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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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    The Workday Rising conference has concluded and - fair to say - it was a very good event for Workday. There is something naturally exhilarating for customers, partners and vendor when their is significant growth - everything gets bigger and better including a user conference like Rising. And customer and partners are invigorated to see more companies being on board, doing the same as them.



    Let's visit announcements, the findings from the keynote and Technology summit coupled with the takeaways.

    Recruiting sees light of day

    Workday showed the  new recruiting application, which fills a key functional gap on the talent management side, that got more sensitive to Workday with Oracle's acquisition of Taleo - the go to partner for Workday before that acquisition. And Workday deserves credit that they not only built - but delivered mobile first - with the recruiting software using the known mobile platforms that Workday has used - with native iOS and Android apps and HTML5 for the rest of devices. Potentially we may see HTML5 only here - but later more on that.

    The new mobile recruiting screens look polished and it is evident that Workday spent a lot of time to get the usability right. Desite all the lipservice to mobile first in the enterprise software industry - Workday may be the first vendor delivering mobile first for a major piece  of automation. Behind the scenes recruitment, due to its circular and parallel nature, required enhancements to the Workday process management capabilities, that used to be strictly linear. An enhancement that will benefit Workday functionality beyond recruiting.




    But its a first release of a major piece of business automation - so not all can be done and addressed - it will be important to understand how the roadmap of recruitment functionality will pan out beyond this first release. Major functional components like e.g. sourcing and the very start of recruiting in connection with talent pools, need to be defined and clarified further.


    BigData Analyics - a new flavor

    One of the key announcements was around BigData Analytics, in which Workday allows to query, import and transfer data in Hadoop clusters (the BigData component) through a business user friendly interface (with friendly support from Datameer) into the Workday object model. The analytics then are the visual representation of these imported contents in combination with the data already residing in Workday from the HCM and Financial side. And Workday builds templates that help both with the aggregation and extraction of the data and its representation in a new dashboard.




    The approach makes sense for Workday in order to be able to offer the best content aggregated - or queried from an unstructured NoSQL system like a Hadoop cluster. And the examples around the compensation planning scenario, with the selection of compensation data coming from Deloitte and IBM / Kenexa is a great showcase. It will be interesting to see if customers could aggregate and mix and match across both (and  more) sources - which would be a key value add.

    Workday is one of the first enterprise vendors to uptake Hadoop capabilities and deserves credit for pioneering the space - but like the classic data warehouse vendors, Workday wants the Hadoop content in their own transactional - in this case object - space. But that defeats the idea of a non structured database like Hadoop - unless you could show a dynamic and on the fly morphing of that object model into anything the result set may require. And then drive to decisions or recommended actions powered by (real) analytics - the one that do or at least suggest an action.

    But we didn't see anything like this - so non surprisingly one of the Workday design partners stated that internally, what Workday fancily, buzz-wordingly calls BigData Analytics - is simply called reporting. And maybe you should call it Workday's new dashboarding capability with an ETL that can merge unstructured content into its dashboards.

    So Workday deserves credit for a first start - but a lot needs to be covered to make this a BigData solution (e.g. consider to put the Workday data into the Hadoop clusters for some higher insight potential) and add real analytical capabilities. Workday will also need to address the flexible representation of the result set - in a much more visually appealing way then in this release. The best dash boarding content can look tired and old when coupled with pedestrian visualization capabilities.   Workday should think about using visualizations or risk being marginalized by the likes of Tableau and Qliktech for HCM dashboard needs.


    Bye bye wheel - welcome new UI

    The famous Workday wheel seems to have found the way to the scrapyard - and though odd - it was a strong unique identifier for the Workday UI. Gone with the wheel is also Adobe's flex technology, a good move of Workday to get rid of some technical debt ie thn its user interface layer.



    The new UI looks clean and takes advantage of all the nice HTML5 capabilities like re-sizing, zooming and moving objects. The wheel gets replaced by a more common menue and we saw the usual search options and drop down menus.

    Like all other recent HTML5 UIs shown (e.g. SAP's Fiori and Infor come to mind) the density of information seems to be a victim of the new technology. The verdict is still out on what this means for usability - but it certainly makes the life of the vendors easier. We also did not see any detailed transactional screens, and that's where the rubber hits the road as far as new user interfaces and usability are concerned.


    Welcome Workday Student

    The other major announcement was the creation of the first vertical application of Workday with the creation of a higher education solution. If anyone doubted how long Duffield would still be active in the business  re-watch the keynote video - there is no doubt that announcing new software is like a fountain of youth. And a ton of fun. And with Workday Student supposed to ship not before 2014 / 2015 we will see Duffield around for significant time to come.



    And the move to HigherEd is a common path Duffield companies have taken - to the point that some of them are now leapfrogging from his 2nd last, over the last (Peoplesoft) company to the new Workday Student system.

    One would be naive thinking that the release of the new recruiting system and the announcement of a HigherEd vertical are pure coincidence - there are nice synergies between the two - starting with the recruitment pipeline, the identification of skills and potential etc. On the flipside Workday will most likely face a set of not so usual competitors on campus - as we should not be surprised to see large internet properties like Facebook and LinkedIn pursuing the student market. Not the usual competition and Workday will have to show it can provide a consumer grade UI for the Millenial users that form today's student body and compete with a new set of competitors.

    On the architecture side it remains to be seen how Worday will isolate and abstract for the new vertical functionality demand. This is particularly interesting since Workday business logic resides on an object model and given the poor track record of the overall enterprise software industry to create and maintain vertical functionality on top of moving horizontal function pools.


    Little noticed... OpenStack

    At the Tech Summit it was a nice surprise to see OpenStack / Grizzly on the slides. Workday had to build their own proprietary cloud tech stack when the company started out - as there were no standards and alternatives. But now these have emerged and it is key that Workday finds a way to tap into the larger (and cheaper) compute and other IT resources offered by the cloud infrastructure vendors... And while Workday has done this with AWS for development and test systems - it's still an open question for production systems. Equally we know that HP has announced that Workday will run in the HP OpenCloud - so OpenStack is a very good path for Workday to be able to run on HP's (and other) public clouds.

    More importantly it gives Workday the technical capability to - yes horrible dictu - to deploy on premise. And while it may disappoint some cloud purists, this is a smart move given that we live in the age of the PRISM/NSA scandal fallout and vendors are wise to be able to deploy both to the public an private cloud. Customers may well ask and demand for that capability in the next quarters.

    And as we speak about Workday and public clouds its worth mentioning that the BigData Analytics offering runs on top of AWS Hadoop service. It is better for Workday to use AWS than build up it's own infastructure. It will be interesting to see if customers care - but so far nothing critical in this regards has come up.


    Less can be more

    But apart from the new functionality seen - the major change affecting Workday customers will be that the company is switching from 3 to 2 releases per year. This is a good move as the previous pace put some onus on their customers, even though it's SaaS and supposedly these upgrades / updates are easy, they still take a toll on the users in the client organizations. It also equates into significant cost savings since instead of integration and regression testing the scope three times a year - Workday customers will now do this only twice a year. Certainly a welcome change. And in my experience a 6 months cycle is much more manageable for customers and is a good compromise between productive application usage and innovation in automation becoming available.




    Moreover Workday will put a preview environment into the release cycle before production and after the sandbox - a good move to allow customers more time to familiarize themselves and test a new update.




    Behind the scenes the company has moved to a single code line - which is a application development feat seldom achieved. Workday seems to have found a way to just flag the code and objects that need to go to a release or version. This gives Workday the ability to release functionality at will and also has the ability - shocking, too - to move off the one release lockstep mechanism for customers.

    Putting my old product developer hat on, this is a key change for Workday and its customers and may certainly have been influenced by larger functional deliveries happening down the road e.g. with a new user interface, recruitment etc. and a huge flexibility win for customers and Workday. That said, it was also good to see the constant tuning and improvement mentality shared in detail at the Technology Summit - certainly a best practice and good to see it lived so well by Workday product executives.


    Financials

    The Financials side of the product seems to be doing well with Workday adding capabilities and scalability to qualify and play in the BigFin market space. The requirements of the Financial product are a good alternate stress test of the Workday platform compared to the HCM load.

    My mayor takeaway is, that the Financials side is also a defensive move for Workday. Previously I blogged about Peoplesoft being challenged even on closed sales on the CxO level by SAP and Oracle - so the former Peoplesoft DNA does not want that to repeat this phenomena and being able to expand and own Financials as a footprint is one strategic move to avoid that Peoplesoft history repeats for Workday.

    But on that front Workday missed to pitch to their predominant HCM centric user base present in the keynote audience as the value proposition of an integrated HCM and Finance system was not as clearly articulated. It will not make these HCM users go and see their Finance counterparts as soon as they are back in their office from Workday Rising. But what hasn't happened has the charme of being able to still happen in the future.


    The road ahead

    With recruiting shipping the major piece that Workday still misses on the HCM side is Learning - and the company for now is partnering in this area. But in a Q&A Bhusri was pretty clear that down the road Workday will address this functional gap - and not with an acquisition. That would be true to the Workday tradition of build and not buy.




    On the payroll side the company plans to ship the UK and France payrolls in 2015. The overall thinking off the management team is that with 7-8 native Workday payrolls the company can cover enough ground in terms of critical user base. The rest is planned to be addressed with partners and with plans to extend and expand the payroll interface for those partners.  This will pose still some headache to international customers who will have to look for partners and run interfaces that could break - every and any pay cycle. And what we heard more than one time from customers on stage was, that they key value for them was .... integration.


    The non product challenge

    Workday will have to keep growing revenues, customers and expand its global presence at a fast and steady pace to keep investors happy. Japan was announced at the conference as a new country Workday will operate in. The good news for Workday is, that it can source from its former Peoplesoft bench - but the competitive landscape is changing and the pressure to deliver numbers has not changed - but only increased.


    MyPOV

    If you were - like yours truly - very concerned that Workday has already a lot on its plate - then the company has certainly added more to its plate. But executives seem to be confident that they can deliver - and to their credit - they have so far delivered. Shipping a thought leading recruiting product will be a key milestone. The technical challenges seem to be under control and some weaknesses are turning to the better - so 2014 will be a key year for Workday to continue to deliver on product and master the non technical growth challenges as well.

    ---------------------------------------------------------------
    If you missed it - check out the Storify collection here.
    Wondering on my pre Rising questions - I will come back to them in a later post. 

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    With one of the largest - if not the largest - user conference dawning on us in the less than a week - Oracle OpenWorld - starting September 22nd in Moscone Center in San Francisco, I thought it would be good to get the topics sorted that we all would like to know more when returning from the event.



    [This post is trying to follow the structure of my May blog post about What I would like SAP to address this Sapphire... and my recent blog post about What I would like Workday to address this Workday Rising that, if interested - you can respectively find here and here.]


    The Future


    Despite some recent earnings challenges, Oracle has been plowing ahead on the formulated vision of becoming something like the IBM of last century for the 21st century. That is not the IBM that is moving strongly in the direction of professional services, but the traditional post World War II IBM, that built integrated systems starting with the hardware, over the operating system, development tools and sometimes even applications. Oracle is trying to achieve the same with a number of acquisitions, labeling much of that as engineered systems and combining that with its traditional software products in the area of database, middleware and applications. 

    And the vision - as we have written before - is compelling - as complexity in the necessary system layers has increased since the early IBM days, making the value proposition even  more interesting - but the creation of such an offering also more challenging. The question is - can Oracle tame all this moving parts and bring them together to market in a compelling pre-integrated - designed together as Oracle may want to call it - way, that gets significant traction with customers. This has happened partially with the Oracle Exa-Machines, but they have not really taken off. We will have to see what progress Oracle can convincingly report in a few days.



    Fusion Time...?


    One similar key milestone and test case for Oracle's ability to deliver on the vision is Fusion. Originally Fusion Applications were supposed to ship in 2008 - we know the manifold reasons for delays - the question is, when will Oracle feel that Fusion Applications are good enough to really switch marketing, sales, services and channel efforts over to Fusion. Recently Oracle for the first time started to promote Fusion Applications with its weekly, front page Wall Street Journal ad - which could be a soft indicator. 

    But the Fusion Applications story is turning a little like the fairy tale off the rabbit and the tortoise, with Fusion Applications never quite getting there. And ironically - it has even helped Oracle to keep a low profile on Fusion Applications as I blogged here. But at some point it will have to get there - and it will be key to take the pulse where Fusion Applications (or more correctly - the Oracle Applications Cloud) stands in the 2nd half of 2013.

    State of Apps Unlimited

    Apps Unlimited has been very good for Oracle - and I have blogged about that earlier. It has kept Oracle committed to road maps for the acquired products, to which in hindsight Oracle has delivered more than most customers and pundits would have expected. Given the original 2008 Fusion Applications delivery date - I would even say Oracle has delivered more and longer on Apps Unlimited than it had originally planned. 

    The things to watch is, if Oracle will push on the gas pedal in terms of new functionality committed on the road maps - and there one should take the most popular Apps Unlimited products as the bellwether - with the former Peoplesoft, Siebel and JD Edwards being the key products to watch. It would be all to obvious what is going on if we would see Oracle formalizing any migration programs from Apps Unlimited to Fusion Appliations - but I would be surprised if we would see that in 2013. Never say never though.

    The state of HCM

    Oracle has made a smart acquisition with Taleo, acquiring the leading recruitment vendor and forcing the hand of a number of smaller vendors, Workday the most prominent one, to build their own recruitment solutions. It's not clear if Oracle did not want to have Taleo partner anymore or if the former Taleo partners decided to build themselves. That does not matter at the end of the day, what matters is that that Oracle Fusion Application customers can see a consistent and common user interface.

    And Oracle will also have to address how the more conventional Taleo functionality will be enhanced and make room form some 21st century talent management functionality. With pretty much all talent management vendors building recruitment - it's going to be important to see how Oracle will make sure it is not left behind here.


    The state of CRM


    Similar like with Taleo for HCM - Oracle faces the challenge to integrate RightNow and eloqua - and though they are on different levels in regards of being close to best practices - it will be key to see what updates in regards of new functionality Oracle will have. The flavor between integration needs of newly acquired products with the exiting install base products vs the building of new functionality will be key test of palate for the CRM connoisseur at OpenWorld. 


    Will social make a plunge?


    We have given Oracle consistently high marks in regards of putting the Oracle Social Network as a social foundation under its products. The uniformity and base level availability across products is the charm here. It will be key to see Oracle has made strides to productize OSN as a standalone product offering. 


    Less quiet on Middleware


    Oracle has been using and marketing Fusion Middleware a lot in the early project Fusion days. More recently it has gotten more quiet in this area and it will be interesting to see if Oracle will revive this product category with corresponding investments this OpenWorld. We know it's close to the heart of development leader Thomas Kurian, being his original area of responsibility.


    12c promises - delivered?

    At last years OpenWorld Oracle made a number of announcements in regards of Oracle 12c. And Oracle has shipped and delivered 12c - but some of the announcements needs some more backup or at least qualification. The most ardent one being the claim to be able to run significantly more database instances on the same piece of hardware, a fashion of multi-tenancy seen the Oracle way - from the database up the stack. More on it can be found here

    It will also be interesting to see, if Oracle will have some announcements and work for the other products in the database family, one member - mysql - has been getting less love and attention in the customer community in the past, mostly replaced my Maria DB - so it will be interesting to see if Oracle is cutting losses her - or will hold against the current exodus of mysql users.



    In Memory and BigData


    No doubt Oracle has gone from ridiculing HANA to reacting to HANA in the last 12 months. The next version of 12c is supposed to prove an in  memory option / capability - and it will be interesting to see, how Oracle will position this and deliver the new version / capability. 

    Equally BigData is a threat to the Oracle database empire. It will be interesting to see how Oracle will address and embrace the challenge BigData / NoSQL databases do pose to its existing products. One has to be no fortuneteller to predict a co-existence model.



    Cloud


    After deriding the cloud as the latest marketing fashion term - Oracle has gone from critique to believer - recently even delivering Oracle Cloud Application Foundation. It will be interesting to see how many public vs private cloud announcements Oracle will make at OpenWorld and what it's interest and appetite in the data center capacity game are. At 13k virtual machines and 70 PB of storage Oracle is one of the medium size data center players. Like many competitors - Oracle has gotten into the data center game through acquisition and is now looking at rationalizing and monetizing data center resource that it inherited from the Taleo, RightNow, eloqua etc acquisitions. What's Oracle doing with the recent Nimbula acquisition


    Java

    And let's not forget on the Java side, that this is also the worldwide gathering of the Java community - the most used programming language around the globe and thus developer community with over 9 million developers. And Oracle has recently expanded enterprise support with Java EE 7 - the first release under complete Oracle stewardship. 

    With that under the belt it will be interesting to watch if Oracle will move into a PaaS play - and what else the milestones and features in regards of EE 8 will be.  

    Industry

    Last but not least - Oracle has been investing and acquiring in the vertical space. No vendor has really been able to successfully provide vertical functionality on top of a rapidly moving horizontal core - a challenge Oracle equally  needs to address. And for instance after the recent acquisition of ACME packets - it has gone more or less quiet. 


    More mega partnerships?


    Oracle kept customer, ecosystem and media on their toes with 12c and announcements of partnerships with Microsoft, Netsuite and salesforce.com. With the latter getting the most coverage - so it will be interesting to see how especially the Microsoft and salesforce.com partnerships will be featured at OpenWorld. Will we see bromance on stage or was this a one time fling? Will we see other mega announcements?


    MyPOV


    This OpenWorld is key for Oracle as it's going to be an important event to provide updates on the many, many things Oracle is working on. It will be interesting to see all of these project and products on a converging path - or not (yet). Regardless Oracle has a lot - if not too much - in its plate. We will know more in 10 days... 


    P.S. Many thanks to my colleagues Alan Lepovitz (@AlanLepo), Brent Kelly (@ebkell), Bruce Daley (@BruceDaley), Esteban Kolsky (@EKolsky), Frank Scavo (@FScavo), Josep di Paolantonio (@JAdp), Gavin Heaton (@ServantofChaos) and Steve Wilson (@Steve_Lockstep) for providing some valuable suggestions and topics for this post - much appreciated! And if you don't follow them - time to start following them! 

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    While it was in June that Oracle surprised the ecosystem with the surprising partnerships with Microsoft, NetSuite and Salesforce.comit was today Salesforce.com and Workday's time to announcea strategic partnership. Of course it was mere coincidence that the announcement fell on the same day as Oracle’s Q1 FY 2014 earnings announcements and equally happens 2 workdays before Oracle Openworld starts. Hony soit qui mal….




    The motivation was very similar to June's announcements - customers want the vendors to play together and work on the out-of-the-box integration of cloud applications. Not surprisingly the Salesforce.com and Workday partnership reconfirmed what was already announcedat Dreamforce last last fall - that Workday will integration with Salesforce.com social tool Chatter. Now that integration was taken a step further with the ability of being able to seamlesslywork with chatter out of the Workday user interface. The smart money is on that the imminent switch of Workday to a HTML5 based user interface is somewhat an enabler of this move... 


    Salesforce.com HCM system product scope in flux

    Lets get the easy piece out of the line first - Salesforce.com's HCM system is going through a chameleon like morph from being Workday and custom first, then adopts Oracle HCM Cloud (from the announcements with Oracle in June), back to Workday being the standard HCM package (Marc Benioff's words on the call).

    Does it really matter what Salesforce.com uses internally? Not really - customers will trust Salesforce.com to make interfaces work not matter if using that product internally - or not. What remains worth noting is, that Salesforce.com remains on Oracle Financials (are they on Oracle Finance Cloud already?) and that the HCM footprint needed by an enterprise of the size of Salesforce.com cannot be fully automated by Workday alone - learning, recruitment and payroll come to mind. It's also not clear what Salesforce.com will choose to do automating these pieces of HCM automation, but Salesforce.com will certainly have some outside scrutiny on that going forward.


    The future of work.com

    Salesforce.com acquiredRypple a little less than two years ago and created work.com... with a strong focus on performance management. And with that Work.com has a functional overlap with Workday - and though Benioff was not clear on the topic  – and was also not asked by analysts and press on the call - we got a confirmation that work.com is alive and well from John Wookey (who has one of the coolest twitter profile pictures out there), who is in charge of the product area. 


    So work.com is doing well and may be up to something new and innovative - maybe Salesforce.com will leapfrog Workday’s performance management software from a best practice perspective - we will see. Partner to build – didn’t we hear and see that before? Right, it was last century and the vendor was … SAP.


    Is force.com becoming the Workday PaaS?

    The other interesting piece in the announcement was the part that stated that force.com users (a.k.a. developers) would enjoy the ability to build applications using data directly from Workday's applications. That would be an interesting move as right now Workday does not offer a developer environment, it actually started to offer first customization options with the introduction of custom fields in the spring release with Update 19. That certainly would be a coupe for force.com and perfect for common partners like e.g. Appirio. 

    But many details remain to be clarified. Workday runs on an object model, in memory etc - so it's not the straight forward way to integrate with data. And moreover, the capabilities of these integrated applications need to be defined - e.g. will there be a single sign-on and which vendor's will it be, how will the developer seat be licensed, are the APIs (?) free etc. Enough to fill some interesting presentations at DreamForce in November.


    Bi-directional data interface - or what?

    So force.com developers can access data in Workday, likewise Workday HCM users will be able to access Salesforce.com data. Not clear what kind of integration that will be - it will be interesting to see if Workday will use its newly built BigData Analytics product as a integration tool - or if there will be another integration path into and out of Workday.

    The same will be possible for users of Workday’s Financial’s product – with the same questions on the integration technique of choice. This is certainly a winner in the overall integration game – since it will give a further validation point and selection argument for the relatively new Workday Financials product.


    Integration rules

    Not surprisingly the customer’s desire for integration was presented as the catalyst for the partnership. And while pre-integrated offerings help enterprise software vendors – they are also a way for the vendors to close out other vendors – or at least make their life harder. You can have the pre-integration of product A with product B – or try yourself – good luck. And maybe Salesforce.com opened the pandora’s box with the Oracle partnership – and now customers with other products are asking for the same integration. Very well possible – it will be interesting where Salesforce.com will draw the line.

    In the specific case of Salesforce.com and Workday it of course remains to be seen how open these interfaces will be – and hopefully they are – but that’s another detail to be hashed out. If these early interfaces won’t be open – then cloud vendors will be able to close out competitors. On the flip side vendor specific integration will mean increased integration efforts. Salesforce.com already faces this challenge – will e.g. it’s interfaces to Oracle HCM Cloud and Oracle Financials Cloud be the same as the interfaces to Workday’s HCM and Financials products – or another set and technology to create, maintain and support. If cloud vendors will embark into different sets of interfaces by partner – the provision and testing of these integrations will slow down the speedy cloud vendor release model significantly. It anyway creates an additional work load for the cloud vendors that will find its way into resourcing plans and timetables.




    Implications for customers

    This is good new for customers of both vendors. If customers have ongoing integration projects, use time to value to make a decision to proceed or wait for more details, which likely will emerge around DreamForce in November. 

    If you are only a customer of one of the vendors - and your other system comes from a 3rd party vendor - it's time to ramp up the pressure on that combination to do the same. If you are using a cloud integration platform, again use time to value assessment for ongoing projects and then decide on the future strategy.


    Implications for partners

    Not so good news if you were planning to make a living in the integration business. .Sooner or later that will go away - so try to be part of the new integration effort or look for new revenue sources. And while clearly few things work out of the box in enterprise software - integration work will be less than it was in the future. 

    If you are a partner who provide a product that was e.g. built on the force.com platform or for which you provided interfaces to e.g. Workday - than it will be less easy to get business based on the platform or integration argument, focus instead on the quality of product ad ease of implementation.


    Implications for Salesforce.com and Workday

    Both vendors take on significant additional work, that will most likely result in less functionality in releases and longer release cycles. Workday already moved from three to two release per year from next year on - as shared at Workday Rising the other week. Salesforce may do the same at Dreamforce. Regardless its more work that needs to be re-tested and with release dates not lining up - done more times. Even with the reduced Workday release frequence - it will mean 5 full integration tests per year - based on the three Salesforce.com and two Workday releases per year.  

    MyPOV

    The desire for integration is not new in the enterprise software space – the good news is, that in the cloud age the vendors are tackling this piece for their subscribers. All too willingly, as integration will add to the so much desired stickinessevery high tech vendor wants its products to have in their customer base. It’s too early to tell, if we will see proprietary vendor to vendor interfaces – or (open) standards evolving between them – allowing best of breed integration vendors to get a piece of the integration business.

    In the meantime its good news that with Salesforce.com the SaaS market leader and with Workday one of the SaaS thought leaders have started to tackle the integration challenge, and continued the chapter of cloud vendor created and supported integration, that was started earlier this year by Oracle.



    And finally - who will Salesforce.com partner with next? As other have pointed out - Salesforce.com will do what drives revenue - so how about SAP's Ariba? Ariba (still?) runs Salesforce.com, [Update September 19th - SAP tells me Ariba has stopped using salesforce.com, here suggests still otherwise but is obsolete according to SAP.] has a contracts application built on force.com - and what does Salesforce.com use for purchasing? Not starting any rumors, completely taken out of the air. 



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    I had the pleasure to be invited to another SAP Startup Forum, an invite I always like to follow up as it provides some good proof points how SAP is progressing at creating and maintaining momentum of the  ecosystem around its HANA database. And it’s also always a privilege to see startups pitching their products and offerings – the energy and drive are always a remarkable and welcome change in comparison to the more seduced presentations by the established enterprise vendors.




    Great interest

    SAP was able to get more than 30 startups to come to the Labs in Palo Alto, with about 10 taking part in the pitch competition to a virtually funded investor audience. It looked like there were more interesting and mature startups present than at the healthcare forum I took part back in June – but that may also be my background that cannot make too much out of the healthcare automation space.


    A well run event

    The agenda seems to be proven and works well with the audience, after a short welcome and an introduction to the SAP startup program, it’s time to present what SAP can do with HANA for startups, then SAP Ventures gets the stage – and that is usually where the startups pay the most attention (money talks – startups listen), followed by a showcase of HANA. Then it’s time for the first 5 startups to pitch themselves in the classic format – no slides, 3 minutes, Q&A afterwards, lunch and then the same for the next 5 startups taking part in the competition. The afternoon is filled with presentations on how the SAP Startup group can help startups to go to market and a panel discussion  - this event's one was about BigData changing everything. SAP does well with a mixture of SAP execs (Kaustav Mitra), a neutral moderator (Simon Rogers from Twitter), a startup (CEO Michael Zeller of Zementis) and a thought leader (Jim Hornthal). And then its social time, more opportunity to visit the startups at the their demo stations and then fund them with virtual currency… by 5 PM a winner is found and the event is over.


    The return of ecosystem $s

    What return you get as a vendor for a $ invested into your ecosystem is probably even more tricky than the fabled marketing effectiveness $ question. Its especially hard when you have to build that ecosystem form scratch as SAP is doing with the Startup program. It helps if you are well funded and SAP is making multiple 100s of millions available for this effort.


    And SAP has certainly achieved to be noted in the startup community. In the random questions I ask start-ups at briefings (of which I do close to a dozen a week) – I also ask them, if they have heard of SAP / HANA and what they think of it… and to my initial surprise the startup program is known and HANA has some prominence as a in memory database – so the initial goals seem to get hit.


    But being known is one thing, being built on is another one. And that’s where SAP still has some ground to cover – as the startups are still in a more or less wait and see attitude in regards of using SAP technology. HANA as technology product is attractive, SAP as a partner is attractive (at least in the B2B area), but lacks the track record of a technology provider. 

    To be fair SAP competitors like IBM and Oracle struggle with the same – though not with the overall technology provider credibility – but with that of the technology provider for startups. Startups tend to go for the fast and cheap solution – and that is mostly the convenient open source download that can run tomorrow. So a tough battle to climb for any technology provider.

    Free market research

    The other key benefit – and SAP seems to be doing well to exploit it – is the connection of the more pedestrian speed of the SAP development process with the urgent automation needs startups and their funders are betting on. It’s a smart move to be close to startups to understand what the technology features of the future for e.g. HANA will need to be. It’s then another story if and how and when these will be built, but already knowing them and seeing them demanded and validated is of significant value for SAP.



    On the flipside then SAP still needs to show that it can incorporate these requirements quickly into HANA. The feature I keep hearing is the geocoding that was made available with HANA SP6 – but that to a certain point is a no-brainer – if you want to foster analytics, decision and intelligence on something happening in the physical world – you need geocoding.


    And then SAP seems not to have found the innovative usage of HANA beyond the well known and positioned alleys. I am still looking for startups that use HANA and could not have used anything else. That is the use case you want to know as a technology vendor – and we know SAP wants to be one - as they provide the much needed differentiators and markets you want to tackle and dominate. Interesting enough BigData was the most common use


    MyPOV

    SAP has mastered the first stage of creating an ecosystem around HANA. It now needs to find the use cases that help to crystallize the sweet spots for the HANA as a platform and with that for the ecosystem. That second step is harder than the first one – but SAP is on the way taking it. It is too early to make a call on both progress and success. Rest assured it will be made in time.

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    Recently Workday upgraded customers to Update 20 and briefed analysts on the release. Workday keeps providing these updates on a metronome like pace - which by itself isn't easy and deserves congratulations.

    So what's in Update 20? Here is the breakdown:
    • BigData Analytics
      The big ticket item is the new BigData Analytics functionality that Workday made available. The functionality was already shared at the Rising conference and the Technology Summit - and I have blogged about it already - so no need to re-iterate.

      Just this: Workday is using BigData techniques more to be able to aggregate, mesh 3rd party (or maybe other systems data) and then import it into the Workday object schema for reporting and dashboarding than for insights on the overall Workday and 3rd party data. The very good demo in the briefing call was all about merging sales performance data into a performance review or a sales professional. Sales data, as it looked like from Salesforce.com.

      It also is the first item Workday will start charging separately for - till now every major new functionality was included in the basic license price.
    Screenshot from Workday website

    • NoteBook for iPad
      Workday has created a helpful iPad application with Notebooks - a way to make reports and other information easily available, usually for the executive. This ties nicely into the new dashboarding capability gained with BigData Analytics and the two combined creates a great demo and sales pitch tool to executives. That left me at first a little bit disappointed - though to be able to demo well and pitch to executives is a key success factor for any software company as I understand well - but I prefer vendors to put their R&D investments where they move the needle for the majority of users...

      But then I remembered the many staff meetings into which an HR manager would sit in - and apart from liaising with the business - would show some key reports or charts. And with that Notebooks is a useful tool not just for briefing an executive - but also for the many HR managers out there in their day to day quest to be closer with the line of business. So with that it's a thumbs up - it will be interesting to see the adoption in a few months. And Workday probably needs a tablet strategy beyond iOS. 
    Screenshot from Workday website

    • New Grid - in Compensation first
      With the Update Workday introduces a new grid control, that is more flexible and  moves the usability and capability needle of tables closer to the ultimate grid control business users are accustomed to, Microsoft's Excel. It is a welcome upgrade over the previous grid control and looks more 2013. Compensation management with its many inputs and needs to calculate and assess additional information is a great initial showcase. My hope would be, that Workday can roll out a consistent grid experience across its products - maybe with the upcoming UI refresh beyond this Update.
    Screenshot from Workday website

    • Good Housekeeping
      With the Update Workday also provided 207 features and 80 brainstorm items - it wasn't clear if the features include the brainstorm items - but it's good to see Workday listening to customers  - we will hear in the coming months from customers how much these have moved the needle in terms of better best practice coverage.

      And these features could provide a balance to the more technology focused nature of the update - but Workday has not provided detailed visibility into these.

      Equally Workday keeps looking at performance and scalability - with a keen eye on the Big Fin capabilities of its Financials product - but that work will help Workday's products overall.

      Coupled with an eye on overall performance and the move to improved code line management, its good to see that Workday practices the good housekeeping principles that SaaS vendors need to live in order to stay on top of the game.
    Screenshot from DealArchitect blog

    Functional Release Richness still trending down

    With Update 19 I provided a quick and dirty assessment of the functional richness of Workday updates in regards of providing more large HCM functional building blocks. And while we all know that recruiting functionality is in the making - and the mobile demos at the Rising conference looked promising - there was no featured HCM business functionality item in this release. The only business functionality Workday highlighted was Endowment Accounting, certainly a key functionality in Financials, but not relevant for the HCM customer base. 

    Update 15
    Update 16
    Update 17
    Update 18
    Update 19
    Update 20
    October 2011
    April
    2012
    August 
    2012
    November 
    2012
    April 
    2013
    September 
    2013
    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
    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
    Payroll
    - Payroll for Canada
    - Payroll Connector

    Usability Enhancements
    Custom Fields
    More custom fields
    Mobility
    - Notebooks for iPad
    Higher Education Functionality



    170 Enhancements
    207 Features /
    80 Brainstorm Items

    And while a slow down for large pieces of HCM functionality is to be expected and normal as vendors have provided many of the large functional building blocks - it is a key soft metric to have an eye on - both as a customer and observer of Workday.

    On the flipside Workday deserves credit for tackling the common technical debt challenge that arises after being in business for 5+ years with vigor.

    Looking ahead

    It looks like the investments Workday needs to take on the Financials side, building recruiting and now moving to a new HTML5 interface bind significant development capacity. On top of that, the new Workday Student product for Higher Education will also need to be staffed - though there should be no immediate impact in the near time future as the timetable for this product is quite stretched out.

    And while many of technology items are good housekeeping activities, the need for allowing more customization capability can be spun like a red threat across the product releases. With the introduction of custom fields two updates ago, that triggered a more flexible user interface and reporting capability - as users want to see and report on these fields - so new grid controls, new user interface, new dash baording capability come as no surprise, but can be seen as a logical consequence of custom fields. 

    MyPOV

    Workday deserves kudos for delivering another update on track - with the big ticket item of BigData Analytics. With a little different flavor than I would have expected, but Workday is an innovator utilizing Hadoop in the enterprise system space - it remains to be seen how other vendors will interpret and design Hadoop into their analytical capabilities. 

    At the same time Workday users should have a keen look on the speed of new HCM functionality flowing into the recent and upcoming updates. This maybe a good opportunity for Workday HCM customers to upgrade their internal HR practices to what Workday has already provided in software, but they have not been able to utilize yet. When your vendor invests in technology its a user's opportunity to catch up on best practice implementation. 

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    Oracle's massive OpenWorld conference kicked off the other day - opening with the traditional Larry Ellison keynote - and a partner keynote - this time Fujitsu talking about the goods of their M10 system.



    But the real news was Ellison presenting the new in  memory option for the Oracle database. Interesting enough the presentation was void of version numbers and Oracle did also not post a press release about the new capabilities - which raises some questions on why that did not happen. More to come during the week - or a desire to keep things general for revenue recognition purposes - we will learn later.


    Coming since a long time

    In memory technology has been important for Oracle since quite some time, starting with the TimesTen in 2005. But it was always an option to solve a limited set of performance problems - not running the overall database in memory. Credit for shipping a complete in memory database and evangelizing the market goes to SAP with HANA - something Ellison doubted that SAP could deliver. Well SAP did deliver, and did well, so since about 6  months we heard Ellison hinting to the next version of the Oracle database beyond 12c (12c R1?) to address the in memory technology, last on the Q1 earnings call the other week.


    Interesting similarities

    As an observer it's interesting to see how much both industry veterans - Ellison and Plattner - care about solving a performance problem that traditional databases could not address - the flexible crunching of large amounts of data - often referred to as the analytical applications buzzword wise today. And both gentlemen get a tad professorial talking about this - Plattner with blackboard sessions - Ellison with talking about the fundamental challenges of database architecture. And both are passionate about the topic and Ellison was evidently in best spirits - winning two races at the America's Cup certainly helped, too.


    An organic approach

    The path Oracle has chosen to address in memory is more organic - allowing customers to turn the in memory feature on / off with what Ellison referred to just a switch. If you turn the switch on - a DBA has just to walk through three steps and the database will take advantage of the in  memory option... and what happens behind the scene is that tables will be transported to in memory, stored there in columnar format and all future transactions of the application running in the database will be saved both to the new in memory column store and the traditional row store, which most likely will reside on disk.




    The key benefit for customers will be that they do not have to change a line of code to get to the benefits of in  memory, the system will just get faster as more data gets moved to memory and once it's there the system will be significantly faster as a demo showed.


    Key Benefits

    Oracle is choosing a systemic approach to the in  memory problem, which is possible as Oracle owns the underlying infrastructure of the row database. Oracle knows what the CRUD operations on its database are being operated and can sort them out to in memory as parametrized. 




    Ironically Ellison claimed that this will even accelerate the database - having the dual writes. This is largely aided by being able to drop expensive index file management that no longer need to be maintained as the database will automatically direct the queries for these tables to in memory, where thanks to RAM speed no index files are required. 

    So this will allow customers to play with in memory - by upgrading the memory on their database servers and see what benefits they can achieve with a partial move of data to in  memory.


    The integrated play

    And it would not be Oracle of 2013 - if Oracle would not ship hardware that empowers the latest software move - and indeed Oracle has available a number of Exa-Severs that are ideally tuned to operate large in memory databases. Ironically the hardware is available today - the software - no mention (yet).





    Questions remain

    A lot of details remain to be clarified - and my hope is latest the database summit on Wednesday will address them. As with all powerful software - the question is going to be the price for the switch and for sure Oracle will not make it cheap. But Oracle will price it right to make it easy for customers to stay on Oracle and not move to alternate products. 


    The ISV angle

    As we all know the largest SaaS vendor - Salesforce.com - struck a deal with Oracle continuing to rely on Oracle 12c going forward. There was a lot of hoopla around this back in June - but Benioff supported the decision with tweets going along the keynote - which almost had a feel of vindication. Now finally Salesforce.com could show why they decided to stay on the Oracle database. 




    And they will not be alone in that decision - it's the first time a Micosoft executive is presenting at Oracle OpenWorld ...


    MyPOV

    There is a parallel between the AmericasCup and in memory databases right now. Oracle is playing catchup - and we all need to wonder why TeamOracleUSA did not sail as fast from the start and why Oracle let others (SAP) get a lead in the in  memory database game. But unlike to sailing where the puffs in the San Francisco Bay may decide the outcome - for the in memory database game - the customer adoption makes the difference - and there Oracle has made it technically easy for customers to follow. Let's see how easy Oracle will make it commercially... if Oracle gets this right there may well be soon more SAP customers running the Oracle in memory option database wise than running HANA. 

    You can also find the tweetstream of the keynote in this Storify here

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    One of the oldest software companies in Europe - if not in the word - purely founded for the purpose of software as a business, is Software AG in Germany. Unlike some older companies, Software AG never dabbled into anything hardware - but only focused on software for its 40+ years in existence.



    Software AG was founded in Darmstadt, Germany by 6 members of a local consulting firm, not even 30 miles north of the more prominent other German software company's location, Walldorf (SAP (AG)). But it was too early for business software, so the Software AG founders focused on building the tools that were needed at the time, zeroing in on a database, that was supposed to be adaptable, so in 1971 the company launched adabas (you guess it - adaptable database system). It prove to be quite successful in the banking and insurance areas and along came the need to establish a programming language, that the founders wanted to make more easy to use and learn than the other programming languages on the market. In 1979 the company delivered natural as a 4GL application development environment - an easy to learn programming language that supported both procedural and event driving programming. 

    In the 90ies the company extended it product range and most notably had partnerships with SAP (yes - a cheaper database option was even then a topic of interest) and Microsoft (porting of DCOM to other platforms than Windows). 

    Later the company established a fondness of all things XML, which despite very high marks on the usability and lowered cost of ownership aspects of its products, never really took off and put the company in the doldrums to a certain extent.


    Reshaping Strategy

    In 2007 Software AG acquired webMethods - and with that focusing more on the integration aspects of software than it's creation, which in hindsight - and the 2013 perspective - provided to be pretty pivotal. Equally the acquisition of IDS Scheer AG with its Aris modelling tool was a key addition to is products and services portfolio. When Software AG was looking at a way to accelerate slow running business processes it acquired Terracotta - a leader of in memory caching technology. All that formed a very good base for growth at Software AG.


    The latest 

    While the company still provides adabas and natural, the main focus has been on integration and creation of high value, real-time and highly complex processes. Software AG picked more acquisitions in 2013 to complement this strategy, acquiring the CEP platform Apama from Progress, realizing the need for better visualization acquiring Jackbe and improving the agility of integration to webMethods with Longjump. And finally there is ambition to play in the IT transformation market with the acquisition of alphabet AG. It will be interesting what the company will unveil at their upcoming user conference in early October in San Francisco.


    MyPOV

    It's remarkable to have a 40+ year run in the software industry. Inevitably there will be success and failure, but with the right degree of innovation and re-inventing itself, Software AG has become one of the key players in the upcoming cloud integration game.

    But the game has not changed - and we do not see it changing with the cloud - that integration vendors have to create value and not simply be a point to point connection protocol. Here the cloud is an opportunity for all of them -  not just Software AG - to more easily create value added services on top of the pure integration data streams. 

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    Oracle Openworld 2013 just finished in San Francisco - and it was the event it promised to be - not big, but mega - in all aspects - size, attendees, number of sessions, steps walked between meetings (I even walked myself some blisters...), number of press releases etc. But let's look at the good and the bad.


    Oracle's vision has been formulated and commented on many times - it is to create an integrated stack from low level storage services - even tape - all the way up to complex advanced analytical applications. In between the company already offers everything an enterprise may desire for any automation need.

    It is Oracle's belief, that by designing and building all these software layers in combination with its own hardware - it will be able to achieve better price performance than any of the (less well integrated) competitors. And this is very well compatible with the core corporate DNA of Oracle - of reducing total cost of ownership (TCO) through its products and services.

    Top 3 Positive Signs

    The unveiling of Oracle's in  memory plans is a key stepping stone to get Oracle's strategy going. And it's less the features and capabilities of in memory - that by itself are nice and compelling - but the nature of the delivery - that is non invasive, I called it organic in my first take here. For Oracle's vision to materialize both on the drawing boards of its engineers, its production code and the customer adoption - it matters greatly, that the upgrade to the latest version of key products like the database are not invasive, do not require additional coding beyond the task of upgrading. This will accelerate adoption.

    The next one is, that Oracle seems to have understood that it needs to maintain its technology provider role - even in the cloud age. And while that self understanding peeked through e.g. with the Microsoft and Salesforce.com partnership agreements and announcements from June of this year - it was visible also in the keynotes of Thomas Kurian and Larry Ellison (the one that Kurian held for him). If Oracle manages to get a relevant piece of the license revenue from the cloud infrastructure providers trough any of the dozen or so XX as a service products - it will be positioned well for the future where it can play in the public cloud, it's own public cloud and on premise.

    Finally we also had the chance to speak to a number of Oracle HCM Cloud customers - either implementing or being live running on Oracle Fusion HCM. The sheer number, their experience and commitment were  more positive than what we had expected based on the previously general available information and sentiment in the marketplace. It's important for Oracle to see traction of its top of the stack products, the Oracle Cloud Applications, especially in an embattled marketplace like HCM.

    Top 3 remaining concerns

    We have blogged before on how the BigData trend has the potential to disrupt Oracle. If the growing number of BigData players manage to move close enough to real time and support of transactional processes, they form a threat to Oracle's core and bread and butter - the database. And while Oracle has made a lot of progress with its BigData appliance - the BigData threat is potentially less of a technological threat but a commercial threat, being mostly open source based.

    Which leads us to the second concern, centered around open source. Oracle is setup to extract significant amounts of payments from its customers. Needless to state the company provides value to its customers, but Oracle has mastered the art of price differentiation - never (or seldom) charging too match to stymie the uptake of new technology but equally avoiding any association with being a cheap offering. And while that is a fair strategy and probably the core to it fueling a massive R&D budget - it  makes Oracle vulnerable to low cost or even free open source competitors.

    And lastly - Oracle is building a massive technology stack - probably the most extensive one ever build. We know IBM did the same, but we dare to say in a less complex and dynamic age. The sheer magnitude of engineers involved, interfaces, testing, documentation, training etc could make an endeavor like Fusion fail. Providing non disruptive path to get to Oracle Cloud Applications is a key aspect - but that's not always possible for technical reasons or for decisions taken in the past. Ironically the sheer magnitude of the effort both labor wise and financially, is also a barrier to entry for most competitors and specifically for open source based products and their communities, that simply do not have the resources.

    MyPOV

    It is difficult to distill an event like Oracle OpenWorld into a short blog post (but writing double the amount would not have made it easier). Clearly Oracle is on a roll and at this point the positive signs prevail over the warning signs... but given the complex and dynamic environment Oracle competes in - that can change any day.

    In the  next quarters the company will have to sort out its hardware business and create customer success around its Oracle Applications Cloud. Nothing validates a technology stack  more than the products sitting on the very top of it.


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    One week before the yearly HR Technology Conference starts in Las Vegas, ADP decided to hold it first ever Innovation Showcase, featuring key product innovations in a live, interactive webcast. The timing was impeccable - not to far and not to close to the HR Technology Conference casting its shadow next week - and garner the appropriate attention. For instance enough time to get a blog post in - wait a minute...  but when a vendor has 620 thousand clients across 125 countries - the industry and influencer community does pay attention. ADP raised that attention even more with claiming 300 thousand clients and users in the cloud. 



    On the day of the event, ADP released 4 press releases on the same day, centering around the release of their recruitment product, which was the biggest news in my view, it equally showed progress for its mobile application, a document management system fittingly called ADP Document Cloud and ADP Analytics and finally the opening of an Innovation Lab in Silicon Alley in New York city.  

    Recruitment

    Which vendor is not building or re-inventing recruitment? Well ADP is, too - and the new application looks good and seems to be easy to use and make a recruiter more productive. Tony Marzulli hit all the right strings and cords to play the social recruitment game. As with any first new release of course - we will have to see first customer references and see what's next on the road map - and both was not shared (yet).

    In general my concern on recruiting is for all vendors is that they are more or less re-building ATS for the cloud, added some social, sprinkled maybe with some talent pool and CRM here and there etc. Nob vendor seems to be re-thinking recruitment from the ground up - which is a missed opportunity for a generation of talent management system. But certainly ADP cannot be blamed for this - a few years ago no one would even have expected any talent management products coming from the company. And there are some suggestions on how to make talent management more interesting in combination with talent management, as I blogged here before. 

    ScreenShot from ADP Innovation Day Webinar

    ADP also provided the necessary mobile capabilities for the mobile recruiting side - demoing a nice candidate application, including step wise increasing self presentation to the ultimate recruiter. 

    And it's a nice capability that ADP can use its research arm to create interesting surveys, that can yield even more interesting results - like that companies with  more than 1000 employees plan to increase hiring by 34% in 2014. And that 18% of the US workforce may retire in the next 5 years, creating a massive opportunity for recruitment.

    Mobile

    Not surprisingly ADP did ship mobile paycheck and related information to a mobile  device first. But it has extended the scope way beyond this in the latest release - and it's a fine mobile application. Smart to allow the download of the full version with a demo mode - a good move to get an application go viral and massively adopted.  

    ScreenShot from ADP Innovation Day Webinar

    And ADP has now brought a similar clean UI to the table, smartly leveraging large screen estate while re-using code constructs (three mobile screens next to each other form the tablet screen factor) - a good example for re-using components. 

    ADP Document Cloud

    It was good to also see some of the less prominent and talked about functions being featured, too - with ADP Document Cloud, that you could call an embedded box-like lightweight document management system on the user side - but with the necessary controls to keep confidentiality and fiduciary obligations for users on the back end. 

    ScreenShot from ADP Innovation Day Webinar
    Personally I thought ADP was at its best pitching this product - it seems to be very near and dear to the traditional position of the company, for obvious reasons. But ADP delivered a clean and well integrated product that is easy to use. And on the benefit site ADP equally hit the benefits side well, e.g. that ADP Document Cloud can be part of a desaster recovery and redundancy strategy.

    ADP Analytics

    Well ADP is not the first vendor to step into the analytics marketing trap, calling reports and dashboards analytics, that are not real analytics (as discussed here). But the product provides the basic reporting and charting tools needed. The visual capabilities are pedestrian and surely need and can be improved. 


    It was good to see that the product has some alert and sharing capability, which are the next step to make reporting / dashboarding more actionable.

    Little nugget...

    During the presentation the team referred to that there was now one ADP and that all application access is happening via APIs. That by itself is a major feat for a vendor of the size and the number of  products like ADP. And it is a key enabler for e.g. mobile and tablet functionality.

    But it also bridges historical disconnects the company would have e.g. between its North American and other international geographies, as these were run on separate products. As a benefit of executing the API strategy it's now the first time that ADP customers can have a global HR record. We are sure many ADP clients will welcome that to the fullest.

    MyPOV

    Good to see the progress by a vendor like ADP investing into the right technologies successfully and making a bold move to grow beyond the payroll domain and legacy. If the products and capabilities shown at this innovation day will be enough to win substantial non payrill business - only future can tell. 

    We certainly want to see many more innovation showcases to come. 


    You can see the Storify tweet collection here.
    And you can see the recording of the event here

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    The yearly HR Tech Conference is starting today - so last chance to compile a cheat sheet on what to check for during the conference and show...


    The last of its kind?

    As most of you will know the father of the HR Tech Conference, Bill Kutik, is retiring from the effort, and handing over the reins to Steve Boese - who certainly will sooner or later install changes to event with the motivation to improve it even further.

    But what is HR Tech so far - probably a unique event across all enterprise automation that brings together the users, decision makers, vendors, partners and influencers around HR technology. Many other conferences strive for a similar influence and position - in my view only the HR Tech Conference has achieved, that basically if an enterprise is in for an investment in HR Tech, this is the event to attend. Likewise, if there are no major decisions awaiting - it's good to see how your vendor(s) are doing, what the competition is doing - and lastly - have some fun with the industry peers in Las Vegas.

    And the format is equally unique - most sessions are a combination of an end user (usually a reference) combined with their vendor. This makes it a unique setup for your to experience both working together and ask some smart questions at the end. Usually you will not have a customer and a vendor on stage together - so make the best of the opportunity for your information and knowledge gathering.

    For users...

    ... if you make it to Las Vegas you should have a to do list in mind. Start with the product map for your enterprise. Which products are helping you to achieve what benefit and which ones are here to stay and where are you looking for replacements or potential new products to deploy. 

    You certainly will want to check in with your existing product vendors, see what they have to offer, what their next releases are, what their plans for expanding their functional foot print are. Nothing solves the systemic HR Tech integration problems easier for your than a vendor shouldering the integration needs required. 

    If you are looking for new products - try to get an as complete picture of the vendor landscape. There is not a single HR automation area that only has one vendor offering its product - despite the vendors will want you to believe and buy into their uniqueness. 

    Don't forget every product can only be as good as its implementation - so equally look for implementation partners for that product. Listen to the vendor who they would recommend - if the have a recommendation. And you should probably spend more time with getting a good understanding of the implementation partner market for that product, than with the vendors themselves. The vendors will come and visit and present to you - with the implementation partners you may not have a chance to meet and get to know their executives as well. 

    Lastly you should not leave Las Vegas without making a dozen or so new connections. It's great to meet with friends and professional connections of previous events and former professional life stages - but it is even more important to extend your network - at least a little bit. And with that you should have a  keen eye to where your enterprise or you personally want to move in the next years - so if these means to speak with colleagues and professionals in totally new fields - so be it.

    For vendors...

    This conference is unique as it allows you to get an immediate pulse of how the vendor landscape has evolved. Messaging and positioning of your partners and competitors can never be so efficiently experienced and witnessed like at HR Tech. And while you should have a good understanding on how successful your key partners are and where your main competitors are moving, it is still a once a year opportunity to see the whole concert of messages being unleashed to a receptive audience.

    So do not just spend time at your booth and sessions only - but walk the showfloor - and do not miss some of the key influencer sessions. These influencers need to come up with something more or less slightly new every year - listen carefully on how their messages and views are changing - as there may well be a chance to pickup a new trend and development to differentiate your product and offering in the market.

    For service providers...

    Likewise as for the product vendors, this is a unique chance to see where the competition is, what are the messages, what is working and what not. But likewise you should check the ecosystem of the product vendors that you are partnering with - how well are these working, executing and cooperating. 

    You may equally look into partnership expansion options based on your impressions and observations both on show floor, sessions and interactions with users.

    MyPOV

    Make the most of the HR Tech conference - no matter if you are a user, a vendor or a service provider. There are plenty of recommendations for sessions out there - one I hope I personally will not miss is the HR Tonight show that comes at a much earlier spot - Tuesday from 8:45 AM - 10 AM - with industry icons Naomi Bloom and Bill Kutik. 

    But most importantly - have some fun and enjoy yourselves!

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    This year's HR Tech Conference in Las Vegas proved to be more than ever, that it is the key event of the HCM industry. With more vendors, more buyers and more buyers with imminent purchase needs - it was the largest event yet. And equally it was massive in terms of announcements, steps walked, parties etc.  



    So what are the key takeaways?





    Why is HCM so hot?

    Needless to say, that the economy is doing better and that helps the enterprise software industry overall. Compared to two years ago this was a very different HR Tech conference though, with more vendors, a larger show floor, definitively more buzz - and with that a noticeable increase in hype.




    Bill Kutik opens the HRTech Conference
    But we are also in the aftermath of two multiple billion acquisitions by SAP and Oracle that have transformed the marketplace, moreover Workday has risen from a contender status to the vendor to beat status and finally we are witnessing a renaissance in the recruitment space.

    All that happens with ICBMS unfolding with full force - and with that we do not mean the missiles, but Intelligence, Cloud, BigData, Mobile and Social, and they transform the way enterprises work. The leading vendors are at the forefront enabling these transformations with their respective best practices. And at the same time they prove more than an opportunity to disrupt the vendor landscape - more about that later.


    The quest to obsolete integration

    Integration has been a key capability and challenge at the same time since companies decided to automate more than just financial systems. Very much like the different functions of an enterprise work together, the different areas of an enterprise system need to work together. And the question is, if as a buyer of enterprise systems you buy the integration from the vendor or you decide to build and create the integration yourself.


    And the enterprise software industry goes through phases - phases where there is a lot of innovation and best of breed vendors entice enterprises to shoulder the integration challenge themselves. Contrast that with the other type of phase, when the larger vendors provide that integration. But integration is not free and comes with a price - so seldom integrated systems provide leading edge best practices, but more well proven practices, that in turn are integrated. 


    We are watching two races

    What we see in the HCM market right now is two major races - the race for completion of the talent suites and the race for integrated talent and core HR systems.


    In the first category are the traditional talent management vendors that are rushing to provide an end to end talent management system, in the second are the traditional ERP vendors (Oracle, SAP, Infor etc) and vendors like e.g. Ultimate, Workday and even talent vendors like e.g. SumTotal and SilkRoad as well as traditional payroll vendors like e.g. ADP and Ceridian. And maybe both races are actually coming together at one stage, as the prize for the winner of the pure talent management suite race could be questionable in regards of the overall integration race of talent and core HR. It will only be a prize if the pure talent management suite vendors manage to provide better best of breed practices that the vendors in the overall HCM integration race. The verdict of that is open and will remain open for a while.


    In the meantime.... the recruiting race is on

    And while the two larger, big ticket races are on the way, there is a separate race in the talent management space - around recruiting. Recruiting is unique inside the HCM automation space, as its users are uniquely competitive and at the same time the most performance scrutinized employees in the HR function. For an HR practitioner to get terminated for performance reasons is pretty unheard of - for recruiters it is happening every given day.


    So not surprisingly in the arms race of recruiting talent, users are always looking for a leg up over the competition. And that fosters a flourishing ecosystems of vendors trying to pitch the next best way to give recruiters more success and with that ultimately give them better job security. This dynamic by itself gives the recruiting market a dynamic by itself that can only be compared with similar dynamics seen in the CRM market. And consequentially both markets show paralles in practices and vendor dynamics. It is not uncommon to see recruiters use separate systems from the rest of the HR department and the enterprise - even if these systems offer recruiting functionality - but if they are no longer deemed good enough to acquire the talent the enterprise wish to acquire – they won’t be used.


    More than one vendor stated, that the key recruiting players Taleo and Kenexa having been respectively acquired by Oracle and IBM - are perceived to no longer innovate - a fact that is not true - but gives them hope to be able allow their investments into recruiting functionality to come more to fruition than say e.g. 2 years ago.  


    So not surprisingly innovations like video and chat are being explored by vendors like HireVue and others like Jobvite are taking CRM best practices to the talent acquisition game. And similarly a vendor like Work4Labs with its Facebook centric functionality may provide a key weapon in the race for talent to both recruiters and enterprises. And not to forget SmartRecruiters with their overall potential to disrupt the economics how recruiting systems are being sold and licensed. 


    Beware the false analytics - but welcome benchmarking

    Not surprisingly the false analytics made their appearance in Las Vegas, too - and with that we refer to reporting, dashboarding et al clothed up as analytics. But real analytics are the ones that take a direct action or at least suggest one - and we didn't see much of that. 


    With that said, it’s good to see, that there is a general overhaul of getting reporting and dash boarding upgraded. HR professionals and all enterprise users deserve to know what is going on in their enterprise and in general vendors have not been doing the best job of making information transparent. We are still far away from making that actionable (another buzzword that has worn down before its real meaning came to fruition in enterprise software and its implementations) - but at least we are seeing movement to improve things. If that starts with better visualization and making reports available on mobile devices - so be it.


    The welcome new change was, that more and more vendors are talking about benchmarking. Vendors that have the data to benchmark are using it (e.g. ADP) or sell it already and plan to expand the offering (e.g. Equifax) and vendors that do not have it - license it and use it (e.g. Workday from Bersin / Deloitte). And with the next generation of visualization getting ready, it means that users of HCM systems will be able to not only relate data to internal standards - but understand better how their enterprise is doing in regards of its peers in the marketplace. 


    And maybe something new...

    An area that enterprises as well as vendors have been traditionally not paying attention to - is the dynamics of different personalities working with each other directly and even less how personality affects team productivity and success. So the foray of Halogen in combination with the CPP’s MyersBriggs is a good start to allow more of the well-established personal profile test results make it into HCM systems. Using such data in performance management, for team composition, succession etc. could be the start of something very valuable. Certainly it will be good to see more vendors understanding personality traits and incorporating them into HCM practices. 


    Furthermore it looks like there is some traction from a new angle in the LMS market. It seems like all the MOOCs are trying to get a piece of the enterprise learning market – only that they have not figured out how. In the meantime there are a number of vendors who try to entice users to publish and create course content, e.g. Brave New Talent (and others), the traditionally root cause crux of LMS.


    And some vendors come out of unexpected corners, e.g. Glassdoor keeps building out its corporate services and is becoming a key player in the recruiting space. And Vizier is taking a more analytical approach to workforce management than the existing vendors have taken. 


    Finally on the everlasting struggle with providing a more contextual interaction with enterprise software - SumTotal has shown promising new functionality and user interface to address this challenging area of automation.


    A visual of the bounty of press releases unleashed at HR Tech Conference

    MyPOV

    The HCM market is  more dynamic than ever. There are two mega races on the way as well as an ongoing recruitment race. It is and will remain interesting to watch and analyze. And plenty of encouraging innovation to disrupt these races. 


    The good news is - it's all for the better of the HCM user, but vendor selection, technology and automation choices, execution and timing matter. 




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    On the tail end of the HR Tech conference, SAP smartly organized the SuccessFactors user conference - also in Las Vegas, just up the strip at the Venetian. And it was a good and well attended event. 

    Similar to other SaaS vendor user conferences there was an inert positive dynamic to a user conference that grows by 15-30% every year, with more attendees, exhibitors, partners, product functionality etc.



    This was the 2nd SuccessFactors user conference in North America since the December 2011 acquisition by SAP, and the first one since the departure of founder and former CEO Lars Dalgaard. So not surprisingly it was key for SAP to make sure that consistency is ensured, investment continues, all the products are well and that the SAP muscle behind SuccessFactors makes the company even better than before.

    Combine that with the need to not only show the investment commitment but also the necessity to remain a nimble and agile SaaS player that cares for its customers, and you had the agenda behind the keynote presentation of SuccessFactors president Shawn Price. And Price delivered exactly along these objectives in a well received keynote. Chatting randomly with attendees afterwards the messages were well received and dispelled the usual concerns that are seen around acquisitions of that size in the industry.

    The key announcements were the new capability of a payroll workbench based on SAP HANA and an integrated help desk functionality, that leverages capabilities in another SAP cloud solution SAP Cloud for Service. And while that is a great re-use of functionality in a suite - it will merit some close attention to the needed extensions for an internal employee helpdesk. Both new capabilities will be available in 2014.

    On the hard factors side it was impressive to learn that SuccessFactors now has 23 millions users, 3700 customers, is running in 177 countries and supports 35 languages. 

    The second day featured Dmitri Krakovsky's product keynote - and it was equally well delivered and received. It was encouraging to see a head of product performing all the demos by himself  and knowing the product pretty much inside and out, demoing it with ease. It became also clear that SuccessFactors is working hard to get information out of the system presented in an appealing and easy to consume way - as the headline product demonstrates. And the company is certainly up to something - as the feature turned out to be popular with the attendees - from an industry veteran standpoint I would like to see it proven in daily life - a few months into a live implementation. 

    What impressed me was the strength of the customer statements - similar like at other SaaS vendor user conferences - it looks like the move to SaaS creates a higher level of business user commitment towards the software provider than the old on premise model ever did before. And when thought through - not so much of a surprise - as the business side needs to often justify the move with other corporate functions and IT - and likewise is kept busy with regular updates - so SaaS purchasing, implementing and using buyers are more involved with their software vendor than enterprise software users have ever been before. Very few software vendors can e.g. show in person reference statements from traditional arch enemies like Coca-Cola Corp and Pepsi Co. - SuccessFactors was able to. 


    First impression of SuccessFactors Talent

    This was the first opportunity for us to sit down and see a demo of the SuccessFactors product - more or less realistically on the showfloor - with attendees driving the questions and direction of the demos. And our impression is that it is, what it was supposed to be - a pretty complete talent management suite. What surprised me  most, how relatively easy it was to setup single talent functions e.g. performance management and succession - and comparing that with the high level knowledge I have of the SAP HCM talent modules. With the latter I certainly would not even think trying to do a setup myself - just do not know enough about it - with the SuccessFactors product it was just itching the fingers... (no worries SuccessFactors partners - no ambitions here). 

    The product also looks well integrated in comparison to two years ago when I saw it last from a SAP partners perspective at different industry shows. The clearly diverse user interface paradigms from the different acquisitions that SuccessFactors had done, are a thing of the past. Though personally I would like to see the company drive the user interface harmonization even a level more strict - at the end of the day consistency helps user interaction success - and the last few percent can move the needs quiet a lot here.


    EmployeeCentral

    This product was certainly the star of the show. Not surprisingly since both existing longer term SuccessFactors customers want to use it and need it - the reader may remember that SuccessFactors created EmployeeCentral before the SAP acquisition to form the new backbone for its products - and its equally of appeal to SAP HCM customers who are considering moving to the cloud.

    And the product has made significant progress not only in geographical reach and functionality - but also from a technology perspective - exposing its meta data framework to customers, who now can (surprise, surprise) use the HANA cloud integration to build customizations as well as integration with other systems. Given the recent additions of customization capabilities in the market, a smart and necessary move. 

    It was also very good to see that the product direction of EmployeeCentral is not to rebuild the SAP HCM functionality with all its bells and whistles, thus avoiding complexity and challenges that have come along implementing such a powerful, but consequently complex product family. Likewise (and for now) there seems to be no interest to solve the need for the (complex) US benefits automation - which is left to partners. The same is the answer for complex time requirements - where the partners are Kronos and Workforce (EmployeeCentral manages Time Off though). And again the same answer for BPO - where the partners are ADP and NorthgateArinso 

    For the BPO space I am willing to believe that the partner way will remain the SAP way - as for the benefits and time management pieces - only future will tell. We will be attentive observers if SAP will remain as firm in regards of direction when either the roadmap of EmployeeCentral is coming to a foreseeable maturation and / or on premise customers who want to move to the cloud will not only ask SAP - but all SaaS vendors - to provide complex time capabilities as part of an integrated suite. But for now the focused less is more perspective merits respect and applause.


    Going forward

    SuccessFactors will stick to the four yearly release cycle - and customers seem to be relatively happy with this cadence. It seems like the SuccessFactor release have proven to be quite digestible to the customer base, our informal conversations with attendees certainly pointed in that direction.

    Moreover, it will be interesting to see how many large implementations SuccessFactors has secured (Pepsi Co anyone) and they probably will put the product direction and resources under duress. We certainly wish that this will not be the case - but we have seen too many product road maps getting hijacked by large and strategic customers. SAP will have to play it smart here, which the organization certainly has the capability to do.

    The acid test to that questions is - where would SuccessFactors be with EmployeeCentral - had it remained a stand alone company. And one does not have to be wise man to foretell that SAP's funds and expertise have moved the EmployeeCentral product further along than a standalone SuccessFactors entity could have. But now SuccessFactors needs to balance out the needs of the talent management products vs the integration need and demand for EmployeeCentral. How fast e.g. the talent management products will uptake the meta data framework, and with that receive the ability to be customized, shed the old XML approach and use OData - will be an interesting milestone to watch.


    MyPOV

    One of the better user conferences we have attended, with energized products and excited customers. SAP will have to  let SuccessFactors do what they do best, built HCM SaaS products - and equally SuccessFactors needs to deliver not only on a modern core HR product with EmployeeCentral but equally a compelling and well integrated talent management suite with leading - or at least good enough - functionality. Start with the user interface. 

    You can find a collection of the tweet stream here

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    TIBCO's TUCON conference is just ending in Las Vegas and it's time to take a look at the key takeaways from the conference. If you missed it - replays of the keynotes are available here and I collected two Storify streams that you can find here and here.



    This was the 9th TUCON conference and TIBCO claimed it was it's best attended one. Good for the company and good for it's ecosystem. I personally liked the format with two long plenary keynote sessions in the morning - with executives, partners and customers presenting - and then in detail, hands on sessions in the afternoon. 


    The Integration Conundrum

    At the end of the day integration matters - and that's one of the reason why TIBCO is a key player these days - from it's original starting point as the information bus company. 

    Today enterprises face three fundamental options to solve their integration challenges:

    (1) Integrated enterprise software
    These enterprises trust their application vendor to provide most - if not all of their automation. The integration problem is solved by their enterprise software vendor. These vendors are the usual suspects - SAP, Oracle, Infor, NetSuite etc.

    (2) Enterprise software based integration
    These enterprises know, that they can rely on the vendors of scenario (1) to run most of their automation needs, but have to integrate some critical custom systems. Their application vendor's integration platform though is capable enough to address their integration needs - so these enterprises end up using e.g. Oracle's Fusion Middleware, SAP's NetWeaver (or more recently HANA Integration Platform) or Infor's ION plaform.

    (3) Integration Vendors
    The enterprises in this scenario know, that their enterprise software portfolio is too complex to get any of the vendors popular in scenario (1) to be an option and thus their integration needs are also too complex for these vendors integration platforms to move in the direction of scenario (2). On top of that, these enterprises do not want to become experts in n different integration platforms. So they choose a stand alone integration vendor and that's where e.g. TIBCO, Informatica and Software AG come into the picture, not to forget IBM.

    Does the cloud change anything on the above scenarios? Not really it just makes things more complex... as enterprises need to integrate not only on premise - but also towards cloud applications. And that requires the vendors in scenario (3) to provide good enough cloud integration, which brings us back to TIBCO - as this TUCON was really about more cloud adoption for TIBCO.


    TIBCO's 3 Big Bets

    Through the two days both TIBCO CEO Vivek Ranadivé and CTO Matt Quinn did not get tired at highlighting the three big bets that TIBCO is placing on the future:


    Slide from TIBCO investor presentation, find it here

    So not surprisingly TIBCO focuses on its strength in the integration area - and equally needs to address the cloud (see more below for Spotfire cloud deployments options). As many vendors with alternate and competing offerings to BigData, TIBCO chooses a co-existence strategy for BigData - allowing its products to filter and analyze streams and accelerate them with in-memory caches. The thing to watch is how TIBCO will be able to create value for BigData deployments - starting from the traditional event starting point, as in my view events and data are not the best friends to each other - events create data, but are data by themselves - and a lot of data is just there - with no trace of the events. And TIBCO considers this as data at rest - we will see how the BusinessEvents product can get a handle on this type of data.


    The BigData bet

    TIBCO plans to address the big data opportunity with a combination of 5 products. Obviously with Spotfire - that see a new release 6.0, and can look into Hadoop tables now. But the key work needs to be done by BusinessWorks - which gets a plug into Hadoop (the same one?), too. And needless to say TIBCO throws in recently acquired StreamBase, through which ideally enterprises would feed their Hadoop clusters, adding BusinessEvents to allow CEP and ActiveSpaces for an in memory acceleration. This all makes sense - but I am not sure if we will see that happening en masse in the near future. A data centric believer would e.g. just use Hadoop and memchache and look for patterns, BusinessEvents need to prove its value add over an open source product combination.


    Spotfire 6

    Hadoop keeps investing into Spotfire and with version 6 it deserves credit to make it easier for business users to create their own KPIs and dashboards. Coupled with new location based services (as e.g. recently discovered by SAP for HANA) - this creates new and nice visualization capabilities.


    Screenshot from WebCast

    The new Spotfire Event Analytics product sounded very interesting - but there was no chance to drill much deeper in the keynotes. Would be good to understand what patterns the product can pick up and even more interesting to learn how it then creates analytic applications.

    And finally - Spotfire makes its first steps to the cloud with three tiered offerings - as a full version in the cloud with an enterprise product, a work group level product and a personal product. Smart to tier the capabilities based on need - but we need more detail if the slicing is leaving the products powerful enough for their respective target groups.


    tibbr keeps growing

    And TIBCO's social product tibbr added mainly content management capabilities. With tibbr Pages, users can now create, publish, share and find content in the enterprise. But when you create content - you need files - so there is also tibbr Files - that integrates with all the usual end user content management tools like Dropbox, Box, Google Drive, Huddle (new partnership announced) and Sharepoint. And kudos to the tibbr team to realize that when you have files, you have often also to do work with them - so there is tibbr Tasks (are they paying attention at Box?).


    Screenshot from WebCast

    And the new tibbr UI and dashboard look pretty clean to me. The question remains - who wants a Switzerland for social - there is certainly a market for it - the question is how large is that market and how much of a challenge is it to build out all the integration features needed to maintain the neutral social platform status.


    So why hail?

    TIBCO has an amazing portfolio of products to help and assist the enterprise, it really can move the needle for enterprise performance - but in that lie also two key challenges. 

    The first one is messaging and education. The speed with which Matt Quinn had to rush through key product innovations (I particularly liked Project Austin) was either a consequence of bad time management and / or allotment - or - more my guess - the problem of a lot of things going on. 


    Screenshot from WebCast

    So the newly appointed CMO, Lori Wright, has her work cut out on how to streamline messaging, time management at user conference and customer education. 

    And the 2nd aspect is that this is a lot of product to build, maintain and keep enhancing. And while TIBCO spends well on R&D - with approximately 15% of revenue going to research - to make all customers and all products successful must be a day to day challenge for the product developers. 

    The good news is - hail may not come down from the sky as hail, but as much needed rain, it's back to TIBCO's management to make sure the weather is forecasted right for customers, partners and employees.

    MyPOV

    A very interesting user conference with some key sparks of innovation in the right places. Concerns remain if events are the right answer to tackle the big data deluge and how the company can maintain and extend it's extensive product portfolio.

    [Disclosure: I did not attend the TUCON conference in person - 4 weeks in a row in Las Vegas would have been too much even for me - but followed public available sources, peers on site, the video stream and Twitter.]

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    With salesforce.com announcing its entrance into the identity market, we thought it would be valuable to review this step from all three perspectives it entangles - security as tied to identity - Steve Wilson’s realm; CRM as salesforce.com is a CRM provider - Bruce Daley’s area; and lastly PaaS as covered by Holger Mueller.



    What’s News?


    After announcing the Salesforce Identity Connect at Dreamforce 2012, a significant beta phase followed and now the services were made available on the 15th of October. With that, Salesforce.com enters the IAM market and is the first enterprise application vendor to do so - though you may equally see this as a natural extension to its force.com PaaS platform too.

    The offering supports all the usual standards with SAML, OAuth, OpenID Connect and SCIM. Moreover it’s one of the first offerings to bridge a single sign on solution over traditional enterprise applications (e.g. Salesforce.com’s own applications) to productivity applications (e.g. Dropbox) and to social sites (e.g. Facebook). And equally it offers sign in services both for cloud, mobile and even on premise web applications. Not surprisingly Salesforce.com has bundled the identity offering with its social platform chatter to add further value to the offering.


    Capabilities like freezing the account of a terminated employee will certainly be very welcome by customers, and with multi factor authentication, the service is up to speed security standards wise. 

    The Identity & Privacy Angle - Steve Wilson

    Chuck Mortimore, Salesforce Identity’s VP for Product Management states their ambition to “[extend] user identities beyond the traditional firewall and into the cloud, providing a clear path for CIOs to embrace the cloud as the identity platform of the future”.

    The problem they’re solving has been called “herding apps”.  The enterprise application environment is getting more and more heterogeneous, in terms of both functionality and platforms.  CIOs and CTOs are supporting diverse workforces undertaking ever more complex tasks on phones, tablets, laptops and desktops (still!), with software in the cloud and on-prem.  Not to mention BYO Devices!  Enterprise software is all over the place: metaphorically and literally!

    Logon and access management have become nightmares for users and administrators alike.  And IT executives dread that they are compounding the problems every time they introduce a new app or a platform. But how can they not?

    Salesforce’s ambition is to tame this wilderness with a uniform interoperable identity layer Salesforce Identity sees the company become the hub to join all on-prem, mobile and cloud apps, through Single Sign On (SSO), Identity and Access Management (IDAM), directory integration and unified privileges administration.  They are not alone and they’re not the first with this kind of vision, but they have the platform to make it happen seamlessly.  Too often, Identity Management overdoes identity.  It’s really just a means to an end: it’s just the way we index users and match their rights to an enterprise’s resources.  Identity management technology must not inadvertently get in the way of how we know and show who people are.

    The strengths and attractions of Salesforce Identity are clear. It’s a thoroughly standards-based approach, with deep integration to Salesforce’s apps and platform, and great developer support for third party software enablement.  There are comprehensive dash boards and administrator consoles for managing accounts across the enterprise.  And Salesforce Identity leverages the familiarity, robustness and above all the regular pricing models of their Platform-as-a-Service.

    I myself remain sceptical about “Identity-as-a-Service”.   Can we have “Logon aaS”?  Sure.  
    “Privileges Admin aaS”? Absolutely, but these are not such sexy ideas.  Everyone uses “identity” in their marketing but we need to remember identity is really about business relationships, and it’s fiendishly difficult to serve up from a third party or an infrastructure (see “The Consumerization of Identity” here)
    .

    While Salesforce too talks about “Identity-as-a-Service”, I’m happy that their approach puts identity in its proper place: ultimately, it is special to the enterprise.


    The Salesforce Identity platform means that whatever the enterprise treats as representative of its users’ identities, those relationships remain sovereign, and become manageable uniformly and extensibly.  And because the Salesforce platform is already in the plumbing of so many enterprises, it is a formidable offering.

    The CRM Angle - Bruce Daley

    The message is simple, the meaning is clear. Adding identify management to Salesforce’s Force.com platform helps system administrators today, but will have its greatest implications for CRM in the distant future.

    The messsage from Salesforce is simple, identify management is associated with single sign on. Many internal help desks receive a majority of their calls from users who have forgotten their passwords and need help signing in. Have a single sign on reduces this burden (although it will never eliminate it) and identify management stands behind it.

    Eventually though identity management drives the adoption of a multi-tenancy “universal customer master”:  the most authoritative record of a person’s name, address, phone number, birthdate, and other basic identifying information. Right now, Salesforce has most of our contact information stored hundreds of times by different sales people. Since the company has a multi-tenancy data model, in theory everyone could use the same record. What has held this back has been determining who owns the master record. With a single sign on, an individual can own his or her own customer master and be responsible for authenticating and validating the personal information it represents. Of course it will take many years to achieve this, but once it does much of the labor of maintaining a CRM system will be eliminated and the meaning of that is clear.


    The PaaS Angle - Holger Mueller

    User onboarding remains one of the often overseen, last minute to be added before go live tasks when building custom applications. Sitting on a PaaS platorm like force.com that will take care of this right from the start is of significant value.

    And there are two dimension of that value proposition - one for using force.com as the directory platform, the second one for using a force.com application as a client to an outside directory service. The latter makes it easy for a custom application on force.com not to have to worry about the creation, maintenance and synchronization of users. The former scenario creates direct value to a new force.com application - as it now can be the source of truth and the directory for further platforms. We expect  many force.com ISVs to be excited of this new capability.


    Under the hood salesforce.com uses it’s own services for its own services and platforms, but has also signed a OEM agreement with ForgeRock for added capabilities. One of the key ones is, that Salesforce Identity Connect can also be used on premise - both for syncing with active directory or being a SSO solution for the web based, but locally running applications. 

    Salesforce.com’s move will be noted in the venerable IAM market - both by the traditional vendors CA, IBM and Oracle, as well as the newer vendors like e.g. Okta, OneLogin and Ping. It will be interesting to see if other enterprise vendors like e.g. SAP or Workday may make a foray into identity too.

    OurPOV

    A good move by Salesforce.com adding more value to its platform and creating a certain level of stickiness as user administration does - no matter if in the cloud or on premise. Special kudos for doing this move supporting standards and thus allowing good co-existence with other products - moving the focus to value for the end user and not lock in by the vendor, which is something we otherwise still see too often.

    Now it will be back to customer and vendor adoption to determine success.

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    I have meant to write this post since quite a while after hearing and learning a lot about the changes that are happening and travolging the system integrator (SI) industry. 



    For the longest time SI have been able to make a very good living by understanding customer requirements very well and applying that understanding to enterprise software implementations. In the course of the application of the customer's requirements to the enterprise software, the dreaded customization process was an inherent business development engine for the SI. The more the SI was able to understand a customer's business, the more likely it resulted into the further customization of an enterprise software package. That not only resulted into more immediate implementation work, but created follow up business with every update and patch the customer would decide and be forced to take by its enterprise system vendor, since this re-triggered a new wave of validation and testing. Possibly updating documentation and training materials. 


    Enters the cloud

    There are many benefits to the deployment of cloud based solutions - but they also come with a largely take it as it is approach. Some vendors in the past even proudly stated that a cloud based solution does not allow for any customization at all - but that is rightfully changing in the last quarters, with e.g. Workday allowing more advanced customization techniques.

    But the real damage to the SI community has been done - no matter how much more the vendors will allow to customize - here are two data points that show how the SI business has changed:

    • The largest SI partner of a leading HCM cloud product in North America, that does based on independent estimates 20-30% of the North American business - is a 130 employee company with approximately 90+ consultants.
    • The expo show at the yearly user conference of one of the larger HCM cloud providers featured only 2 larger booths - the rest was smaller stand up booths. Contrast that with the recent user conference of a mixed on premise and cloud provider where the were over two dozen large SI booths - most of them multi story.


    Strategies going forward


    So for the SI's to remain the companies in the future, that they are today and what they used to be - they need to identify new services and offerings to ensure revenue and growth keep intact. 


    Here are a few strategy blueprint fragments than could position a SI as a winning provider as the cloud transforms the industry:
    • Services shift – SI workloads and revenues are under pressure due to the lower implementation complexity of SaaS products.  So it comes back for SIs to switch from lesser paid roles to roles that have a future in the new SaaS reality that is dawning on enterprises. On the lower end this can be testing services. The continuous release updates by the SaaS vendors creates a testing burden on their customers and providing a system validation service as a turnkey service is a viable business. From there SIs should explore higher paid services such as the creation of training materials, the recording of online tutorials and the hand holding and training of enterprise employees when a new release becomes available. And ultimately there are even higher paid validation services in the area of system certification e.g. in regards of compliance with public safety and heath standards. Likewise there is higher level news service opportunity in validating and documenting new upcoming SaaS releases for specific customers groups.

    • New services – We see the need for both a cloud architecture as well as cloud integration services. And while SIs have setup numerous cloud practices, the integration aspect across different clouds and cloud and on premise is still in its infancy. But this will be a sizeable chunk of SI revenue that can be derived from the cloud – so it’s important to prepare for this upcoming business. It gets more challenging going forward, as the SaaS providers are trying to change the integration game by building integration as a provider delivered feature – see the recent plans of Oracle to integrate Fusion Financials and HCM with Salesforce.com’s CRM products. And how to invest and try to get a leg up on the competition was recently also demonstrated by Deloitte, who are building the integration between NetSuite and Oracle Fusion HCM.

    • New product opportunities – While today most SIs live and breathe in the ecosystems of the respective vendors they partner with, the cloud gives SIs the option to create new products that integrate and create a value add with the older still running on premise products of their customers. And if architected and built right – a piece of complimentary business automation to on premise enterprise system may well work across on premise vendors, offering the SI the opportunity to grow beyond the original single vendor ecosystem, usually dictated by the technology choices of the vendor.

    • 3rd party maintenance – Though this is a tricky subject in regards of vendor relations – we expect a growing number of enterprises thoroughly evaluating 3rd party maintenance options. With the advent of enterprises moving their automation to the cloud – there will be remaining islands of automation that will have to be maintained. And while they will ultimately be replaced –enterprise may not want to pay for the full cost of maintenance anymore and look for 3rd party maintenance. So while not a very long term business field – we see a growth in this market for the next 3-6 years depending on cloud adoption by enterprises and on the pricing and product strategy of the on premise vendors.

    • New business rationale – Finally the cloud allows to de-emphasize technology and shift from vendor specific technology choices to a business rationale that focuses on outcomes. We are already seeing enterprises questioning technology less as long as it’s in the cloud (and of course safe and secure etc). Herein lies the opportunity of SIs to create attractive automation portfolios regardless of technology base, potentially cross vendor, ideally complemented with own product offerings – with a strong focus of selling outcomes to enterprises. SIs capitalizing early on this trend and creating barriers to copy to the competition with investment in own products will do well, based on conversations we have with forward thinking and innovative enterprises.


    MyPOV

    We are seeing a fundamental transformation of the SI business. It not only matters directly to the SIs - but likewise to the enterprises using them - since what may have been a SI powerhouse of the past, maybe that partner who literally misses the boat (or the plane) to the cloud. And equally vendors need to be careful as the big names of the past and present may not be the big names of the future.

    P.S. And for those wondering on the origin of travolved - I am paying homage to the language that I learnt before English, which is Italian - and Italian has this beautiful verb travolgere - which stands for as much as to sweep away, to overwhelm. Anglicists and Romanists alike may please pardon the free conjugation of the verb in an English text. And then... all analysts need to work on an unique brand, I am sure you got that already..

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    Today was the opening keynote of TechEd 2013 and despite some nothing new pre-leaks - there were some substantial announcements and takeaways - I will concentrate on my top three takeaways - probably more later during the week.


    It is a little more than a 100 days since Vishal Sikka has taken over the reins of all product development - and he is wasting no time to get things done, even if this is hard and potentially unpopular decisions.

    Takeaway #1 - SAP's to be landscape becomes clear

    This is the first time I have heard an SAP executive publicly acknowledging the littered system landscape that SAP has accumulated through the years both internally and through acquisition - nothing says it better than the picture Sikka drew during the keynote:


    Name your systems - it is a lot of parallel and redundant code and functionality - so let's look at the SAP to-be architecture:


    So not surprisingly we will see the following in the near and far future from SAP:

    • Of course HANA is the database of choice here - no surprise. Already today HANA has database services, application services are newer and application libraries are the future. It will be interesting to see what they will be, when they ship and if they are available and ready to be consumed by customers and / or partners.

    • And HANA Cloud Platform (HCP) is the basis for building new applications - and will not only be used to build completely new applications as a separate tech stack (on the left as the illustration implies) but also complement and permeate in the tech stacks of the existing apps (the ones painted in black). This is where the (very) hard work will have to happen for SAP and for probably a (very) long time. Definitively the area to watch for existing clients. 

    • More surprising was that the Fiori paradigm was also chosen as the UI paradigm going forward. And while Fiori is a welcome and good innovation by SAP - it has more focussed on high usage, simple, often self service scenarios - so it will have to be extended for more dense, power user screens and UI demands that SAP needs to satisfy as an enterprise application vendor. Nothing impossible - but new things to cover and create by Sam Yen and team.

    Takeaway #2 - SAP gets serious on Analytics - partners with SAS

    This is probably one of the best mutually acknowledging each other leadership partnership I have seen in a long time. SAP acknowledges SAS leadership as the analytical tool of choice of data scientists and SAS acknowledges that HANA is a mature database platform to deploy models to and run analytical application on. 

    At the same time SAP keeps its own ambitions in the analytics space - notably after the KXEN acquisition - so we witness another of the recently more and more popular co-opetition partnerships. These can go well - but can also be problematic.

    But the prize is clear - if SAP manages to make HANA the database of choice for model building by the data scientists using SAS - then it can become the de-facto analytical database of choice for the enterprise. A (free?) bundle of SAS with Hana One - maybe on a larger AWS instance, say 10 GB of RAM - would not hurt that process. 

    Takeaway #3 - SAP fixes mobile - technology wise 

    With the announcement of version 3.0 of the SAP Mobile Platform SAP makes a key step towards fixing it challenged mobile track record. Out is much of the proprietary and all clunky Sybase pieces - and in is a standards based, open sourced mobile development platform. This will help capture both talent and capacity for new mobile applications. More to come, stay tuned, not my colleagues Chris Marsh's quote in the press release here.

    So if you follow the software life cycle, once you fix the architecture, you can build great applications, when you have great applications - you have to get the price right. SAP now has some time to address the latter.

    MyPOV

    A good keynote with nice touches like an intro by Alan Kay, a reference to Gutenberg, a leitmotiv in reference to Bert Engelbert's ABC model applied to SAP (we will see how hifi that is in a few quarters) and three key takeaways. It will be a huge challenge for SAP to move to the to be landscape - and many details will have to follow - but the urgency is seen and noticed by the shrinking on premise apps, as Sikka stated and my colleague Dennis Howlett just report here

    And oh yes - tons of improvements around HANA, but that wasn't a surprise (anymore).  



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    Earlier this week NetSuite announced that it has entered a definitive agreement to acquire TribeHR, the Canadian partner that prides themselves to be one of the first social HR vendors, having been founded in 2009 - in the midst of the social boom, thus building their product on a social foundation.  




    Did anyone mention HCM is hot?

    We may be biased - but it definitively looks like companies really start paying attention at their largest expense - people... and as the the long labelled war for talent seems to be starting slowly but steady, that trend does not stop with the SMB companies. 

    Coincidentally SMB companies are even more dependent on their key talent than larger companies, but have in the past (usually) not been a part of the whole Talent Management hype. Now they realize that their employees are prone to the pitches of the larger enterprises and SMBs need to react with HCM strategy, practice and technology products. 

    So the need for talent acquisition and retention is coming to SMB, and with a force as we can see with the pivots that the SMB-Suite SaaS market leader is maneuvering through. In May it was a partner a let all flowers bloom strategy with many partners and offering customers choice (see here), that was complemented with the Oracle partnership in June (our take here) and now the acquisition of one of the more advanced partners from May - with TribeHR.


    Why TribeHR?

    We gave NetSuite good grades for the original partner strategy announced back at SuiteWorld - but raised the concern that offering multiple user interfaces is not a user - in this case you may want to say people - friendly situation. Many HCM functions happen so infrequently that plodding along a familiar user interface is a great win. And TribeHR addressed that more than some other partners with building code and product on the NetSuite platform...

    And then TribeHR certainly was one of the larger and more mature vendors in the partnership portfolio - potentially only ecclipsed by Silkroad - but not sure if Silkroad was even open to an acquisition conversation... and certainly has a different path to HCM than TribeHR had. 

    And kudos go to TribeHR to have consistently leveraged social - as LinkedIn and Facebook capabilities permeate the product.

    HCM @ NetSuite

    So NetSuite now has a pretty good HCM suite and is definitively a contender in the big race we described here - it has good core HR functionality, a relatively new (but key) recruiting product and solid performance management. That completes well with NetSuite's existing (basic) time management and more as part of the the Employee Resource Management module (expenses, purchases, collaboration), Incentive Compensation and the Payroll Services option. 

    What's missing - and we will see how NetSuite will address this - is onboarding, learning and compensation - not all the way on the top for a SMB - but arguably with the rest of HCM automation being addressed - will get equally important - probably sooner than NetSuite thinks today - and we will see how quickly they will respond. And of course Payroll remains a major pain point, especially for SMBs... likewise an area to watch. And finally we think NetSuite needs to keep investing into recruiting - for the aforementioned reasons why HCM gets so relevant for SMBs - all about the acquisition and retention of talent. 

    Confusion in the ecosystem on HCM strategy?

    The pivots that NetSuite has been doing with its HCM strategy - though the company will not call them like that - are substantial and the company needs to clarify messaging with both customer and partners. Our take in June was that the Oracle partnership addressed the global HR and talent needs the partners could not address - and while TribeHR is not an Oracle Fusion HCM - it certainly gives NetSuite more automation in that area. 

    And then NetSuite will have to stick to the strategy and execute - nothing creates confidence better with prospects, customers and partners to execute and deliver to a roadmap.

    MyPOV

    As mentioned - HCM is key for SMB, too. Kudos go to NetSuite to quickly and aggressively address that need and not be shy to pivot as needed. It is getting a good asset and a talented team with the TribeHR acquisition. 

    Now it will be time time execute, create a road map, address the remaining gaps in the HCM portfolio, clarify the partner go to market. Exciting times and ultimately good news for the NetSuite customers. 


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    So much has been written about the CMO outspending the CIO in the recent months, I do not even recall who started the whole conversation (Gartner I think?). Doesn’t matter anymore at this point as it has taken off beyond expectations with not only the enterprise software vendors selling to CMOs – but all the journalists, analyst, pundits etc blog and talk about it.



    The whole rationale has baffled me for the longest time – since the CIO has always been spending (or watching over) other departments budgets to automate the enterprise. Real pure CIO spend is maybe on tools to run IT better (ALM etc.) or the tools to build – should the enterprise choose in house– custom apps. Otherwise the CIO has been spending other department’s money all the time. So where is the news?


    The only CIO vs LOB connection I can make out in the history of IT is, that the first automation happened in Finance – so no wonder so many CIOs report to the CFO. And surely the CIOs never moved around with their reporting structure following the enterprise spend – so they did not move from Finance to Manufacturing, to HR etc. And agreed it helps, that the CFO is one of the few neutral executives in the enterprise, looking for the enterprise as a whole, not a slice of the organization. One more reasons CIOs have and will keep reporting to CFOs.


    The news certainly is, that with the rise of social, a subset of the overall enterprise relationships have become digital and with that they can become part of software. But they are only a subset of the relationships that matter to the enterprise – just look how many sales people climb in airplanes and cars every day to see customers face to face. How many service technicians ride their vans to repair / maintain something. And so on.

    And rightfully those digital relationships should be monitored, planned and run where they have been monitored ,planned and run the whole time – in marketing. And equally rightfully the CMO is the chief decision maker and designer of enterprise relationships. So if the news is, that the CMO is owning, influencing a large part of the enterprise IT spend in the teenage years of the 21st century, then we all agree.


    But for delivering on the promise of the digital relationship for the enterprise – the CMO will have to make sure that these relationships are known, lived and updated across all touch points of the enterprise. And that’s where the CMO needs the CIO, not just a little bit, but the CMO needs the CIO a lot - badly. What other chance does a CMO have to make sure relationships are handled in accordance to the fine tuned customer segments and their related digital interaction patterns?


    And this matters – as historically – next to sales people – the marketing people have been voluntary users. .Which means nobody will force them to use any software as long as they do a great job. Their usage of installed enterprise software is… voluntary. Ever heard of the top sales people being fired because they did not use the forecast methodology required – as long as they save the quarter every 3 months? Likewise the marketer who excels at promoting an enterprises brand and provides higher quality leads every quarter – will never have a tough conversation on staying with the enterprise because he / she is not using a certain system.


    So it’s good news, that the CMO gets more of the IT spend, the real looser is not the CIO – who the CMO needs as an ally and enabler of company wide marketing segments and their related resource commitments, but the leaders of the other lines of business. Enterprises do not magically increase their IT spend because now there are tools for marketing to sense what is happening in the social world, to run electronic campaigns, to plan digital interaction patters etc. So the CFO, CSO, COOs are the losers in the equation. 

    But ultimately they aren’t either for two reasons: Firstly, it’s good if their enterprise rethinks 
    customer relationships in the digital age – and better sooner than later. And secondly investment will shift to them. Once the CMOs and their teams know what is going on with the digital relationships of the enterprise and can plan to shape and execute them to their desire – then the consistency of these digital relationships becomes more important, all along the enterprises’ value chain.


    So the news is really that we see a seasonality in IT spending, due to the advent of the digitization of the enterprise relationships. Rightfully that process starts with marketing, but as soon as that is mastered in the enterprise, and the wave of making digital relationships actionable, measurable and consistent to relationship patterns will next hit sales, the manufacturing and then service.


    Will there be news in a few years that the CSO spends more than the CIO (and the CMO)? I doubt it. By then everyone will have understood and accepted the seasonality of IT expenditure. And through the whole time the CIO will have managed and invested the enterprises’ IT budget – on behalf of the enterprise priorities.


    MyPOV

    The CIO vs CMO debate is silly, as the CIO has always served other enterprise function budgets. As technology evolves – those investment areas shift. But instead of potentially alienating CMOs and CIOs  – it’s more important to reflect what the CMO really needs and wants from the other CxOs – the adoption and execution of the digital relationship patterns the enterprise is supposed to have – as crafted by the CMOs and their teams, executed with highly desired consistency across the other CxO’s teams and implemented, operated and overseen – by the … CIO. So please stop debating and get back to business – shape the business model transformation that is enabled by the technology at hand right now. Totally fine (and reasonable) to start in marketing.




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    In the aftermath of SAP’s TechEd conference in Las Vegas last week – a few things have crystallized out – that really are setting up the company for the years to come.



    A few months ago I blogged about how SAP wants to be a technology company, based on my impressions of a visit in Palo Alto. Well after TechEd you did not have to read between the lines to understand that SAP wants to be a cloud company, that was made abundantly clear in keynote, sessions and briefings.

    SAP – a tech company already!

    The surprise in an early briefing with Steve Lucas and his Platform Solution Group (PSG), was, that Q3 revenue done by PSG was slightly above 50%. That by itself is an inflection point for SAP, and it looks like SAP is becoming a technology company much faster than (at least I had) anticipated. Now of course it remains to be seen how Q4 goes, a critical quarter for the company – and in Q4 applications may well take over the majority of revenue. Definitively something to keep an eye on – and if I was one of the financial analysts to ask questions on the earnings call in January 2014 – there goes my question.


    HANA everywhere

    Already at the Success Connect user conference 2 weeks earlier, SAP executives tried to make sense on of the very practice of naming everything HANA. It’s a product (database) and an adjective (platform) was one of the best attempts at sorting out the confusion that SAP has created. Worse to hear, that there are rumors that only products named HANA can get funding. SAP would be well advised to sort out the naming confusion – it makes it just easier for all in the SAP ecosystem… Hoping for a Sapphire cleanup here.


    HANA – database – moves along

    The HANA database offering is moving along, with good uptake of the Suite on HANA and equally on the function and feature side. The upcoming release (service pack) 7 is interesting and makes appetite for more, the ecosystem is eager to know what will be in release (service pack) 8.


    The concerns for HANA remain around insert performance, elasticity and the need for a standard benchmark. On insert performance SAP is the most silence, on elasticity SAP has made progress (though I wasn’t briefed, but trusted the sources) – on the benchmark SAP needs to put a stake in the ground. No database offering of recent time has been out there without a standardized and published performance test. The longer SAP lets this linger, the worse for HANA adoption.


    HANA – platform – good news

    This was actually the most encouraging piece of TechEd. SAP has taken the former skunkworks project around the lean Java Sever from some years ago and formed a pretty compelling, open standards based platform. And it can do more than just develop applications for HANA – the database – so this makes is a general platform – and SAP would like to see it as a PaaS. Not positioning it like that, and non even naming PaaS in the keynote was an omission in my view. You can see some of the success and uptake with the meta framework on which the SuccesFactors EmployeeCentral application has been built. Or equally the soon to be release employee helpdesk application.


    SAS and HANA

    This was one of the more exciting announcements – if you ever worked as a data scientist or looked at how they work, you know moving and crunching data with ease is key. Making it easier with a bundle is a good move. If SAP executes this partnership right then it could make HANA the default platform of choice under SAS – a huge win for the company. On the flipside – given HANA’s in memory speed advantages, it is very close to not building models in the traditional way – but simply bootstrapping them – something that will not be favored by the data scientist using SAS. SAP will have to balance the two capabilities and interests.


    Fiori needs to grow up fast

    In his keynote drawing session, Sikka painted Fiori as the to be user interface for the future SAP applications and anything to be build on the HANA cloud platform. And while Fiori has great DNA (e.g. built on top of HTML5) - it needs to grow up quickly to become more than a casual, light weight user interface. Both SAP and coveted developers building enterprise applications on the HANA cloud platform will need a more dense, professional user interface. That's where business is done in today's enterprise applications - and while it's not the perfect usability, professional user productivity is well there. So Fiori (Italian for flowers) needs to become Alberi (Italian for trees) quickly. 

    Mobile

    I highlighted the new mobile environment and platform as one of my key takeaways of the keynote – and more detailed briefings confirmed that first impression. Similar to the HANA cloud platform, SAP moves away from many of the older Sybase products and solutions and favors more attractive standard and open source based components for the next generation of mobile applications – both to develop internally and to be the tool in the developer community.


    Technology vendors need adoption and mind share

    As SAP becomes more a technology vendor – it needs to cater more to the independent developer and get mind share in the development community. This is probably the largest challenge for SAP from a perception and positioning side – and there are no easy answers, no shortcuts to get there.

     The SAP Startup program is doing a very good job, aided by generous budgets and certainly has caught the attention of startups. But a similar effort needs to happen as an outreach to the traditional SAP SI partners and to the next generation of developers – if SAP wants to compete as a technology company. When asked by a SAP executive how SAP was doing with developers, a colleague simply stated that SAP is buying them. And there is some truth to that.  

    It was encouraging to see that SAP executives start to mention Salesforce.com as the de facto standard platform for building enterprise applications more often – which is correctly perceived in the market and by development resources as the platform to beat momentarily.

    So SAP TechEd will need to become one of the conferences – or change its nature dramatically – to cater more for ISVs, for partners, who create value added applications and ultimately – for the independent developer. And then SAP needs to do even more for mindshare. The developer meetup organized in parallel to TechEd in Palo Alto is a good start, but it's like getting ready for the Ironman, you are on the way the start line - haven't even started to race yet. 


    Elasticity remains a concern

    And while SAP is committed to be a cloud company, bringing up the elasticity of the offering (in  my view the  most important – make it or brake it feature of a cloud platform) with SAP technologists is almost a deer in the headlights situation. And partially the way how SAP does cloud – with bring your own license and yearlong sign ups – is not something that makes elasticity the top of mind issues. 

    The good news is when talking more about it – SAP executives understand why it matters for the TCO of running in the cloud – and with that for price performance and profitability. We will have to see how well SAP can tune it’s offerings – or even better - design them from the ground up for an elastic world.


    MyPOV

    SAP clearly wants to create the business application cloud platform of the future. We need to see if the existing corporate DNA will allow that – it’s a long way from being the market leader for on premise business applications to become an infrastructure (and hopefully also a successful business application contender / ) leader in the cloud. And we previously observed that the new organizational structure points to cloud here.

    On the road to cloud SAP faces a number of significant challenges – but equally has made good progress (HANA – database) and a promising start (HANA – platform). 

    My biggest new concern for SAP will be a separate post and coming soon. 

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    On October 30th IBM communicated to its SmartCloud Enterprise customers that they will have to move to SoftLayer cloud environments - latest by January 31st 2014. This is the first and possibly the largest move between cloud infrastructures of the same vendor that has happened so far in the short history of the cloud.



    IBM is definitively moving fast here - the SoftLayer acquisition was announced on June 4th 2013 and closed on July 8th 2013 - and now IBM plans to have all workloads moved off its original infrastructure - SmartCloud Enterprise (SCE) in the next three months.


    It's a move not an exodus

    As the cloud business matures there are changes on the vendor side - may it be through business changes - or in this case due to an acquisition. The Nirvanix situation, where the vendor went out of business and gave customers 2 weeks to move their data out before servers would be shut down was more a forced exodus than a move. We can only hope that in the future of similar unfortunate events the vendors will give customer a little more time.

    In the IBM case it's different as IBM wants SCE customers to move from one IBM infrastructure to another, newer and better (as we think) IBM infrastructure - so it's really a move for customers.


    SoftLayer beats SCE

    An acquisition can change everything, so IBM praises the SoftLayer datacenters, that have received some well deserved investment recently, the more modern infrastructure, the bare metal capabilities, the integrated and simplified environment with one portal, one API, one platform etc.

    So current SCE customers are moving from a 3 star to a 4 star hotel - definitively a better place to stay. They should make sure that they are still paying comparable prices... and it is my current understanding that IBM is offering to all customers equivalent SCE pricing on the SoftLayer cloud infrastructure.


    Establishment of move standards?

    As mentioned this is the first major intra vendor infrastructure cloud move. We may see the 3 month time frame that IBM has given to customers to become the new standard for similar situations. And 3 months is certainly better than the 2 weeks like in the Nirvanix situation.

    Additionally IBM offers migration tools and documentation, which hopefully will likewise establish a new standard for cloud infrastructure moves.


    What about SmartCloud Enterpise+ ?

    The hosted offering of SmartCloud Enterprise+ (SCE+) is not affected by this move. In SCE+ IBM runs more complex environments for customers. These may prove (still) to complex for the SoftLayer infrastructure to run - so IBM may have started with the low hanging fruit. But we advise SCE+ customers to actively talk to IBM and find out what the future plans for SCE+ are.


    How big is the move?

    This was one of the key questions I had with peers and colleagues. At this point only IBM knows how many customers and loads are really in SCE. Maybe it's less than we expect -  maybe it's more - we will see if there is potential noise around this announcement for the right (and hopefully not for the wrong) reasons. 


    MyPOV

    Kudos to IBM for moving fast, moving customers to the better offering and communicating  this with an appropriate transition time frame. Basically SoftLayer will become the foundation of the IBM cloud portfolio.

    We will have to see how significant a move this is going to be - but it certainly establishes a precedence for the industry - on good and acceptable standards for customers. 

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