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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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    Enjoying my first week of no work related travel for 2014 I watched the keynote of HR 2014 remotely – many thanks to WisPubs for that service. I did the same in 2013 – so it’s a good way to compare the two events, and what a difference a year makes. For reference hereare my 2013 takeaways.

    Top 3 Keynote takeaways

    Trying to keep this a short post – here are my top 3 takeaways from the Price / Ludlow keynote:

    1. SAP paints the wider SaaS message– Not surprisingly Price painted the larger SaaS message – beyond HCM, which is ultimately his new organizational responsibility, too. But it could be clearer what the benefits are for e.g. running SuccessFactors with procurement or CRM in the cloud. SAP generally struggles with the topic – see Calderoni’s ill-fated pitch of procurement to the assembled Sapphire audience last year. It’s not clear what makes this hard – except for the integration challenges that are present across the difference platforms. But that should in my view not hold SAP back to draw the larger picture, combine it with a roadmap and deliver to it.
    2. EmployeeCentral is where the investment is– Confirming what we have been seeing – this is where most of the investment and traction is for SAP. More localization and more payroll support coupled with a good and well sellable ecosystem strategy are the things that work very well for EmployeeCentral. SAP has gone beyond adding pure functionality and with the Upgrade Center has made it easier for customers to identify upgrade induced changes and control their update via the “Update Now” button.

      On the flipside SAP needs to keep in mind its talent management capabilities remain competitive – at least good enough – starting with the recruiting area. But it looks this area is quiet and that Learning may see earlier investment.
    3. On premise is alive and well– SAP keeps delivering based on its HCM renovation commitment and deserves kudos as it delivers to roadmap – with payroll investment scheduled for 2014. The new payroll administration screens look very good – think of Fiori UI experience for SAP Payroll. Conveniently these investments complement the EmployeeCentral payroll offering, too – so SAP is seeing a good return of R&D investment.

          General Takeaways

    • What a difference 12 months can make– HR2013 was all about showing that SAP is serious in keeping investment in SAP HCM. The new ESS / MSS user interface was shown and has now been delivered. SAP has delivered to its renovation roadmap and is finishing this around payroll. But SAP did not address the roadmap beyond 2014 for SAP HCM – something the company needs to do latest at Sapphire. Still the bulk of SAP’s HCM customers are on SAP HCM and pay decent maintenance dollars. With last year’s promise of maintaining SAP HCM till 2020, SAP needs to show value for on premise HCM in form of a new roadmap soon.

    • Payroll remains SAP’s higher ground– At some point SAP should erect a monument for Klaus Tschira, the SAP co-founder who was allowed to ‘dabble’ in HCM by his peers and who was key at coming up with the infotype architecture and a sleek payroll engine. Certainly SAP had the location advantage of being based in Europe to understand multiple statutory and language requirements better than other e.g. US based vendors. So the investment into around 50+ country support for payroll remains untouched and a formidable challenge for its competitors. And SAP is wisely propagating and rightfully messaging this. As long as payroll remains a minefield enterprises need to walk through once (or even twice) a month – solving and addressing that by one vendor is of immense value to clients. Couple that with the talent management and include payroll information in advanced analytics remains a very powerful foundation for making the right HCM decisions.

    • A working ecosystem strategy– SAP is doing well with its 4 step ecosystem strategy – of SAP to SAP integration (well not really ecosystem), joint go to market partners, 3rd party pre-delivered content and (43 certified) SI partners. Sometimes partnerships work well because they are needed and SAP (really) needs good answers for US benefits and workforce management (Kronos and Workforce).

    • Progress on transition scenarios– SAP did a good job running the audience through the three transition scenarios from on premise to cloud based offerings. SAP offers to run talent in the cloud or a full cloud based HCM offering. And then there is the (I guess originally inspired by byDesign) side by side scenario of running cloud HCM in subsidiaries and staying on premise at headquarters. The latter scenario is where we see customers looking for complimentary cloud based solutions – if they do not have them already. But now SAP has an offering for this scenario. 

    • Solid innovation – SAP showed improvements for Onboarding and Succession Management. But the highlight of the show was certainly its Headlines functionality. Making business data presentable has been always manual labor coupled with Microsoft Office skills. With the new Headlines functionality HCM transaction data comes alive in e.g. Microsoft PowerPoint, and not in a static way – but with embedded links, that lead back to the transactional information. User will be delighted.

    • Integration concerns – One of the overall challenges we have been addressing and seeing for SAP is the lack of a competitive integration tool / middleware. The answer used to be NetWeaver PI, but it’s unlikely that this will be the backbone for integrating products SAP has acquired, legacy older SAP products and new (HANA built) SAP products – or even now partner built products (see our takeaway of the new SAP / Accenture Group here). And will HANA Cloud Platform is making progress – its integration capabilities do not seem to be first order of investment priority. Let’s not forget that EmployeeCentral was created while SuccessFactors was still an independent company, making it the integration tool and repository for the various product that the company had acquired.

      This puts SAP at a disadvantage in integration scenarios – that are the daily challenge for HCM applications these days – compared to vendors with standalone sold middleware (e.g. Oracle, IBM), vendors that have created such a platform (e.g. Infor) or vendors that have acquired and extended that platform for their needs (e.g. Workday).


    While last year HR conference was all about re-assuring the install base about SAP’s continued investment on SAP HCM – this years was all about EmployeeCentral and cloud. And while this is certainly the right long term direction – and fully what we have heardfrom SAP’s executive board - SAP still needs to address the roadmap for its on premise product. With an end of life timeframe till 2020 and these customers paying a decent amount of maintenance dollars – SAP will have to address the continued HCM roadmap soon – ideally at Sapphire. Otherwise the hard earned and well deserved trust for renovating it’s on premise HCM product will quickly dissipate.

    On premise SAP HCM customers that will stay on premise for the foreseeable future will need to start asking the question better sooner than later.

    A collection of tweets during the keynote can be found in the Storify collection here

    More about SAP HCM:

    • SuccessFactors shows a lot of promise – but – read here.
    • Life in transition is hard – SAP HCM – read here.

    More about SAP technology:

    • News Analysis – SAP slices and dices into more Cloud, and of course more HANA – read here.
    • SAP gets serious about open source and courts developers – about time – read here.
    • My top 3 takeaways from the SAP TechEd keynote – read here.
    • SAP discovers elasticity for HANA – kind of – read here.
    • Can HANA Cloud be elastic? Tough – read here.
    • SAP’s Cloud plans get more cloudy – read here.
    • HANA Enterprise Cloud helps SAP discover the cloud (benefits) – read here.

    And more on overall SAP strategy

    • News Analysis – SAP and Accenture partner – more of the old or something new? Read here.
    • Now that SAP is a tech company – it wants to be cloud company – read here.
    • SAP’s startup program keep rolling – read here.
    • Why SAP acquired KXEN? Getting serious about Analytics – read here.
    • SAP steamlines organization further – the Danes are leaving – read here.
    • Reading between the lines… SAP Q2 Earnings – cloudy with potential structural changes – read here.
    • SAP wants to be a technology company, really – read here
    • Why SAP acquired hybris software – read here.
    • SAP gets serious about the cloud – organizationally – read here.
    • Taking stock – what SAP answered and it didn’t answer this Sapphire [2013] – read here.
    • Act III & Final Day – A tale of two conference – Sapphire & SuiteWorld13 – read here.
    • The middle day – 2 keynotes and press releases – Sapphire & SuiteWorld – read here.
    • A tale of 2 keynotes and press releases – Sapphire & SuiteWorld – read here.
    • What I would like SAP to address this Sapphire – read here.
    • Why 3rd party maintenance is key to SAP’s and Oracle’s success – read here.
    • Why SAP acquired Camillion – read here.
    • Why SAP acquired SmartOps – read here.
    • Next in your mall – SAP and Oracle? Read here.

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    This week marked the general availability (GA) of two milestones for the cloud. Let take a look why they are milestones and their implications on the industry and customers …

    Microsoft announces GA of Oracle Software on Windows Azure

    Two days before MicrosoftBuild 2013 more details on the partnership were released, refined at OpenWorld and the offerings has now come to GA. This is a milestone because normally large tech stack vendors do not mix and match products in the cloud, the original announcement could have well passed as an April fool’s joke. But it wasn’t and it’s good to see it is GA now.

    Having (as Microsoft calls) it the mission critical Oracle software as part of Azure, is certainly a coup for Microsoft. Windows Azure has now appeal for Java shops, with Oracle supporting and Microsoft enabling Java deployments on Azure. And having WebLogic and the Oracle Database available for Windows Azure customers is certainly also good news for them –as it gives them more choices. And ultimately it gives Microsoft the opportunity to actively target Windows apps running on Oracle on premise as potential candidates to move to Windows Azure. Only the executives in Redmond will know why Microsoft even went to partner with Oracle for the database – but rumors on the scalability of SQL Server are still around. So Microsoft gets a proven and scalable database for Windows Azure clients – a good move.

    For Oracle it’s a validation that the company wants to remains an arms dealer in the technology race. As the Oracle database ran on various Windows operating systems it now runs also on Azure. Replace Windows operating systems with Windows cloud operating system (called Azure). And it does not look like traditional Oracle competitors IBM and Sybase (or SAP with HANA) would land a similar deal soon. We also see it as beneficial for Oracle, as it does have to open its technology stack a little more than it would have otherwise – supporting the Microsoft hypervisor Windows Hyper-V.

    Amazon announces Amazon AppStream is now available to all customers

    Earlier this week Amazonannounced that its AppStream product is now available for all customers (Amazon does not use the term GA). This is a milestone because AWS for the first time bundles together multiple assets to provide a more advanced platform based service for developer than ever before. [Amazon AR reminds me of Amazon Elastic MapReduce and Amazon Elastic Transcoder, fair enough, so adding here - but I see them as less of a bundle than Amazon Appstream (e.g. the Transcoder - or pieces of it - are probably part of AppStream) - this my personal hopefully educated guess).] 

    Amazon AppStream is of significant value to companies developing compute intensive applications that at the same time require a significant download of data. So instead of downloading the data and re-computing it on a local device – why not just stream the screens to the device. This not only has bandwidth advantages, but also allows to stream to platforms that not even have the compute power to render these advances applications themselves. Consider smartphones and tablets as such devices. This has the potential to change not only the gaming industry (AWS showcase is a gaming company) but also (true) analytics and BigData fields. Coupling e.g. Amazon Kinesis with Amazon AppStream should make some powerful (and cool) applications.

    And it’s a smart move by Amazon – we assume that the company is shrewdly putting together the assets from its experience of streaming Netflix content into the AppStream product. Think of AppStream being a more souped-up video streaming client that enables interactivity. And at least the initial load of AppStream should be very manageable to the infrastructure that Amazon supports for Netflix. It maybe even a great load balancing move – as e.g. game loads may behave differently than video streaming loads (e.g. there is a gaming spike when school is out – but no video streaming spike, which is after dinner). Ultimately AppStream does what all cloud providers want – it drives load and with that utilization. And in true retailer DNA fashion AWS offers the first 20 hours free, then at 8.3 cents per hour, which includes all compute, operating system and bandwidth costs. 

    We also see the Amazon WorkSpaces product in the same category – but it is still in limited preview.

    Implications for customers

    More choice is always a good thing for customers. When tech giants like Microsoft and Oracle partner - it's an opportunity for mutual customers. When a market leader like Amazon provides more powerful development tools, its good news in the first phase for ISVs, but in the second phase its good for customer again, as they will benefit from the dynamics an offering like Amazon Appstream can unfold. 


    The cloud is still a pretty young technology. And more choices are always good for a new technology, as it makes the addressable market larger (Oracle products on Windows Azure) or enables a new set of applications (Amazon AppStream). In 10 years from now we may complain about too much choice - but in 2014 - pas encore.


    More about Microsoft:

    • Microsoft gets even more serious about devices - acquire Nokia - read here.
    • Microsoft does not need one new CEO - but six - read here.
    • Microsoft makes the cloud a platform play - Or: Azure and her 7 friends - read here.
    • How the Cloud can make the unlikeliest bedfellows - read here.
    • How hard is multi-channel CRM in 2013? - Read here.
    • How hard is it to install Office 365? Or: The harsh reality of customer support - read here.
    More about AWS:
    • AWS  moves the yardstick - Day 2 reinvent takeaways - read here.
    • AWS powers on, into new markets - Day 1 reinvent takeaways - read here.
    • The Cloud is growing up - three signs in the News - read here.
    • Amazon AWS powers on - read here.

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    Around 4 months ago, it was mid November, released it's new Salesforce1 product during their annual Dreamforce1 conference.  It caused quite a stir and more questions in regards of what Salesforce1 really is...

    You can read my impressions here and even better see Alan Lepofsky's takeaways's of Day 1 here:

    So we gave Salesforce1 a run for it on two levels
    • The analyst view - Basically Alan Lepofsky, Bruce Daley and me took a look at what the implication of Salesforce1 is from our three coverage perspectives - Social / Collaboration, CRM and PaaS / IaaS & HCM.
    • The user view - Then we described what Salesforce1 means (in alphabetical order) for the Chief Information Officer, Chief People Officer, Chief Sales Officer, CxO that serves as Social Champion, and Chief Technology Officer. needs to move

    But first we laid out why needs to move on the platform side - as its existing platform is coming of age. With an ambitious agenda to power the Internet of Things from the customer perspective, needs to move beyond Apex etc. and create / acquire a highly scalable middleware platform, BigData and Analytics capabilities. 

    So what is Salesforce1

    We then took a look at what Salesforce1 means for different technology elements:
    1. Mobile Unification – Previously, customers would run a traditional Salesforce app and Chatter as separate applications on their mobile devices. If you add a Heroku app, that’s three applications to use, login to, maintain and secure. With Salesforce1, it’s one application now. 
    2. Integration – On the mobile side, showed integration from the same application with partners such as Evernote. There is not a separate login and everything is in one user interface - a manifestation of what Constellation analyst Bruce Daley calls the integration layer
    3. Higher API granularity – has left behind the era of one API fits all and has made all APIs more granular, so small that some colleagues even call them services. 
    4. Application composition – Given the higher granularity of APIs, creating applications with Salesforce1 becomes much more a composition experience for the developer than a coding experience.
    5. A new mobile UI – With a new user experience for both iOS and Android devices, Salesforce1 achieves what Touch was supposed to address. Gone is HTML5 and back is native. But that is a technical side note.
    6. Heroku1 – With Heroku1, creates a formal integration option for Heroku apps to access, a significant step but also a sign that there is a platform duopoly in the future of 

    The CxO Perspectives

    And lastly we took a look at the aforementioned CxO perspectives - some key takeaway excerpts are below:

    • CIO Perspective - One of the main benefits is simplified maintenance, it's great to see having discovered the importance of system administrators again - and specifically builds it's product and tools with them in mind.
    • CTO Perspective - For the CTO, Salesforce1 is a proof that the Internet of Things is coming - and coming faster than many CTOs may think. They should use Salesforce1 at a minimum as a data point that they need to develop their enterprise Internet of Things strategy - and more advanced - use Salesforce1 as an evaluation candidate for the customer centric view on the Internet of Things.
    • CxO that takes Social Champion role and his / her Perspective - This executive should understand that social and collaborative features need to become part of their enterprises business strategy.
    • Chief Sales Officer Perspective - The immediate impact here is a new and more user friendly mobile client for users. Longer term Salesforce1 may serve as an Inclusion Layer that will enable more advanced mobile processes.
    • Chief People Officer Perspective - It's time to re-imagine the way how HR Technology is delivered. Maybe HR Technology will not be a separate product you have to log in to to perform HCM tasks - but these tasks will be broken down and moved closer into the applications business users need to use already. So they should keep an eye on what has done with the performance management work of


    It was time for to come up with a new platform vision - and it did with Salesforce1 - with great ambition and a promising design. It means that also needs to address technologies that it has not touched before - most prominently BigData and Analytics. Now it needs to deliver towards that vision and show customer traction.
    Whats your POV?
    If you are interested in the research report - you can find it here on the Constellation website.
    More on

    • Dreamforce 2013 Platform Takeaways - All about the mobile platform - or more? Read here
    • Platform ecosystems are hard - Salesforce grows it - FinancialForce shrinks it - read here.
    • Our take on Identity Connect - from three angles - Identity, CRM and PaaS - read here.
    • Takeaways from the Salesforce and Workday Strategic Partnership - read here.
    • Act II - The Cloud changes everything - Oracle and - read here.
    • How many Pivots make a Pirouette? Salesforce's last Pivot - read here.

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    We had the opportunity to catch up with the VMWare End-User-Computing (EUC) management team at their analyst meeting in Boston. Very good meeting and great chance to feel the pulse of the EUC products.

    Here are my top 3 takeaways

    • What a difference a year makes – A year ago some pundits were seeing the end of the ‘other’ portfolio investments VMWare had done beyond core virtualization, with dis-investitures looming overall and some of them even happening. But change starts with people and with installing Sanjay Poonen, the dynamics changed for the better: With two rapid acquisitions (Desktone and AirWatch), getting top talent from the competition (Shultz and Dhawan from Citrix) – both the team in charge and its product capabilities look much better than a year ago. The vision where the team wants to take the portfolio is compelling and with shipping its DaaS offering before Amazon (where WorkSpaces is still in limited availability) it had a significant early win.
    • Compelling vision – but work remains – VMware’s executives described a comprehensive and compelling vision where they want to take the EUC portfolio. The recent acquisitions have already lead to a directional harmonization in little time, but we found the AirWatch direction particularly compelling. On the technical side, the new EUC division CTO Colbert showed a significant abstraction architecture that looked complete with all moving pieces nicely tucking in. Needless to write it will be significant work to make it real.
    • DaaS needs data centers – It was good to see the management team acknowledging that desktop business is a cost business. Since we know, and for all of the foreseeable future – costs for operating end user devices are coming down. Vendors with the more cost effective infrastructure will be better positioned. And EUC products brings a stable and pretty predictable load to infrastructure build out plans – which ultimately materializes in data centers. And here not only the EUC future – but the overall VMware strategy is of concern, which (so far) has only shown a remarkably slow pace (even though VMware just announcedtheir first data center outside of the US – in the UK).

    In general DaaS products are interesting from two angles: For one they are a key driver for data center load, solve a perennial IT problem and it looks like network availability and bandwidth issues of the past can be overcome now. For the other they are key to change the way how people work and interact with their devices. Having your desktop with you all the time, cross device and ideally with the option of state full transfer coupled with desirable data synchronization - is a very powerful technology that will enable new business practices.


    Good progress by VMware on EUC, an energized team is in place, early success has happened and now it’s time for the real integration and product work to start. More acquisitions are more likely than not and the EUC team has to come up with an adaptive and accommodating architecture. More on new product versions coming soon - a lot of the meeting was under NDA.

    And while the hybrid delivery capability has its merits, and VMware’s huge partner network is an asset, both split overall compute load. And there VMware - beyond EUC – needs to make its plans clear – better sooner than later. 


    Also on VMware from me

    • VMware defies destiny - SDDC to the rescue - read here

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    We had the opportunity to catch up with the Ceridian executive team for a full day of briefings. And it was packed full of information – in an interactive format, with Dave Ossip emceeing and the executive team sharing their respective parts on the progress since the last user conference of July 2013 in Orlando.

    Here are my top 3 takeaways from the briefings:

    • Steady roadmap execution – It is 2 years ago now that Ceridian acquired Dayforce and with that a very good workforce management product and a talented management and product development team. And those 2 years have been used well – Dayforce HCM today is a complete HR Core system, with very good payroll support for Canada, UK (here through its HREvolutions product) and USA, maintaining and extending its strong Workforce Management DNA.

      Moreover, Dayforce HCM now has a good first version of recruiting, with all the benefits of being integrated with its core HR system. More importantly even, Ceridian has delivered what it promised last year, a key achievement to create confidence in the market and its install base that the transformation from a venerable payroll and benefits player to a global HR application vendor is in full progress.

      Ceridian also deserves kudos for sharing the Dayforce roadmap through 2016 – a common best practice in the enterprise software market – but no other vendor has given that long of an insight into their plans. The main additions between now and 2016 will be functional deepening (e.g. Absence Management for HR Core) of all modules, more global support (e.g. adding Payroll support for more countries), and the addition of all Talent Management functions (next to Recruiting, Performance Management, Compensation Management, Succession Management and Career Pathing).

      Additionally Ceridian plans to add a fully statutory compliant Document Management capability for HR purposes, an improved Business Intelligence product and (very soon) an improved user interface. So the work is carved out for the next two handful of calendar quarters.
    • Payroll Innovation– Less than a handful of payrolls have been built from scratch in the 21st century – and Dayforce HCM is one of them. The interesting news is, that Ceridian did not go for a simple re-write but put a lot of experience and some of the Workforce Management DNA into the new product. So payroll runs instantly, whenever e.g. time data changes. It can run on end user request, interactively. Ossip even mentioned the vision to change payday loans. All important payroll innovations for the more flexible, project based workforce that will be key for the 21st century are with that considered in the foundation of the Ceridian payroll. Additionally incentivizing work decisions (e.g. do people want to take a shift when they see what they have earned till today – or not) becomes possible.

      It is always exciting to see when enterprise software capability exceeds current practice requirements. But only what not is - can be, and in this use case I think Ceridian is very close to future payroll best practices.
    • Global Focus– While Ceridian was always known to work beyond North America, e.g. with a strong presence in the UK – there is now a clear ambition to go beyond these countries, with a goal to reach 15 priority countries. Ceridian is confident to be able to tackle more complex European payrolls such as Germany and France in a matter of few months. Thanks to object oriented inheritance mechanisms as part of the inherent payroll (and overall system) architecture on the technical side and a slowly increasing standardization by the European Union on the business side - there is a good chance Ceridian can deliver to this.

      Beyond the priority countries Ceridian will do what all vendors do once the product coverage is exhausted – partner with the payroll aggregators and local payroll vendors. The company seems committed to some best practices – as e.g. always having at least two partner options per country. And in the global team, close to 50% of resources are only dealing with selecting, managing and testing partner solutions. Kudos to Ceridian to go after these markets – as it pits them against larger and more established competitors beyond its traditional three strong markets. The market dynamics around adding local payroll support and global payroll capabilities is only unfolding now. 
    It’s is important to notice that Ceridian is more than a HCM software vendor – as it provides not only its traditional payroll and tax services, but it is also a payroll aggregator, benefits and EAP, Work-Life products provider. That makes Ceridian a vendor with interesting co-opetition relationships in the market place, something to keep in mind when looking at Ceridian.

    Time ran out to quiz Ossip and team around programming language, customizing options, end user configurability, localization, databases uses, scalability and data center strategy – all topics that Ceridian needs to master successfully in order to keep executing successfully. All not trivial challenges. More briefings and reports back to you to come – hopefully soon.


    Remarkable progress by Ceridian in the last three quarters. The company keeps deepening existing functionality and has established its first functional beachhead into Talent Management with a solid Recruiting module. That is timely as the fight for talent has heated up for most enterprises and competitive talent acquisition is a key selection and operating criteria for HCM enterprise products. Kudos to Ceridian for delivering and for presenting a roadmap to complete Talent Management (till 2016) and adding some differentiating products like (PII and other HR legal statutory compliant) Document Management in 2014.

    If Ceridian executes equally well on refreshing its user interface and on the global functional and infrastructure extension – it will be an even more formidable competitor and a very attractive partner for HCM executives - than it already is today. Ceridian’s strong WFM DNA in Dayforce HCM should play into its hands with expected changes in the future of work – moving to more project based, hourly engaged, often contingent workforce.

    Also on Ceridian

    • Ceridian transforming itself and with that the game – read here

    And unrelated to Ceridian - but how important payroll can be for HCM innovation:

    • Could the paycheck reinvent HCM - yes it can - read here
    • And suddenly... payroll matters again - read here

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    I had the opportunity to attend the keynote presentation at the SAP BI2014 / HANA2014 conference in Orlando, organized by Wispubs. This used to the BusinessObject event and has slowly morphed into a SAP BI event – and this year – nor surprisingly – a HANA event. With 1800 guests attending it is a key event for the SAP BI community.

    So here are my top 3 takeaways from the keynote:

    • The disruption message has arrived and (of course) HANA solves it – The red thread of Steve Lucas keynote was all around business disruption triggered by technology. And of course how SAP technology helps companies to be a disruptor and how that on the flipside can help them to be disrupted. But then I am sure SAP will also be happy to help enterprises that have been disrupted – granted they can still come up with the payment for the new software technology.

      Lucas laid out how companies like Uber, WhatsApp and AirBnB have disrupted conventional businesses and achieve amazing valuations. Few observers may have noticed that WhatsApp has disrupted SAP’s Sybase 365 customers on the messaging side – but kudos for the openness and WhatsApp is certainly a poster child story not to be missed. Unfortunately the disruptive element came short in the customer stories presented in the keynote – with New South Wales Police and Fire, Velux and SpiritAero. We asked the same question in the analyst Q&A and Amit Sinha came back with a valid example of Italian tire manufacturer Pirelli selling tire usage data with the help of HANA. Definitively innovative and potentially disruptive for the competition.

    The SAP HANA Platform
    •  Lumira looms– The not so brilliantly named SAP BI product is making good progress – being used in two of the keynote demos. First to visualize the brackets of the current NCAA basketball tournament, a good actual high involvement example, that of course only jelled well with a North American audience aware of the tournament. We also saw new infographic capability in Lumira, which is a nice addition of functionality to enable storytelling. It’s a first version –e .g. we missed annotations – but a promising start. Now we can only hope SuccessFactors and Lumira developers will speak and cooperate and use common assets of Lumira Storytelling and SuccessFactors Presentations functionality. The combination is a high potential solution.

      And Lumira is becoming more and more the replacement and go to product for older, former Business Objects products – as new functionality (e.g. Design Studio) is being built here – replacing e.g. the still popular Xcelsius.
    Lucas and colleagues in the midst of IoT demo

    • HANA dominates– As expected – it is virtually impossible to get a new product from SAP or to build an innovative solution – without getting to use HANA. And as Lucas shared, this is to a certain point by design. If you want to build a mobile solution, well in the backend you will have HANA – like t or not. This certainly makes sense for SAP from a sales perspective – and even from a technology re-use perspective – but not all use cases of innovative applications require an in memory database. Just think of Hadoop based BigData scenarios. Mobile apps extending legacy. Social apps (probably Jam is HANA free at this point). Etc. SAP needs to be careful not to limit growth of some of its technology products for the sake of HANA integration.

    SAP did a good job showing an Internet of Things (IoT) demo – tying together huge data volumes with personalization and predictive delivery and maintenance. Nice showcase.


    A good start to the BI2014 / HANA2014 event that confirms HANA’s pivotal role. Lumira is getting better and I expect it to soon replace all former BO products, not that SAP is saying that officially any time soon. The general concerns I have around HANA (elasticity, programming language) are not addressed, but Sapphire is the event for that, not BI2014. 

    It looks like the SAP technology products (+/- 50% of the SAP license revenue) are doing well. My concern is, that SAP did not bring the full platform package – the HANA Cloud Platform (HCP) to this event – but enterprises want to build rich analytical applications. A missed opportunity. And not surprisingly – the HANA vs Hadoop relationship remains in the field of unknown forces avoiding each other.

    I am still onsite for another 24 hours and will follow up with another post around more briefings and meetings setup here at BI2014 / HANA2014.


    More about SAP technology:

    • News Analysis – SAP slices and dices into more Cloud, and of course more HANA – read here.
    • SAP gets serious about open source and courts developers – about time – read here.
    • My top 3 takeaways from the SAP TechEd keynote – read here.
    • SAP discovers elasticity for HANA – kind of – read here.
    • Can HANA Cloud be elastic? Tough – read here.
    • SAP’s Cloud plans get more cloudy – read here.
    • HANA Enterprise Cloud helps SAP discover the cloud (benefits) – read here.

    And more on overall SAP strategy

    • News Analysis – SAP and Accenture partner – more of the old or something new? Read here.
    • Now that SAP is a tech company – it wants to be cloud company – read here.
    • SAP’s startup program keep rolling – read here.
    • Why SAP acquired KXEN? Getting serious about Analytics – read here.
    • SAP steamlines organization further – the Danes are leaving – read here.
    • Reading between the lines… SAP Q2 Earnings – cloudy with potential structural changes – read here.
    • SAP wants to be a technology company, really – read here
    • Why SAP acquired hybris software – read here.
    • SAP gets serious about the cloud – organizationally – read here.
    • Taking stock – what SAP answered and it didn’t answer this Sapphire [2013] – read here.
    • Act III & Final Day – A tale of two conference – Sapphire & SuiteWorld13 – read here.
    • The middle day – 2 keynotes and press releases – Sapphire & SuiteWorld – read here.
    • A tale of 2 keynotes and press releases – Sapphire & SuiteWorld – read here.
    • What I would like SAP to address this Sapphire – read here.
    • Why 3rd party maintenance is key to SAP’s and Oracle’s success – read here.
    • Why SAP acquired Camillion – read here.
    • Why SAP acquired SmartOps – read here.
    • Next in your mall – SAP and Oracle? Read here.

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    Cisco entered the public cloud market today with announcing the world’s largest Intercloud (a new term – surprise).

    Let’s look at the press release – and read between the lines a bit:

    As businesses increasingly embrace private, public, and hybrid clouds to cost-effectively and quickly deliver business applications and services, Cisco today announced plans to build the world’s largest global Intercloud – a network of clouds – together with a set of partners. The Cisco global Intercloud is being architected for the Internet of Everything, with a distributed network and security architecture designed for high-value application workloads, real-time analytics, “near infinite” scalability and full compliance with local data sovereignty laws. The first-of-its-kind open Intercloud, which will feature APIs for rapid application development, will deliver a new enterprise-class portfolio of cloud IT services for businesses, service providers and resellers.

    MyPOV – It’s easy to coin a new term ‘Intercloud’ – harder to explain it and then maintain it. Cisco explains it as the Intercloud being a network of clouds, fair enough, but what is it. The Latin ‘inter’ refers to between – so it’s the network between the clouds – powered in the cloud? It’s harder to make a new term stick – so we will see who else may pick up the new buzzword. Cisco deserves kudos for making this a pretty rich cloud announcement – as it includes security, real time analytics, is compliant with local data sovereignty laws (very interesting), supports RAD and is offered together with partners. The data sovereignty is an interesting feature to keep an eye on – and begs questions – who will create and maintain the legislative rules, who will enforce them and what does it mean for the applications running in the Intercloud?

    Cisco expects to invest over $1 billion to build its expanded cloud business over the next two years. Its partner-centric business model, which enables partner capabilities and investments, is expected to generate a rapid acceleration of additional investment to drive the global scale and breadth of services that Cisco plans to deliver to its customers.

    MyPOV – There we go – $1 billion – so stretched through 2 years and we will have to see how much partner investment it will trigger.

    The company plans to deliver Cisco Cloud Services with and through Cisco partners. The following organizations, which are either planning to deliver Cisco Cloud Services or have endorsed Cisco’s global Intercloud initiative, represent a sampling of the kinds of global partners Cisco expects to work with to build its cloud business: leading Australian service provider Telstra; Canadian business communications provider Allstream; European cloud company Canopy, an Atos company; cloud services aggregator, provider and wholesale technology distributor Ingram Micro Inc.; global IT and managed services provider Logicalis Group; global provider of enterprise software platforms for business intelligence, mobile intelligence, and network applications MicroStrategy, Inc.; enterprise data center IT solutions provider OnX Managed Services; information availability services provider SunGard Availability Services; and leading global IT, consulting and outsourcing company Wipro Ltd.

    MyPOV – It’s a first to launch a cloud service with so many partners. But it looks more of a collection of the weak than the strong. Orchestration will be a predictable challenge. Let’s measure what these partners will put up in investment in the coming quarters though, let’s give Cisco and them the benefit of the doubt. The biggest problem – none of the partners mentioned – with the exception of MicroStrategy may bring significant work load with them – and that’s what cloud get cost effective with. So where will the load come from?

    The Cisco OpenStack-enabled Intercloud is designed to allow organizations and users to combine and move workloads – including data and applications – across different public or private clouds as needed, easily and securely, while maintaining associated network and security policies. It will also utilize Cisco Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) to optimize application performance and to make rolling out new services much faster. Cisco will improve application security, compliance, auditing and mobility by using ACI’s centralized, programmable security policy to enable fine-grained control and isolation at scale; suitable for private and public cloud environments.

    MyPOV – No surprise – this will be another OpenStack powered cloud, with the promise to combine workloads that we need to see delivered first in the real world before we fully believe it. No surprise ACI is being used – the question is how much work will partners and customers have to do adopt ACI and how willing will they do that – given other public clouds may not ask them to do that step. And building an ACI compliant application / load may hinder its transport to other OpenStack clouds – though hopefully not the Intercloud operating partners.

    Cisco Cloud Services expand on the Cisco industry-leading cloud portfolio, which already includes SaaS offerings, such as WebEx®, Meraki® and Cisco Cloud Web Security; differentiated cloud services, such as hosted collaboration and cloud DVR; and technologies and services to build public and private clouds, such as the Cisco Unified Computing System™ (Cisco UCS®), integrated infrastructure solutions such as VCE Vblock™ Systems and NetApp FlexPod, and Cisco Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI).

    MyPOV – Cisco brings already some applications to the offering, the WebEx product probably being the most popular – but that will not be enough load – despite being the most popular load used by enterprises. Would be nice not to see the download of the WebEx applet every time a session runs with a server on a different version. And then Cisco throws in pretty much all products it can claim for the cloud, including the result of the VMware partnership around VCE Vblock and NetApp Flexpod.

    Cisco is expanding the Cisco Powered™ program to include Cisco Cloud Services. Cisco will sell these new services through channel partners and directly to end customers. Partners who develop Cisco Powered services can offer more cloud offerings faster, with lower up front development costs, and operate at cloud speed and scale. […]

    MyPOV – This is the most interesting and differentiating area with a number of unique / significant capabilities. A RedHat OpenShift based PaaS, SAPHANA to run UCS, WebEx, DaaS (Cisco, VMware and Citrix) are the most interesting one and a bunch of more technical Cisco services. Collaboration as a Service (CaaS) struck me as one of the more unusual terms – but Cisco likes to call things a little different than the rest of the industry.

    Overall POV

    Cisco certainly comes late to the game, albeit with a different angle, the Intercloud. Certainly a fair angle for the leading network provider, who fittingly also announced a whole new set of networking equipment. But all public clouds need management between their data centers and that is what Cisco is really after. It’s unclear where all the Cloud Services will run – e.g. will WebEx run in the Intercloud (operated by who) or (only) in connected partner cloud (or both). So lots of questions remain. Also existing cloud providers may go an order Cisco network gear with a little more consideration going forward.

    On the bright side, Cisco deserves credit to come out today, catch the early lead in what shapes to be a key week for the cloud (Google on Tuesday, Amazon on Wednesday and Microsoft on Thursday) – so better late than never. And the services are rich and differentiating. But lots of questions on the hybrid and partner based approach to cloud remain.

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    Google had its widely anticipated cloud event in San Francisco, and it for sure did not disappoint. Developer focus, tools and significant price reductions were expected. Probably the biggest surprise was the temporary downtime of the life stream. In a twist of irony Google was demonstrating the live migration of a ‘hot’ VM while streaming HD video shortly before that event. Streaming recovered well for the rest of the event – if anything it shows that even Google’s cloud is earthly and that there was massive interest to watch the event. 

    So let’s dissect Urs Hölzle’s blog post– which pretty much serves as a Google press release:

    […]Industry-leading, simplified pricing
    The original promise of cloud computing was simple: virtualize hardware, pay only for what you use, with no upfront capital expenditures and lower prices than on-premise solutions. But pricing hasn’t followed Moore's Law: over the past five years, hardware costs improved by 20-30% annually but public cloud prices fell at just 8% per year.

    MyPOV – This is a new mantra for cloud pricing. While it was only pay for what you use – down to minute or even second – Google is looking at the underlying mechanism that makes all computing more affordable, Moore’s Law. And kudos to Google for calling out the profit accumulation most providers have been entertaining to a certain point, as cloud price reduction have not been keeping step with the cost reduction seen in hardware. In an industry already feeling the cost pinch by Amazon’s retail DNA – it is now Google calling out that the existing cost reduction drive may not even have been aggressive enough. And we knew already that Google is serious as it dropped its consumer pricing for 100 GB of storage below a Google Cloud use of the same amount of storage – till today. We’ll look into the commercial dynamics how we think Google enables this price reduction later.

    We think cloud pricing should track Moore’s Law, so we’re simplifying and reducing prices for our various on-demand, pay-as-you-go services by 30-85%:

    • Compute Engine reduced by 32% across all sizes, regions, and classes.
    • App Engine pricing is drastically simplified. We've lowered pricing for instance-hours by 37.5%, dedicated memcache by 50% and Datastore writes by 33%. In addition, many services, including SNI SSL and PageSpeed are now offered to all applications at no extra cost.
    • Cloud Storage is now priced at a consistent 2.6 cents per GB. That’s roughly 68% less for most customers.
    • Google BigQuery on-demand prices reduced by 85%.

    MyPOV – Google is showing the application of Moore’s Law and significantly reducing prices. The good folks up in Seattle will check if this is factual – but it looks to me as the biggest price reduction we have seen in the public cloud. Where AWS follows its retail DNA of smallish cost reduction – mimicking the always sale strategy seen with some brick and mortar retailers – Google is giving away one year of cost savings. And that’s the most interesting insight here – as any beyond 30% price reduction shows that Google may have pocketed some extra profits, too. And there is nothing negative with it by the way – be price competitive and have a good margin to protect yourself against upcoming price wars – is a very viable and probably the only public cloud vendor price and business strategy. Some colleagues have already pointed out that Google is now the most cost effective cloud provider for the highly demanded high memory instance category. If Google keeps that cost leadership, it will create a very viable alternative to Amazon in regards of next generation, computing intensive in memory applications category. And needless to say – the storage reductions make Google more attractive to enterprises building and using the cloud than it costs end users to use it. It has to be like that to foster and grease an ISV ecosystem.

    Sustained-Use discounts
    In addition to lower on-demand prices, you’ll save even more money with Sustained-Use Discounts for steady-state workloads. Discounts start automatically when you use a VM for over 25% of the month. When you use a VM for an entire month, you save an additional 30% over the new on-demand prices, for a total reduction of 53% over our original prices.

    MyPOV – This is probably the most innovative move by Google on the commercial side of the public cloud since a long time - if not ever. The key benefit of cloud in regards of elasticity of load becomes a disadvantage when the load stabilizes so much, that an originally elastic loud becomes a static load. Ultimately that’s a good sign for software vendors, as they want to grow their business and hand in hand with that comes a more stable load profile. In technical reality that load profile – always assuming a neatly scaling application architecture - realizes itself in VMs becoming static, meaning they run 24x7. And the commercial consequence is, that this VM becomes more expensive than a non VM load. There are numerous cases of software vendors starting out in the public cloud, but once loads have stabilized, moved their load to an on premise, dedicated data center environment. Google (and all other public cloud vendors) don’t want to see that – so major credit to Google for making this commercially less attractive to do. And to a certain point it is fair – less needs to happen at a cloud provider when VMs become dedicated, so passing along some of these cost savings to customers for the ‘loyalty’ is actually good business sense. Setting the usage threshold at 25% and the maximum saving to an additional 30 percentage points will be parameters I’d say we will see more action on in the future. And I leave it to some tech pundits to speculate on the underlying Google architecture – what are the savings Google sees and how much of it passes along with the 30 percentage points.

    Finally it confirms Google’s commitment to the VM – there are (at least for now) no ambitions or plans visible for anything in the bear metal field. And clearly Google is not interested in reserving instances for a multi year deal. Enterprises like these options though – as they give them cost certainty. But Google will rightly argue that an enterprise can gain similar certainty with a 3 year sustained usage. With the upside (in contrast to Amazon) that price reductions (Moore’s Law anyone) will take the cost down through the three years. An argument I expect enterprises will be open to – after some explaining.

    With our new pricing and sustained use discounts, you get the best performance at the lowest price in the industry. No upfront payments, no lock-in, and no need to predict future use.

    MyPOV – The key emphasis has to be on – no need to predict the future use. As Churchill said, predictions are always tricky, especially concerning the future [freely quoted]. And many cloud users see themselves in that situation at the beginning of the billing cycle – how many dedicated instances will we need for the next month. Google takes away that challenge, which will be greatly appreciated. It also moves the value proposition from ‘pay by the glass’ closer to ‘all you can eat’. Someone will do the math and keep load on a VM for some minutes or even hours longer in order to lock-in the full discount. An easier decision to make than predicting what you need.

    Making developers more productive in the cloud
    We’re also introducing features that make development more productive:

    • Build, test, and release in the cloud, with minimal setup or changes to your workflow. Simply commit a change with git and we’ll run a clean build and all unit tests.
    • Aggregated logs across all your instances, with filtering and search tools.
    • Detailed stack traces for bugs, with one-click access to the exact version of the code that caused the issue. You can even make small code changes right in the browser.

    We’re working on even more features to ensure that our platform is the most productive place for developers. Stay tuned.

    MyPOV – Needless to say that making developers more productive is a main draw to specific clouds. And Google has picked an attractive set of firsts round DevOps / DeBug functions to get the attention of the development community. Having seen a lot of troubled software products, the automated unit tests are a valuable feature. Probably it is also a self preservation mechanism for Google – as noting too crazy can happen through the code. But it is also good to see that Google extends the same services, that its internal developers have, to their cloud customers.

    Introducing Managed Virtual Machines
    You shouldn't have to choose between the flexibility of VMs and the auto-management and scaling provided by App Engine. Managed VMs let you run any binary inside a VM and turn it into a part of your App Engine app with just a few lines of code. App Engine will automatically manage these VMs for you.

    MyPOV – Well this should be really called ‘AppEngine managed VMs’. With this Google addresses a long term critique and weakness of Google AppEngine that you could not break out of it. And as much as that is intended from a stability perspective – it limits the scope of the apps that can build on AppEngine. Now developers can access C libraries, and local (Google calls them native) resources. But the AppEngine is in charge as it enables and controls the managed VM.

    Expanded Compute Engine operating system support
    We now support Windows Server 2008 R2 on Compute Engine in limited preview and Red Hat Enterprise Linux and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server are now available to everyone.

    MyPOV – This is a huge win for Google that before operated only on the two more exotic Linux variants. Now decision makers not only have access to the two most popular Linux versions with RHEL and SUSE – but also Windows Server 2008. Both will face less concern by corporate IT decision makers, as well as mainstream minded CTOs at application vendors. Lastly given the managed VM capability – a number of local resource options that developers are familiar with and rely on – become available for AppEngine.

    Real-Time Big Data
    BigQuery lets you run interactive SQL queries against datasets of any size in seconds using a fully managed service, with no setup and no configuration. Starting today, with BigQuery Streaming, you can ingest 100,000 records per second per table with near-instant updates, so you can analyze massive data streams in real time. Yet, BigQuery is very affordable: on-demand queries now only cost $5 per TB and 5 GB/sec reserved query capacity starts at $20,000/month, 75% lower than other providers. […]

    MyPOV – An aggressive move by Google in the BigData field – the other providers being the usual suspects. They key takeaway though is, that Google wants a piece of the fast growing pie of BigData apps being built for the cloud.

    Overall POV

    A truly landmark point for the cloud, with Google laying down the cards. Reports say that Hölzle and team only switched focus to public cloud in January this year – if true a lot has been done in little time and the competition is warned. We will have to see if Hölzle’s team will be able to neglect the current largest customer – Google – for the next quarters, but the ambitions and hints during the events are there.

    Historically – in statements made by Marissa Mayer (when still at Google) – Google has been the only cloud provider that openly stated, that access capacity should be given back to other developers (thanks for colleague @ReneBuest to remind me recently). All other cloud providers have – despite my probing – never admitted to it. And maybe Google won’t anymore either – but its good business practice. If a cloud provider has a very elastic cloud, why not commercialize excess capacity at very attractive, cost rates. If the bulk of the load is higher margin, you are still running a formidable business (check Google’s latest earnings). And as long as you grow your cloud capacity faster than public cloud demand is –well then that spare capacity is unlikely to see bottle necks, given the scale on which Google operates.

    Over at Rightscale Hassan Hosseini has done a detailed level comparison between Google and Amazon. Google comes mostly out on top. It’s interesting that on the most price attractive scenario – a three year sustained usage of Google and a 3 year commitment for Amazon, AWS comes out slightly ahead. But of course with the 3 year commitment. It’s interesting as the 3 year commitment comes the closest to a cloud user to own their hardware – so it’s probably the closest price to the real cost to operate a cloud infrastructure.

    All in all it is very good news for the overall cloud adoption. Enterprises will benefit from better and more cost effective software, application vendors will have more options where to move load, and developers have a cloud provider that has cache and cares for them. On the flipside Google’s approach is a developer centric cloud – many more things need to happen for Google to move traditional load such as existing commercial databases and enterprise applications to the cloud. Hoping for all these applications to be rebuild on the technologies available in Google cloud – will not be viable medium term strategy. But for now this is a great step by Google, we are eager to measure the stride length of the next one – same cadence, short or longer. For sure the startup audience is listening.

    Here is the first of many videos of the event:

    Lastly – this is the week of the cloud – yesterday Cisco announced its Intercloud, tomorrow Amazon has a cloud event, and on Thursday Microsoft has an announced press conference. I am sure the price strategists in Seattle and Redmond are crunching some numbers.


    Here is a Storify collection of Tweets from the first keynote.


    More on Google:

    • A tale of two clouds - Google and HP - read here
    • Why Google acquired Talaria - efficiency matters - read here

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    I was invited to attend the BI / HANA 2014 event organized by WisPubs in Orlando this week. I have blogged on my keynote takeaways from yesterday here, today the conference continued with a separate BW 7.4 launch event.

    As usual it’s good to remember how we got here…

    A brief history of BW

    Reporting has always been a challenge for enterprise application vendors. And when SAP was busy building R/3 in the early 90ies of last century, speed to build out a functionally complete ERP package was of the essence. Reporting was implemented in a similar way like in R/2 – which meant the company missed the data ware house trend. No one was unhappier about it than SAP co-founder Hasso Plattner, who frustrated about a combination of lack of understanding and progress hired an outsider (than a disruptive talent decision for SAP) with Klaus Kreplin. And Kreplin and his team delivered a solid data warehouse, originally called BiW (dropped later for not confusing it with another, but minor other German software company) in very short time. Not surprisingly SAP came to realize that being the largest business application vendor, it was not enough to just deliver a data warehouse, but customers expected extractions and content in the data warehouse. So SAP created the BW content releases. Then followed a long phase of different front end tools, the Business Objects acquisition happened and customers took up BW – to the tune of around 14000 today.

    Enters HANA

    Meanwhile, on the roots of the BW text search engine TREX, the PTime acquisition and the Sybase acquisition HANA was created, and with that some confusion started. Customers were using BW – but hearing from SAP that the traditional separation of OLTP and OLAP was history. Some predicted the end of BW. Of course that did not happen, too many customers, luckily don’t go away overnight, as well as a resilient and large ecosystem of partners.

    And as we all know by now – HANA is the platform on which SAP has embarked in a massive journey of re-inventing itself. Consequently, BW also has to run on HANA and that was achieved with BW 7.3 – which in the aftermath was more of a ‘proof it works’ release. For the first time SAP let its ecosystem try and play with a key revenue product, with the BW 7.3 on HANA trial, with very good success. But after technology adoption, the interesting thing is what happens next, and that is what we can start evaluating with BW 7.4 on HANA.

    Why it’s 2 + 2 = 5!

    Let’s look at greatest drivers for enterprise synergy of the combining the two products:

    • Speed (from HANA) – No question HANA contributes speed to traditional BW implementations. Traditional BW – like all data warehouses – needed some attentive hand holding to remain a responsive system that users could use. Not impossible, but the watch had to be 24x7. Getting speed without having to design a classic star schema design is another advantage.
    • Simplification (from HANA) – The simplification of being able to run OLAP and OLTP on the same system, in columnar format has been described much before. But also a key data warehouse process, operated in the ETL layer – has pretty much gone. All data is there – normalized, with no need for transport and massaging.
    • Content (from BW) – Remember the BW history, the first versions were technically great – but lacked content. BW has more enterprise content than most enterprises can and want to digest – so HANA instantly gains significant content.
    • Governance (from BW) – Another lesson for all data warehouses – skipped for brevity above – is that you can’t surface the insight to just anyone in the enterprise. SAP spend a lot of time in the early 2000s learning that and building appropriately for it – and now it’s practically a gift to HANA.

    So where does the synergy – the 5 come from? Well, it’s the combination of above that enables faster insights, build on a modern application architecture (yes you can use it on an iPad) and that allows enterprise decision makers get to data faster and hopefully with that find the insights to make the right decisions.

    But is 5 enough?

    Getting a 5 from a 2 plus 2 equation – 25% headroom is a good result. Especially with BW 7.4 being the first release beyond 7.3, which as mentioned before was merely about ‘getting there’. But 5 can only be enough if the insights are packaged in the right way, that a business user can digest them. And SAP has made a good acquisition with KXEN, but the road to packaged analytical applications, consumable by the business end users – remains a long one. To be fair SAP has only started. And 5 can only be enough if sufficient relevant information is available to make the right decision – needless to say that in 2014 it begs the question on how SAP will address the NoSQL / Hadoop challenge.


    SAP has delivered a promising ‘first’ functional release with BW 7.4 on HANA. It is good progress – but more needs to happen in the next releases to be able to feed (true) analytical insights to business end users – cutting out data scientist engagement on a project level. Of course there is plenty of ‘bread and butter’ BI to have that BW addresses well, but the quest needs to be for the ‘holy’ grail – end user consumable analytical applications, that are good enough to foster insights, without much or any IT and data scientist involvement.

    To be fair – no one has gotten there (yet). It’s probably going to be a score of 8 or 9 that is required. So for now, 5 is a good start.

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    We had the opportunity to attend the AWS Summit in San Francisco today, a well-attended event. Not surprisingly Amazon can pull a lot of interest in the Bay Area, and most of the crowd was knowledgeable and using AWS products. It also became clear, that AWS Summits are more educational events for Amazon – not necessarily product announcement events – that is reserved to re:Invent.

    So acknowledging that – and given the different nature of other cloud events this week – the event may have been disappointing at first – but then it had considerable punch, too. Here are my top 3 takeaways:

    • Breadth and Depth are the message– Through the keynote I kept picking up how Jassy keep pointing to the experience, track record and success of AWS – here are all the themes we picked up:
      • AWS is turning 8 – definitively the older sibling to some of the toddlers [adding for clarification – Google] and newborns [Cisco] of this week. 
      • AWS is the market leader – The Gartner magic quadrant and customer logo slides transported that message.

      • AWS is secure – Look at all our government security certificates (here is the latest from the US DoD).
      • AWS ships product – WorkSpaces available to all customers.
      • AWS keeps innovating – On track to beat the number of enhancements of 2013 already now. And AWS keeps bringing out new instance types for lower cost and better enabling next generation apps (HS1 and M3 instances).
      • AWS is most complete – The almost 5 minute build up walking through the AWS tech stack served that message. And smart to put people services – with training – on top of it all.

      • AWS stays price competitive – AWS reduce prices the 42nd time – not a one-time move. 
        • AWS works well with your private cloud – More options to peer your private could with VPC. 

      • Enterprise is the battle, private cloud is the target – Needless to say that Amazon showed good examples on the startup side using their products. Flipboard was certainly a great showcase for rapidly demanding massive scale and AWS enabling that.

        But in my view the coupe was certainly to have Infor CEO Charles Philips on stage. Most of the audience was not familiar with Infor and for many attendees if was even a questionable choice (Infor who?) – but I am sure back on the web decision makers were listening up: When the 3rd largest ERP vendor pulls a NetFlix [to speak AWS crowd language] that is certainly remarkable. Basically Infor is running its next generation applications, CloudSuite on AWS. It’s already using Redshift for analytics. But now critical enterprise resource data and processes will run on AWS. A huge departure from test, development and trial systems we have seen before. The SaaS by accident phenomena is now becoming real for enterprise processes running on AWS. But it makes sense as Philips pointed out – by average enterprise software systems are only utilized around 20%, perfect showcase for the cloud.

      • The other key message for the CIOs out there, was that AWS is getting more and more friendly to co-exist with the private cloud. With many AWS competitors playing both on the private and public side it is clear that AWS does not want to give up that space all too easily and it was good to see how the private cloud segment gained in length from re:Invent. Of course price reductions are a favorable argument, too – not sure how many CIOs had to revisit their cost assumptions for their private cloud operations and plans. But I don’t think it was a few. When cost can no longer be a justification for private cloud, it will be for sure security concerns that will be raised – but AWS did a good job addressing these better, too. 

      • Price matters– Of course AWS lowered prices, it’s 41st price reduction. And they are and were pretty substantial. But by now they are expected. Back at re:Invent an excited attendee crowd burst into applause – not so much today in San Francisco. How substantial they are and if AWS can keep its cost leadership position is unclear right now, we will see the analysis of that in the next days. But it was good enough to let existing AWS clients stay where they are and it certainly ensures AWS is a very attractive platform to build and run software on.


      The cloud wars are only to start and AWS as the market leader is playing a smart game. Ignore what the competition has done the same week – hold the course. Do what you have been doing – innovate (AppStream, WorkSpaces and Kinesis were mentioned), deliver to the public (WorkSpaces is available to all customers) and reduce prices. Just stress a little more how established and what a safe choice AWS is – something Jassy and AWS certainly have pulled off today. An 8 year track record certainly helps. And signing up Infor is a huge confidence point for enterprise IT – and the backdoor to get in the enterprise.

      And even as Jassy did not mention any competition – a good move in my view – I am pretty sure that the retailer DNA of Amazon has a keen eye on what the competition does.

      For customers this is all great news. Compute resources have never been so cheap and they can expect for them to get cheaper. The revolution is now happening around long term procurement of these resources. Decision makers should take a hard look at compute procurement, as consumption based models have gotten dramatically more attractive in just… the last 24 hours. It will be hard for the vendors that sell compute resources on premise to react quickly on this. Too much margin is at play, if you are purchasing compute resource now – question that margin not once, but at least twice.


      Because of actual events - check out my take on Google Cloud Platform live here.


      More about AWS:
      • AWS  moves the yardstick - Day 2 reinvent takeaways - read here.
      • AWS powers on, into new markets - Day 1 reinvent takeaways - read here.
      • The Cloud is growing up - three signs in the News - read here.
      • Amazon AWS powers on - read here.

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      On March 26th SAP announced the intention to acquire Fieldglass, a leading vendor in the contingent workforce management software category. We take a look at the news release and then take a stab at the background of the acquisition and consider the implications on the marketplace.

      So let’s start with a news analysis of the acquisition, the press release can be found here:

      WALLDORF, Germany - SAP AG (NYSE: SAP) today announced plans to acquire Fieldglass, the leading technology provider for procuring and managing contingent labor and services. The addition of Fieldglass’ cloud-based Vendor Management System (VMS) solution meets the growing demand among employers to manage flexible workforces that can be quickly engaged and on-boarded to support rapidly changing business and customer needs. Combined with the collaborative, network-based procurement capabilities of Ariba and the human resources expertise of SuccessFactors, the acquisition uniquely positions SAP to deliver a platform for businesses to manage their entire workforce — both temporary and permanent staff — from initial recruiting and on-boarding to ongoing development, performance management, retention and retirement. 

      Contingent labor and statement-of-work services is a US$3.3 trillion, high-growth market according to industry analyst estimates. Companies are rapidly moving to more variable operating models that enable them to quickly dial up and down infrastructure, talent and expertise to accommodate changes in market dynamics, business needs and special projects. Contingent workforces are expected to grow by nearly 30 percent over the next three years, according to research by Ardent Partners. 

      MyPOV – The move to more project oriented work with both internal and external people is one of the major trends that enterprises are facing today. SAP is well positioned to take advantage of this trend with both its SuccessFactors and Ariba products. To a certain point the acquisition also helps SAP to move the conversation on recruiting away from traditional recruiting for employees – to overall recruiting of people – even as they may be ending up as employees or contractors.

      The combination of Fieldglass’ market-leading VMS solution with SAP promises to transform workforce management by enabling a flexible and comprehensive approach to managing the entire workforce and life cycle, going beyond the traditional focus on the employee record that characterizes many systems today. Together, SAP and Fieldglass will provide companies with the software, collaboration tools and networks needed to engage permanent and temporary staff out of the gate — and on the fly — in new and innovative ways to ensure they have the right people in the right roles at the right times. 

      MyPOV – The paragraph hits the nail on the head – problemo numero uno of contingent workforces is that traditional HR systems are designed to accommodate employed people only. And that creates both data and process problems managing external project people. Could it be that SAP is addressing one of a design weakness of its traditional on premise R/3 HR system? SuccessFactors never really had to address the problem for most of its architecture life span, since it was never designed to be a core HR system, where the employee record (that better would be a person – we prefer as you probably have noticed people) resides. So how well does the new cloud based HR core system – EmployeeCentral address the challenges around the employee record? We will find out.

      “The acquisition of Fieldglass creates a compelling advantage for SAP customers as they access, attract and manage talent via the networked economy,” said Bill McDermott and Jim Hagemann Snabe, co-CEOs and members of the Executive Board of SAP AG. “This move reaffirms SAP as the undisputed leader of integrated human resources and procurement in the cloud for businesses of all sizes and industries. Combining Fieldglass with SAP is a significant milestone in our strategy to help businesses simplify everything.” 

      “With the acquisition of Fieldglass we are taking an incredible step forward to further expand SAP's leadership in a public cloud offering for the enterprise,” said Dr. Vishal Sikka, member of the Executive Board of SAP AG, Products & Innovation. “With the power of SAP HANA, SAP Fiori and the Ariba Business Network combined, we can quickly extend the value to our joint customers.”

      MyPOV – We are used to statements of the SAP co-CEOs – but having three members of the executive board in a press release is a novum– or at least happens very seldom. But it underlines how important the acquisition must be for SAP. The interesting tidbit from the co-CEO statement is the emphasis on the combination of HCM with Procurement. We have said for a long time that SAP has a higher ground in the enterprise software game with Ariba – maybe SAP is playing hand that better now. And we expected the ERP vendors to point out that HCM needs not only good integration with Finance (we hear that from Workday almost daily recently) – but as well into the automation areas of CRM, SCM and purchasing.

      In regards to Sikka’s statement it’s key to mention that Fieldglass did not build on HANA and / or Fiori. Au contraire – a quick due diligence check on open technical jobs at Fieldglass is searching for Java / MS SQL and VMwareskills. Any further short search on what Fieldglass has built its offering and which cloud infrastructure it operates on - was futile. So it looks like SAP is faced with significant integration and potentially re-platform work. If you factor in, that the company is now on the verge of moving SuccessFactors to HANA – 2 years after the acquisition – it shows that these efforts can take some time. On the flipside HANA is a much more advanced product today, and then there are many ways of integrating cloud solutions. It will be interesting which path and what phases SAP will choose.

      Headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, with approximately 350 employees, Fieldglass’ cloud-based solution is used in more than 100 countries and 16 languages. Fieldglass was also recognized by Forrester Research, Inc. in The Forrester Wave™: VMS, Q1 2014 as the highest-scoring VMS provider in Contingent Workforce Management/Vendor Management System (CWM/VMS) functionality and market presence. In 2013, Fieldglass marked its eighth consecutive year of profitability, adding 2 million new users in markets worldwide. The company's majority investor is Madison Dearborn Partners, a private equity investment firm based in Chicago. 

      “Joining with SAP will allow us to dramatically accelerate our global growth plans and pace of innovation at the unique intersection of the human capital and procurement sectors,” said Jai Shekhawat, CEO and co-founder, Fieldglass. “SAP’s innovations in cloud, in-memory and mobile technology are transforming workforce management. We look forward to extending our leadership position, increasing our sales and delivery capacity and introducing our winning strategy to new markets.”  […]

      My POV – Sounds like Shekhawat knows already that a lot of interesting technology is coming the Fieldglass way – citing HANA and mobile. The question for the sales leaders is going to be how you can expand on the leading Fieldglass position – which was already pretty global. And selling contingent workforces automation is tricky – as the buying center is all over the place. We do not only see Chief People Officers and Chief Procurement Officers, but line of business executives starting to hire contingent workforce members. And with Ariba SAP has already a buyer network that measures in the multiple millions of users– it would be good to see if SAP can make the procurement of contingent workforce services truly self-service – and with some bravado – even transform it into a viral process.

      Implications, Implications

      So let’s look at what this acquisition does to the market place and its participants. Needless to say when a leading vendor like Fieldglass gets acquired – it has deep ramifications on the market dynamics.

      Implications for SAP customers

      This is good news for SAP customers who already use Ariba. With the expected integration of Fieldglass into Ariba the procurement of contingent workforces should be simplified significantly while retaining a common buyer experience, common budgeting, processes and reporting. It also isolates whatever HR system these customers are running from the implications of operating with a contingent workforce. It may well create SaaS by accident scenarios – as mySAP HCM customers may see themselves using SuccessFactors for the contingent workforce. They may be willing to start dabbling into cloud that way. SAP has the assets now to create compelling user experiences with Fiori and a compelling BI technology with BW7.4 on HANA (so this may also be an argument to get a BW install to HANA). And it will also be ‘HANA by accident’– as it’s close to 100% certain that anything new that SAP will create for contingent workforces will be HANA based.

      Implications for Fieldglass customers

      Very good news if SAP is your backend, what used to be a 3rdparty vendor integration is now becoming a vendor owned integration. That this does not always need to be off to a rosy start was seen with the SuccessFactors to SAP integration (by now addressed better).

      For non SAP customers it’s important to secure the support for existing interfaces and partnerships. And these customers need to consider if they want to bring the SAP technology stack in the house (well not really as it will be in the cloud) – most prominently HANA – and with that the SAP datacenter landscape. Both customer groups need to overlay the Fieldglass data center presence with SAP’s quickly, with all implication for legislative and technical aspects. As always with acquisitions – customers should secure all critical items in contracts as soon as possible.

      Implications for SAP

      This puts more work on already busy product teams at SAP. That Fieldglass seems to be operating on Java and MS SQL Server may be good news – as most SaaS vendors segregate client databases physically (due to the known performance challenges of MS SQL Server) – which makes them much more palatable to be moved to HANA quickly and easily (or in other words no tenant striping of the database). As for the business logic – we will have to see SAP’s plans. And let’s hope that the product strategists have been wise and left some spare room in the tank to accommodate the additional work on integration and new product offerings. Sapphire is most likely going to be a good benchmark to assess any roadmap impact both for the product as well as the technology teams.

      Implications for SAP competitors

      For SAP’s most prominent HCM competitors there is less potential urgency on the architecture side – as both Oracle Fusion HCM and Workday have been built with necessary flexibility around the employee record and related processes, all courtesy of having been designed less than 10 years ago, well aware of the contingent workforce architecture and system challenges. But on the market side a leading vendor has gone and Fieldglass supported interfaces into both Workday and Oracle. We will have to see if and how motivated SAP will be to maintain these interfaces. In any case this is a sales opportunity for Oracle and Workday to target Fieldglass customers for their respective contingent workforce offerings.

      And needless to say it will be interesting what other strong players in the category like Beeline, Peoplefluent and IBM (Emptoris acquisition) will do going forward.



      A good acquisition by SAP, it always disrupts the markets when a leading vendor gets acquired. SAP will need to plot out the integration plans quickly, so it can preserve as much as possible of the Fieldglass install base. We see this as the first step of the established ERP vendors to elaborate the value proposition of HCM and other areas of automation beyond Finance (where the messaging is at par with Workday). SAP leveraging the leading position of the Ariba user base and combining contingent workforce procurement with traditional procurement is a smart move that creates value for existing and future customers. 


      And more on overall SAP strategy

      • News Analysis – SAP and Accenture partner – more of the old or something new? Read here.
      • Now that SAP is a tech company – it wants to be cloud company – read here.
      • SAP’s startup program keep rolling – read here.
      • Why SAP acquired KXEN? Getting serious about Analytics – read here.
      • SAP steamlines organization further – the Danes are leaving – read here.
      • Reading between the lines… SAP Q2 Earnings – cloudy with potential structural changes – read here.
      • SAP wants to be a technology company, really – read here
      • Why SAP acquired hybris software – read here.
      • SAP gets serious about the cloud – organizationally – read here.
      • Taking stock – what SAP answered and it didn’t answer this Sapphire [2013] – read here.
      • Act III & Final Day – A tale of two conference – Sapphire & SuiteWorld13 – read here.
      • The middle day – 2 keynotes and press releases – Sapphire & SuiteWorld – read here.
      • A tale of 2 keynotes and press releases – Sapphire & SuiteWorld – read here.
      • What I would like SAP to address this Sapphire – read here.
      • Why 3rd party maintenance is key to SAP’s and Oracle’s success – read here.
      • Why SAP acquired Camillion – read here.
      • Why SAP acquired SmartOps – read here.
      • Next in your mall – SAP and Oracle? Read here.

      And more about SAP technology:

      • Launch Report - When BW 7.4 meets HANA it is like 2 + 2 = 5 - but is 5 enough - read here
      • Event Report - BI 2014 and HANA 2014 takeaways - it is all about HANA and Lumira - but is that enough? Read here.
      • News Analysis – SAP slices and dices into more Cloud, and of course more HANA – read here.
      • SAP gets serious about open source and courts developers – about time – read here.
      • My top 3 takeaways from the SAP TechEd keynote – read here.
      • SAP discovers elasticity for HANA – kind of – read here.
      • Can HANA Cloud be elastic? Tough – read here.
      • SAP’s Cloud plans get more cloudy – read here.
      • HANA Enterprise Cloud helps SAP discover the cloud (benefits) – read here.

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      Last week was all dominated by public cloud announcements, starting with Cisco’s Intercloud, then Google Cloud platform live event, then AWSSummit and lastly the Microsoft cloudformobile event. In the midst of this – one market move got less attention that it should deserve, Infor announced during the AWS Summit keynote that it will run its CloudSuite applications on AWS.

      So let’s take a first look at the press release and then at what strategy Infor maybe up to, finalizing around the implication for market and customers and a verdict in regards of this forming an inflection point or more a hot air balloon.

      Infor, a leading provider of business application software serving more than 70,000 customers, today announced Infor CloudSuiteTM, the first group of industry-specific application suites available on Amazon Web Services' (AWS) cloud. Infor CloudSuite provides beautiful software with deep industry functionality and a flexible, subscription-based delivery model that significantly reduces upfront IT expenditure.

      MyPOV – This makes Infor the first enterprise application vendor of size to rely for overall core processes on a public cloud, here AWS. While development and test systems have been available for a long time (e.g. SAP, Oracle, Workday etc.) only very narrow application scopes have been brought to the public cloud (e.g. Infor with its analytical offering on based on AWS Redshift) for production purposes, or their scope has not been too broadly advertised (e.g.’s Heroku runs on AWS).

      Each industry suite within Infor CloudSuite is built by unifying multiple applications that historically were deployed independently to holistically support core business functions by industry. This core, along with fast and simple provisioning and a SaaS pricing model will enable Infor CloudSuite to change the way enterprise software is delivered to and consumed by customers.

      MyPOV – Deep vertical automation is one of the Infor leitmotivs for their offerings, and something the company is investing into heavily. What Infor is doing is pretty much the same like many other enterprises out there do – building their next generation applications and then delivering them on a public cloud infrastructure.

      "SaaS today refers primarily to HCM, CRM or another edge application, never to mission-critical business operations," said Charles Phillips, CEO of Infor. "Infor CloudSuite redefines cloud for the enterprise, delivering the first full suite of business applications purpose-built by industry running in a public cloud through Amazon Web Services." 

      "Customers want help figuring out how to move more of their operations into the AWS Cloud. They want to shift their resources to focus on what they do best, rather than on the undifferentiated heavy lifting of managing IT and complex software," said Andy Jassy, SVP, Amazon Web Services, Inc. "We are excited that Infor is addressing these needs using the AWS platform. Infor CloudSuite on AWS delivers a simplified and enhanced user experience, across a multitude of industries, and provides all the agility, elasticity, and cost benefits of the AWS Cloud to enterprise customers around the world."

      MyPOV – No surprise – both Philips and Jassy are excited about this. And the excitement is deserved as Infor becomes the first mover across the large enterprise software vendors to deploy productions systems on a public IaaS like AWS, and AWS gets a lot of enterprise load into their cloud. Enterprise load has been something that AWS wants (and needs to) aggressively ramp up inside of enterprises to not let traditional enterprise vendors (that now have cloud offerings) like IBM, Oracle, Microsoft, HP etc. gather this lucrative business.

      Infor will leverage the AWS cloud infrastructure to allow customers to take advantage of Amazon's expertise and economies of scale to access resources when they need them, on demand and with auto-scaling built into the Infor applications.  Infor is in the process of consolidating existing subscribers and transitioning current internal infrastructure to the AWS platform. AWS provides services in 10 Regions, with 25 Availability Zones and 51 Amazon CloudFront Edge locations globally.

      MyPOV – This is a key paragraph that documents, that Infor has tried to build out its own datacenter infrastructure – but has obviously realized that moving to a public IaaS provider like AWS is better for Infor. And it makes sense – instead of putting CAPEX into data centers, Infor gains critical capital to pore into R&D or acquisitions. From a technology stack perspective that is relatively easy to do for Infor, as it is standardizing around JBoss, PostgreSQL and Linux. All platforms that AWS offers. The argument of ‘no one can run our tech stack better than us’ is no argument for a generic and open source based technology stack that Infor has opted to build its next generation applications on. Experience and scale matter much more here.

      "AWS has the best and most advanced cloud infrastructure in the world, providing a delivery model, cost structure, and focus on operational excellence that perfectly complements and enhances our products," said Phillips. "Moreover, the tie between Infor and AWS is strengthened through a common focus on customer experience, rapid-pace of innovation, and standards-based architecture."

      MyPOV – Well I am sure other public cloud IaaS may have given Infor a similar overlap – but as Philips mentioned in his presentation at AWS Summit – none of them was as easy and fast to do business with like AWS. And the JBoss, PostgreSQL and Linux stack eliminated many of the other public cloud IaaS providers. And even AWS was not an option since too long an option – as AWS only announcedPostgreSQL support at their re:invent conference last November – but as a limited availability (a.k.a. beta). That said – I can’t even find when PostgreSQL went available to all customers (a.k.a. GA) on AWS. 

      The other emphasis needs to be on standards based which is key for Infor’s technology direction – but also for AWS. As long as standards are popular – they are key winners for AWS and enterprise software vendors like Infor.

      Infor plans to roll out industry suites, delivered on AWS, throughout 2014, beginning this spring with Infor CloudSuite Automotive, Infor CloudSuite Aerospace & Defense, and Infor CloudSuite Hospitality. Early this summer Infor expects to deliver Infor CloudSuite Corporate, with a core of best-in-class financials and Infor's complete human capital management suite. [..]

      MyPOV – Interesting that Infor is delivering Aerospace and Defense offerings so early, an industry ruled by very high security requirements. It could well be thought that using AWS’ cloud offerings was the faster – and potentially even only way for Infor to get a Defense vertical offering out in the first half of 2014.. The true landmark will be CloudSuite Corporate (Financials and HCM automation) – which will appeal to all of Infor’s customers and is slotted to be available mid-2014..

      Massive CAPEX Savings

      There can be no question that Infor is gaining significant CAPEX savings from the move. Instead of having to build out a global data center and network infrastructure, it can now piggy back on AWS. To a large extent Infor’s move is like Netflix’s move, which opted years ago to use AWS for its streaming (and more) services. Infor’s COO Pam Murphy even looked relieved to a certain point to not have to deal with the compliance and certification anymore (see here interview with John Furrier and team here).

      The Security concerns

      Needless to say when you move core enterprise data in the public cloud, there will be security concerns. Infor has done a good job addressing these heads on with almost a quarter of the information of the CloudSuite website centering on security. Infor even went so far to put the email address of their Information Security Officer, Jim Hoover on the website. Kudos for accessibility.

      But to a certain point Infor hedges here – as it offers it applications as well on premise, so it’s really the customer who decides at the end of the day. And letting the customer decide is never a bad strategy at the end of the day.

      Holistic approach is key

      The Infor management team around Philips has plenty of sales execution experience – so no surprise that Infor is equally changing sales compensation plans to motivate its salesforce to move to CloudSuite. A key more to create revenue traction.

      Moreover, Infor has involved its substantial 3000+ member partner network that is key to help move install base customer over to the new offering.

      And lastly Infor offers a standardized upgrade program with UpgradeX to its customers. For a fixed price Infor will value engineer the move to the cloud, transfer data, train and support customers moving to Infor 10x.

      Market Implications

      Smaller ISVs with cloud offerings need to take a hard look at the cost of their datacenters and their build out, especially with a global customer base and / or global ambition. Even larger enterprise software vendors like SAP and Oracle will probably need to take a fresh look at their cost calculations.

      On the IaaS side AWS has the largest enterprise software vendor on the hook, as Oracle for sure and SAP most likely will go down the path of running their own cloud infrastructure. But as the MDM offering from SAP has already shown, AWS is certainly an attractive option for certain SAP offerings, too. AWS competitors have missed out on one of the largest enterprise software loads out there

      Customer Implications

      For Infor customers – These customers should take a good look at the CloudSuite offering, as long as functional coverage of CloudSuite vs their existing offering is attractive. Then it comes to security considerations, upgrade costs and overall risk appetite to decide for CloudSuite on premise – or on top of AWS.

      For non Infor customers – This is an area to watch. Wait for the offering to mature but then certainly have a look at it. Use the intelligence around the pricing and licensing to ask for similar numbers from your existing enterprise application vendor. If they can be more or less matched, good news, if they cannot be matched – time to look at vendors that can match them, including Infor.

      Implications for Infor

      Infor has been planning this move for a while, so we can expect that Philips and team know what they are doing. The holistic approach is a key validation point for this. Now it comes back for Infor to execute by delivering what it announced and to create the customer momentum to make this a successful move on the revenue side.


      A very good move by Infor, ridding itself of high CAPEX and worries around a global datacenter and network rollout. A key win for AWS on the enterprise side. If both Infor and AWS deliver, not only SaaS by accident, but SaaS on AWS by accident (customers buying CloudSuite and with that run on AWS) will happen – nothing better can occur for AWS. So definitively an inflection point – not a hot air balloon – as long as Infor can create the commercial success and execute on its ambitious product roadmap.

      More about Infor
      • Inforum 2013 – Takeaways from the Keynote – Day 2 – read here.
      • Infor’s bet on microverticals – the good, the bad the ugly – read here

      More about AWS:
      • Event Report – AWS Summit in San Fr.ancisco – AWS keeps doing what has been working since 8 years – read here
      • AWS moves the yardstick - Day 2 reinvent takeaways - read here
      • AWS powers on, into new markets - Day 1 reinvent takeaways - read here
      • The Cloud is growing up - three signs in the News - read here
      • Amazon AWS powers on - read here.

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         Earlier this week I had the opportunity to attend Equifax Workforce Services annual user conference in Scottsdale. It was an almost intimate affair with a little more than 200 customers attending – with its great advantages for all attending – like direct access to executives, a lot of networking opportunities and a great opportunity for Equifax customer to look at other Equifax products and offerings. Customers were overall very positive on products and direction, and even more open to exchange experience and best practices, when it comes to compliance HR professionals are (literally) all in the same boat.

        Equifax Workforce Services (EWS) was started with the Equifax acquisition of Talx, which today forms the backbone of the Equifax employment verification business. Coupled with strong offerings in compliance, largely centered on the hiring process and subsequent onboarding, EWS helps to automate the hard part of the process with I-9 services, background checks, WOTC data capture, call outs to benefits etc. With employment verification and unemployment insurance validation EWS has equally strong offerings in later phases of an employee life cycle. And not surprisingly EWS customers are in high turnover and / or industries that show a lot of seasonal hiring (e.g. retailers, food and beverage etc.).

        Compliance is the game

        As general guidance, EWS seems to seek out areas of automation in the HR process landscape that are hard and unpleasant to automate and execute – but enterprises could get in significant trouble if they do not execute and run them well. Hence the headline that EWS is like preventive medicine for the HR department – similar as many people take their vitamins and minerals to prevent from disease taking over, EWS is happy to be the partner of taking care of all the ugly and hard compliance processes. Enterprises using EWS are generally buying automation of a vital, but not strategic service – unless it fails, so basically peace of mind and time to focus on other – often more deemed strategic HR activities.

        And beyond Compliance

        It was good to see that EWS is not resting on its laurels in the compliance area – but also looking at other strategic applications. And there are 2 key areas EWS is looking at:

        • Analytics– With the acquisition of Ethority EWS has a strong ETL and BI tool, but is looking at creating (true) analytics now, based on the Talx employment and more data. With over 70% coverage of the FT500 employments on file, there is a very attractive set of data to come up with insights that HR practitioners have been craving for since a long time.
        An example of bench marking Equifax can provide. 

        • Credit – EWS sees an opportunity to become a source of credit for consumers. The scenarios goes along the lines that FICO scores of consumers have no recovered (yet) from the last financial crisis, and employment verification (coupled with salary), can be a strong (or good enough) indicator to extend credit to a consumer. The purchase of automotive vehicles is the use case at hand. 
        Value to consumer and merchant of employment verification is obvious in this example. 

        And Equifax employment verification business got a fresh boost by Equifax's recent win with CMS, where Equifax provides income verification for the ACA to work properly.


        This event showed once again the value of small events – great access, experience and best practice exchange. Equifax has a great track record of helping enterprises with the hard things most HR practitioners do not want to spend too much time on. But these things can be mines that enterprises may step on and then the damage could be catastrophic, just consider reputational damage. Moreover Equifax has all the data to its disposal to become a key analytical benchmark provider and information services provider, two areas with a lot of appeal and value – both for Equifax and its customers. The credit provider play has probably the most potential, though EWS has to overcome the fears of data being shared with its holding company, Equifax the credit bureau.

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        Microsoft’s build developer conference kicked off today in San Francisco – it’s well attended with over 5000 guests - and sold out since months. Day 1 was all about Windows Phone 8.1, the launch of Cortana, support for developers, a little Internet of Things and Nokia Lumia phones

        Nonetheless there are some takeaways for the enterprise – here are my Top3:

        • Universal Windows App – The dividend of running an OS from the same software vendor are synergies. So Microsoft creation of the universal Windows app is not of a surprise (more – why only now?). So one application can re-use most of its code artefacts (Microsoft says up to 90%) and be shared across smartphones, tablets and PCs running Windows 8.1. With the addition of xBox and Kinect there are new applications in store - as well as opportunity for enterprise applications to get on the first screen.
          For enterprises this means that achieving a consistent and familiar user experience is now in reach – even for in house custom apps. For purchased apps the informed enterprise buyer will ask their ISV in regards of ETA of bringing their applications to the universal Windows App platform.
        • Nokia Lumia 63x– Stephen Elop presented a number of new phones and while the high end ones are surely interesting in richer markets around the world, the Lumia 6.3x will make an impact around the world (interesting it is not launching in the US early). It matters for enterprises as the price point of under $200 makes this an affordable, but powerful device to be deployed across the world.

          A common, worldwide user experience with all its benefits is now in reach for enterprise deployments. And the dual SIM card will make telecom procurement managers in enterprises really happy – as an elegant way to easily control and reduce roaming costs. 
        • Free Windows for smartphones and small tablets– Microsoft also announced that it will make Windows available for no license cost – as long as it is supposed to run on phones or tablets with less than 9 inches screen diagonal. It matters for enterprises as now you not only have the software tools to build universal Windows apps, a price effective hardware device, you will also see even lower device prices going forward across the board due to no operation royalty costs.

          In one of the more ironic twists of the smartphone wars, Microsoft makes more in royalty from the sales of some Android phones from IP loyalties - than from selling Windows Phone. 


        A more consumer and developer focused start of Build – but with plenty of repercussions and implications for the enterprise. More consistent user experience across more powerful and cost effective devices is a good news for enterprises.


        Here is a Storify tweet collection of the Day 1 Keynote. 

        More about Microsoft:
        • Microsoft gets even more serious about devices - acquire Nokia - read here.
        • Microsoft does not need one new CEO - but six - read here.
        • Microsoft makes the cloud a platform play - Or: Azure and her 7 friends - read here.
        • How the Cloud can make the unlikeliest bedfellows - read here.
        • How hard is multi-channel CRM in 2013? - Read here.
        • How hard is it to install Office 365? Or: The harsh reality of customer support - read here.

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        On the second day of Microsoft’s Build developer conference it was time for getting serious about the cloud, in Microsoft’s case to get serious about Azure.

        And there can be no question that Microsoft is committed to Azure. What a difference a year makes. It wasn’t even a year – as Build 2013 was in June – and we had a completely different format and group of executives. Ballmer, Larson-Green, Leblond and Pall were on stage then on Day 1 – Ballmer and Leblond are gone, Larson-Green is now Chief Experience Officer and Pall is heading Skype. Both could have been on stage at Build 2014, too – but I guess the agenda was too packed. And contrary to Ballmer who presented and introduced big news a year ago (the Start button is back), Nadella only did a 30 minute or so Q&A of previously recorded video questions. Symbolically, he was introduced by Elop on stage. 

        Nadella took video questions on stage at Day 1 of Build 2014
        But most keynote time went to executives whose teams delivered products for Build and that was Belfiore (Windows Phone Mobile) and Guthrie (Azure) – accompanied by developer advocate Myerson and demo guru Guggenheimer. So significant change in presenters, but it seems not to have slowed down Microsoft.

        The difference to Build 2013 was that last year it was all the other Microsoft products (Windows, Office, Bing etc.) coming to help of Azure, by exposing services and APIs. That led me to call the blog post ‘Princess Azure and the 7 dwarfs’. Well nothing like that this year. While Office was shortly on stage – it was more about supporting touch than Azure. And Bing wasn’t even directly on stage (though indirectly as a huge contributor to Cortana’s intelligence). And not a single word of Biztalk.

        My Visual takeaway of Build 2013 - all to the help of Princess Azure
        I have blogged on my top 3 takeaways for the enterprise from Day 1 already here– so let’s take a look at the enterprise takeaways from Day 2:

        Azure momentum

        Microsoft invests in Azure and had 44 new announcements of capabilities in store. Tough to keep the overview – but let’s start comparing the Azure live stats – using the Build 2013 and 2014 information shared. Unfortunately Microsoft – like other cloud vendors, too – makes it hard to compare progress by offering different metrics – but the following three could be deducted from slides and statements:
        • Azure sees increased usage from 50 to 57% with the Fortune500
        • Storage objects have increased from 8.5T+ to over 20T
        • Microsoft stay with the story that Azure doubles every 6 months

        A comparison of Azure stats - Build 2014 (left) and Build 2013 (right)
        No surprise the stats Microsoft presented are pretty impressive. In a Q&A an executive gave up the number of US3B+ being invested into Azure CAPEX in the coming quarters.

        So how do you test and explain that scale bewww.titanfall.comst? Games and media events and Microsoft are two good showcases with the Titanfall game (over 100k VMs used) and the streaming coverage of the Sochi Olympics by NBC. Then NBC’s Cordella made the perfect example for elasticity – he mentioned how you go from almost no streaming demand from a curling match to the peak of the Olympics for NBC this year – the USA vs. Canada hockey match.

        Azure Data Center locations as presented at Build 2014
        On the data center location topic, Microsoft has made progress – now with 16 regions worldwide. It also holds the first data center in China prize, but Amazon was quick to follow (last week). Guthrie made a key point though – redundant data centers are in the 500 mile range from each other, so fail over backup against natural disaster is realistic – but the overall jurisdiction does not have to change. With more and more sensitivity on data security, privacy and big brother watching you, quite an argument pro Azure.

        Improved tooling

        Similar like Google the other week, Microsoft showed programmatic control for VMs, right from Visual Studio – a key requirement, almost table stake today. Cloud customers want to have direct control on elasticity, auto-scaling is a great feature, but running it yourself is the preferred choice. The remote dynamic debug capability is a very powerful new feature, too. And with the addition of Puppet, Chef and Powershell Microsoft has given developers the access to configuration control with their favorite tools. There can be no question that Microsoft wants (and needs) Visual Studio to remain the development tool of choice.

        But Microsoft needs to balance its own ambitions with the reality where developer populations live now, so the addition of Java to the popular Azure Websites is a tribute to that. And in an acknowledgement of Internet Explorer ruling the world, the BrowserLink and F12 debugging can synch CSS changes across browsers of competitors. Moreover Microsoft gives away a SSL security certificate for each Azure Website – making it easier for developers to build secure sites…

        All 44 Azure announcements by IaaS, Web, Data and Mobile

        On the mobile side Microsoft makes it easier to get users ramped up, with improved AD support – either supporting on premise or Office365 / Sharepoint repositories. And with AD Microsoft has a ‘higher ground’ in regards of giving (known) users quickly access to newly built applications, mobile being a prominent example. And again Microsoft straddles beyond its platforms with the Xamarin capabilities of Visual Studio to build mobile applications for iOS and Android. And with Docusign and Vesper there were two good reference on stage for using Azure without living completely in the Microsoft ecosystem.

        On the data side Microsoft moved the MS SQL limit from 150 to 500 GB, and while this if perfectly enough for 90%+ of applications, the question is why that limitation is needed and exists in the first place. Raising the SLA for MS SQL to 99.95% is definitively going to be a head scratcher for any local on premise SQL Server install. As mentioned before the active geo-replication across the data centers in the same legal, statutory zone is a key addition.

        Big shift to open source

        One of the major (positive) surprises was the significant push towards open source, and while that part of the keynote started nicely with developer legend Hejlsberg on stage announcing the open sourcing of the Roslyn compiler, Guthrie topped that the .Net foundation announcement with a long list of products being contributed. In an ironic course of the developer tool industry, the company that took out most of the competition (Microsoft) – at the end of the day needs to acknowledge the power of open source and with that the significant revenue deflation happening in the tool space.

        All contributions to the .Net Foundation
        On the flipside of the argument Microsoft announced the online version of Visual Studio – and while introductory rates are attractive, developers (or their managers) will pay more beyond the traditional purchase of a development tool that ran locally sometime in the 2nd year of usage. But then with an online development environment systems, developers receive more than a tool – its storage, networking, sandboxes, backup etc. – all costs hidden in the traditional on premise tool installation.

        A new face for Azure

        Azure is getting a new face with a band new Azure Portal. .Impressively the portal went live same day for Azure customers. It looks clean and easy to use, is extensible through the Azure Gallery. What Microsoft missed to mention in the keynote but clarified in a subsequent Q&A was that the new Portal works well with Systems Manager and can with that show both on premise and cloud resources. In fact it can even be deployed locally to monitor cloud resources, or in the cloud to monitor on premise resources. And with that it will make the transition to more Azure emotionally and practically easier for most traditional on premise Windows customers – as you don’t have to ‘leave the living room’ anymore. 

        The new Azure Portal
        But administrators need to learn a new user interface, and as well as it demoed and looked like to be intuitively usable – I’d love to know why Microsoft thinks that a Metro style user interfaced that has proven to be unpopular with most of its user base, will appeal to a technical audience.

        Death by Demo - 20 Demos in 60 minutes

        And then we were off to Guggenheimer’s rapid demo show, all centered on partners building applications on Azure with Windows tools. And while Guggenheimer framed the presentation with desirable goals (investment protection, build for cloud and mobile, platform portability) – the rapid demo sequence never tied back to these three value propositions. Probably Microsoft could have achieved more with less demos.

        All 20 partners features in the demo hour

        Implications, Implications... 

        Implications for developers

        While Microsoft tools and platforms may not be the most popular places to start with – Microsoft has done a big step ahead with a bounty of 44 announcements. Adding Java support last year and adding it for websites should make it an interesting option for deploying cloud loads. If the Xamarin capability – though innovative and powerful – will make developers jump ship is doubtful. But for an existing Microsoft developer the tooling and capabilities have vastly improved. Developers should certainly look at the value proposition of the new cloud based development tools.

        What a Microsoft developer may not be able to make up in sizzle factor in meeting with peers, she / he may well be able to make up in productivity. And developers respect that – at the end of the day everybody wants to get work done.

        Implications for CIOs

        Microsoft has made it more compelling to use its platform and tools with this Build conference. On the pure IaaS side geo-replication will be of significant value for a number of enterprises. Using the AD and Office investments will move most enterprises to a certain extent of using Azure, and Microsoft certainly makes it compelling with a lot of ease of use to move to Azure. With Microsoft giving proof of its price match commitment to Amazon (Microsoft just reacted to the 42nd AWS price reduction) – cost is not a reason not to use Azure. If enterprises use 3rd party pieces of technology that Microsoft is not supporting, seek the dialogue with Microsoft.

        On the tools and PaaS side Microsoft has made it easier to build next generation cloud applications. And with Xamarin there is less of a platform lock-in and easier access to other Microsoft products. Microsoft has also done a good job showing migration of older .Net and even a VB6 application. And while these migrations are never as easy in the real world as on a demo stage – it is good to see Microsoft paying attention and making these migrations easier.

        Implication for ISVs

        Azure remains a cost competitive platform with potential data center location advantages. The extension of MS SQL storage makes Azure more palatable for SaaS ISVs segregating tenancy by database. ISVs with their technology stack running on Microsoft have more good reasons to look at new tools and capabilities in Azure. It’s likely the new Azure Portal will give them better instrumentation and diagnosis tools from the get go than what they have right now.

        Implications for competitors

        Cross platform arguments are getting weaker and weaker to be used against Microsoft as the ‘new’ Microsoft has no fear to provide that and has a strong self-interest to succeed here (e.g. Office on iPad). Apart from Amazon and Google, competitors need to take a hard look at infrastructure costs and differentiating value services. With the build announcements Microsoft is moving the yard stick in regards of platform capabilities at low costs – with a strong pitch and benefits to the Microsoft eco system. When Microsoft gets traction I’d expect the usual competitors to ramp up corresponding offerings – but it may be too late for that already.

        Implications for Microsoft

        Microsoft needs to go down the path of ‘open, but’ path. With that I mean that the openness and standard messages are key to attract developers, but then the tie into higher productivity and other Microsoft assets need to be balanced out. To match Amazon, Microsoft needs to continue to add popular 3rd party products to its platform – last year Oracle and Java were a huge step – but more steps need to follow. The open source move now needs to be lived and Microsoft needs to show that it listens and works well with the open source community.


        A build conference with a huge number of announcements that will take the ecosystem quarters to dissect, evaluate and measure on. Key milestones for Microsoft on the value side were the universal Windows apps (to get to these platforms – amazingly less prominent on day 2), significant advances in Azure and developer tooling and a huge contribution to open source. On the cost side the landmark takeaways are the re-confirmed price match to AWS (notably not mentioned at build) and the free licensing of Windows on small devices (which extends the Windows platform reach). Well done by Microsoft which keeps adding attractive value propositions for all its constituents. Not an easy task to balance.


        A tweet stream in Storify can be found here.


        More about Microsoft:
        • Event Report - Microsoft Build Day 1 Keynote - Top Enterprise Takeaways - read here.
        • Microsoft gets even more serious about devices - acquire Nokia - read here.
        • Microsoft does not need one new CEO - but six - read here.
        • Microsoft makes the cloud a platform play - Or: Azure and her 7 friends - read here.
        • How the Cloud can make the unlikeliest bedfellows - read here.
        • How hard is multi-channel CRM in 2013? - Read here.
        • How hard is it to install Office 365? Or: The harsh reality of customer support - read here.

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        We have the opportunity to attend ADP’s annual user conference for large enterprise customers – happening in Orlando right now. The conference is well attended with over a 1000 attendees.

        Here are my top 3 takeaways from today’s keynote:

        • It’s a new ADP – Gone are the days of ADP being the grey and boring back office payroll specialist. The executive team cracked more jokes than to be able to account for here – and most of them making fun of themselves. I wasn’t there – but that did not happen 5-6 Meetings of the Minds (MOTM) ago as attendees are telling me. The new ADP is social and lets their employees wear jeans and … bring their dogs to work (!). Quite a cultural change for a large enterprise but it’s good to see it lived and energizing employees and with that customers and partners.

        • A complete vision– ADP CEO Rodriguez walked the audience through the company’s vision - using a hire to retire perspective coupled with the ADP strengths on service and compliance. It was a good setup for the rest of the keynote – though it could have been connected more with the following parts of the keynote. For instance the insight component came too short in my view. But what hasn’t happened can still be and the conference just started.

        • Compelling product demo– Later in the keynote Mark Benjamin and Mike Capone engaged in a very good (and entertaining) presentation of the upcoming employee self-service user interface. Not only did the new user experience look well and easy to use – but it also showed the ADP higher ground around payroll and compliance. Seeing take home pay when electing benefits, showing overtime correctly calculated in a paycheck and swapping shifts were impressive highlights of the demo. Customers will see the new user interface first late summer / early fall.


        An encouraging start of the MOTM conference. It’s good to see ADP not blindly imitating other leading HCM vendors but looking for a differentiating position, leveraging its strengths and bringing in a different perspective to the HCM automation game. Now it's key to see that ADP delivers innovation across a complex product portfolio and learn from customers what they see and how they feel on the progress. More to come in the next two days.


        You can find a Storify collection of Keynote tweets here.

        More on ADP

        • ADP innovates with with verve and good timing – read here

        And  more on the importance of the paycheck:

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

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        Today’s’ debut of Cortana at the Microsoft’s Build conference in San Francisco made me think once again how we work with our devices. Obviously devices are a key component of the ‘Future of Work’ research area that we have at Constellation Research.

        Screenshot from Wikipedia

        There is no question we live in the information age and devices are the key tools used by the worker of the information age. A life without them is hardly imaginable at this point – both at work and off work. Kids ask their parents how people met before they had mobile phones. Or what is a fax. I recently found out about that generation gap when our 8 year old daughter asked me if a rotary phone is really a phone and if it was how to use it.

        The irony that till today almost all input into our devices happens through keyboards. We need keyboards so the devices understand us. Even if you think back to early computing – the punch card was the medium of choice to store information and program – and load them to devices.

        So the keyboard came along as well and as one of the earliest testaments for the importance of backward compatibility, loaned its design from the mechanical typewriters. Not sure who made the decision but the came along with a short term pro and a mega long term con. The short term pro was – it was easy for people to use the keyboard layout – as they were used to it from the mechanical typewriter. The mega long term con (that we suffer from till today) was, that the key layout of the typewriter was ultimately designed in a way to not be able to type too fast. Correct – not type too fast. A lot of research of early typewriter keyboard layouts went into creating a layout that would avoid the back then ‘blue screen of death’ – the mechanical jam of the typewriter’s hammers. One can imagine the productivity impact of such a crash was significant – unclog the hammers, clean fingers and get back to typing – a little slower this time. Still a faster recovery than the one from the PC blue screen of death. But even in the earliest computer times, there was no need to throttle the human typing speed.

        And humans are extraordinary at adapting and learning. Ever seen an adept teenager tying on a T9 keyboard – beating many people typing on a regular keyboard day in and day out from an accuracy and speed perspective. Or the most recent trend to solve the input problem – the swipe across the keyboard. Saves the time to lift fingers – and let’s software help the understanding on what was supposed to be type. How fast that can be can be seen in the recent Guinness world record that Microsoft established for Windows Phone 8.1

        And now we are seeing the rise of voice. First popular in the late 90ies – but it never took over the PC. And even with voice recognition now being part of Windows 8 – with no additional charge – voice never took over on a PC. The reason might be the multi-tasking nature of the PC – voice recognition only gets really good when knowing the context of the voice being heard – and PCs are used for multiple things at the same time. Smartphones though are usually only being used in one context (even though they can multitask) – and that makes voice recognition much easier to master. And of course the form factor, the disappearance of the physical keyboard all played hand in hand for the rise of voice.

        As mentioned – Siri made the start – but interesting enough you see very few iPhone users using voice as their dominant input method. It is largely used as a search entry replacement – often in a social setting. Coupled with the prestige and coolness factor of Siri – the search results are often entertaining. Then came Google with Now– and that moved the yardstick quite a bit. In my unscientific and not representative samples I see Android users talking more to their phones for text input than iPhone users. .I even know a (in fairness dictation trained lawyer) that handles almost all smartphone input activity via voice.

        And now it’s Microsoft with Cortana. As almost a tradition, Microsoft is not early in the game – but a later follower – with that it has the chance to get things right and differentiated from existing products. Being able to interact with Cortana also via keyboard – not just voice – is definitively an improvement that takes into account that people expect answers not only on a spoken context – but also in settings when you cannot speak (e.g. when in a meeting). From the developer angle, opening up Cortana APIs for specific jargon, words and context is also a differentiating move. Moreover Cortana can take notes and make turn them into reminders. Through pure coincidence I had lunch with the PM team of Cortana at the build conference – and it was interesting to see and learn how well planned the differentiating features were put in place. Having Cortana pro-actively tell you e.g. the latest weather forecast because she noticed you always ask this around 7 AM… is just another example.

        At the end of the day voice tools like Apple’s Siri, Google Now and Microsoft Cortana need to get voice recognition, context and then intent right.

        • Getting the voice side right is pretty much a table stake.
        • A great search engine helps to get the context right – as Google has shown. And here Microsoft may have an advantage over Apple, but unlikely in comparison to Google. But having the largest email and calendaring platform with Office is a huge bonus on the other side.
        • Getting the intent is largely depending on the context – and there smartphones capturing information on location, movement, applications are a very important help.

        How Microsoft manages to create additional value and differentiation for Cortana beyond that– we will have to see.

        At the end of the day voice recognition is all about getting the prediction of intent right. When it hits the sweet spot it is unbelievably cool. When it misses by a little, the results are – silly. And in order to increase prediction quality, voice recognition providers need to encroach into areas that are usually tucked under the cloth of privacy. Getting the mix right and not becoming creepy is the art to get right.

        When will we know voice recognition has arrived? Well when we see no more QWERTY keyboards being sold. No keyboard accessory business. Cortana will be certainly a system that will fight the keyboards. Will we see the keyboards come back with a faster to type design – we will see. For now we certainly can say that we will use our voice chords more often than our fingertips.

        P.S. Siri and Cortana are female, Google Now the voice is determined by user setup. Cortana was loaned from the Halo game – so she has a physical appearance. How Microsoft got that by concerns on stereotypes and gender thinking is something I am still pondering on.

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        We had the opportunity to attend ADP’s yearly user conference for their large enterprise customers, the Meeting of the Minds (MOTM) as ADP calls the event. With well over a thousand attendees this was the largest MOTM ever and both vendor and customers were energized about the new ADP, which is more informal, approachable, and funny and especially cares about all aspects of HCM automation now (see my takeaways from Day 1 here), way beyond the traditional payroll and compliance aspects.

        Like all vendors being in the market for mover than 10-15 years, ADP has established and well adopted products that are well used and operated by ADP customers and ADP itself day in and day out. Similar like other established vendors, ADP has also created a SMB portfolio. And lastly ADP also plays in the global HCM market with its GlobalView product. All in all this leads to a plethora of products to maintain, invest in and keep the innovation flame cooking on. A difficult situation not only for the return of R&D dollars, but likewise for customers to navigate, partners to understand and sales people to articulate.

        The go-forward strategy

        To leverage investment into product better and to focus innovation ADP has embarked into a front end innovation strategy (we chose this description as best to describe what ADP is doing). And with that we mean that ADP plans to conserve its backend systems, but is in the process to create a common front end to all these backend processes, based on a modern application platform, supplemented by additional horizontal capabilities. 

        Screenshot of the upcoming ADP new user interface

        The first deliverables of this strategy are coming to maturation now and the MOTM attendees saw a nicely build, very usable new user interface, that combines various backend systems. Not surprisingly that user interface is HTML5 based, and features responsive design, meaning that it optimizes automatically to the screen resolutions of smartphones, tablets and desktops. To ADP’s credit, the new UI lacks some of the traditional fluffiness we have seen from other vendors moving to HTML5. ADP is still working on figuring out details on the application server side, which needs to connect to the various backend systems and collect the relevant data and processes so they can be served to the front end. Not a trivial task, but the route ADP decided to take is showing first results and is overall promising. 

        Screenshot of the upcoming ADP new user interface
        The first deliverables of this strategy are coming to maturation now and the MOTM attendees saw a nicely build, very usable new user interface, that combines various backend systems. Not surprisingly that user interface is HTML5 based, and features responsive design, meaning that it optimizes automatically to the screen resolutions of smartphones, tablets and desktops. To ADP’s credit, the new UI lacks some of the traditional fluffiness we have seen from other vendors moving to HTML5. ADP is still working on figuring out details on the application server side, which needs to connect to the various backend systems and collect the relevant data and processes so they can be served to the front end. Not a trivial task, but the route ADP decided to take is showing first results and is overall promising. 

        ADP seems to be following a similar strategy like IBM here, which calls it the API economy – in the IBM case BlueMix being the tool to create the new modern front ends. But ADP does not want to be in the implementation service business like IBM – so it will have to make assumptions in the front end to backend integrations, which should not be too hard as it’s an ADP front end speaking to an ADP backend.

        The most innovative part of the strategy is the front end technology and application server, which leverages HTML5, No-SQL and graph databases, predictive analytics and open source best of breed components. A radical departure from older ADP architecture – not even going back many years, if e.g. compared to the much more recent VantageHCM architecture.

        The bellwether of architecture – agile applications

        Of course vendors do not build architectures for architecture’s sake – but to enable agile and 21st century applications. ADP demoed the onboarding of a new employee and made a very good showcase out of it: Not only the traditional onboarding was covered, but also the addition of social network and media information, the discovery of co-workers, the benefits eligibility process (with an eye on take home pay available) – overall a great demo of the new capabilities.

        Now ADP needs to show more of these processes with an ESS / MSS and Talent Management backdrop and if these will be implemented equally engaging and well done, the conceptual and practical side of the new architecture will have proven itself.

        Reality Check

        Let’s look at the present situation for ADP customers, taking a look at the four major product offerings:
        • ADP Enterprise – These are the 1000+ ADP customers that are using this relatively oldest platform of ADP (a purchased PeopleSoft license, as only senior industry observers will remember) – that has moved of considerably from its legacy with continued ADP investment. But this customer base is asking for more innovation and ADP has rightfully moved its investment priorities towards this customer group. New innovations like the HCM centric document management are coming to this customer group early. It will be interesting to see how much ADP can upsell and move into this client base in the next quarters to com.

        • ADP Workforce Now – The ADP product targeting North America centric enterprises is historically in better shape architecture wise. Customers seem to be generally happy and not too concerned. ADP needs to master the simplification of a more complex backend system and a unified talent management systems (from Vantage HCM) – not an easy task, it will be interesting to see how ADP will address that.
        • ADP Vantage HCM – The 2nd youngest child of the ADP product family, Vantage HCM is coming of age (or in pre-school age) and what a difference 3-4 years can make. What started as an appealing UI back then looks rather pedestrian today – so the new architecture will benefit existing and future Vantage HCM customers greatly. The talent management functionality in Vantage HCM is beyond good enough, so a compelling option for ADP customers. And ADP has seen very good adoption doubling the customer base – but now needs to maintain that momentum.
        • ADP GlobalView – Based on SAP technology, ADP recently decided to go with SuccessFactors products for Talent Management functionality (instead of VantageHCM). Surprising at first, but ultimately a consequence of building on SAP, like it or not, then you have to follow the system strategy of SAP. But ADP executives made very clear that his may change in the future. The question remains when. In the meantime GlobalView is one of the few attractive offerings for a global HCM and payroll implementation. Its relationship with the Streamline payroll product moves the GlobalView reach beyond the SAP payroll reach, which turns out to be a helpful differentiator in payroll deals. .

        Implications, Implications

        Implications for ADP customers

        The new ADP is good news and innovation is always good for customers, as long as served in a measured and high quality fashion. Customers need to make sure they understand ADP’s strategy and look for value scenarios as they chart their way forward in their HCM automation plans. The ADP front end innovation strategy gives a good mix of innovation and conservation of proven systems, so adoption of the new front end should be not too much of a concern even for the more conservative and risk aware customers. Customers should ask ADP for roadmaps to understand what is coming when and how the future products matches to their enterprises plans and pain points. Up to a certain point understanding and aligning internal HCM rollout plans with the ones of ADP is a worthy strategy to pursue. Nervous Enterprise customers should await ADP’s more detailed plans first, before rushing to any premature HCM system selection and re-consider in 6 months when the first wave of innovations will be available.

        Implications for BPO customers and prospects

        The front end innovation strategy is of significant value to BPO customers and prospects, especially when operating on a global scale. Traditionally the back end systems of established vendors have lacked in usability and talent management capability – making their systems a point of contention in many large companies. With the front end flexibility ADP plans to introduce and the functionality in Vantage HCM, ADP can address this successfully, making it both more attractive as a BPO provider and potentially even as a BPO platform provider.

        Implications for ADP competitors

        ADP is moving, and for a vendor the size of ADP, moving with speed. While Oracle has committed and is finishing a complete rebuild with Fusion’s Cloud HCM, SAP is re-building on the HANA platform, mainly in core HR or the moment and Workday keeps extending functionality on its proprietary architecture – only Infor has done a similar architecture approach as ADP with its Ion platform. But the Infor pieces had less functional overlap, a complexity ADP needs to address. The vendor probably most close to ADP from a DNA and customer base, Ceridian, has committed to a complete re—build with DayForce. So we expect vendors to align their marketing and overall value propositions more around the uniqueness of how they build their respective systems. Interesting times ahead.

        Implications for ADP

        ADP has embarked in a multi year journey on how to unify and rationalize its offerings. The company deserves kudos for this strategic move, very few payroll players can make and eventually do make this move. ADP needs now to balance the needs of its customers on the existing and older platforms, with the investment in Talent Management and the new front end. .At the same time ADP needs to keep a pulse on true innovation in the HCM space, not to risk to end up putting last century business processes in new clothes. Not easy, but ADP has the deep pockets to get that done. Keeping customers on board in the process is a similar challenge, but so far so good.


        Changing an established enterprise culture and focus – something ADP is undertaking - is never an easy endeavor. But the company is off to a good start on the product innovation side, it now needs to pick up speed and communicate its plan and progress. Extending roadmaps and establishing value propositions and value maps for each of its customer groups will be a useful instrument to choose, implement and live by.

        It is key to hear ADP executives talk about being a service AND a software player. But ADP needs to learn that it is a victim of its own success as there are no ADP like competitors out there (anymore). This makes it hard for existing and prospective customers in shortlist situations as purchasing best practices requires multiple vendors being part of the selection process and the ADP competitors are almost exclusively software companies. So ADP needs to emphasize thought leadership, best practices and other key software vendor virtues to be part of the shortlists. And then show a differentiated value proposition by its services being engineered in the core offering of its products. ADP’s capabilities in payroll and compliance then become strong differentiators and will no longer serve as potential exit qualification criteria.

        In the long, long run (2020+) ADP must also address its backend systems and unify them, re-design them, re-architect them to be in line with 21st century best practices, get more out of the R&D dollars it spends and create an enterprise HCM system that is not only attractive and appealing to use, but also agile on the backend side. The good news is, that ADP knows this and has some time to plan and address this topic. Sooner is always better.


        You can find a Storify collection of Keynote tweets here.

        More on ADP

        • First take - 3 Key Takeaways from ADP's Meeting of the Minds Conference Day 1 Keynote - read here
        • ADP innovates with with verve and good timing – read here

        And  more on the importance of the paycheck for HCM:

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

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        We have the opportunity to attend Ultimate’s annual user conference – happening in Las Vegas right now. The conference is well attended with over a 2000 attendees.
        Here are my top 3 takeaways from today’s keynote:

        • People First – Ultimate has been stressing their people first perspective on building software since a while, but it is now that this philosophy becomes real and tangible in software with its new recruiting functionality, designed for the main people population in recruiting, the candidate. It will be interesting to see Ultimate apply this philosophy to new functionality coming in 2014 and beyond. There is certainly a differentiating angle with the people first perspective – it will be interesting to see how Ultimate will make this approach even more tangible going forward. 

        • Global– Globalization is one of the strongest forces enterprises are facing today and it is good to see Ultimate reacting to that. Support 30+ localization and language is a good start, opening an office in London also helps, but Ultimate will have to pick up speed in this area to remain a credible and viable vendor for more global needs and aspirations in its existing and prospective customers. 
        • Roadmap– Ultimate shared its roadmap not only for the next 12 – but the next 24 months. And there are major HCM building blocks coming – at the end of that period Ultimate will be complete in terms of HCM automation (as we know it today). Kudos to Ultimate for sharing this, which requires significant fortitude and is seldom seen today for a 12+ month horizon – but sharing product plans is of immense value for customers and prospects to chart their course in their uptake and usage of HCM automation. 


        A very good start of the conference for Ultimate, and good to see a vendor investing 25% of revenue into R&D, that certainly shows in current (new) products and roadmap ambitions. Now it is all about learning more details in the next 3 days. And then see Ultimate execute in the next quarters. 


        You can find a Storify tweet collection here.

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        During HANA 2014 SAP provided the opportunity to check-in with some of the startups that are part of the HANA startup program. As I have blogged before – the HANA startup program is probably the largest ecosystem development that has happened in the high tech industry ever – or at least in a long time. And certainly SAP has garnered the attention of startups, overcoming traditional image challenges associated with the company (SAP who?) of the past.

        Here are the key takeaways from the conversation with three startups that are part of the HANA startup program (in alphabetical order):


        Another startup that tries to tackle the conundrum of optimizing spending on internet ads. Apptimyze has taken an interesting alternate stance to the problem, loaning a technique from another industry to determine when it’s the right time and right price to buy ads. As it simulates and analyzes real-time ad spend data, it uses HANA to run both data and predictions calculation and simulation in memory. The user interface is appealing and the startup seems to be up to something in the combination of sound (true) analytical modelling in the combination with HANA’s speed.

        Chalet Tech

        Chalet Tech has picked digital asset management and compliance as their field of operations. Through a combination of a server agent and network package sniffing Tech Chalet can determine which user is using which documents. The startup used MySQL with pre-computation to generate auditing reports, but with HANA it can now predict complex events very quickly and as well have them accessible for further easy and fast analysis. The strength of the offering lies in the ability to not require a change in the physical architecture of its clients.

        Enterprise Jungle

        EnterpriseJungle wants to solve one of the key challenges in a knowledge economy. What is accessible via my network, through my company, groups and via peers and acquaintances that I do not currently know…. but should for business to be done more efficiently and successfully. Sitting atop an ESN/HRIS platform, it provides people, groups and content recommendations proactively to the user and drives employee engagement and greater value to the collaborative environment. Contrary to the famous LinkedIn graph that gets only refreshed every other week – the EnterpriseJungle understanding is dynamic, gets continually updated and is ready to be queried anytime thanks to HANA.


        The HANA startup program is showing good progress. I have challenged SAP for a longtime to make startups available that really need the HANA technology to succeed. The three startups I had a chance to speak with at #HANA2014 all pass that test. And that is what SAP ultimately should thrive to with its startup program – differentiation by adoption of HANA as a showcase to inspire more uptake of HANA in the marketplace, offering firsthand validation by innovative software companies.


        And more about SAP technology:

        • Launch Report - When BW 7.4 meets HANA it is like 2 + 2 = 5 - but is 5 enough - read here
        • Event Report - BI 2014 and HANA 2014 takeaways - it is all about HANA and Lumira - but is that enough? Read here.
        • News Analysis – SAP slices and dices into more Cloud, and of course more HANA – read here.
        • SAP gets serious about open source and courts developers – about time – read here.
        • My top 3 takeaways from the SAP TechEd keynote – read here.
        • SAP discovers elasticity for HANA – kind of – read here.
        • Can HANA Cloud be elastic? Tough – read here.
        • SAP’s Cloud plans get more cloudy – read here.
        • HANA Enterprise Cloud helps SAP discover the cloud (benefits) – read here.

        And more on overall SAP strategy

        • Market Move - SAP acquires Fieldglass - off into contingent workforce - early move or reaction? Read here
        • News Analysis – SAP and Accenture partner – more of the old or something new? Read here.
        • Now that SAP is a tech company – it wants to be cloud company – read here.
        • SAP’s startup program keep rolling – read here.
        • Why SAP acquired KXEN? Getting serious about Analytics – read here.
        • SAP steamlines organization further – the Danes are leaving – read here.
        • Reading between the lines… SAP Q2 Earnings – cloudy with potential structural changes – read here.
        • SAP wants to be a technology company, really – read here
        • Why SAP acquired hybris software – read here.
        • SAP gets serious about the cloud – organizationally – read here.
        • Taking stock – what SAP answered and it didn’t answer this Sapphire [2013] – read here.
        • Act III & Final Day – A tale of two conference – Sapphire & SuiteWorld13 – read here.
        • The middle day – 2 keynotes and press releases – Sapphire & SuiteWorld – read here.
        • A tale of 2 keynotes and press releases – Sapphire & SuiteWorld – read here.
        • What I would like SAP to address this Sapphire – read here.
        • Why 3rd party maintenance is key to SAP’s and Oracle’s success – read here.
        • Why SAP acquired Camillion – read here.
        • Why SAP acquired SmartOps – read here.
        • Next in your mall – SAP and Oracle? Read here.

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