Lessons from SAPPHIRE06

The SAPPHIRE06 bloggers look like they did an excellent job and served as a great advert for the medium. I didn’t expect any less. Jeff Nolan noticed that bloggers collaborate:

I would have never thought about this had I not seen it in action but the bloggers on their own initiatives rescheduled their one-on-one meetings to double up rather than have exclusive time. This contrasts with traditional press people who demand exclusive access and jealously guard their Q&A, the bloggers conspire together about questions and have a rich dialog among themselves about what they are hearing.

This was predictable looking at the many links which exist between the enterprise bloggers. Jeff’s ability to respond to events is commendable. Try getting that out of a PR – don’t bother.

Here’s my take:

  • Each of the bloggers has a different but related focus. If there had been more than a couple with the same agenda then a little rivalry might have kicked in but I don’t believe the general spirit of sharing would have been degraded. Over the last couple of days, I’ve been at Innovate!Europe with a handful of bloggers and we collaborated in pretty much the same way. The press – notably – shared nothing. Looking at the results to date, I’d say there’s more solid inforfacts (informed facts) than you’d find in any Cnet. But then Dan Farber of ZDNet provides a wonderful montage.
  • There was a degree of self-organisation. My experience as a hack at these events is that the PRs want to manage press to death. That works for hacks as few bother to organise themselves. The really good hacks don’t allow themselves to be over managed and as a result tend to get the story no-one else does. Last evening I was discussing this issue in a different context with Fergus Burns of Nooked (BTW – Fergus is looking for some funding – he’s a good guy with a great story) and Brian O’Malley of the now award winning Enterprise Ireland. Bloggers self-organise as a way of cutting out inefficiency and/or just to get things done. Or, as in this case, to make sure they get the best result. Charlie Wood reflects on similar ideas.

Whether these trends continue remains to be seen. Blogging as press at such an event is novel. Reading the blogs, the ‘press like’ treatment was a new experience for many. What is equally interesting is that SAP executives were prepared to give the bloggers the time they EARNED through their collective knowledge, understanding and influence. That’s as it should be.

Check out the Technorati Tag for SAPPHIRE06. Then review del.ico.us. It even made it to the gossip oriented tech.meme (you’ve got to scroll down a fair bit)

I wonder how this will evolve. Will others follow a similar cue? Talking to SAPs PR in Europe (or rather one of its people), it’s clear the EU is relatively clueless on this issue. I know Microsoft Business Solutions people are tracking this. But then I hung my head in disappointment. I read about ‘the only true online…’ A hack just sucked it up and spat it out. No wonder the bloggers are being welcomed with open arms by SAP.

There are lessons here for other vendors looking to reach out. And for consultants like EDS, Accenture, Xanxa and the rest.

Cross-posted from AccMan Pro

SeeWhy – real-time analytics

This morning I met with Charles Nicholls, CEO of SeeWhy. It was an accidental encounter but one that was well worth the time. Charles used to be with BusinessObjects and is a long time veteran of the BI space. He knows his stuff. And while it's a few years since we last met, I've always found Charles to be a person who deals in reality and not faction (fact as fiction). Today was no exception.

SeeWhy is solving interesting problems that require real-time actions from the analysis of streaming data. For instance – real-time discovery of events impacting retail sales or the likelihood a web transaction is a fraud. Some – like the web verification example – need to be automated. But I see deep value for 'act on data in motion' applications in those areas where human intervention is required to tackle exceptional business events. It's what I like to term 'process-light intelligent action.'

Exceptions are, by their nature, outside the process. Why therefore would you rigidly impose process on unexpected and usually unpredictable events, even when required action could be expressed as part of a wider process? The point is that in tackling a thin slice of activity – say tracking a particular promotion in a specific store(s) – you might be able to avoid stockouts by changing the replenishment process to allow for in-store rather than next day for the promotional period.

In my retail example, combining SeeWhy analytics with flexible process provides a reason for capturing POS data in real-time, something which is usually reserved for managing predicted demand rather than actual. Taking this approach plugs the gap between assumed knowledge and on the ground reality.

SeeWhy can deliver information to email, SMS and, because it spits out XML, it can support RSS feeds though that specific functionality has not been built. It can also push information to SAP systems where there is a requirement to trigger processes inside SAP. Alternatively, it can take and supply data to mioddleware systems like webMethods and TIBCO.

SeeWhy uses pattern recognition techniques as the foundation for creating views of aggregated information. It does not rely on creating SQL queries so doesn't exhibit the processing load characteristics of a typical data warehouse. Although it looks 'lightweight' there is a lot of heavy lifting going on in thre background.

Today, SeeWhy has limited traction – its flagship customer is Diageo's US Guinness shipping business and has other clients who are working on fraud detection projects. It has partnered with Accenture to deliver custom solutions.

Pricing is on a per processor basis with annual fees representing licence, maintenance and support. 
There's a lot more to this story – I'll be revisiting it in time.

SAP takes gamble on enterprise bloggers

This week, SAP is hosting its annual US-centric user conference SAPPHIRE. Jeff Nolan, who leads SAP's Apollo (Attack Oracle) group has taken the brave step of inviting 10 independent bloggers. These are people with no direct affiliation to the company. In at least one case – Neil Robertson – has direct links to SAP's nemesis – Oracle. Vinnie Mirchandani has already declared his hand in this upcoming event.

Jeff's done a great job of not only assembling a crack team, but also made access to their commentary as easy as possible. If you choose to follow the action, then you can go here. SocialText has provided a wiki which has completely open access. They've mashed that up with GoogleCalendar so you can see what's been arranged for the lads.

This is an incredibly important move. It will for instance be interesting to see the extent to which mainstream media picks up on what the bloggers are saying. I'd also be interested to see what the PR blogging community makes of it.

By the way. If you look at the SAP press office for the event, it's pretty bare. How does that compare with the information rich and dynamic bloggers wiki?

In the meantime, I'm hoping the likes of Microsoft, Sage, IRIS, MYOB and many others in the applications market are watching this. Oh yes – the title of this post: Over the years and despite its monolithic and proscriptive approach to applications, its hideous cost and lack of recent innovation, you've got to give them credit for taking this step. In that sense, SAP really is "staying ahead of the pack."

As an aside, I wonder what Gartner, Forrester, Ovum, EDS, Accenture, PwC, KPMG and the rest make of this?

UPDATE: I found this page which shows the areas of interest for these folk.

UPDATE 2: It's not entirely clear whether virtual attendees will be allowed to comment directly to the wiki or leave questions. I've asked the question.

UPDATE 3: Ross Mayfield of SocialText asked me to put him 'on assignment.'

Cross posted from AccMan Pro

IBM a disaster in the making

Sadagopan concurs with Robert X. Cringely that IBM is on a slippery slope, relying on inertia among the customer base. You could say the same about SAP but it wouldn't be so true. In fact, you could say that about a number of mega-corps in the enterprise applications space. Including Microsoft. Even so, I'd like to see the hard evidence of this. Listening to Mark Loughridge, IBMs CFO make a defence of the company's future, you'd not believe he shares these views.

Has the FT given in to advertorial?

An article by Donald J. Rippert CTO at Accenture around SOA that appeared in the FT Online edition has raised an eyebrow or two. Vinnie Mirchandani doesn't seem that impressed:

In technology, we sometime confusedly use the term "partner". For an ISV, your customer is your true partner, not your SI budddies. buddies. Their armies are actually scaring your customers. And making the already questionable payback from SOA look even less attractive.

Sadagopan isn't overly enthusiastic either:

As I see it in terms of SOA adoption amongst other things issues like several critical problems like communication mismatch between business and technical architects, ever evolving standards and a lack of a visible wave in embracing this technology all come in the way. Further, as I see it, the lasting value through SOA deployment is not just in empowering the business manager, but in fostering and creating a new

I don't blame them. I see the issue from a different perspective. In comments to Vinnie's posting, I said:

I saw this article and only got three lines in before I thought: 'who wrote this crock of…' then when I saw it was Accenture's CTO, I clicked away. I"m surprised the FT allowed self-serving content of this kind onto its online presence. No ability to comment, no third party confirmation of any statements made, no third party evidence but opinion masquerading as fact.
This is a dangerous precedent.

Trading floor innovation shows the way

The Wall Street Journal carried an interesting glimpse into the future of investment house trading floors. (Stick with me on this – it’s a 10-year out picture.) The thrust of the article is that over time, the statistical and other forecasting tools used by these rocket scientists will radically change:

Jarrett Lilien, president and chief operating officer of E*Trade, says new technology could allow people to create their own interface for accessing information and making trades. A way this could be done is with a display window made up of customizeable pieces drawn from several different Web sites that are constantly updating on their own.

This sounds very much like the nascent alternative desktops on offer from vendors like Zoho and which are being added to through the concept of enterprise mashups. Today, we’re at the very start of what might be possible. Looking some years out:

Along these lines, E*Trade is exploring ways to let users combine parts of its site with other sites. “We have to be prepared to go in both directions — [to let users] drag tools onto our site, and likewise, something that allows users to pull pieces of our content and functionality to other sites,” explains Mr. Lilien.

These are interesting ideas. What they’re really talking to is the notion of delivering individual components that come together to create a user specific experience. In this sense, it’s like picturing applications as being decluttered. But it’s a lot more and despite the current enthusiasm for all things Web 2.0, it won’t be as easy as some might suggest.

What the article doesn’t discuss but implies as a subtext is the need to integrate these new applications. Contrary to what many would have people believe, this is not as simple as it sounds. Investment banks spend vast amounts of money on ensuring seamless operations in the back and front offices but there is not as much effort put into joining the front and back offices. To my mind, this latest set of ideas should be seen as a cue to give the integration aspect serious consideration. If for no other reason than the fact that MiFiD is supposed to provide tangible benefits to the end customer and these latest ideas could serve to meet that objective.

Cross-posted from Integration Monitor