pointed out – partners are ultimately only really ready to invest when sales success is there – so it is solving one problem after each other, one at a time. We will be watching.



    No time to read - here is my video takeaway - Meerkat quality - skip first 2-3 minutes:




    And a Meerkat quality replay of the keynote:

    Future of Work / HCM / SaaS research:
    • First Take - Oracle HCM World Day #1 Keynote - off to a good start - read here
    • Progress Report - Oracle HCM gathers momentum - now it needs to build on that - read here
    • Oracle pushes modern HR - there is more than technology - read here. (Takeaways from the recent HCMWorld conference).
    • Why Applications Unlimited is good a good strategy for Oracle customers and Oracle - read here.
    Also worth a look for the full picture
    • News Analysis - Oracle discovers the power of the two socket server - or: A pivot that wasn't one - TCO still rules - read here
    • Market Move - Oracle buys Datalogix - moves more into DaaS - read here
    • Event Report - Oracle Openworld - Oracle's vision and remaining work become clear - they are both big - read here
    • Constellation Research Video Takeaways of Oracle Openworld 2014 - watch here
    • Is it all coming together for Oracle in 2014? Read here
    • From the fences - Oracle AR Meeting takeaways - read here (this was the last analyst meeting in spring 2013)
    • Takeaways from Oracle CloudWorld LA - read here (this was one of the first cloud world events overall, in January 2013)
    And if you want to read more of my findings on Oracle technology - I suggest:
    • Progress Report - Good cloud progress at Oracle and a two step program - read here.
    • Oracle integrates products to create its Foundation for Cloud Applications - read here.
    • Java grows up to the enterprise - read here.
    • 1st take - Oracle in memory option for its database - very organic - read here.
    • Oracle 12c makes the database elastic - read here.
    • How the cloud can make the unlikeliest bedfellows - read here.
    • Act I - Oracle and Microsoft partner for the cloud - read here.
    • Act II - The cloud changes everything - Oracle and Salesforce.com - read here.
    • Act III - The cloud changes everything - Oracle and Netsuite with a touch of Deloitte - read here
    Find more coverage on the Constellation Research website here.

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    The other week we learnt that Klaus Tschira has left us way too early, a sad event certainly, but also the chance to remember what a great person Klaus was and what massive contribution he has provided to SAP’s HCM efforts and to a large point the overall HCM industry.



    I had the opportunity to be in a few meetings with Klaus, and all of them were great meetings that attendees left thinking they had more with them after the meeting then before they went into it.

    My first meeting with Klaus was when SAP was doing due diligence on the CRM vendor we ended up selling to SAP – Kiefer & Veittinger. We had many meetings with man SAP executives, mainly with Hasso Plattner, a few with Dietmar Hopp but the most interesting was with Klaus. Don’t misunderstand me here – all meetings were great – but the one with Klaus gave us the best understanding of what it would be to be part of the large, large SAP. And Klaus it made very clear that our talents and expertise (in CRM) were key to SAP. At the end of the day it was clear that Dietmar Hopp assembled a very diverse founder team, which in my view is a strong reason for SAP’s long term success, till today.

    My next interactions with Klaus was when trying to help my team get the first ‘content shipment’ on top of the brand new BW off the ground. Though tasked with CRM content, Marketing content more specifically – we still wanted to get cost of sales and wanted to get to employee, compensation information etc. And that was our first encounter with the infotypes and the unique nature of the HCM products inside of the SAP R/3 product suite. It was practically impossible to get to the information without a thorough understanding and help by the HCM product team, which at the time was pretty reclusive. So we went through Hasso Plattner (I remember him wishing us ‘Good luck’) to Klaus and what was supposed to be a 2 hour meeting turned out to be many meetings and long hours. Along the way we discovered that Klaus was passionate about object orientation, a huge fan of SmallTalk. And he was curious on how we build the K&V Module library on top of C++. It didn’t make it easier to get to SAP HCM information into SAP CRM, but we were left with a much deeper and better understanding and appreciation why SAP HCM was built like this.

    Later when I was working in the Office of the Chairman, for Hasso Plattner and Henning Kagermann, Klaus would only step by so very seldom – but when he stopped by he would usually come and say Hello!, asking what I was working on and how I was doing. Klaus seemed to really care for SAP employees – beyond their work direct work, something you don’t experience with too many executives in the industry. I will never forget when he snuck up on me one day as I was helping the CRM team with screenshots (I still had graphic elements and templates from the time we conceived the ‘tile’ based CRM UI), whispering ‘that looks very good’. He then wanted to bring some UI innovation to the HCM team. But not sure where that ended up.

    Ironically my biggest appreciation for what Klaus and the team had built came when I joined Oracle. In many executive sponsorships for e-Business Suite implementations, Payroll was a substantial automation piece and while it worked great for some countries, it did not work so well for others. Extension ad maintenance was hard. Not for the usual payroll challenges of keeping up to speed with legislation, but from an architecture perspective. The problem was that Oracle had conceived a large monolithic payroll engine which at some point would get too complex when running for too many countries. With much curiosity I took a look at the PeopleSoft payroll engine, when Oracle acquired PeopleSoft – same design point, same challenge to go beyond 1x+ countries. In an irony of enterprise software history – the challenge that SAP R/3 suffered from, being too complex and with too many configuration options, was at a smaller level the same for Oracle and PeopleSoft for their respective payroll engines. Oracle corrected this with the Fusion / HCM Cloud payroll – but SAP can still leverage the design from Klaus and team and supports 50+ countries today. And when I spend time at NorthgateArinso (now NGAHR), it was clear that with 2 professionals (granted, who knew what they were doing), you were able to extend the SAP payroll beyond those 50 countries (something Arinso had done historically before, too – in partnership with / for SAP or for their BPO customers).

    In the combination of coming from Europe and understanding a multinational world earlier than the competitor’s payroll architect, combined with an admiration and understanding of object orientation, Klaus and team created the infotype system, that still pays millions of employees though the SAP payroll engine (even in the ‘cloud’ era today) – with the needed flexibility to easily extend the system as needed. And we know more payroll challenges are coming towards us – as governments are getting more creative in ways to tax their population, as we face a retirement challenge in most of the first world etc.

    So let’s honor Klaus Tschira, not only a HCM Technology giant – but also a great enterprise software executive and simply a nice guy. RIP Klaus, you will be remembered not just for your software work, but much more. But whenever you see, look or hold a SAP created paycheck – you can see Klaus and his teams work in action.

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    Workday this morning unveiled Workday 24 as part of their twice a year release cycle. All customers are live and the vendor is (rightfully) proud that the overall application of the release took little more than 4 hours – showing that Workday has done some additional housekeeping on its overall cloud infrastructure. 


    What are my top 3 takeaways of the release?

    ‘True’ Analytics (more here) see the light of day– Last year Workday committed pretty much all of their roadmap of new announcements from their Rising conference to (‘true’) analytics. The vendor announced 3 Finance and 3 HCM analytical applications, that Workday calls Insight applications. With Workday 24 the vendor makes good on its roadmap, tackling the very common area of Retention / Flight Risk. Pretty much all major HCM vendors now have analytical models to predict flight risk – so it is good to see that Workday has equally release / shipped that capability. Now it is all up to hearing from the first customer how well these retention analytics work. Looking forward to hear more. Moreover it is good to see that Workday now strikes the right balance between visualization, reporting, analysis and analytics – as all of their place in a modern 21st century application, but it is good to see Workday getting the definitions right and helping to reduce the confusion too many vendor marketers have created around the ‘analytics’ term. 

    Screenshot showing Retention Analytics

    Professional Service AutomationPSA– sees the light of day, too – So far vertical offerings at Workday – apart from Workday Education – have not been broken out into separate products – PSA is now the first complete vertical offering in a product, combining key capabilities of HCM and Finance in a new offering that looks functional rich and attractive for a first version. It is good to see that Workday re-uses and leverages assets and creates more value for its (numerous) professional services customers. Anyone having run professional services team knows that Microsoft Excel is the band-aid that keeps these organizations going – so it is good to see a vendor offering putting (hopefully) and end to tedious and error prone workarounds.
     
    Screenshot of PSA Dashboard

    A functional rich release– I have been critical of Workday for – what it looks from the outside – slowing down the functional richness of its releases over time. Workday (or then Update) 22 and now Workday 24 are a departure from that trend, so it is good to see that with Recruiting, Insight applications and the new PSA product, Workday is delivering major new functionality beyond architecture and user interface. As mentioned earlier – tough to measure from the outside what really a number of x enhancements means.


    Update 15
    Update 16
    Update 17
    Update 18
    Update 19
    Update 20
    Update 21
    Worday 22
    Workday 24
    October 2011
    April 2012
    August 2012
    November 2012
    April 2013
    September 2013
    January 2014
    May 2014
    April 2015
    User Experience
    - Outlook Integration
    - Chatter Integration
    Mobility
    HTML5 Support for non IOS devices
    Mobility
    - New modules
    - Global Support
    Workforce Engagement:
    Team Profile
    Professional Profile
    Headcount Planning
    Big Data Analytics
    New User Interface for browser
    New Process Framework
    An Intelligent Foundation for Analytics
    1st Insight App
    New Android Look & Feel
    Talent Management
    - Talent Reviews
    - Career Interests
    - Cornerstone Integration
    Onboarding
    Time Tracking
    Performance Management Enhancements
    Android Native Support & iOS Mobile Enhancements
    User Experience - Configurable Grids for Compensation
    Performance Management across browser and mobile
    Recruiting
    Travel Connector
    rids for Compensation
    Retention Insight App Talent Insights
    Professional Services Automation (PSA)
    Payroll
    - Payroll for Canada
    - Payroll Connector

    Usability Enhancements
    Custom Fields
    More custom fields
    Mobility
    - Notbooks for iPad
    Legislative support - Report for ACA / RUP
    Collective Bargain Agreements
    Improvide Time Tracking
    Higher Education Functionality



    170 Enhancements
    207 Features / 80 Brainstorm Items
    246 Features / 67 Brainstorm Items
    347 Features / 68
    Customer Requests
    30% of Features from Brainstorm Items
    P.S. Need to add Workday 23 some time. 

    MyPOV

    Always good to see vendors making good on their roadmap announcements and good to see Workday delivering a functional rich Workday 24 release. There is also a commercial aspect with the release – as it marks the end of the ‘all included’ era for Workday – remarkably the vendor has been able to keep this up for its first 10 years. And the Insight Applications can create enough value for enterprises to justify this – but it is a first for customers and a first for the Workday salesforce, so an area to watch.

    2015 is also the year the UK Payroll is supposed to ship, it wasn’t part of the Workday 24 announcements – but there is still plenty of days left in this year for Workday to make that milestone – in my view a key on to track.

    And on the adoption side of new functionality, as customers are live on the software, now it comes to see how well they are using the new functionalities and how successful they are with them. The very nature of analytical applications makes the ‘does it work’ question harder for all players involved – as you need to have historic data – or start collecting data to see if the predictions, recommendations and actions really move the needle for enterprises as desired, designed and expected. We will be watching closely.



    More on Workday
    • First Take - Top 3 Takeaways from of Workday Rising Day 1 Keynote - The dawn of the analytics era - time to deliver Insight Apps - read here
    • Progress Report - Workday supports more cloud standard - but work remains - read here
    • Workday 22 - Recruiting and rich Workday 22 are here - read here
    • First Take - Why Workday acquired Identified - (real) Analytics matter - read here
    • Workday Update 21 - All about the user experience and some more - read here
    • Workday Update 20 - Mostly a technology release - read here
    • Takeaways from the Salesforce.com and Workday parnership - read here
    • Workday powers on - adds more to its plate - read here
    • What I would like Workday to address this Rising - read here
    • Workday Update 19 - you need to slow down to hurry up - read here
    • I am worried about... Workday - read here
    Find more coverage on the Constellation Research website here.

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    AWS is holding their kickoff to the by now traditional worldwide AWS Summit conference tour. And as in the last years Amazon kicked the event series off in San Francisco. Given that the April timing is almost half a year away from AWS’s yearly re-invent conference in Las Vegas, it is a key update time for AWS. And a key update time it was – with almost as many press release and blog posts as re-invent, quite a challenge to sort through the news. 

    So here are my top 3 takeaways

    Amazon Machine Learning– ‘True’ analytics are a key characteristic of modern, next generation applications (more here) that developers are looking at cloud providers to enable them to build. Google had an early lead in this area, but Microsoft and now Amazon are catching up. The Analytics space has been transformed fundamentally in the last 3-5 years in the aftermath of the Netflix competition. Instead of using the same analytical model for their professional life time – as it was pretty much practice in the age of constraint based computing – data scientists now need to ‘thrash’ models with as much compute as the next generation application can get hold on, on as much data one can afford to store. And the most affordable storage and compute capacities – right in the cloud. So really no surprise that Amazon is propagating machine learning. The vendor shared that over 50B predictions are already being made in AWS today – before all the new help Amazon is now providing to developers to build analytical applications. And analytic application are a great complimentary product for cloud providers – use spot pricing for special modelling needs and it equally motivates to store and keep more data stored in the cloud. Who knows if some data that looks discard able today may be key tomorrow? As long as it is affordable, the data will be kept around and analytical models will go back to and leverage the data over and over again. Amazon has done well at understanding this trend and is a in a very good position to leverage a large number of these next generation applications. 
     

    The Amazon platform emerges– My key takeaways from re-invent 2014 was that AWS is becoming a platform – and it has to become a platform to long term compete with IBM’s, Microsoft’s and Oracle’s cloud platforms. Amazon needs to attract and keep developers, as whenever the traditional platform vendors are ready with their respective cloud based platforms, they will attract a large number of applications that have been built on their on-premise platforms. So Amazon becomes a platform for next generation applications, and is in the process with that creating the usual and customary platform tie in all platforms have. Something to be aware of when making cloud platform decisions, but something we see most vendors and enterprises happily take as a tradeoff. And along the Amazon platform product strategy there were a number of key announcements:

    • Amazon Elastic File (EFS) System – A modern platform needs access to files and storage. If the platform is in the cloud and modern applications are being built on it – it needs the ability to bring the data to the applications. EFS is a key step by Amazon to allow enterprise to store all the data they want and need in the cloud, with all the benefits of the cloud – pay for use, scale up and down etc. It is SSD based – so will be fast, and replicates across AZs – so it is likely to be better than many storage solutions that run onsite, and probably cheaper (Amazon said it would be 30 cents / GB / month). Storage is a key component for a next generation platform and good to see Amazon adding this to the product family.

    • Amazon EC2 Container Service – And when you have the data, you need to run services on it, ideally micro services and of course Docker. Amazon’s container services allows the next step of controlling and scaling those services easier for developers, a key challenge and on the flipside when solved – a value creation point. 

    • Lambda becomes broadly available - Lambda was the most exciting announcement back at re-invent in my view, and Amazon undersold it to a certain point, so it is good to see that more use cases, especially IoT were raised in San Francisco. And with adding support for lambda in CloudFormation and Mobile development Amazon is doing the steady work of making lambda more available across the Amazon platform. Good to see.


    ISV Traction - To keep growing Amazon must attract not only enterprises and ISVs that want to build next generation platforms, but also ISVs that will bring either net new customer load to Amazon or move their on premise load to the AWS cloud. Last year Infor was front and center of this trend, with Infor CEO Charles Philips presenting in San Francisco, this year the trend continues with announcements by MicroStrategy, Software AG, TIBCO and more joining IMS Health, Infor, PegaSystems, Splunk et al making Amazon the platform for their next generation products. As Infor has laid out many times, the advantages are compelling – instead of putting precious investment $s into infrastructure and data centers, vendors can focus on product and let Amazon sort out the infrastructure side. That they also create a certain level of dependence on Amazon seems not bother their customers these days. And with e.g. IBM, Oracle and SAP not showing yet material advantages of a vendor running SaaS, PaaS and IaaS all in one hand, this may not change soon either. 
     

    MyPOV

    An announcement and feature rich event for Amazon in the capital of Silicon Valley (sorry San Jose). Amazon is doing the hard work to integrate their offerings and making them available across administrative and developer services and platforms. The result is a more congruent, efficient and ultimately more appealing platform for enterprises and developers. Amazon needs to keep executing along that strategy and cannot count on its competitors not getting their act together. 2015 will be an exciting year for the cloud and Amazon came out of the gates strong. Stronger than I frankly expected – but that all is good news for customers and the market.

    [Comment – the [From the fences] add on to the post title means that I was not attending the event in person, but used the briefings, material Amazon provided and feedback from various industry and influence sources as well as our Constellation customer views to form my opinion and takeaways of the event. Take it with a grain of salt.]


    ------------
    More on AWS
    • Event Report - AWS re:invent - AWS becomes more about PaaS on inhouse IP - read here
    • AWS gives infrastructure insights - and it is very passionate about it - read here
    • News Analysis - AWS spricht Deutsch - the cloud wars reach Germany - read here
    • Market Move - Infor runs CloudSuite on AWS - Inflection Point or hot air balloon? Read here
    • Event Report - AWS Summit in SFO - AWS keeps doing what has been working in the last 8 years - read here
    • AWS  moves the yardstick - Day 2 reinvent takeaways - read here.
    • AWS powers on, into new markets - Day 1 reinvent takeaways - read here.
    • The Cloud is growing up - three signs in the News - read here.
    • Amazon AWS powers on - read here.

    Other cloud related:
    • Musings - Are we witnessing the rise of the enterprise cloud? Read here
    Find more coverage on the Constellation Research website here.

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    Payroll and related services are somewhere beyond 80 to 90% of HCM enterprise spend, and making sure that an enterprise is compliant with legal and statutory updates, and can pay its employees correctly and on time, is a ‘must have’ for HR Leaders… so big news today comes from Workday – as the vendor announced Workday Payroll for the UK as part of its Workday 24 update, its 3rd organically-built country payroll application (Workday offers native Payroll for the USA and Canada already, and France is on the roadmap for 2016).


    So let’s dissect the press release (you can find it here) in our customary style:

    Workday, Inc. (NYSE: WDAY), a leader in enterprise cloud applications for finance and human resources, today announced the general availability of Workday Payroll for the UK. Organically built as part of Workday Financial Management and Workday Human Capital Management (HCM), the new payroll application enables customers with UK employees to address the full spectrum of enterprise payroll needs, providing administrators with the flexibility, control, and insight required to support the unique aspects of their organizations.

    MyPOV – Good move, from our customer interactions, enterprises want native / organic payroll support as they need this area of automation to work 99.999% of the time. Less vendors involved, less manual work, less moving parts are always good news to get to that uptime.

    Workday also announced momentum for Workday Global Payroll Cloud, a partner program that helps customers reduce the costs associated with deploying, integrating, and managing third-party payroll solutions. Partners offer certified, bi-directional, pre-built integrations between Workday HCM and other payroll systems to provide a comprehensive view of global payroll data. With 85 countries now certified in Workday Global Payroll Cloud, customers including Groupon, Johnson & Johnson, PineBridge Investments, and Zoetis have achieved greater visibility into global payroll actuals, payroll process automation, and streamlined integration between payroll and other HR systems.

    MyPOV – Key for Workday to balance organic vs. partner provided payroll out. Customers and partners need / want to know where Workday will build its own ‘organic’ payroll and where it will be partner business. Workday has done a good job enabling a modern bi-directional interface for 85+ country payrolls via 16 partners, enabling customers to see a global view of its payroll actuals in Workday (technology tidbit: brought in-memory), while still being able to use local payroll providers in each country that offer the desired level of service.


     
    iPad User Interface

    Workday Payroll for the UK
    Payroll has traditionally been a complex undertaking for global organizations, particularly due to the various regulations and laws for each country. Workdays flexible and intuitive payroll applications delivered in the cloud have alleviated many of these challenges with functionality that addresses regulatory and legislative changes. Workday Payroll for the UK follows on the success of the company's payroll applications for the U.S. and Canada, with Workday Payroll for France expected in 2016.


    MyPOV – Workday is right to point out, that payroll is a large challenge for enterprises. Thanks to the cloud a lot of the need to implement and test legal and statutory changes has now shifted to the cloud providers, away from the enterprises. A significant relief for payroll practitioners, especially on the technical / IT side.

    Customers using Workday Payroll for the UK benefit from:
    Automatic tax updates - New tax updates are automatically applied through a cloud delivery model, eliminating the need for regular upgrades and patches required by on-premise payroll systems.

    MyPOV – Good to point out the inherent value of cloud (and BPO) based Payrolls.
    Powerful and flexible calculation tool - Workday's robust calculation engine makes it easy to handle complex requirements. Users can run payroll calculations as often as needed and payroll-processing time is drastically reduced from hours to minutes.

    MyPOV – Good to see – ad-hoc payroll calculation (not sure if supported) for single workers / employees to see over time and take away home pay are key modern capabilities of payrolls today. 

    High configurability - Unlimited earnings, deductions, pay groups, and pay frequencies can be easily configured by payroll administrators to support calculation and reporting needs. Accumulations, balance periods, and pay balances, as well as complex processes such as off-cycle and retroactive payment processing, are also supported.
    MyPOV – Good to see Workday supporting these key payroll features.
    Support for UK-specific statutory requirements

    Workday Payroll for the UK offers a modern system with support for pay-as-you-earn (PAYE) statutory taxes including National Insurance, student loans, statutory absence payments, and court orders. It also provides an exception reporting capability, audits, and alerts to prompt users, ensuring improved accuracy with payroll calculations as well as real-time information (RTI) reporting.
    MyPOV – Key for payroll to work – and good move by Workday to mention support of more recent legislative changes in the YK around PAYE and RTI support. 

    Anytime mobile access - With one self-service application, employees can check pay slips and payment elections -- any time, on any device. The flexibility of the cloud also gives administrators the ability to process payroll from anywhere at any time.

    MyPOV – Now a ‘must have’ feature for payroll, good for Workday and customers that the vendor ships mobile access in the first release. 

    Real-time analytics and reporting - Organizations can now see what they are actually spending on workers via pre-built reports and analytics for payroll insights. With the same reporting format used throughout Workday HCM, users can combine datasets to increase the context for decision making.
    MyPOV – Also a ‘good to have’ feature – enabled by the technology platform a modern payroll is built on – and good for Workday to have this capability in the first version of the UK Payroll.


     
    iPhone User Interface

    Workday Global Payroll Cloud
    Workday Global Payroll Cloud is the foundation of the company's global yet local approach to payroll, where customers benefit from a unified view of HR and payroll data in a central HCM system while leveraging local payroll providers that meet the specific requirements of individual countries. With Workday Global Payroll Cloud and Workday's country-specific payroll applications, business leaders have greater visibility into the true cost of the global workforce with real-time analytics on global payroll actuals in a single currency or country-specific analytics in a local currency.


    MyPOV – The definition of ‘cloud’ has been stretched by many vendors, and if this is a ‘cloud’ one could argue. What matters is that Workday goes to great lengths to certify 3rd party payroll providers interfaces, giving customers peace of mind. At the end all payroll vendors in the global space rely on partners to complement their native / ‘organic’ payroll platform support.


    Comments on the News
    "With companies moving to the cloud faster than ever, we are excited to deliver UK payroll to alleviate a huge piece of the complexity faced by these organizations," said Leighanne Levensaler, senior vice president, products, Workday. "As our customers continue to grow their operations around the world, we will keep advancing the breadth and depth of our payroll solutions to ensure they can achieve a unified view of HR and payroll."

    "Workday has made it possible for us to standardize and streamline our payroll integrations across 60 countries," said Usman Afzal, director of HR operations, Zoetis. "Workday Global Payroll Cloud has helped us create a common interface with one central source of HR data. That has simplified our lives with respect to global reporting, vendor management, and ongoing maintenance."


    MyPOV – Notable that the gentleman from Zoetis refers to Workday Global Payroll cloud – not the UK payroll. But UK customers will take their time to test and validate the UK payroll – and it is not clear from the press release when they got to use the payroll and could validate it in test runs. It may be with them only with Workday 24.

    Availability
    Workday Payroll for the UK is now available as part of the company's latest release, Workday 24.

    MyPOV – So if customers only got their hands on the real code with the last week release of Workday 24 – we should not see live customers in 3 (simple) to 6 months (moderate complex scenarios) live on the Workday UK Payroll.

    Overall MyPOV

    As mentioned in the introduction, a working payroll solution is key for enterprises people strategies, as it gives the peace of mind and freedom to pursue more strategic people related projects. All too often we see that payroll (and compliance) challenges put more strategic people projects on time out in the best case. In the worst case, executive teams lose confidence in the HR leadership, and will be more conservative when asked for budget for strategic HR transformation projects.

    So it’s good news for Workday customers that Workday has added support for the UK payroll. Now we will have to see how quickly and well customers can get to the benefits and be live on the UK payroll. It will also be a good test for the Workday compliance teams and product architecture, as payroll implementations often take so long, that new legal and statutory changes happen during the client implementation. But that is the same for all vendors in the payroll business.

    From a payroll complexity, the UK ranks relatively low in the world, we expect the France payroll (planned by Workday for 2016) to be a more formidable challenge.

    And finally Workday has done well extending its country support via the Workday Global Payroll Cloud to 85 countries. But we know from enterprises that decision makers see a difference between partner based and vendor based payroll support. As Workday lags the ERP Top 3 (SAP, Oracle and Infor) as well as its co-opetitors ADP and Ceridian in vendor supported countries – it will be interesting to see how decision makers will weigh the importance of vendor based payroll support going forward. As for Workday it looks that partner strategy is set – as Workday highlights its recent partnership with Payroll Inc. in Japan (see here).

    In my view large customers in large markets (Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, Brazil etc.) will over time force Workday to provide vendor based payroll support for these markets. But that is speculation and only the future (and maybe some people in Pleasanton) could tell.



    More on Workday
    • Workday 24 - 'True' Analytics, a Vertical and more - now needs customer proof points - read here
    • First Take - Top 3 Takeaways from of Workday Rising Day 1 Keynote - The dawn of the analytics era - time to deliver Insight Apps - read here
    • Progress Report - Workday supports more cloud standard - but work remains - read here
    • Workday 22 - Recruiting and rich Workday 22 are here - read here
    • First Take - Why Workday acquired Identified - (real) Analytics matter - read here
    • Workday Update 21 - All about the user experience and some more - read here
    • Workday Update 20 - Mostly a technology release - read here
    • Takeaways from the Salesforce.com and Workday parnership - read here
    • Workday powers on - adds more to its plate - read here
    • What I would like Workday to address this Rising - read here
    • Workday Update 19 - you need to slow down to hurry up - read here
    • I am worried about... Workday - read here

    And  more on Payroll:


    • Could the paycheck re-invent HCM – yes it can – read here.
    • And suddenly, payroll matters again! Read here.

    You can find more coverage on the Constellation Research website here.

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    We had the opportunity to attend Equifax Workforce Solutions yearly client forum in New Orleans this week. The event was well attended, similar to last year’s event in Scottsdale (see my event report here). Most attendees are on customer advisory boards and have a direct influence on the product roadmap, so it creates a unique atmosphere of ownership under attendees. Certainly a smart setup by Equifax. 



    Here are my top 3 takeaways of the event:

    Dann Adams open Keynote at EFX Forum


    Insights are the Mission– Equifax is on the journey to become an insight company. It was good to see how honest executives were on what challenge this was and to a certain point remains to the vendor. Beginning from a working definition on what an insight is for Equifax, over training employees, changing and adapting product architectures – this is a long way for any vendor. Good to see the honesty and transparency of the management team – something not found often in enterprise software these days.

    Great overview slide of ACA interactions


    Affordable Care Act (ACA)– The ACA is the gift that keeps giving to vendors in the compliance space. And Equifax is not different, helping customers to master the complexity and taking out fears and concerns around this statutory topic. Equifax shared that there is an expectation that close to 8B fines will be send out to employers, definitively a good argument for any enterprise legging on their ACA plans to get going. The ACA solutions is available and has well known blue-chip customers already depending on Equifax for ACA compliance and reporting. 


    Signficant TCO rerduction on adding Work Numbers


    Compliance– This is the key area where Equifax plays today and is known for. We learned that Equifax will re-platform its I-9 solutions, a good move that will future proof the offering. The vendor has to go through the challenge of doing this ‘in flight’ – but has split the roadmap (under NDA) as such that it is realistic to get done in the next 18+ months.

     

    MyPOV

    Equifax is uniquely positioned to take advantage of the compliance tsunami that is rolling towards enterprises. But like their competitors in the compliance space, Equifax is building software solutions, that clients still need to understand, implement and operate (from a business perspective). Any presentation I have attended on compliance, mainly ACA these days, shows the concern and high level of discomfort in the audience. In my view this literally screams for a service. And Equifax is familiar with the model e.g. in the unemployment space where the vendor acts as agent for enterprises. So the market is ripe for Equifax (and competitors) to take over compliance for their customers. No more stories to who all the exchange notices maybe sent or not sent – they all go to the vendor, who for e.g. a % of salary cost will manage all government interactions. Timing is ripe as enterprises now need to ramp up on ACA knowledge, define processes, select software etc. A ‘CaaS’ (Compliance as a Service) offering would be highly welcome.

    The other strategic aspect that Equifax needs to make a decision on is how much the vendor wants to be on the enterprise desktop – or be a data provider (or API) being called by other vendors who have the eyeballs and clicks of the enterprise user. Not an easy decision as it changes go to market and positioning.

    The good news for customers and prospects is that Equifax is working hard to help solve compliance pains across the board. The link to credit and the Work Number give Equifax tangible differentiators over the competition and a strong ‘true’ analytics DNA help in the effort. .


    More on Equifax
    • Event Report - Equifax Worforce - Preventive Medicine for the HR departrment and a silver lining of DaaS - read here

    More on general HCM topics
    • Musings - Is Transboarding the Future of People Talent Management? Read here
    • Musings - How technology innovation fuels Recruiting and disrupts the laggards - read here
    • Musings - What is the future of recruiting? Read here
    • HRTech 2014 takeaways - Read here.
    • Why all the attention to recruiting? Read here.

    And  more on Payroll:


    • Could the paycheck re-invent HCM – yes it can – read here.
    • And suddenly, payroll matters again! Read here.

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    We were invited to the WorkForce Software user conference Vision2015, happening in at a non Vegas like location at Lake Las Vegas. The conference was well attended with over 200 attendees and 20+ partners and exhibitors.


    Here are my Top 3 takeaways from the analyst meeting / conference:

    Workforce Management Pure Play – It was made more than clear that WorkForce Software sees itself and will remain a WorkForce Management pure play – and not venture into other areas of HCM automation. Instead better and deeper WorkfForce Management (WFM) automation and more global support are on the roadmap. WorkForce Software changed its release numbering and jumped from 9 to 15 – to better reflect – you guessed it – the release year. The vendor roadmap plans for 3 releases per year – with 15.1 being available now, the highlights being new KPIs, improvements in usability, more powerful admin tools and more data capture options on external clocks (see the press release here). From the more detailed WFM capabilities shift swapping and group messaging stood out in my view. 

     
    The Workforce Software compliance guarantee
    (credit to +Mark Stelzner who sat much better to take pictures than me)

    Compliance – with a Guarantee– Basically WorkForce Software sees itself as the ‘compliance tool’ in the hand of the HR professional. WorkForce Software monitors legislation and makes sure it supports all necessary workplace time and labor rules from currently 400 legislative bodies in North America. That the vendor does this with confidence became clear as WorkForce Software used the conference to announce a compliance guarantee. So if a WorkForce Software client “gets fined for an incorrect calculation or regulation that EmpCenter manages and WorkForce Software certifies, WorkForce Software will reimburse the client for fees and penalties”. Customers were understandably excited about this guarantee. And kudos to WorkForce Software for extending its level of service beyond working software (all software vendors do this) to uptime (all SaaS vendors do this) and to legislative compliance of its software in form of a guarantee (no vendor in the HCM space is doing this to my knowledge). So we may see the dawn of CaaS – Compliance as a Service, well done by WorkForce Software to be at the forefront of this potential trend.
     
    Picture of some of the Workforce Software partners 

    Partner Ecosystem– WFM usually cannot stand alone and lives with the integration with other key HR systems, most notably HR Core, Payroll and to a lesser extent Talent Management. As such WorkForce Software needs to partner with these vendors and the vendor has done well in this space, having partnerships with SAP / SuccessFactors, Oracle and integration capabilities with ADP, Ceridian, CloudPay, Ultimate and Workday. Maintaining and operating these partnerships is always a tricky endeavor, especially when you are the ‘junior’ partner in the relationship that WorkForce Software most of the time happens to be. But WorkForce Software can play well on the partner field, e.g. the vendor competes with ADP in North America, but partners with ADP in Australia. Moreover it looks like WorkForce Software is smart enough to stay out of the implementation business, partnering with e.g. NGA HR, Aon Hewitt, Aasoon and many more. Not getting involved too much into implementations has double benefits for software vendors – on the one side they can focus on product – on the other side they need to make product, documentation and training robust enough for the partners to succeed.
     
    Workforce Software CEO Choksi closes VisionWFS

    MyPOV

    A very good event for clients and vendor and probably also the partners attending. Customers were excited about the new EmpCenter 15.1 and the roadmap of what is ahead. Partners see where they can help customers and create value, which is important to keep them happy and expand the ecosystem. 

    And it’s good to see how loyal WorkForce Software customers are – as once you have a WFM solution that works, they are not changing it quickly and easily. It is proof that WorkForce Software over the years has been able to build continuous value for its user base, and this conference is another proof of this. But with the success and tenure comes also the challenge to address technical debt and while a quick deep dive in the architecture raises no immediate red flags, the user interface of WorkForce Software needs some improvement or even better a complete re-thought from scratch to be up to speed with 2015. We blogged about it before how HCM users today have probably the best user experience ever in the history of HCM – WFM software with great functionality and high productivity to use – like WorkForce Software’s should be no exception.


    You can find more coverage on the Constellation Research website here.

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    Salesforce.com has stuck to CRM as core automation area for so long, that even analysts got nervous about how much runway the vendor can get from CRM (and yes platform and PaaS), too. Salesforce execs of course see no reason for concern when asked, but a few year back that seemed to have changed when Salesforce acquired rypple, put a very senior product leader with John Wookey in charge and seemed ready to go to re-invent Performance Management. As of last Dreamforce though, I was reassured the offering is now focused at improving existing users performance (in Marketing, Sales, Service) – which is a sensible positioning. And John Wookey had moved off to lead Salesforce.com’s Industry efforts. 




    So with some surprise – Salesforce.com announced it is (re) entering the HCM market with ‘Salesforce for HR’. So let’s dissect the press release in our customary style (it can be found here):


    SAN FRANCISCO—April 23, 2015—Salesforce [NYSE: CRM], the Customer Success Platform and world's #1 CRM company, today unveiled Salesforce for HR, the Employee Success Platform. Salesforce for HR transforms employee engagement by delivering personalized experiences to empower employees, and provides the data and insights organizations need to attract, manage and retain the best and brightest talent.

    MyPOV – Obviously Salesforce is recycling a lot of CRM positioning – replace Customer in Customer Success Platform with Employee and here you have the Employee Success Platform. But are user experience and data / insights enough to manage people and their talent and retain them? Let’s keep reading:

    Companies must recognize there has been a shift in employee expectations. Consumer technology has transformed the way employees connect to each other and consume information. Today, employees have come to expect that same level of engagement, service, convenience and instant access to the information and resources they need to be successful.

    MyPOV – Good positioning by Salesforce, and yes – the Consumerization of IT has led to the point of employees enjoying better user experiences than ever before in the HCM space. User interfaces used to be ‘good’ to ‘good enough’ for 2-3 years, today the market leaders even admit that a 6 month old interface already shows its age. And the tag line to treat your employees like your customers would be great to live in practice – see more on that later.

    “Companies are creating game-changing customer engagement by reimagining what's possible through the power of cloud, social, mobile and data science technologies,” said Alex Dayon, president of products, Salesforce. “With Salesforce, they can bring the same transformation to their own employees. Salesforce for HR will uniquely enable them to connect with their employees like never before.”

    MyPOV – More on bringing what Salesforce has done with customers to what to do with employees.

    Companies that provide employees with engaging tools like mobile apps not only reap positive employee outcomes, but also positive business and customer outcomes. According to a Forrester report[1], “The value of a great workforce experience is it leads to positive customer experiences. HR leaders have an opportunity to demonstrate this value by showing that positive workforce experiences create engaged and high performing employees that positively affect customer outcomes.”

    MyPOV – True – happy employees perform better, which usually leads to better company results – including happier customers. So why do most companies not treat their employees as well as their customers? More below.


    Introducing Salesforce for HR—the Employee Success Platform

    Built on a foundation of cloud, social, mobile and data science technologies, Salesforce for HR harnesses the power of Salesforce’s Customer Success Platform for employee engagement. Salesforce for HR complements existing HCM and HRMS implementations by delivering a system of engagement that helps companies connect with their employees in a whole new way.


    MyPOV – Salesforce is walking the fine line between saying a CRM platform is a good HCM platform, too. Bet some people at Salesforce wished the platform was not called the ‘Customer Success Platform’’ – but just the Salesforce platform. But product naming is flexible.

    Now, employees are empowered to communicate, collaborate and connect with less friction in getting things done. Every HR leader now has the tools to transform the employee experience with 1:1 engagement, and every executive has the full power of analytics to drive more informed personnel decisions with:

    MyPOV – Fair enough – but apart from Chatter capabilities it all depends on creating the interfaces that are needed to bring these functions alive. Traditionally CRM vendors need a lot of integration, too – so Salesforce has the tools and platform for tackling this, but will core HCM capabilities create enough value to justify the creation and maintenance of the integration?


    · Employee Journeys: Guide employees on 1:1 journeys—from onboarding to ongoing development—deliver engaging experiences across channels and devices through every phase of the employee lifecycle.

    MyPOV – It’s not clear if we talk platform or Salesforce capabilities. 
    [Update by Salesforce: This is Marketing Cloud Journey Builder used to create employee journeys.] I suspect it is more platform than Salesforce having built an Onboarding product. 

    · Employee Communities: Create employee communities that connect colleagues and cultivate a culture of collaboration. Today’s employees expect greater collaboration with colleagues, subject matter experts and leadership across all facets of the company in order to accomplish their job.

    MyPOV – This is basically Chatter – something Salesforce could have done and has done before for the HCM space. We know a few customers who have done the same. Moreover Chatter has been integrated with a number of HCM products, Infor and Workday being the most prominent one we can think of right now. [Update by Salesforce: 
    Employee Communities also includes Community Page Builder for internal pages and Read-Only Knowledge for knowledge sharing.]

    · HR Help Desk: Deliver personalized service experiences to employees and empower them to help themselves anytime, anywhere with an HR Help Desk powered by Service Cloud. Provide HR teams with a unified, 360-degree employee view and the intelligence they need to solve employee inquiries quickly and accurately.

    MyPOV – Salesforce already has Helpdesk capabilities, so employee and HCM content are only additional areas to add. Salesforce will have to address confidentiality and PII questions here, that work differently than in the CRM space.

    · Salesforce HR Analytics: Enable ​leaders to make smarter ​talent ​decisions with increased visibility to key performance and productivity metrics. With a unified view of any data source, leaders can uncover new employee insights and proactively engage their teams from any device.​

    MyPOV – Salesforce is using its Wave platform for this, which is a solid dashboard and visualization tool. Salesforce throws more confusion in the already confused area of ‘analytics’, but that is no surprise (for ‘true’ analytics read here– they take actions or make recommendations, something Wave does not (yet)).

    · Engagement Apps: Build and deploy the mobile apps employees need to be successful, tying into the company’s business processes. Now, employees can be more productive with activities such as recruiting, onboarding, interviewing, training and more, from wherever they are. In addition, the Salesforce for HR ecosystem, including Appirio, Deloitte, Jobscience, Lumesse, and others, can leverage the Salesforce1 Platform to accelerate how companies transform employee engagement.

    MyPOV – This is probably the most important part of the announcement – Salesforce complementing HCM vendors that have already made the decision to build HCM assets on the Salesforce1 platform. Notably these are mostly in the Recruiting space – as many CRM best practices lend themselves to Recruiting, too. It will be key to see integration, endorsement by these vendors of Salesforce for HR. 
    [Update from Salesforce - Salesforce for HR works with all HCM vendors, not just those built on the platform. We have pre-built apps on AppExchange and we integrate with all the other HCM vendors.]


    Comments on the News

    · “St. Joseph Health is using Salesforce to increase engagement and improve productivity for employees at 14 facilities across two states,” said David Baker, VP of IT, St. Joseph Health. “Employees want the conveniences of consumer-inspired mobile and social technologies available to help them do their jobs better. With Salesforce, we can give that to them. It is helping us revolutionize the way we interact and solve problems as a team.”

    · “You can't provide a great customer experience without happy, engaged and informed employees, so it's no surprise that Salesforce's Customer Success Platform has expanded to better serve the workforce,” said Chris Heineken, SVP of Field Operations, Appirio. “As a Salesforce partner and a company that spends a great deal of time helping HR organizations optimize their systems of engagement, we couldn't be more excited about Salesforce for HR.”

    · “Our clients are seeking technologies to help provide a better user experience associated with HR services delivery,” said Marc Solow, director, Deloitte Consulting LLP and leader of Deloitte's HR shared services consulting practice. “Deloitte’s Fullforce Solution c*Link offering, that is based on Salesforce, is transforming how our clients are addressing the future of cloud-based HR services delivery.”

    · “We are excited to deliver TalentObjects on the Salesforce1 Platform because we believe it can be the most powerful platform for workforce engagement in the industry,” said Thomas Volk, CEO, Lumesse. “Our vision for people-centric workforce optimization solutions formed through the eyes of more than 2,400 customers over the past fifteen years is being realized with the help of the most innovative company in the world.”


    MyPOV – And here we go with the endorsements. Good to lead with a customer, unfortunately an IT Leader, a HR Leader would have been stronger. Also note that Appirio and Deloitte are more service than product partners, pointing that there will be a lot of integration work and revenues to realize in order to get Salesforce for HR to work. Lumesse just finished bringing their new Recruiting product to the Salesforce1 platform – so here is a great supporting quote by Lumesse CEO Thomas Volk.


    Pricing and Availability

    · Salesforce for HR solutions are generally available today and are built with technologies included across Sales Cloud, Service Cloud, Marketing Cloud, Community Cloud, Analytics Cloud and the Salesforce1 Platform.


    MyPOV – Pricing will be key. Employee seats are cheaper than CRM user seats but Salesforce has shown in the past that it understands to make licensing costs not a showstopper.

    Implications, Implications

    Implications for Salesforce Customers

    For the existing Salesforce customers this announcement means that Salesforce as a vendor and as platform has the opportunity to become more strategic in their enterprise, beyond the CRM space. Salesforce will need the help of their existing users to make it over to their HCM colleagues. Timing could be right as there is a general unhappiness in HR about poor user experience. On the flipside integration work is dreaded on the HR side, as many enterprises find themselves operating a hodge-podge of different solutions. But not having a key ‘tectonic’ HCM automation piece (HR Core, Payroll, Talent Management, Workforce Management and Benefits) makes that conversation tougher for Salesforce. But Salesforce can roll in partners that have recently built new offerings on the Salesforce1 platform.

    Implications for Salesforce Partners

    Salesforce has attracted a number of HCM vendors to build products in the Salesforce1 platform. Many noted and quoted above. Salesforce was only able to attract these vendors with making the ‘we have no interest to move into HCM’ statement – that now could be challenged. But it looks like that Salesforce has done a good job keeping partners briefed, and for now it seems partners think that they get additional marketing firepower from Salesforce. But certainly they will be watching Salesforce’s HCM plans a little more carefully and likely more nervously.

    On the architecture side though it will be interesting to see how well the Salesforce1 platform, built with CRM in mind, can deal with HCM requirements like effective dating, PII Data, data residency rules and more.

    Implications for Salesforce

    Salesforce is pivoting the 3rd time on HCM (In with rypple, out with a performance focus on CRM users only, back in now) which shows how key HCM is as a growth area. For now it looks like Salesforce is trying to get more users on its Salesforce1 platform and Chatter which is always a legitimate move for any platform vendor. But getting serious in a new enterprise automation space beyond CRM needs more than platform, collaboration and partners – an argument certainly Salesforce would do themselves if it came to CRM (not HCM). In some way Salesforce has now maneuvered itself in a tricky positioning – as it cannot announce major automation without conflicting with the partners it tried to attract as a platform vendor in the first place. One area that is carte blanche is the Employee Call Center space – so I would not be surprised if Salesforce will focus on this area first and foremost.

    Implications for Competitors

    For CRM competitors – We don’t’ see this announcement having any effect. Hoping for a Salesforce distraction with HCM will likely not materialize as Salesforce has deep enough pockets to run on full steam on both playing fields.

    For HCM competitors – Salesforce is not competing with the traditional HCM vendors (yet?). As such the Salesforce for HR offering is only doing something existing HCM players know is important – user experience needs to improve, content management is important, collaboration is important – really nothing new. If Salesforce would start offering key ‘tectonic’ HCM automation pieces (as it could have started in Performance Management with rypple) again – then it would certainly be taken serious as a market player in HCM.

    Overall MyPOV

    A good move by Salesforce to bring more user to its content agnostic technology – Salesforce1, Chatter, Wave etc. It all looks to me like a deja-vu on what Siebel did 10+ or so years ago with Employee Relationship Management (ERM). Same tag line – treat employees like customers. And it worked well with Siebel, if memory does not fool me – Siebel ERM had well over 2000 customers on ERM. But it was not enough automation to make a dent into HCM markets and not enough overall to give Siebel new avenues of growth. It will be interesting to see if Salesforce is in a similar strategic situation as Siebel was back then. The notable difference is that Salesforce is much more of a platform offering, with 3rd party ISVs building on top of Salesforce1 – none of that happened with Siebel. On the flipside Siebel offered notable content partnerships, which Salesforce has not tapped into yet.

    There is a lot of merit to treat employees as well (or even better) as customers, and a lot of room to apply best practices from CRM to people management. The Recruiting space with ‘CRM’ (C for Candidate, not Customer) is a prime example. But at the end the ‘Customer is King’ is valid for all enterprises. Employees are hired to create value for and serve customers, but ultimately are cost when it comes to the balance sheet. Customers are revenue that pays for employees. And with such seat prices for CRM professionals are higher than for HCM professionals and employees. Always good to follow the money.

    And lastly, Salesforce could launch similar offerings in other key automation areas. Finance, Manufacturing, Purchasing employees need to collaborate, too, want better reporting and dashboard, get a better user experience, have support needs (that an HR call center will not cover) – but HCM is the most attractive of these markets.

    But for now a good move by Salesforce and it looks (for now) that it has not rocked the relationships with existing HCM ISVs that are building on the Salesforce1 platform. We will be watching if it stays like this and how well ‘Salesforce for HR’ will see adoption.




    More on Salesforce:
    • Event Report - Salesforce Dreamforce - A Customer Succes Platform, Analytics and Lightning - but really Salesforce is re-platforming - read here
    • Constellation Research Summary of Salesforce Dreamforce 2014 - read here
    • Research Summary - An in depth look at Salesforce1 - Better packaging or new offerng? Read here.
    • Dreamforce 2013 Platform Takeaways - All about the mobile platform - or more? Read here
    • Platform ecosystems are hard - Salesforce grows it - FinancialForce shrinks it - read here.
    • Our take on Salesforce.com Identity Connect - from three angles - Identity, CRM and PaaS - read here.
    • Takeaways from the Salesforce and Workday Strategic Partnership - read here.
    • Act II - The Cloud changes everything - Oracle and Salesforce.com - read here.
    • How many Pivots make a Pirouette? Salesforce's last Pivot - read here.
    Find more coverage on the Constellation Research website here and checkout my magazine on Flipboard.



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    The way how, when, and what we work is a key research area for us at Constellation Research, that we call ‘Future of Work’ (FoW). As such we track the events in the industry that may affect the FoW – and one key player in the space are technology vendors, e.g. Apple given the pervasiveness of iOS powered devices in the enterprise and its popularity with today’s workers.
    On the Apple earnings call on April 27th we heard a hidden ‘nugget’ of information in the prepared statement of Apple CFO Luca Maestri mentioned the following in its prepared statements: [14:30 into the conference call]
    In fact we are seeing very high interest from companies, who want to transform how work gets down. […] In addition to IBM we are working closely with more than 2 dozen other leading software and solution providers, including Box, Docusign, Microstrategy, Revel and Servicemax – to bring a broad range of innovative mobile solutions to more customers on iPad.
    In the past the problem with working across software portfolio has been integration of the different products that enterprises needed to integrate. If Chief Human Resource Officers are polled today what their largest problems are, software integration makes the Top 3 issues – all the time. And integration has not really been solved by the cloud, as integration between cloud based products can break the same way as it used to break on premise.

    Integration tools have been traditionally built for IT workers and system integrators, not really empowering the business user to integrate solutions by themselves. Instead of that business users / owners had to wait for IT, consultants, vendors, system integrators being ready – or ready again – with their integration working. During the wait time business owners face funding costs and delays in getting best practices implemented for their enterprises.

    So to who did Apple turn to solve this integration problem? Not to the traditional vendors in the space, but surprise, to a startup called Workato, located (no surprise) in Silicon Valley. Workato makes it easy and intuitive for a business end user to connect the relevant business applications they need – in a do it yourself (DIY) fashion. 

     
    Workato iPhone Screenshots

     Workato itself is a modern platform that has all the attributes of a next generation product, it uses the cloud, can elastically scale, uses a consumer grade UI and can be used on the go, in a mobile or tablet environment.

     

    Implications for the Future of Work


    • End user empowerment becomes real – even mobile. DIY style integration is becoming real with this partnership, and even more conveniently, on popular iOS devices - on the go if needed.
    • Ease of Use wins the integration game. Business (end) users can now create the integrations they need and want to build.
    • The Business owns the integration. Ownership of integration used to be fragmented between vendors, system integrators, IT and the business – now it is close to be in business hands only (granted with help of the vendor and a platform like Workato’ s).
     


    MyPOV

    The Apple / Workator partnership is a major breakthrough for end user empowerment, which in almost all enterprise software categories is the ‘holy grail’ vendors are looking for. With that end users will experience the power but also the challenges of owning integration themselves – spanning from the beauty and elegance of a working integration to the alarming call in the middle of the night about a broken integration. So it will not always be easy for business, but empowerment will certainly win over in the short and long term. The ‘integration tax’ on business users has been dramatically lowered with this partnership – so congrats to both vendors and good luck with the partnership.

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    As a small ‘boutique’ analyst firm, we can’t chase and cover every business trend and every technology space. So at Constellation Research we choose to look at key business trends that are relevant for forward thinking businesses. Technology per se is cool, but way too hard to deal with for fun and no direct impact on a business, so we leave that coverage to our friends, the geeks (though we geek off pretty deeply sometimes, too). 


     

    One of the most prominent business trends is Digital Disruption – that changes the way how enterprises operate from the front to the back office and back. The trend has a major impact when it happens in an industry – we are all great at looking at it in the rear view mirror. It is pretty clear what has happened e.g. to the newspaper industry and the taxi industry. 

    But it is very hard to predict when change will reach the industry one works in. Even harder to take the action to be the leader, the risk taker, the pioneer to transform an industry. It takes a lot of guts to be such a leader, and not only risk and gamble ones enterprise, but change the direction of the whole industry. For the few who have done it, it has been an exhilarating journey and truly transformational – on any level.

    If you want to learn more about digital disruption – then join my colleagues Dr. Natalie Petouhoff, Ray Wang, many more and me for a fast paced, informational and fun sprinkled half day in San Francisco on May 4th. Seats are filling fast - but there is room to bring a colleague. 

    Looking forward to see you there!

    To register – see here. For more Digital Disruption Tour events – check here.

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    On the prelude of Microsoft’s yearly Build conference we had the chance to a firsthand experience with Microsoft’s Hololens. In one of the best choreographed and marshalled events I have seen in the industry Microsoft gave 20 or so analyst a firsthand experience and demos, using the Hololens themselves. 

     

    Microsoft is still developing the Hololens, so understandably secret about the device, e.g. we had to surrender all recording devices, including smartphones – but here are the takeaways on the specs I can share:

    • Hololens is not a companion, but standalone device
    • Hololens is for all practical purposes a PC
    • The design is beautiful and functional, attached to the head similar to modern biking helmets with a screw adjusting the hold of the Hololens
    • To work properly, the Hololens needs to know the pupillary distance of the user. For the demo Microsoft measured us – the later product is supposed to be able to do this automatically.
    • The Hololens creates a (surprisingly small) viewing area which to my subjective sensation was maybe 20% of my visual field, leaving plenty of room to see the surrounding area, rest of the room I was in.
    • Positively I could wear my glasses under the Hololens, with no perceivable loss of functionality and quality.
    • The speakers on the Hololens are very good – supporting a good user experience even more.
    • The critical fist – tap motion – equivalent to a click works for both hands, but needs some adjustment – the first needs to be visible to the Hololens for it to capture the action, so the fist needs to be in (for me) a little bit intuitive position. It’s great to see it works for left and right hands, though in my tests a little better on the right.
    • The projection is flawless, speedy and looks all along real. No slow rendering, stumbling etc. 

    We missed key specs such as on processor(s) – apart from Microsoft saying that the Hololens is ‘stuffed with sensors’, memory, battery life, connectivity etc. etc. – as Microsoft is not ready to share them.

     


    We were able to go through the following demos:
    • In partnership with a construction material vendor, Microsoft allowed us to fill one of the most ugly voids in the USA, downtown Denver, the empty block between California, Welton St and 15th and 16th street. A model is in place, but the planned construction is virtual, only visible in the Hololens. We were able to change color, angles and zoom the whole structure – apart from moving and placing it. 
     
    • Next was the inside view of a construction building and we saw the blocked door dilemma, a construction classic: Where there is supposed to be a door is in reality a structural key column, pillar, etc. Finding it, creating a workaround is laborious and expensive. We were able to see the problem (actually someone left a note for us) and inspect the solution, which triggered another problem (a pipe) that we discovered and left a voice note to the plumbing team. A convincing demo. 


    • Next we were in a living room setting, where we could place objects, pin them and move them in the room. We could instruct Hololens to scan the room (incl. people) and then leverage that information. Next was extending a 3D model – we added fishes in different colors and angles to an underwater 3D Diorama – using a toolbox – all with our hands and fingers.
    • Lastly Microsoft demonstrated a Skype demo, where the Skype window can be placed like a monitor and place anywhere. Interestingly Hololens recognizes real world surfaces. The Skype users were able to swap 3D models (of course a Seattle Space Needle with a mandatory 12th man flag) and modify them.
     

    Overall very cool demos and it looks like Hololens is ready at least for short demo sessions and settings. 


    What are the implications of Hololens?

    • The most immediate value to me was general user experience. Today most of us operate with the 2nd (and 3rd) monitor. It looks like every Windows application can be ‘pinned’ and put somewhere. Not so good news for monitor makers, but totally different productivity for Windows users.
    • The Skype demo was also convincing – but building 3D models is not something you can do in a few minutes. 
    • Gaming will be revolutionized by Hololens. 
    • The 3D Diorama showed some creative potential for consumers and professionals. Being able to create something and then used in the immediate room, walk around it like a real object opens for many, many applications.
    • Visualizing complex objects - e.g. learning or diagnosing the human body will be great applications. 
    • Augmented reality - as a physical robot getting a virtual Hololens personality will be great use cases, too.
    • 3D Objects need to be built. No surprise Microsoft shows this at its developer conference Build, Hololens developer will be the newest job title in the long lists of jobs / functions Microsoft has created. 

    MyPOV

    Great progress by Microsoft since the 121 event – where the Hololens was the combo of night vision googles with small life support unit attached. No dates are set for the release (so far) but the potential of a virtual reality / augmented reality device like the Hololens is very clear. Being PC based will give Hololens a lot of runway for basic tasks, as well as dissolve any IT fears in the corporate world of another device to understand, maintain and secure. A lot more still has to happen to make it a consumer, real world ready product, but Microsoft has shown the value of Hololens, now it needs to show that it can make it real for businesses and consumer from a product maturity, ecosystem, and content and price perspective. Stay tuned.

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    We were invited to attend the Oracle Cloud Summit held recently at the beautiful Ritz Carlton in Half Moon Bay. A year ago the analyst summit was in Indian Wells, and what was a ‘cozy’ event back then with maybe 20 analysts attending, has turned into a much larger 60 or so analyst event 12 months later. Certainly a proof that Oracle has made progress and gets more attention in cloud matters by the influencer community.


    Oracle CEO Mark Hurd made an appearance and talked about the Oracle progress in his unique, number driven style, stressing the value of cloud. It was good to see his view and get some insights into the Oracle cloud strategy straight from the top. His example of e.g. IBM shrinking by 10B and how much of that revenue is going to be Oracle’s resonated well. 


    Also interesting that Hurd sees HCM and Customer Service as the most important applications of the 21st century – as taking care of employees and customers is essential for enterprises to tapping into faster and sustainable growth. At the end of the day Hurd asks CxOs to accept the reality of the cloud that is simple(r), more innovative, enables disruption, creates speed and has the better economic operation advantage.

    MyPOV – Hurd has a unique personality that is clearly data and number driven, his pitch for cloud will resonate well with equally number driven CxOs. It is also well aligned with Oracle’s organizational DNA of TCO reduction – which manifested itself through the product demonstrations, too. How well that approach works in less rational buying decision environments will be interesting to observe in the next quarters.

    Earlier Oracle President Thomas Kurian kicked off the day – walking over the complete Oracle cloud portfolio in very short order. On 30k feet level Oracle kept the format with its 4 ‘as a Service’ offerings – with IaaS, PaaS, SaaS and DaaS (Data as a Service). Oracle is the only cloud vendor prominently featuring DaaS, which plays well to Oracle’s database heritage but is equally forward looking, as enterprises become software companies and data being the key equity for next generation business processes. We will break this down next, but let’s note that Oracle has made progress in its datacenter infrastructure, too – with 19 Tier 4 data centers operating the Oracle Cloud, the newest additions being Toronto, Frankfurt, Calgary and Munich. This makes Oracle one of the few cloud providers with multiple data center locations in Canada and to our knowledge the only provider with two data centers in Germany. Data center locations matters for cloud, not only from a data sovereignty but also a performance perspective.


    MyPOV – Very few product leaders can walk across such a vast portfolio of products like Kurian. Amazingly he seems to be up to speed into much detail of all these offerings, which he has to be on the flipside too – as all comes together with him. Oracle is probably undertaking the largest engineering project for cloud (not even to mention its engineered systems and OS projects) and to make sure that it all works together must be a huge challenge. The good news on this is, that at this point we have no indication of products not working together. 



    For comparison and consistency reasons I will keep this blog in the same format as last year’s Progress Report (you can find it here).


    The State of IaaS

    The Oracle IaaS offering comprises Storage (Elastic Object & Elastic Block Storage), Compute – and new – Software defined Networking. A year ago queues, notifications and Identity ran under IaaS, but have now been promoted to PaaS or are not that relevant to be mentioned anymore. Oracle now supports a single global namespace across Storage – a huge simplification and value over some competitors, geographic replication and a NAS (in beta). Oracle will (and has to) expand these services in the next 18 months substantially. On the Compute side Oracle now offers a general purpose, high performance, dedicated and engineered compute, giving customers a wide range of compute offers to choose from. Major functionalities for Compute are being delivered this year – but the roadmap was only shared under NDA. New compared to last year was the Software defined Network product offering, where Oracle offers Software VPN Layer 2 and 3, Hardware VPN IPSec Tunneling, a direct Connect offering to its Public Cloud and Network Bonding. Effectively Oracle offers to connect through the Equinix Cloud Exchange, AT&T Netbond and hardware VPN based InterConnect. 


    MyPOV – Good progress by Oracle on the IaaS side. 2015 is the key year for Oracle to deliver some critical IaaS features that will make the offering competitive to other offerings in the marketplace. Regardless there is good customer traction for Oracle IaaS today as customer panel and reference slides showed.


    The State of PaaS

    Oracle PaaS is taking a persona centric view on using the Oracle middleware and database stack: Oracle has always courted developers, and the middleware DNA goes back to integration, so these personas stay, what’s new (debut was at OpenWorld) is the departmental user and analytics user. For developers the rapid deployment and the polyglot language capabilities of Oracle PaaS stick out as differentiators. On the integration (aka iPaaS) side Oracle has done progress on click integration / 0 coding options, which are actually an enabler for the departmental user area. Oracle here delivers on the PaaS side on the customization and extension promise from OpenWorld for its SaaS products, but also complements it with document, storage, mobile, collaboration and social options. For the analytics user Oracle PaaS offers all discovery and analysis options for data residing in (Oracle) RDBMS, OLAP and BigData. The visual analysis of complex data for the departmental user is one of the differentiators.
     


    MyPOV – Good move of Oracle to cater away from the 2014 common view of building PaaS for developers, IT users and LOB users. Defining more specific and interesting forward looking roles as for analytics is the right move, especially because Oracle can offer some very valuable functionalities in this space and can draw on a large (BI) user community that is thirsty for the next step. But the most impressive move is the focus on the departmental user. Empowering business users to do their job with no / little IT involvement is what business user want and need in the fast paced 21st century. Whichever vendor will get to the business user first will create a new ‘higher ground’ that is key for long time market leadership in enterprise software. 

    The State of SaaS

    As a year ago it was back to Chris Leone to give the overall SaaS overview as it was this year– and it makes sense as Oracle HCM is the most advanced of the Oracle SaaS offerings in terms of customer adoption. The value proposition of Oracle’s SaaS offering has not changed – build an integrated suite of enterprise software with a common horizontal foundation, which enables technology offerings such as analytics and vital next generation application capabilities like social and collaboration. The main progress compared to 12 months ago has been made in Financial and ERP, where Oracle now has good customer momentum, and even the (at Oracle) traditionally lagging SCM area is catching up. Main focus going forward for the SaaS Suite will be in CX, EPM, ERP, HCM and SCM, with an overall focus and enablement of analytics.
     


    MyPOV – For the longest time Oracle SaaS products have been lagging in functionality as Oracle took the long path to re-write these applications. 10+ years after the Fusion announcements almost all products (with the exception of SCM) are at par or more advanced than the previous suites that Oracle still sells (Oracle e-Business Suite, PeopleSoft, JD Edwards and Siebel). The strong platform capabilities and benefits show in e.g. mobile, BI, and PaaS. Along the way Oracle has also created a CX product family and is the only vendor to break out and focus stand alone on Social Relationship Management (SRM). So overall good progress – but for most business around the world orders are still the path to revenue and here Oracle needs to invest to make the overall SaaS suite fire on all cylinders and for all industries. 

    The State of DaaS

    That Oracle is serious about DaaS is underlined by the fact that this is the only ‘aaS’ area that operates as its own independent GBU. The DaaS offering evolves around the Oracle ID graph, which describes individuals as completely as positively, collecting social and real world assets to compose an actionable set of data to execute value adding activities on the individual’s data. The DaaS offerings can be used standalone, but they also shore up capabilities for other Oracle SaaS properties, e.g. DaaS for Sales and DaaS for Customer Intelligence. 


    MyPOV – This is newest ‘aaS’ offering for Oracle, and it still sees acquisition activities (see my take on the Datalogix acquisition here). Oracle competitors don’t have similar offerings, so Oracle will do well to use DaaS as a further differentiator in other product areas – e.g. in HCM (Recruiting comes to mind), SCM (Transportation Management) etc. Oracle also needs to strike (or be more public about it) more content deals, taking e.g. a page from IBM’s playbook.


    Analyst Tidbits


    • One of the many new products was Oracle Process Cloud – and this one caught my attention. It has all the characteristics of a next generation application (cloud, analytics, social, collaboration) and changing the Future of Work (no setup, fast iterations, no code). Definitively a product to watch. 
    • On the more mature products Oracle Integration Platform Cloud Services are interesting. Leveraging the long history of Oracle middleware is a good starting point – but adding adapters to standard business applications as pre-integration offerings will be an interesting capability to watch. 


      Overall MyPOV

      No questions Oracle is making a lot of progress with its cloud products. And Oracle is doing a great job at making them leverage each other (I would love to see the dependency diagrams) – while making sure they have a standalone business benefit as a singular product. Oracle is also more granular than other vendors with an enterprise software or hardware background moving to the cloud, but Oracle has to make sure the offerings don’t get too complex and remain easy to understand, market and sell, later implement and operate. It is good to see that a number of the products are gaining good customer traction and have passed the critical path of being strong standalone offerings in the marketplace. But a few other (key) products need more work this year to become to the same level – and most of that should happen this year. Last year Kurian described the Oracle cloud strategy as a two step program – getting to the critical functionality level and then differentiate the offering. A year later Oracle has reached the critical line with a number of offerings, but a lot of more work remains. The differentiation and vision remains clear – one integrated suite of as a Service products that work and operate better together – as they were built by the same vendor. The pitch that Oracle can also operate their cloud operations better than anyone else (or customers can operate them on premise, too) will be an easy one. This year’s OpenWorld should be a big one, we will be there to analyze.
      Future of Work / HCM / SaaS research:
      • Event Report - Oracle HCM World - Full Steam ahead, a Learning surprise and potential growth challenges - read here
      • First Take - Oracle HCM World Day #1 Keynote - off to a good start - read here
      • Progress Report - Oracle HCM gathers momentum - now it needs to build on that - read here
      • Oracle pushes modern HR - there is more than technology - read here. (Takeaways from the recent HCMWorld conference).
      • Why Applications Unlimited is good a good strategy for Oracle customers and Oracle - read here.
      Also worth a look for the full picture
      • News Analysis - Oracle discovers the power of the two socket server - or: A pivot that wasn't one - TCO still rules - read here
      • Market Move - Oracle buys Datalogix - moves more into DaaS - read here
      • Event Report - Oracle Openworld - Oracle's vision and remaining work become clear - they are both big - read here
      • Constellation Research Video Takeaways of Oracle Openworld 2014 - watch here
      • Is it all coming together for Oracle in 2014? Read here
      • From the fences - Oracle AR Meeting takeaways - read here (this was the last analyst meeting in spring 2013)
      • Takeaways from Oracle CloudWorld LA - read here (this was one of the first cloud world events overall, in January 2013)
      And if you want to read more of my findings on Oracle technology - I suggest:
      • Progress Report - Good cloud progress at Oracle and a two step program - read here.
      • Oracle integrates products to create its Foundation for Cloud Applications - read here.
      • Java grows up to the enterprise - read here.
      • 1st take - Oracle in memory option for its database - very organic - read here.
      • Oracle 12c makes the database elastic - read here.
      • How the cloud can make the unlikeliest bedfellows - read here.
      • Act I - Oracle and Microsoft partner for the cloud - read here.
      • Act II - The cloud changes everything - Oracle and Salesforce.com - read here.
      • Act III - The cloud changes everything - Oracle and Netsuite with a touch of Deloitte - read here
      Find more coverage on the Constellation Research website here.

      ---------------------

      And here are my notes in tweets from the event: 


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      Earlier this year I had the opportunity to attend SAP’s S/4HANA launch in New York. It is always a privilege to be part of a new product launch and see how much thought, time and energy vendors put into their next generation of products.
       


      It reminded me of Larry Ellison launching the Fusion effort at Oracle (I think 2004) – and he was radical in its commitment to standard back then – e.g. admitting and calling venerable Oracle PL/SQL proprietary, not the future of enterprise software and that Oracle would commit to build Fusion on standards.

      So equally kudos to Hasso Plattner to put down the thoughts and design principles for S/4HANA – even more in detail than Ellison did back with Fusion (at least as I recall).
       
      The SAP Product Eveolution

      So let’s look at SAP’s S/4HANA launch – the video recording is here and after a 10 minute intro by CEO Bill McDermott Plattner takes stage.

      The #1 Rule Plattner put out was to have a DB with 0 response time – and what is possible to innovate business applications with that design paradigm. Of course this means in memory, columnar, combination of OLTP and OLAP aka analytics today etc. Plattner gives a short run up how SAP got to S/4HANA from via research at the HPI in Potsdam and so on.

      But let’s jump in when Plattner walks us through the qualities – about 18 minutes in:
       
      S/4HANA qualities as discussed in this blog

      Built on HANA

      MyPOV – Central to the S/4HANA DNA is HANA – with all the rationale on why SAP built HANA in the first place and the related benefits. But DNAs have strong and weak parts, and the weak part that concerns me is that the in memory nature of HANA will not allow SAP to address all business relevant data. SAP counters that with compression and falling memory prices it can is by itself rebutted by business relevant data growing faster than memory prices fall – so SAP needs to be careful not to be at the losing end of this trend.

      New UI (with Fiori)

      MyPOV – SAP has long time been criticized on the quality of its UI. While supporting power users well, it was never a great UI for casual users. Kudos to Plattner to admit that SAP was afraid to change the UI. But now Fiori provides a good new alternative and the project is the largest UI innovation SAP has done since ‘enjoy SAP’ – sometimes 15 years ago. Many questions remain but it’s a good start.

      Guided Configuration

      MyPOV – This is the more fundamental change than even HANA in my view. Business is accelerating and people in business need to move faster than ever before. And that will not change, so empowering business users to setup business applications is one of the strong points of S/4HANA. Kudos to Plattner again for admitting that SAP now has ‘what everybody else has’ – but I think Plattner is a little too tough on SAP here – as self-service setup (as I like to label it) is not (yet) pervasive in enterprise software.

      Subscription

      MyPOV – The right move no question, challenges for SAP’s traditional licensing model and revenue streams but that is another story.

      1/10 of data footprint

      MyPOV – SAP’s efforts and breakthroughs of reducing storage are impressive, but SAP risks at optimizing what was a cost and issue of the past – high memory costs. Memory costs are falling, SSD costs are falling even more and HDD cost is close to 0 cost. So the benefits of compression are commercially less and less relevant, but with SAP monopolizing HANA to run on the most expensive storage medium (RAM) it has to focus and optimize on this aspect more than its competitors. Providing subscription / SaaS it of course becomes even more relevant for SAP as it determines the TCO to operate S/4HANA. Again kudos for Plattner to raise that openly.

      3-7 higher throughput

      MyPOV – Performance is always good for business. So well done by SAP, nobody does not like speed and doing the same faster. It actually becomes a mandate in the 21st century.

      Up to 1800x faster analytics

      MyPOV – No question a columnar, in memory design beats tables on HDD aka spinning rost, but fair of course for SAP to raise the performance advantage. What SAP still needs to do and do more is how that performance advantage helps their customer run their business better. SAP had done good work on this, but still needs to do more to make the business case for HANA clear and tangible.

      ERP, CRM, SRM, SCM, PLM in one system

      MyPOV – Plattner stated because of compression all these former ‘satellite’ systems can now come together in S/4HANA. Kudos to share that 40% of the SAP install base IT load is data exchange between SAP ERP and SAP CRM. What Plattner does not mentions is, that it was an explicit design decision to separate these system at the time, in order not to disrupt customers. But certainly one single system is the right approach. SAPs needs to explain though if it means a single database system (something SAP has achieved as (almost) all SAP products run on HANA) or a single enterprise system (S4HANA?) which is a little more out.

      No locking, parallelism for throughput

      MyPOV – Definitively a strongpoint of HANA – the insert only paradigm has massive advantages and is a key design technique for modern next generation applications, good for S/4HANA to have it.

      Actual data vs historical data

      MyPOV – Plattner cites co-founder Wellenreuther as the one responsible for a schema separation efforts in the early SAP days between actual and historical data. SAP did the same for S/4HANA – seeing performance gains between 2x and 5x. Definitively a good design paradigm that has come over from the old enterprise world.

      Unlimited workload capacity

      MyPOV – By replicating between actual primary system and read only system(s), throughput goes up, a good design principle. What Plattner did not address is – what are the design / scale limitations of the primary (data entry) system. I am sure SAP has thought of that, but I don’t know the answer yet.

      Predict, recommend, simulate

      MyPOV – A new technology platform like HANA enables new ways of doing business like simulation, prediction of outcomes and recommendations. Again kudos to Plattner for openness and historic tidbit, that former CEO Kagermann (while being a development leader) tried to do simulation in the 90ies, but technology would not allow to do pull that off. In 2015 SAP needs to show more how predict, recommend and simulate enable next generation best practices.

      HCP Extensions

      MyPOV – Not sure why Plattner skipped over this – but a PaaS (HCP) is a key quality for a modern business application. Not only for hard core developers, but also for customers – ideally business users – who need to be able to change certain qualities of the system to adapt and differentiate the business process they need to run. No trivial feat to find the right mix between enablement and closure, but SAP with its vast experience of enterprise applications should be in a unique position to get this balance right. More to learn about this would be great.

      HANA multi tenancy

      MyPOV –Kudos for Plattner to share that multi-tenancy is not that crucial for SAP with ERP than it is for the smaller footprint network applications. With that Plattner shared that SAP maybe operating with 2 ‘to be’ tenancy paradigms which is good to hear from a pragmatic standpoint, but more complex to operate and engineer for.

      All data, social, text, geo, graph, processing

      MyPOV – A key aspect to raise that HANA can store and process all these data types for better insights, but if we e.g. pick social, we don’t see enterprises using HANA as their exclusive social data storage and processing platform. Back to the argument of cost of the storage medium.

      Overall MyPOV

      SAP deserves credit for building (finally) its next generation application and sharing qualities openly. My concerns remain on cost to operate, limitations on use cases given super large amounts of data e.g. in social, IoT, BigData in general cannot be held in memory, in HANA as the platform for S/4HANA.

      SAP has done well on the roadmap side for Financials, but enterprises need much more than Financials (HCM, CRM, SCM etc.) and SAP owes customers, prospects and the ecosystem a roadmap how and when it will get to bring all these together with the S/4HANA qualities. Sapphire May 4-9th 2015 in Orlando will be the next stop to find out.


      And more on overall SAP strategy and products:

      • First Take - SAP Cloud for Planning - the next spreadsheet killer is off to a good start - read here
      • Progress Report - SAP HCM makes progress and consolidates - a lot of moving parts - read here
      • First Take - SAP launches S/4HANA - The good, the challenge and the concern - read here
      • First Take - SAP's IoT strategy becomes clearer - read here
      • SAP appoints a CTO - some musings - read here
      • Event Report - SAP's SAPtd - (Finally) more talk on PaaS, good progress and aligning with IBM and Oracle - read here
      • News Analysis - SAP and IBM partner for cloud success - good news - read here
      • Market Move - SAP strikes again - this time it is Concur and the spend into spend management - read here
      • Event Report - SAP SuccessFactors picks up speed - but there remains work to be done - read here
      • First Take - SAP SuccessFactors SuccessConnect - Top 3 Takeaways Day 1 Keynote - read here.
      • Event Report - Sapphire - SAP finds its (unique) path to cloud - read here
      • What I would like SAP to address this Sapphire - read here
      • News Analysis - SAP becomes more about applications - again - read here
      • Market Move - SAP acquires Fieldglass - off to the contingent workforce - early move or reaction? Read here.
      • SAP's startup program keep rolling – read here.
      • Why SAP acquired KXEN? Getting serious about Analytics – read here.
      • SAP steamlines organization further – the Danes are leaving – read here.
      • Reading between the lines… SAP Q2 Earnings – cloudy with potential structural changes – read here.
      • SAP wants to be a technology company, really – read here
      • Why SAP acquired hybris software – read here.
      • SAP gets serious about the cloud – organizationally – read here.
      • Taking stock – what SAP answered and it didn’t answer this Sapphire [2013] – read here.
      • Act III & Final Day – A tale of two conference – Sapphire & SuiteWorld13 – read here.
      • The middle day – 2 keynotes and press releases – Sapphire & SuiteWorld – read here.
      • A tale of 2 keynotes and press releases – Sapphire & SuiteWorld – read here.
      • What I would like SAP to address this Sapphire – read here.
      • Why 3rd party maintenance is key to SAP’s and Oracle’s success – read here.
      • Why SAP acquired Camillion – read here.
      • Why SAP acquired SmartOps – read here.
      • Next in your mall – SAP and Oracle? Read here.


      And more about SAP technology:
      • HANA Cloud Platform - Revisited - Improvements ahead and turning into a real PaaS - read here
      • News Analysis - SAP commits to CloudFoundry and OpenSource - key steps - but what is the direction? - Read here.
      • News Analysis - SAP moves Ariba Spend Visibility to HANA - Interesting first step in a long journey - read here
      • Launch Report - When BW 7.4 meets HANA it is like 2 + 2 = 5 - but is 5 enough - read here
      • Event Report - BI 2014 and HANA 2014 takeaways - it is all about HANA and Lumira - but is that enough? Read here.
      • News Analysis – SAP slices and dices into more Cloud, and of course more HANA – read here.
      • SAP gets serious about open source and courts developers – about time – read here.
      • My top 3 takeaways from the SAP TechEd keynote – read here.
      • SAP discovers elasticity for HANA – kind of – read here.
      • Can HANA Cloud be elastic? Tough – read here.
      • SAP’s Cloud plans get more cloudy – read here.
      • HANA Enterprise Cloud helps SAP discover the cloud (benefits) – read here.

      Find more coverage on the Constellation Research website here.




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      We had the opportunity to attend Microsoft’s Build conference in San Francisco. The conference is targeted at developers and development managers using Microsoft tools and technology stack. As traditional the conference sold out quickly and was as well attended as last year. Comparing it with other events held at Moscone (West), we can say that Microsoft attracts probably the biggest developer audience, especially considering international aspects…. In less than half a day I could hear all 5 other languages I speak on many occasions. But San Francisco was just the kickoff to an impressive 25 city world tour.



      The leitmotiv of the conference was all about developer enablement on innovative platforms. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella went all the way back invoking the first Microsoft product – Basic – to exemplify that making developers productive is in the Microsoft DNA. But developers only build on platforms that are popular and that can monetize their work. So Nadella shared that Microsoft wants to see 1B Windows 10 devices 3-4 years after the launch.

      Microsoft announced a ton of really interesting things, so very tough to select the Top 3 – but here you go:

      Azure becomes the intelligence cloud – Microsoft has built out Azure to 19 regions, Guthrie said that over 1M servers now make up Azure and Microsoft will keep investing billions into the platform. Almost no surprise – Docker runs on Azure now – demonstrated by Russinovich. ‘salvaging’ a .Net application running in Docker on a Windows machine. And the same runs on Docker on Linux. So the formerly exclusive to Windows .Net runs now on Linux and Mac (preview for now). The benefit for developers is that they don’t need to rewrite .Net apps, of who often code and details are no longer as present. Instead of that Microsoft wants them to build new applications. For instance using the new Azure App Service, an improved SQL Server and more.
       
      Azure stats shared at Build 2013-2015

      SQL Server (or is it Azure DB?) grows up– Good to see Microsoft not forgetting that most enterprise applications need a RDBMS at some point, and Microsoft keeps investing into SQL Server. Guthrie shared that SQL Server DBs are created (and taken down) at a rate of 160k DB a day. Among many innovations the SQL Server elastic pool was the most exciting enhancement from my perspective. Azure uses an elastic data base pool, Microsoft said it uses machine learning to create a resource pool to pick the right resources, a huge de-mystification of the resource pool creation. Sizing is no longer a critical design step, but Azure will size database up and down. That elasticity is key for cost savings and performance and makes the capability critical for next generation applications. Elastic Database query across databases in the resource pool is shipping as a beta in a few weeks from now. 

      The Azure Data Lake
      On the BI / Analytics side Microsoft announced SQL Data Warehouse, creating the foundation for more advanced analytical services. SQL Datawarehouse can scale up and down dynamically, and it is easy to integrate all sorts of data (Guthrie mentioned SAP and Dynamics). Valuable code creating insights gleaned from machine learning can be wrapped as an API and made available via the Azure App Service. And Microsoft is certain that SQL Data Warehouse is more elastic than its major competitor, AWS Redshift. 

       
      All Azure Analyic Services
      And of course no conference without IoT – the coolest example was the NFL. Microsoft also announced the Azure Data Lake service, a feature rich version 1 to create the base for IoT projects. It exposes data via HDFS, opening itself to standard Hadoop jobs. It also supports Hadoop clusters built with Cloudera, Hortonworks and Pivotal. 

       
      The Windows Universal App
      Windows 10 makes Windows different– Nadella was clearly proud of the latest version of Windows, which also is now becoming one single platform, updated and run as a service with a unified access and delivery to platform features and code constructs build on top of Windows 10. The appeal to developers per Myerson was to make Windows 10 the most innovative platform to build applications on, mentioning Cortana intelligent voice recognition service, and e.g. the new Hololens experience. And the Universal Windows App that delivers the same binary across all the different Windows powered devices. Microsoft has thought this through, as it announced carrier billing, already integrated with 90 carriers. Enterprises will appreciate the creation of a Windows Store for Business. And Microsoft thinks that 3-4 years after the launch of Windows 10 there will be more than 1 B Windows 10 devices out there – eclipsing both the Apple (iOS) and Google (Android) ecosystems as Microsoft shared its ambitions. Microsoft created 4 new types of Windows applications: The first being web sites, with the capability to re-use existing code. And Win32 and .Net code will run on Windows 10 too. The coup is that Android applications can also run on Windows 10, using (my guess) and Android player, but also Java and C++ applications. And finally ObjectiveC applications can run (re-compiled) on Windows 10, too.



      The 4 Applications that will power Microsoft to 1B Windows 10 devices

      Analyst Tidbits

      • Office goes standard to become a platform– Office gets easier to integrate and to add integrations, as Microsoft exposes unified APIs to Office, including group and security access. The Me-token is a powerful concept to get data out of Office in an easy way. My guess is that Microsoft is opening up APIs it has built for the Office Graph (aka Delve, aka Oslo). . It was a positive surprise that the Graph can now be extended by 3rd parties, one of them being Skype.
      An improved Windows Store for Business

      • Windows 10 - it is Windows but it is different – The Start menu is back, tiles are becoming livelier, translucency from Windows 7 is back and more features are showing that Microsoft is working hard to undo errors from the past. Dynamic app aging is a nice feature, lock screens become more personal. And Microsoft re-uses what works, Bing quality like pictures come to the Windows lock screen, with personalization. Continuum is a powerful new technology that allows to extend e.g. Windows Phone to HDMI connected displays. Thanks to the Windows Universal App technology, the same functionality as on a PC is available on the display, but only powered by the phone. The goal as Belfiore shared is that any display can become as powerful as a PC, but powered by a phone. 

      The Start Menu is back



      • Project Spartan becomes Edge – It was the honor to Belfiore to share the official name of the new browser in Windows10, now called Edge (bye bye Explorer). It is pretty cool that Microsoft writes Edge as a Universal Windows App – talking about drinking your own champagne. Belfiore shared that Explorer is being currently opened more than one billion times a day. And again along the lines of re-using other platforms code, Edge can leverage web extensions, e.g. Chrome extension, with only ‘minimal’ modifications. 
      The Edge differntiators 



      • Hololens changes the way we work– Mixing digital content into the real world is a very powerful concept, and the demos were convincing. The biggest advantage I thought is that every application in side of Windows can be pinned somewhere in the visual perimeter of a user. And yes – there is a holographic start menu. Read more on the Hololens in this separate blog post
       
      The Hololens demo


      MyPOV

      The Microsoft strategy to remain relevant and maybe win in the fight of the platform of the future is becoming clear, it is built on three pillars:

      Openness– Microsoft knows that it has for now lost the mobile race. It wants to attract developers by making it easy to bring non Microsoft code to the new Microsoft platforms, e.g. iOS and Android applications, Java code etc.

      Value creation– Microsoft wants to make it easy to re-use code and the Windows Universal Platform is the tool for it – build your code once, port it once and deploy it on any Windows device. Platform capabilities like the ones added to Azure, like Edge, like Continuum, like Hololens allow for platform differentiation that is intended to attract more developers and customers.

      Investment protection– There are platform changes ahead for Microsoft, but the vendor has understood well that it will be more successful when it can free as much developer’s capacity to build new applications on the new platforms. So not forcing existing Windows developers to go back to re-build applications is key and hence .Net applications keep running not just on Windows but other platforms, too. Nothing allows developers more to build new applications than giving them the most valuable resource of our age, time to build new things.

      Overall good progress by Microsoft and a good mix between organic platform innovation and growth, as well as a more aggressive stance towards competitors in order to win over developers. But Microsoft knows that ultimately money rules and needs to attract a larger platform that attracts developers through better monetization. But Microsoft has been playing catch up mode for most of the platform capabilities. It is only now catching up, but has created differentiators that are systemic, and allow for an optimistic outlook on Microsoft's future. The absence of a PaaS message and product is remarkable though.

      Finally the ambition to 1B devices is a lofty one, we will all be there to see if Microsoft will be reaching that goal 3-4 years from today. 


      More about Microsoft:
      • First Hand with Microsoft Hololens - read here
      • Event Report - Microsoft TechEd - Top 3 Enterprise takeaways - read here
      • First Take - Microsoft discovers data ambience and delivers an organic approach to in memory database - read here
      • Event Report - Microsoft Build - Azure grows and blossoms - enough for enterprises (yet)? Read here.
      • Event Report - Microsoft Build Day 1 Keynote - Top Enterprise Takeaways - read here.
      • Microsoft gets even more serious about devices - acquire Nokia - read here.
      • Microsoft does not need one new CEO - but six - read here.
      • Microsoft makes the cloud a platform play - Or: Azure and her 7 friends - read here.
      • How the Cloud can make the unlikeliest bedfellows - read here.
      • How hard is multi-channel CRM in 2013? - Read here.
      • How hard is it to install Office 365? Or: The harsh reality of customer support - read here.
      Find more coverage on the Constellation Research website here.

      And finally some of the key tweets from the conference:




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      This morning SAP CEO Bill McDermott kicked off Sapphire in Orlando.

       


      Here are my Top 3 takeaways:

      HANA remains front and center– It was very clear from the selection of customer stories (Under Armour, ENI) that HANA remains at the center of the SAP value proposition – again at this Sapphire. Faster, more data, better insights are the value propositions of HANA, and we have heard them over and over. McDermott even referenced data compression capabilities. 


      McDermott opened Sapphire 2015

      S/4HANA gets a roadmap tomorrow (!) – McDermott also referred to S/4HANA getting a roadmap tomorrow, pre-viewing what Bernd Leukert would communicate in his keynote tomorrow, on Wednesday. So a big tease, but the problem of having 3 keynotes in 3 days and McDermott said he didn’t want to spill the ‘beans’ – but then he did in regards of talking geographies and industries. We will know more in 24 hours.

       
      Google's Schmidt talks about Google Docs and Google Cloud Platform


      SAP attracts brands & partners  – No matter where SAP is in re-inventing itself on HANA, S/4HANA, the HANA Cloud platform etc. – it manages to attract key brands to build on its platform or to partner with SAP. Today it was Under Armour (which has been used a few times already), but also partnerships with Facebook (!) and Google (around Google Docs and using Google Cloud Platform). But not only had I missed what SAP is partnering with Facebook about.

      MyPOV

      A good start for SAP’s Sapphire with a general preview of key things to happen. Never easy to kick off Sapphire and not give away too much – so a good start by McDermott. At some points it seemed to be all over the place though – of course simple came up often, outcomes were featured prominently, but I struggled to find the red threat at times (may have been the early start, too). Overall more of a light appetizer than substance – very much looking forward to the main course with Leukert tomorrow.

      And more on overall SAP strategy and products:

      • In Depth - S/4HANA qualities as presented by Plattner - play for play - read here
      • First Take - SAP Cloud for Planning - the next spreadsheet killer is off to a good start - read here
      • Progress Report - SAP HCM makes progress and consolidates - a lot of moving parts - read here
      • First Take - SAP launches S/4HANA - The good, the challenge and the concern - read here
      • First Take - SAP's IoT strategy becomes clearer - read here
      • SAP appoints a CTO - some musings - read here
      • Event Report - SAP's SAPtd - (Finally) more talk on PaaS, good progress and aligning with IBM and Oracle - read here
      • News Analysis - SAP and IBM partner for cloud success - good news - read here
      • Market Move - SAP strikes again - this time it is Concur and the spend into spend management - read here
      • Event Report - SAP SuccessFactors picks up speed - but there remains work to be done - read here
      • First Take - SAP SuccessFactors SuccessConnect - Top 3 Takeaways Day 1 Keynote - read here.
      • Event Report - Sapphire - SAP finds its (unique) path to cloud - read here
      • What I would like SAP to address this Sapphire - read here
      • News Analysis - SAP becomes more about applications - again - read here
      • Market Move - SAP acquires Fieldglass - off to the contingent workforce - early move or reaction? Read here.
      • SAP's startup program keep rolling – read here.
      • Why SAP acquired KXEN? Getting serious about Analytics – read here.
      • SAP steamlines organization further – the Danes are leaving – read here.
      • Reading between the lines… SAP Q2 Earnings – cloudy with potential structural changes – read here.
      • SAP wants to be a technology company, really – read here
      • Why SAP acquired hybris software – read here.
      • SAP gets serious about the cloud – organizationally – read here.
      • Taking stock – what SAP answered and it didn’t answer this Sapphire [2013] – read here.
      • Act III & Final Day – A tale of two conference – Sapphire & SuiteWorld13 – read here.
      • The middle day – 2 keynotes and press releases – Sapphire & SuiteWorld – read here.
      • A tale of 2 keynotes and press releases – Sapphire & SuiteWorld – read here.
      • What I would like SAP to address this Sapphire – read here.
      • Why 3rd party maintenance is key to SAP’s and Oracle’s success – read here.
      • Why SAP acquired Camillion – read here.
      • Why SAP acquired SmartOps – read here.
      • Next in your mall – SAP and Oracle? Read here.


      And more about SAP technology:
      • HANA Cloud Platform - Revisited - Improvements ahead and turning into a real PaaS - read here
      • News Analysis - SAP commits to CloudFoundry and OpenSource - key steps - but what is the direction? - Read here.
      • News Analysis - SAP moves Ariba Spend Visibility to HANA - Interesting first step in a long journey - read here
      • Launch Report - When BW 7.4 meets HANA it is like 2 + 2 = 5 - but is 5 enough - read here
      • Event Report - BI 2014 and HANA 2014 takeaways - it is all about HANA and Lumira - but is that enough? Read here.
      • News Analysis – SAP slices and dices into more Cloud, and of course more HANA – read here.
      • SAP gets serious about open source and courts developers – about time – read here.
      • My top 3 takeaways from the SAP TechEd keynote – read here.
      • SAP discovers elasticity for HANA – kind of – read here.
      • Can HANA Cloud be elastic? Tough – read here.
      • SAP’s Cloud plans get more cloudy – read here.
      • HANA Enterprise Cloud helps SAP discover the cloud (benefits) – read here.

      Find more coverage on the Constellation Research website here.


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      We have the opportunity to attend NetSuite SuiteWorld conference in San Jose today. The conference is well attended with over 7000 attendees – up from 5000 a year ago – a great testament of NetSuite’s traction.

      Here are my Top 3 takeaways from the keynote:

      It’s about the Omnis– The challenges for enterprises are around the ‘omnis’ – referring to OmniChannel and (warning - newer term) Omni-Customer Experience. In the 2015 version of SuiteCommerce customers will be able to blend online and in store experiences, using a 360 degree profile and using a full featured POS. NetSuite has also made progress on the content management side announcing additional capabilities. And with the recent Bronto integrated acquisition NetSuite now has a good marketing automation capability.

       
      The NetSuite Ecommerce Product Family

      Microsoft partnership– Nelson unveiled a partnership with Microsoft, had a video message by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella for the audience – and it looks like for not all that has been done is the Active Directory integration of NetSuite into Azure Active Directory. But more exciting things to come are that NetSuite will use more Office365 integration but even more importantly NetSuite will move off Amazon AWS as its preferred cloud infrastructure platform for testing and developing (no word on production). See the press release here. And overall it is good to see how large the NetSuite partner ecosystem has grown.
       
      Microsoft and NetSuite 

      Insights power the future– On many occasions Nelson talked about the importance of data, consumers and customers and how NetSuite has a lot of data available to provide more insights to its customers. Nelson stopped short of announcing DaaS (Data as a Service) and benchmarking products – but it seems clear that this is on the horizon for NetSuite.
       
      NetSuite has a lot of aggregated data

      MyPOV

      A good start to SuiteWorld by Nelson, hitting all the key business trends and making clear that beyond ERP, NetSuite sees differentiation in powering commerce for its customers. Not a bad differentiation strategy.

      The move to Azure will be one area to watch, as Azure gathers momentum on the IaaS side. It will be interesting how much of the PaaS side NetSuite will adopt. The good news is – Oracle RDBMS runs on Azure… And NetSuite customers use Office365 – so a tighter integration will be of great value for them.


      It's early at SuiteWorld - so more to come in the next days - stay tuned - check my colleagues @rwang0 and @guycourtin tweets and more from the conference. 


      More about NetSuite
      • First Take - Ultimate Software UltiConnect Day #1 Keynote - read here
      • Event Report - Netsuite powers on with targeted innovation - read here
      • Why NetSuite acquired TribeHR - read here
      • Act III the cloud changes everything - Oracle and NetSuite with a touche of Deloitte - read here
      • Act III and final day - A tale of two conferences - Sapphire and SuiteWorld - read here
      • The middle day - 2 keynotes and press releases - Sapphire and SuiteWorld - read here
      • A tale of 2 keynotes and press releases - Sapphire and SuiteWorld - read here
      Find more coverage on the Constellation Research website here.

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      It is spring and the partnership announcements are blossoming… In April it was NetSuite and Ultimate (read here) and in May it is IBM and SAP partnering in the HCM market.


      So let’s look at the press release in our traditional commentary style (you can find the press release here):

      ARMONK and ORLANDO — Leveraging their existing global strategic alliance, SAP SE (NYSE: SAP) and IBM (NYSE: IBM) today announced cloud-to-cloud integrations of the two companies’ industry-leading human resources (HR) software and services.

      MyPOV – Interesting the authors of the press release point to the existing global strategic alliances – and I am sure SAP and IBM have a nice staple of them – but this is the first business application partnership that I am aware of. But of course it helps to be long standing partners. The most recent partnership we covered has been SAP and IBM partnering for cloud infrastructure – see here.

      The product integrations are expected to help customers improve their business processes and make fact-based decisions more smoothly and simply about how they recruit and manage their workforces. The announcement was made at SAPPHIRE NOW, being held May 5-7 in Orlando, Florida.

      MyPOV – This is extraordinary cautious language – the ‘product integrations are expected to help’ – they should be designed / built for that purpose. Looking forward to some probing and understanding this area better. But as standard in the cloud era – customer expect a vendor based integration between vendors for such partnerships – so it’s good to see we find this early in the press release.

      With availability planned for mid-2015, the first offering from this alliance includes a planned integration between the SuccessFactors Employee Central solution and IBM Kenexa’s cloud-based HR software Talent Acquisition Suite. This integration is expected to enable IBM customers to move their HR information systems (HRIS) to the cloud with the leading core HR solution from SuccessFactors, an SAP company, while helping to protect their recruiting investments, and provide customers of SuccessFactors Employee Central with a broader set of options for recruiting, assessment and onboarding of candidates. This offering is planned to provide speedier integration with committed ongoing support with services and skills from both SAP and IBM.
      MyPOV – As IBM had no HR Core system with Kenexa – it needs to partner with core HR systems vendors. And IBM has partnerships in place with all major vendors (e.g. Oracle and Workday) this one makes probably a little more sense than the other ones. To understand let’s realize that IBM probably needed this partnership to avoid competitors replacing Kenexa with a HR Core and Talent Management combination of products. SAP of course offers Talent Management, too, but the SuccessFactors products and EmployeeCentral are on different platforms. So the ‘integrated HR and Talent Management’ Suite message is a little harder for SAP to push with customers than the competitors on a single platform – and with that was a more logical partner, with probably a higher likeliness of success in the trenches. A Kenexa customer writing an RfP for an HR Core system will see now a combined IBM and SAP offer. Or better for IBM, the RfP maybe avoided. So a good move for both vendors, and likely for customers assuming the integrations that are planned for mid of the year reduce the cost to implement the Employee Central and Kenexa combo of products.

      With expected availability later this year, an additional integration between IBM’s Learning Content Management System (LCMS) and the SuccessFactors Learning solution is planned to help customers get the right learning content to the right person in the most efficient way possible.
      MyPOV – Usually partnerships like this one follow functional areas – this one is interesting as it combines Learning with Learning. Will be interesting to understand more what the thinking behind this integration is. And good to see that IBM and SAP offer also the next integration offering they plan under this partnership.

      Building on a history of strong alliance between the two companies over the past 40 years in both consulting systems integration and business-process-as-a-service (BPaaS) solutions, and a number of successful joint deployments, the new agreements between SAP and IBM are expected to provide significant value for each company’s customers. Allowing customers to more easily build upon their capabilities by choosing from a wider set of solutions from both providers, SAP and IBM intend to provide skills and offerings to deploy and operate solutions made up of the combined set of capabilities.
      MyPOV – A little too much talk about Services for my personal taste. IBM GBS can make any integration under the sun work, so this partnership is actually about reducing the cost of integration and shortening implementation cycles – all trends that are not favorable to bill more services. The BPaaS aspect is interesting, maybe some joined BPO customers (IBM has a dozen or so) are (one of) the drivers for this partnership. Most interesting on this paragraph is that SAP and IBM plan to ‘provide skills and offerings’ etc. – not products. So is this partnership all about business development for GBS? I guess not. Again good to see that IBM and SAP want to build something on top of the combined set of capabilities, but in my view that better be productized.

      In addition, SAP and IBM plan to offer customers:

      • Greater data sets across the entire HR spectrum: Customers have the opportunity to leverage the vast amounts of data from the SAP ERP Human Capital Management (SAP ERP HCM) solution, cloud-based SuccessFactors HCM Suite and IBM Kenexa Workforce Sciences for analytics, enabling more insights for better decisions on hiring, growing and retaining their workforce.

      MyPOV – Interesting and good plan – but needs to be explained how. Will this go to SAP or IBM BI products? Recently all IBM BI offerings, especially in the Kenexa space had a Watson flavor – that is missing in the wording above. Maybe IBM wants to keep Watson to themselves – for now. Looking forward to learn more details at Sapphire.

      • A better client experience: Customers that choose a mixed SAP and IBM solution to meet their HR technology needs can be expected to rely on an experience consistent with that of working with a single company. Collaboration in areas such as implementation and ongoing support are key elements of this alliance.

      MyPOV – Laudable to make it a seamless process for customers to implement, operate and support the combined offering. Tougher to pull off in practice – so we look forward to the details and especially satisfied combined customers mentioning the achievement of the above plan.

      “Any move to improve and better integrate HR software is a welcome one for large organizations such as BP,” said Richard Bye, vice president, Global HR Operations & HRIS, BP International Limited. “As a partner with both vendors, we will take a keen interest in the development of the new alliance announced between IBM and SAP.”
      MyPOV – Good move to have a customer quote and have it before the vendor quotes. Good to see a blue chip customer like BP lending their voice to the press release. But a cautious quote, still better than none. Will be interesting to find out how many combined customers IBM and SAP have –I expect them to be in the low triple digits.

      “We are excited to team with SAP to focus on changing the experience for clients. Our philosophy on the value of flexibility, choice and investment protection is strongly aligned,” said Debbie Landers, general manager, Kenexa and Smarter Workforce, IBM. “We are both committed to putting the client first and ensuring that those who choose to work with us clearly see 1+1 = 3 — and they obtain more value, more quickly. The opportunity to not only extend our existing solution reach together, but to team on bringing SAP data into IBM’s Talent Insights (powered by Watson Analytics) is expected to be a game changer for our clients who want to move more quickly to analytics-driven business decision making.”
      MyPOV – Good quote from Landers, focusing both on the transaction and analytical side, and there we have Talent Insights – powered by Watson Analytics. So Watson is part of the mix, good news and a key differentiator from a cognitive computing perspective.

      “We are very focused on helping our customers deliver value with their HR strategies and processes. This partnership intends to make it easier for our mutual customers to leverage the cloud solutions that help them achieve their goals so they can focus more on their business and less on integrating solutions,” said Mike Ettling, president, HR Line of Business, SuccessFactors. “SuccessFactors Employee Central is the fastest-growing solution in our HCM suite, and this deepening partnership with IBM means that IBM customers may be able to connect their current applications with our solution, preserving and extending their investments in IBM’s Talent Acquisition Suite. Customers today see the power and the simplicity of the cloud, and in their journey, they want to be assured they can continue the investments they have in what’s working for them today, while taking advantage of what will drive better business value tomorrow.”
      MyPOV – Good quote from Ettling, too – investment protection is always a good theme to hit and more importantly to deliver. Good to get the insight (not a surprise though) that Employee Central is the fastest growing solution in the HCM suite.

      Overall MyPOV

      Congrats to IBM and SAP to a synergetic partnership, the first integration offering is clear in terms of win / win. The 2nd one with Learning to Learning needs more explanation and detail as well as the BI / Talent Analytics integration on the IBM side. But press releases cannot answer all potential questions – so we will ask them later in the week at Sapphire and keep you posted on the answers (hopefully we get them).

      On a broader perspective we see two key takeaways:

      1. SAP and IBM are being pragmatic on partnering – which is good for joint customers. Both understand that the customer ‘must win’ (see in the quote above) and will do likely what it takes to get this done. Again good for customers.
         
      2. At the same time IBM and SAP have significant product development work ahead to keep their respective product suites up to speed with best practices and technologies. Both Kenexa and SucccessFactors have been serial acquirers before being acquired by respectively IBM and SAP. Both are now left with the yeoman work behind the scenes to unify and integrate these product suites, modernize them and harmonize them. 

      But for today – congrats to both IBM and SAP for an important announcement.



      And more on overall SAP strategy and products:

      • First Take - SAP Sapphire Bill McDermott Day #1 Keynote - read here
      • In Depth - S/4HANA qualities as presented by Plattner - play for play - read here
      • First Take - SAP Cloud for Planning - the next spreadsheet killer is off to a good start - read here
      • Progress Report - SAP HCM makes progress and consolidates - a lot of moving parts - read here
      • First Take - SAP launches S/4HANA - The good, the challenge and the concern - read here
      • First Take - SAP's IoT strategy becomes clearer - read here
      • SAP appoints a CTO - some musings - read here
      • Event Report - SAP's SAPtd - (Finally) more talk on PaaS, good progress and aligning with IBM and Oracle - read here
      • News Analysis - SAP and IBM partner for cloud success - good news - read here
      • Market Move - SAP strikes again - this time it is Concur and the spend into spend management - read here
      • Event Report - SAP SuccessFactors picks up speed - but there remains work to be done - read here
      • First Take - SAP SuccessFactors SuccessConnect - Top 3 Takeaways Day 1 Keynote - read here.
      • Event Report - Sapphire - SAP finds its (unique) path to cloud - read here
      • What I would like SAP to address this Sapphire - read here
      • News Analysis - SAP becomes more about applications - again - read here
      • Market Move - SAP acquires Fieldglass - off to the contingent workforce - early move or reaction? Read here.
      • SAP's startup program keep rolling – read here.
      • Why SAP acquired KXEN? Getting serious about Analytics – read here.
      • SAP steamlines organization further – the Danes are leaving – read here.
      • Reading between the lines… SAP Q2 Earnings – cloudy with potential structural changes – read here.
      • SAP wants to be a technology company, really – read here
      • Why SAP acquired hybris software – read here.
      • SAP gets serious about the cloud – organizationally – read here.
      • Taking stock – what SAP answered and it didn’t answer this Sapphire [2013] – read here.
      • Act III & Final Day – A tale of two conference – Sapphire & SuiteWorld13 – read here.
      • The middle day – 2 keynotes and press releases – Sapphire & SuiteWorld – read here.
      • A tale of 2 keynotes and press releases – Sapphire & SuiteWorld – read here.
      • What I would like SAP to address this Sapphire – read here.
      • Why 3rd party maintenance is key to SAP’s and Oracle’s success – read here.
      • Why SAP acquired Camillion – read here.
      • Why SAP acquired SmartOps – read here.
      • Next in your mall – SAP and Oracle? Read here.


      And more about SAP technology:
      • HANA Cloud Platform - Revisited - Improvements ahead and turning into a real PaaS - read here
      • News Analysis - SAP commits to CloudFoundry and OpenSource - key steps - but what is the direction? - Read here.
      • News Analysis - SAP moves Ariba Spend Visibility to HANA - Interesting first step in a long journey - read here
      • Launch Report - When BW 7.4 meets HANA it is like 2 + 2 = 5 - but is 5 enough - read here
      • Event Report - BI 2014 and HANA 2014 takeaways - it is all about HANA and Lumira - but is that enough? Read here.
      • News Analysis – SAP slices and dices into more Cloud, and of course more HANA – read here.
      • SAP gets serious about open source and courts developers – about time – read here.
      • My top 3 takeaways from the SAP TechEd keynote – read here.
      • SAP discovers elasticity for HANA – kind of – read here.
      • Can HANA Cloud be elastic? Tough – read here.
      • SAP’s Cloud plans get more cloudy – read here.
      • HANA Enterprise Cloud helps SAP discover the cloud (benefits) – read here.
      More on IBM :
      • Event Report - IBM InterConnect - IBM makes bets for the hybrid cloud - read here
      • First Take - IBM InterConnect Day #1 Keynote - BlueMix, SoftLayer and Watson - read here
      • News Analysis - IBM had a very good year in the cloud - 2015 will be key - read here
      • Event Report - IBM Insight 2014 - Is it all coming together for IBM in 2015? Or not? 
      • First Take - Top 3 Takeaways from IBM Insight Day 1 Keynote - read here
      • IBM and SAP partner for cloud - good move - read here
      • Event Report - IBM Enterprise - A lot of value for existing customers, but can IBM attract net new customers? Read here
      • Progress Report - The Mainframe is alive and kicking - but there is more in IBM STG - read here
      • News Analysis - IBM and Intel partner to make the cloud more secure - read here
      • Progress Report - IBM BigData an Analytics have a lot of potential - time to show it - read here
      • Event Report - What a difference a year makes - and off to a good start - read here
      • First Take - 3 Key Takeaways from IBM's Impact Conference - Day 1 Keynote - read here
      • Another week and another Billion - this week it's a BlueMix Paas - read here
      • First take - IBM makes Connection - introduces the TalentSuite at IBM Connect - read here
      • IBM kicks of cloud data center race in 2014 - read here
      • First Take - IBM Software Group's Analyst Insights - read here
      • Are we witnessing one of the largest cloud moves - so far? Read here
      • Why IBM acquired Softlayer - read here

      Find more coverage on the Constellation Research website here.


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      At NetSuite’s user conference SuiteWorld in San Jose, CEO Zach Nelson announced a partnership with Microsoft. Satya Nadella was at hand (via pre-recorded video, I guess he is busy in Chicago at Microsoft Ignite) to comment on the partnership, too. The announcement came as a surprise, as in general NetSuite has been seen (maybe wrongely) to be in Oracle’s’ back pocket technology wise.




      So let’s dissect the press release in our customary comment style (you can find the press release here):

      NETSUITE SUITEWORLD 2015, SAN JOSE, Calif.—May 5, 2015—NetSuite Inc. (NYSE: N), the industry's leading provider of cloud-based financials / ERP and omnichannel commerce software suites, today announced it has entered into a strategic cloud alliance with Microsoft to create new, innovative and future-proof solutions that connect NetSuite's cloud ERP to Microsoft Office 365, Windows and Microsoft Azure, delivering high-impact value, productivity and simplicity for mutual markets and customers. NetSuite continues to make life easier for its customers by forging new and exciting partnerships to help companies deal with the ever-increasing rate of change and a multitude of disruptive factors impacting each and every industry.


      MyPOV – Always good to see vendors listening to customer and making their lives easier. Though NetSuitte does not state it explicitly, this may well be a customer driven parntnership. Good to see. And the scope of the partnership is something that NetSuite needs to work on anyway – as Office365 is a given for its customers. Same for Windows. Azure is more interesting – more below.


      "We're at the 'end of the beginning' of the cloud, in that the cloud business model that NetSuite pioneered in 1998 is becoming the de facto standard for how fast-growth businesses are run," said Zach Nelson, NetSuite CEO. "We're thrilled to work with Microsoft to deliver a fluid cloud environment across the key NetSuite and Microsoft applications that companies and their employees rely on to continually improve their day-to-day operations and run their business better and more efficiently."


      MyPOV –Good quote for Nelson, the ‘fluid cloud environment’ is indeed something customers want to see – the seamless integration across the cloud properties they are using.


      "I'm excited about NetSuite's support for Azure Active Directory for single sign-on, cloud-to-cloud integration and increasing our collaboration across mobile and cloud solutions," said Steve Guggenheimer, Corporate Vice President of Developer Platform & Evangelism and Chief Evangelist for Microsoft. "Our joint vision is all about giving people the freedom to get more done through the broadening set of devices they interact with that in turn helps businesses innovate and grow."


      MyPOV – Good quote by ‘Guggs’ – Microsoft partner enablement executive. NetSuite is a great partner addition for Microsoft overall partner portfolio. Kudos to Guggenheimer to be specific on what the partnership is all about. More below.


      The collaboration pairs NetSuite's cloud ERP suite with Microsoft cloud technology in both the near and short term.

      Available immediately, an integration between NetSuite and Azure Active Directory that enables single sign-on (SSO) for customers using NetSuite together with Azure Active Directory, eliminating the need for users to manage and use multiple passwords. The integration also gives administrators centralized control of user authentication and password management while enabling organizations to strengthen role-based approaches to business management. Built using Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML) 2.0, the integration reduces the security risks of user-managed passwords while providing additional protection against phishing and other threats.


      MyPOV – Using Azure Active Directory is probably the low hanging fruit here – but it creates value for customers. NetSuite administration cost goes down, and Microsoft gets more enterprises to use Azure Active Directory, which is doing well, but can always use one more customer push. And Microsoft know that ones AD is in Azure, all things get easier from there.


      In the coming months NetSuite and Microsoft will start cloud-to-cloud integration between NetSuite and Office 365, providing seamless access to both technologies from within a single interface and improving productivity and collaboration across a variety of roles, from financials to shipping, marketing, ecommerce, business analytics, retail store associates and more. Through integration with Microsoft Excel, customers will be able to connect NetSuite data to Excel and Power BI for Office 365 to visualize information and discover new insights into their business. Additionally, NetSuite will migrate its entire employee base to Office 365, realizing significant value in alignment between the world's leading productivity system and NetSuite's cloud business management suite.


      MyPOV – NeSuite cannot avoiding productivity gains and demands of its customers using Office365. And when you have to do something, always better to it sooner than later. Last week atits Build (my event report here), Microsoft showed more and easier ways to integrate business applications with Office365. The examples were Salesforce.com and SAP. The usage of PowerBI and Excel is a good move for both vendors, too, creating BI value for their joint customers. Microsoft wants content for PowerBI and NetSuite needs compelling visualization as its reporting track record is not the smoothest. And a nice cherry on top with NetSuite moving to Office365 for its employee base. Always good to drink your own champagne, too.


      By the end of 2015, NetSuite will migrate from AWS and on-premise deployments to leverage Azure as its preferred cloud infrastructure platform and take full advantage of the capabilities of Azure for testing and for developers, independent software vendors (ISVs) and customers to build new software applications and integrations that leverage NetSuite's cloud business management suite and the powerful storage and compute capabilities of Azure offering businesses the significant advantages that are becoming synonymous with world-class cloud computing — efficiency and flexibility, large productivity gains and dramatic IT cost reduction.


      MyPOV – Having some understanding challenges on this sentence – but my gist is: NetSuite is moving off test and development environments that customers and partners have used on AWS over to Azure. That is a key win for Azure, giving the catch up Azure is playing with AWS. It does not mention where NetSuite runs production – which is a larger and harder engineering problem to address. But Azure runs Oracle, so what is not happening today is something that could happen tomorrow. If NetSuite can offload its Capex spending into datacenters to a partner like Microsoft, it will only be a good find for overall investment into product at NetSuite. We see Infor playing this card successfully (only with AWS)


      Overall MyPOV

      A good win / win for both vendor’s customers. Given the more SMB nature of NetSuite customers and the high distribution of Microsoft in the enterprise, certainly a help for NetSuite and Microsoft customers. What is missing is how NetSuite and Microsoft will cooperate around Windows (10 we can assume), more to come here soon I guess.  So for Microsoft we see more AD usage and more Azure load with the NetSuite move and for NetSuite it may mean an easier path to test and development environments for tis customers than AWS. And Office users will like a tighter integration to their enterprise system (NetSuite) and better BI and visualization with the PowerBI option. So more details and first live, shared customers need to be shared in the next months, but we see this is a good announcement for shared customers, Microsoft and NetSuite. Congrats.



      More about NetSuite


      • First Take - NetSuite SuiteWorld - Zach Nelson Day #1 Keynote - read here
      • First Take - Ultimate Software UltiConnect Day #1 Keynote - read here
      • Event Report - Netsuite powers on with targeted innovation - read here
      • Why NetSuite acquired TribeHR - read here
      • Act III the cloud changes everything - Oracle and NetSuite with a touche of Deloitte - read here
      • Act III and final day - A tale of two conferences - Sapphire and SuiteWorld - read here
      • The middle day - 2 keynotes and press releases - Sapphire and SuiteWorld - read here
      • A tale of 2 keynotes and press releases - Sapphire and SuiteWorld - read here

      More about Microsoft:
      • Event Report - Microsoft Build - Microsoft really wants to make developers' lives easier - read here
      • First Hand with Microsoft Hololens - read here
      • Event Report - Microsoft TechEd - Top 3 Enterprise takeaways - read here
      • First Take - Microsoft discovers data ambience and delivers an organic approach to in memory database - read here
      • Event Report - Microsoft Build - Azure grows and blossoms - enough for enterprises (yet)? Read here.
      • Event Report - Microsoft Build Day 1 Keynote - Top Enterprise Takeaways - read here.
      • Microsoft gets even more serious about devices - acquire Nokia - read here.
      • Microsoft does not need one new CEO - but six - read here.
      • Microsoft makes the cloud a platform play - Or: Azure and her 7 friends - read here.
      • How the Cloud can make the unlikeliest bedfellows - read here.
      • How hard is multi-channel CRM in 2013? - Read here.
      • How hard is it to install Office 365? Or: The harsh reality of customer support - read here.
      Find more coverage on the Constellation Research website here.

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