smalltwitter_s_gl.jpgWhen it comes to Twitter and other social sites, it’s easy to mistake sheer numbers for impact. In other words, the number of followers or friends you have does not necessarily equate to anything—influence, popularity, what have you. That’s because personalization is what counts. I’ve blogged about the power of listening to customers. As companies tout millions and billions of followers as proof of value, hidden in plain sight is the real story of what counts—the information that matters to each individual.


One example is the partner service advisors (PSAs) at SAP. Like any large, global company with numerous products, SAP can be overwhelming for partners. The PSA’s role is to guide them through the maze quickly with invaluable sales and marketing enablement so they can bring in revenue faster. Now a new program aims to speed up everything, giving BusinessOne partners in North America the ability to follow their designated PSAs on Twitter.


I recently talked about this pilot program with Hy Pailakian (@SAPPSA_Hy) and Francois Lapalme (@SAPPSA_Francois), two PSAs on SAP’s Partner Service Delivery team in Montreal.  Appropriately named “Follow Your PSA,” it was developed in response to partner feedback about not being able to find information quickly. The idea is that tweets will give partners faster, easier access to the information they need when they need it.


Here’s how it works. Partners follow their assigned PSA, receiving tweet updates real-time. These are typically CEOs who get hundreds of emails a day. In just 140 characters, their PSAs can feed them a quick snapshot of the specific information they want. Personalized tweets will eliminate guesswork along with search time. Busy partners can grab information on their own time minus a barrage of impersonal emails that may or may not contain what they’re most interested in.


We’re talking about what training they need and where to get it. Immediate access to best practices from industry leaders. Timely reminders to ensure they’ve met all requirements so they’re certified to sell SAP products. Information about special deals such as how to get discounts on SAP HANA, the company’s innovative in-memory computing solution.


Hy and Francois told me they’re excited about the ability to embed links, pictures, videos and more into their tweets, directing partners to targeted pages on Partner Service Delivery Interactive or the PartnerEdge website. Both sites offer tons of information including documents, partner polls, and blogs by topic relevant to each partner.


SAP plans to extend the Twitter program to all PSAs in different regions. But the Twitter campaign is not an end in itself. It is part of the daily, ongoing conversations that allow PSAs to understand each partner’s unique reality and tailor information to those needs. Used correctly, social media tools like Twitter can have a powerful impact in business as long as companies don’t focus on numbers at the expense of people.

"Will Hadoop replace my current data warehouse if I adopt a Big Data strategy?" It's a question I've been asked before. The answer is no. Here’s one reason why. The BI analyst plays a different but complementary role to the data scientist.



According to Wikipedia:

In Chinese philosophy, the concept of yin-yang, literally meaning "shadow and light", is used to describe how polar opposites or seemingly contrary forces are interconnected and interdependent in the natural world. Yin and yang are not opposing forces (dualities), but complementary forces, that interact to form a greater whole, as part of a dynamic system.


I'd like to suggest that the functions of the traditional BI Analyst and Data Scientist are at opposite ends of the spectrum, and yet they are complementary, interconnected and interdependent in the business world. Yes, I’m going out on a bit of a limb here. Bear with me. The primary focus of the traditional BI analyst is reporting for decision support in business operations, and the primary focus of the data scientist is insight discovery for business transformation. Yes, I am making the roles black and white when it’s really a spectrum of gray, but I think the exercise has merit.


The traditional BI analyst is focused on reporting on the 'one and only truth'. They are supporting business operational decisions - it's all about the statements of fact, answered instantly. Normally, the information analyzed comes from data generated in transactional systems; data that is highly structured. Think about it for a second. When reporting on earnings a publicly traded company can't make a statement like the following:


"There's an 80% probability that we closed $3 billion in revenue in last quarter, with a 30% chance that expenses were under $2 billion."


You have to report cold hard facts.


Data warehousing practices are designed to support the traditional BI analyst's role. Think of all the time spent to prepare data - cleanse it, structure it, document it, validate it. Data warehousing defines strict (I won't say rigid) practices so that users can be confident in the resulting 'truths'. Consider the fact that for years the BI community has debated the importance of a 'single version of the truth'. BI analysts and the data warehousing community have built a process and mindset around fact-based answers in order to best support decision making in business operations.


The Data scientist, however, is focused on a different but interconnected problem and embraces a philosophy that believes there are 'many paths to wisdom'. There may not always be one right answer, and usually it comes down to statistical probabilities that are so hard to pin down. Her goal is to find ways to transform the business, or parts of it, by discovering new insights from data. It follows an approach where questions are asked, hypotheses formulated, and then "proven" right or wrong. There are no guarantees that the question will be answered satisfactorily, and no guarantees about how long it will take.


A good data scientist approaches the problem with an open mind about what data, analytic techniques, or tools should be used, and even how to interpret data and its meaning. While a good data scientist spends a lot of time preparing data - cleanse it, structure it, document it, validate it – the strategies used may vary each time. In essence, the mindset of a data scientist focuses on questions, an open mind to the where the answer lays, and flexibility in the approaches used.


Companies have invested heavily in data warehousing processes because they effectively ensure BI analysts have the ‘facts’ and can confidently report against them. They don’t need to throw out those processes and tools because the underlying database cannot handle Big Data. They simply need to replace their traditional database with one designed for Big Data analytics.


On the other hand Hadoop was designed to give users the flexibility to store and analyze all of their data any which way they like. It’s too much flexibility for a traditional BI analyst, but it is an ideal tool on the data scientist's tool belt – right beside the analytic database.


The BI analyst and data scientist complement each other. Hadoop and data warehousing environments do too. Together they form a 'greater whole'.

Watching game four of the baseball World Series, I’m struck by the absence of playoff beards. For the uninitiated, playoff beards refer to the tradition of a hockey player not shaving during the Stanley Cup playoffs.  A player stops shaving for the first game of the playoffs and does not resume until his team is eliminated or wins the championship. Most believe the tradition was started by the New York Islanders during their championship run in the early 1980’s.


While playoff beards have spread to professional football, basketball, and soccer, they are still relatively rare in baseball.  Two years ago, San Francisco Giants pitcher Brian Wilson grew an unruly beard which he dyed jet black. “Fear the Beard” became a popular rallying cry and was cemented in baseball lore when the Giants won the World Series.


This year, with Brian Wilson injured, Sergio Romo has taken over his role as a closer and is sporting a black playoff beard. The superstition appears to be working. So far, he has been nearly unhittable.


The Chicago Tribune noted the trend and speculated “the better the beard, the better the closer, and therefore anyone with a great bread could be a great Giants closer.”  The Tribune superimposed the heads of bearded celebrities on top of Romo’s body, including Karl Marx, ZZ Top and Zach Galifianakis.  My personal favorite is Abraham Lincoln. Given he’s a Bay Area native, I expected the bearded Jerry Garcia as well.


While playoff beards may seem a bit frivolous, the sports marketing agency CENERGY launched Beard-a-thon which encourages fans to grow their own playoff beard for charity. So far, 25,000 participants have raised more than $1M for charity. There’s no reason to fear those beards.


Follow me on twitter @jbecher.


This blog was originally posted on Manage By Walking Around.

Found an interesting blog post by Achim Hebestreit, Global Lead SAP Mobile for Telecommunications, on Follow the link or read here:


Following the invention of the car in 1884, Kaiser Wilhelm II famously said, “I regard the automobile as a temporary phenomenon. I prefer to bet on a horse”. Take a look into your garage to see how this bet has turned out.


The automobile shaped business and people’s lives alike for more than a century, defining the term mobility in the minds of millions of consumers. Today, the meaning of „mobility“ shifts again as we face a technological revolution of equal scope.


The internet, mobile computing and apps have changed the way we live and work. So, take a look into your pocket to see how this bet will turn out. Mobility of the 21st century is not knocking on the door – it is already standing in the middle of the room. And for business, it is not going from horse to car, but from horse to interstellar space traveling.


When game-changing innovations arise, new industries emerge while traditional ones fade away. We see the rise of OTT-players, giving network operators a hard time. Keeping the image of the car and the horse, it was after all not the horse breeders who built cars. So are telcos destined to become the horse breeders of the digital age?


Not at all. In fact, the telco industry has got four wheels, engine and fuel in its stable. Now they need to get their new business rolling. There are a whole lot of business opportunities to do just that.


In early 2012 for example, location-based-promotion was heralded as the next huge thing. As it turned out, not big enough for expectations. After the initial hype, premature offerings and incomplete business models have led to disillusionment within the industry. Today, we are seeing backlash and resistance on the subject. But context-related offerings have still a lot of potential – if it’s done the right way. And at this point, telcos enter the stage.


Telcos have a unique position at the market and a direct relationship to consumers. If consumers opt in to context-related offerings, telcos can provide this service more effectively and efficiently than most other industries. Context also includes location and in many cases GPS does not work sufficiently, which results in consumers receiving random offers.


Telcos have the capabilities and information to send keen consumers meaningful offerings, based on their actual location. I mean, no use in getting a restaurant coupon for Greta’s Schnitzelhaus in Walldorf, Germany, when I am at Silicon Valley?!


But telcos would not only be able to provide this service better, they could also provide this better service to more consumers. Namely, customers who do not own a smartphone – and that’s still half of all mobile phone users in the US.


I have recently read a blog which asked “What if Steve Jobs was a Telco-CEO?“. But unless your CEO is Kaiser Wilhelm, telcos do not need to pray for a savior. Instead, they should start to believe in their own business.


They have got the assets to make a stand in the new mobile age. Make use of it. In this way, people might say at the end of this century, mobile business without telcos leading it, was just a temporary phenomenon – it was the onetime horse-breeders who elevated mobility of the 21st century .


Interested in mobility and/or telcos – Follow me on Twitter @AHebestreit

With all that hype about Tech Ed, the fourth International Association for SAP Partners e.V. (IA4SP) conference almost went unnoticed. Of just marginal interest to techies, the IA4SP is a major draw for partners. So off I went to Walldorf to visit the event and to write a quick review of the conference for


I almost never made it. A cold had been nagging me for a week already and didn't want to go away. Bouts of fever and a constant sore throat seemed to want to thwart my intentions. But I was determined to join the SAP partners.


So I went easy on my voice the day before the conference so that I would be ready to network and conduct good interviews the next day. After all, this conference was like Las Vegas – it was all about cold, hard facts: business and benefits.


The first catastrophe came when my laptop crashed during the first keynote. First the Internet, then Word. The screen went black, rebooting was impossible. Typing simultaneously was definitely out of the question. So I reverted to pen and paper. I dashed off to SAP during the lunch break – surely it must be possible to get my laptop up and running again quickly somehow?! The colleague in IT Support grinned, he was a nice guy. He said I could either stay there and wait until he found the error – or I could leave the laptop there and pick it up again on Monday.


I made it just in time to the first presentation after lunch. Fascinating, what was said about mobile solutions. Back at home that evening, I turned on my private PC full of optimism to summarize all I had learned about the new business areas arising out of mobility, SAP HANA, and cloud computing. My contacts at the conference were going to send me further details and photos of the event the next day.


But an even worse catastrophe was looming. The next morning, my mailbox was full – on the laptop in IT Support that was just being cured of its burnout. I couldn't receive any mails at my private address either, nor could I publish the article. All the detailed presentations and great photos of the event were on my BlackBerry, but I couldn't access it.


“The world has sped up enormously ...” Christian Wieland had said at the conference. He's right, my world has sped up too. Still: Even though IT has become much more consumable, and even though a lot of things are easier to implement nowadays, in the end it all comes down to people. To people with sense, and to people who are dedicated to their cause – such as communicating about partners.

A revolution has quietly been happening in how enterprise tech is purchased.


Being someone who both makes his living writing about what's happening in enterprises, AND being a member of the marketing department of a software vendor in one of the most cutting-edge locations on the planet, you'd think I would've put 2 and 2 together.


But I was shocked as anyone to read Gartner's recent prediction that Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) will be spending more on IT than Chief Information Officers (CIOs) within five years.


There are lots of reasons why this appears to be happening:


Marketing has grown up. In the popular imagination, marketing is all about creating ads, issuing press releases and throwing fabulous parties.



Hat-heavy soirees like this one.


In fact, marketing has evolved from an art into a numbers-heavy science that leverages formidable tools for demand generation, lead nurturing, campaign analysis, social media automation, mobile marketing, etc.


Through the power of Big Data and predictive analytics, marketing has never-before-insight into what customers want and how they buy.


Even if salespeople still close the actual sales, marketing tees the deals up for them to a greater extent than ever before.


"Marketing is now the central engine of growth for many companies," Laura McLellan, a research VP with Gartner, told CIO.


Marketing has, through years of practice, learned to how to sidestep IT. "Ten years ago, marketing was always at the bottom of IT's to-do list," Kristin Hambelton, vice president of Marketing for Neolane, a marketing technology provider, told CIO. As a result, marketing professionals got tired of waiting and learned to go around them.


That became much easier with the rise of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and the cloud, and their low-risk subscription models. "When you can fund marketing software from a travel budget, it's easy to go behind IT's back," Hambelton said.


Marketing understands some of these new technologies better than IT. Social media is the most obvious example. But so are collaboration and unified communications, technologies that are generally easy to use but which require an information-sharing mindset to take advantage of them. Isn't that what marketing is good at?


Obviously, some of these new technologies still require deep technical chops. Outsourcing this to vendors is one solution, but it's still better to have someone who with both business and tech expertise.


Many companies are starting to create a new position to help bridge that marketing-IT divide. Some are calling it a CMT - "Chief Marketing Technologist." Others are calling it a MOO - "Marketing Operating Officer." I'm putting my money on CMT to catch on.


The Impact On Enterprise Mobility


I think the impact of the CMO's rise as a technology buyer has already been felt.


Take BYOD. To go and stereotype us, marketing folks are big fans of the latest and greatest. We love putting on a good show just as much as we love seeing a good show. Hot new products make us hot and bothered.


Mobile devices like the iPad Mini, the Samsung Galaxy S III, the Microsoft Surface - these all fit that bill. If you look inside your organization to see who are the biggest gadget hounds, I'll bet it's equally split between the IT guys and the marketing folks. I'm willing to bet that in many companies where BYOD has taken off, it was the marketing folks who made the most noise. That's what we're good at, after all.


And don't expect us to want to be married to a single platform again the same way we were with the BlackBerry. There's just too many delicious choices out there. So platform diversity becomes the rule.


Also, mobile marketing and mobile commerce are two fast-growing fields where understanding the technology is less important than understanding customer behavior. And who gets that better than marketers? The new mobile shopping app below from SAP Precision Retailing may have been built by developers, but I'm betting it was conceived by marketers (click on the image below to start the cute-as-kittens video).


sap precision retailing video

As for enterprise apps, there's been a big drive to make the user interfaces more slick and the user experience more enjoyable, aka gamification. That's something that I bet your average marketing type understands intuitively better than an IT manager.


Where I Have Doubts

Honestly, I'm not convinced that marketing departments will, by themselves, outspend IT departments.


I DO believe, however, that marketing is at the forefront of the Great Culture War called the 'Consumerization of IT'. That the various lines of business, led by marketing, are wresting power over technical decisions away from the IT managers and their dismal PCs and data centers.


Think of it like peasants and workers breaking down the doors of the temples guarded by the once all-powerful high priests. Here, I totally agree with Gartner - the peasants and workers are winning.


I'm glad to have found an intellectual ally in SAP CIO, Oliver Bussmann. While Bussmann fully "believes" that there has been a "huge shift" in tech spend, he thinks that only by totaling up the combined spending of the various lines of business will you reach a figure larger than the IT budget.

Bussmann has also figured out a way to keep this change from boiling over into the conflict described above. Bussmann created the position of "Business Information Officer" to serve as a liasion between a particular line of business, and his IT team.


"A lot of the services that a line business might buy will eventually have to be integrated into our environment. That only works if we work together as a team," he said. Fortunately, "we have excellent relationships" with each business group.


Whether via revolution or managed change, the balance of power in technology is shifting inside enterprises. That can only be good news for mobile, which has grown from the bottom-up in many organizations, and which thrives in organizations where marketing and other lines of business are dictating what tools make them most effective and productive.


After attending a recent conference in New York and hearing some of the brightest social minds in the business and entertainment world discuss their ideas, one thing became very - painfully - clear: social media has reached its apex. It has peaked, and is already on the downward slope.


What was a bold and audacious movement a few short years ago has now become a slow, methodical trod toward the commonplace. Instead of continuing to iterate on social, it is time to leap forward. Social is now on a collision course to "jump the shark." It would be better to go out in a brilliant blaze of glory - Sonny Corleone style - and allow its successor to take hold. This new "regime" is based on relationships, collaboration, and data.


Relationship: Quality not Quantity

The early excitement of social caused us to correctly focus the quantity of our interactions. Never before had we had the ability to interact with so many people. Think of it this way - you are in a sea of people. Early on, social media gave you the ability to stand on a platform above everyone else. Suddenly you were able to interact with the throngs of people around you. You were unique. Soon, others wanted what you had, so they created their own platforms. Now, everyone has one and everyone is speaking. No one is unique. Quantity is no longer working; so, in comes quality.


The idea of quality in relationships is not new. But what is truly exciting is to hear folks now talking about utilizing social in their ability to influence and interact with a smaller, but more rewarding group of people. This allows us to still capitalize on a wider audience than ever before, but the reward comes from the quality of these deeper relationships. It takes into account this notion of "contextual relationships" where we have influence and relationship in context; these are not absolute. Think of this like the rings of a "bulls-eye" - you have an area of expertise in one or two things, a few things you are proficient in, a few more things you interested in, etc. You are not influential 2 or 3 rings out, but you have quality relationships with people of similar interests in the center of that 'bulls-eye."



Social media 1.0 has been based on some dialogue, but it is mostly a monologue. There has been little true collaboration between influencers and audiences. Our next big leap forward will encompass some notion of both public and private discourse and collaboration between people who share common interests. Thus far, social media has enabled sharing an idea and then commenting back. Until now, that has been an exciting interaction for people who never before had a voice that was heard or engaged with.


Now, however, groups of people want to take that a step further and find an easy, intuitive way to co-create or collaborate on ideas in a collegial setting. We no longer want to rely on having people in the room with us - social media has shown us how to find similar people in any location. We want that ability to share and iterate on ideas with people in real-time and around the globe. We want to move our passions from talking about something to solving something.


(Big) Data

Everyone is talking about data; "big data" has become a big buzzword. The power of the data comes from the wealth of digital fingerprints available now that we have moved our conversations and interactions online. More online conversation means more data to uncover. There is tremendous need to bring appropriate - if not personalized - content and conversations to the right people, at the right time, and in the right format.


We all want something - from shoes to cheap sources of energy, from balancing a checking account to the nearest really good taco stand. Uncovering what people want and helping to bring that to them is a powerful and compelling goal. Where we will see great leaps forward is in being able to uncover that data, quickly and efficiently, and make smart analytical use of it. Getting the data isn't hard - sorting through it and make sense of it is a real challenge. One which smart organizations are already thinking about uncovering.


Bringing It All Together

There is no lack of smart people out there in the current social media space. There are still some interesting changes being made to our existing social media platforms. There are some new social technologies that have real promise. But there is a stagnation that comes with maturation of the space. We need some big thinkers around relationships, collaboration, and data to really shake things up again.



Interested in learning more about big leaps forward or where I did find that really great taco stand? Follow me on Twitter @toddmwilms or connect on LinkedIn. I would love to collaborate with you on these ideas.


This story originally appeared on Forbes.

smallpersonalizedshopperl.jpgNavigating the innovation highway is not for the fainthearted. Faced with a range of bright, shiny opportunities like mobile, cloud, and SAP HANA, few people automatically know which will have the best impact on their business at what time. This is why SAP recently launched a new Services offering called “innovation stewardship.” Its purpose is simple: to help customer unlock the promise of innovations.


Like a personalized shopper, the “steward” sits down with C-level executives and heads of lines of business in an ongoing series of conversations. The dialogues reveal where the customer is with their business and what’s important. Together, they map out an “innovation highway,” literally a roadmap to help the customer decide what products will best support the goals and objectives of the business.


“The steward helps guide you to the best possible experience. You get a clear view of where you’re going with these technologies so you can begin moving in the right direction,” explains Phillips Hofmann, Director of Communications and Marketing at SAP.


According to Hofmann, innovation stewards are senior consultants of the highest order. They need to be. The dialogue only works if the steward has the expertise to understand the customer’s strategy, and then can make a business case for the solutions that will help the customer reach their goals.


But everyone knows that innovation is an ongoing process, not an end in itself. Customers may have systems in place for many years. Some have hybrid installations, others a mix of software from different vendors. They need to ensure the platform can easily support new solutions.


So SAP Services also created the Lifecycle Management for IT Operational Efficiency. The customer works with an IT efficiency advisor who creates a custom-tailored plan for continuous innovation. As a single point of contact, the advisor helps create an operations efficiency roadmap with KPIs. For strategic projects, customers can out-task their IT operations to SAP with fixed service level agreements. The whole point being to introduce breakthrough technologies into the company minus the risk and expense associated with wholesale change.


I’ve blogged about what I call the ‘innovation long tail,’ and expert advice is definitely part of that equation. Knowing about the latest technologies is just the beginning. Genius is figuring out which products make the most sense for your business. Personalized shoppers exist for most everything else. Companies bent on innovation will surely welcome those with technology and business expertise.



Three middle-school kids compete against elite SAP coders at DemoJam, and nearly take the trophy.


Long a highlight of SAP TechEd, DemoJam is a competition in which developers present live demos of new applications built with SAP technology. Last week in Las Vegas, the 2012 contest spurred more buzz than normal, thanks to a surprising finalist: a team of three middle-school students from Maryland, barely able to see over the presenter’s podium, were vying for the coveted Demo Jam Champion-cup. Nikola Bura, 11; Jordan Qassis, 12, and Angelo Castro, 13, all students at Roberto Clemente Middle School, presented “Food Agent,” an iPhone app that scans quick response (QR) codes on grocery products and provides consumers information on an item’s origin and ingredients.


DemoJam rules allow contestants just six minutes to present their working application. They also need to convince the audience, which judges the competition, that their entry tops the rest in innovation, viability, and cool factor. Finalists earned their way to Vegas when they were hand-picked from hundreds of DemoJam hopefuls, all (except the three kids) seasoned SAP coders. If it wasn't daunting enough for these tweens to face such formidable foes in a contest that makes even stoic pros weak-in-the-knees, they had to compete in front of a live audience of thousands and a gaggle of cameras projecting their image on 60-foot tall television screens. And it was WAY past their bedtime. 


Kids take second place, coming this close to the win 

Topping the middle-school trio (but just barely) were Will Powell and Nic Doodson of Keytree, an SAP partner in the UK. Powell and Doodson presented “Store Trek,” a three-dimensional, voice- and gesture-controlled virtual shopping environment powered by SAP HANA and SAP NetWeaver. Just as Powell and Doodson's spectacular demo deserved the win, the young boys earned second-place on the merits; the DemoJam crowd is not one to make a gift of its vote.


So while Nikola, Jordan, and Angelo may not have won the contest, they surely stole the show.


Capture.JPGTimeless software is ageless software

Considering most of their opponents had college degrees before these kids were even born, their achievement is nothing short of remarkable – for them and for SAP. The software solutions made by the 40-year-old company are still perceived, falsely, by some as clunky and anachronistic, suited only to big companies. The kids absolutely dispel this myth.


The significance wasn’t lost on the SAP TechEd audience. In the theater, the crowd’s wild applause was herald to a new notion of timeless software; it's ageless too.


Great mentor, great kids

SAP developer John Astill mentored the boys, whom he met through First Lego League, from the idea-phase of Food Agent to its final debugging, just hours before the competition. On his own time, Astil spent months encouraging and coaching the kids toward their DemoJam debut.“If their dream is to continue in engineering and development," Astil said of the boys, "then I think they’ve got the talent and I think they can succeed.”


For their part, Nikola, Jordan, and Angelo gave tweens everywhere a good name, and that’s no small feat. They handled themselves with dignity and grace in what would be a challenging situation at any age.


As word spread about their DemoJam appearance, the boys became instant SAP TechEd celebrities. A film crew followed their every move for an entire day. SAP Executive Board member Vishal Sikka spoke of them in his keynote. "These three kids, they built an application, and they built it on SAP NetWeaver Cloud,” Vishal said. “This is an extraordinary example of what the future holds.”



After his speech, Sikka took time to meet the boys, as did SAP Co-CEO Bill McDermott, who  shook hands with the lads and then passed along his business card. “We’ve got to stay in touch,” he said. “When you guys become lead developers or CEOs, don’t forget your friends, alright?”


All the attention didn't seem to faze the Germantown crew; given their aplomb, you'd think these boys were whisked around business conferences, film crew in tow, having tête-à-têtes with powerful C-level software execs - like - all the time. Backstage before the show, I asked Nikoka if he was nervous at the prospect of presenting a live technology demo in front of a huge crowd. He barely looked up from his smart phone, on which he was playing Minecraft, to say. “Nope,” simply and without a whiff of hubris.


As comfortable as they were in front of the cameras and in the company of corporate leaders, Nikola and Angelo   were even more at home on the SAP TechEd main stage. (DemoJam rules prohibit more than two presenters, so Jordan cheered his teammates from the audience.)


Nikola was particularly composed, effortlessly smoothing over flubs and peppering his presentation with impromptu jokes that were actually funny. Though he had to stand on a stool to be visible behind the podium, it was easy to see Nikola has charisma  befitting a future technology leader. So at the end of the presentation, when Angelo quipped, “If anyone at SAP Retail would like to offer a scholarship …” some in the crowd may have been thinking more along the lines of a job offer.



More on this: 

mallet1.jpgSheila Bair gripped the edges of the podium like a preacher in full fire-and-brimstone mode.


Bair, the former Chairperson of the FDIC, spoke fast and barely paused for a breath during her speech at yesterday’s SAP Financial Services Forum, as if the clock was running out on her mission.


Perhaps it is.


Is Banking Regulation’s 15 Minutes Up?

She and other regulators would like to lay hands on the financial services industry, but the industry doesn’t want healing—Congress, the industry lobbying groups, and lawyers are seeing to that, she told an audience of financial services techies in the heart of regulatory Gomorrah: New York City’s financial district.


Bair clearly sees the moment for action slipping away. For the first time ever, consumers hate banks more than their perennial brickbats, insurance companies, according to another speaker, Kathy Burger of Bank Systems and Technology but time heals all wounds. Banks are still flailing about in their Greece and Spain moments, but the sense that Europe will fall apart if these countries are allowed to slip into the abyss just doesn’t exist when applied to banks.


Punishing the Good Guys Along with the Bad Ones

The reason is that the vast majority of financial institutions in the world didn’t act like Countrywide, or Bear Sterns, or AIG, or just about any financial institution in Iceland, in the years running up to 2008. Yet new regulations—900 pages worth in Dodd-Frank, according to another speaker yesterday—would apply to those banks just like the bad boys.


Though reports lately say that the costs to banks of complying with Sarbanes-Oxley (a mere 90 pages) were not nearly as bad as the financial industry howled at the time, those in the audience yesterday said they were contemplating costly systems changes to meet the new regulations (if they ever make it out of the moldy basement of litigation).


Bair acknowledged this yesterday: Some banks felt they were "cleaning up after a party they didn't attend, when all the drunks were sent home in limos," she quipped.


Is Fairness Always the Right Path?

This is one of the big issues in regulation, just as it is with the EU crisis: fairness.


Ask average Germans whether they should watch their taxes go up to pay for bailing out Spain and Greece (you know Germany’s going to end up footing the bill—the rest of Europe is nearly as broke as the failing countries) and they will respond with a few questions of their own: Why did Greeks build swimming pools in their backyards instead of paying their taxes? Why did Spaniards build houses that they knew no one could afford? (James Surowiecki wrote a great piece on the issue of human perceptions of fairness versus the cold calculation of what makes economic sense that explains this in more detail.)


Still, Bair demands, when it comes to financial regulation, we have to hold our noses and do what makes most economic sense. To her, this means:


  • Break up too-big-to-fail banks. Besides the inherent risks, these banks just don’t make sense from a value perspective—they’re just too complex to manage in an efficient and effective way, diminishing shareholder returns, she argued.
  • Stop compensating financial services executives for risk taking. Bair said many banks still compensate their CEOs based on profits from risk-taking operations rather than on the fees they collect from depositors.
  • End speculation on failure. When banks can package up securities and then take positions that depend on those securities tanking, you’re tempting a fundamental human flaw: greed. “You can't buy fire protection on your neighbor's house because that would give you incentive to burn it down,” she sighed.
  • Put a hard cap on leverage. Bair says banks will be tempted to misbehave as long as the amount of depositors’ money they are allowed to risk is vague. She thinks 8% of total deposits is plenty.
  • Keep regulators’ hands out of the pie. Don’t let regulators bounce back and forth between regulatory entities and the companies they’re supposed to be regulating.
  • Hire the right regulators. Bair said regulators come in many stripes, many of them bad. There are the converted zealots who did who did too little before the crisis and now want to do too much, the genius regulators who write regulations that are unfathomable to anyone but them, the bottom liners who assume the banks are playing fair if they’re profitable, and the regulators who got into the business for the same reason that Ron Swanson joined the Parks and Rec Department: to destroy any and all traces of government. “If you hate regulation you shouldn’t be a regulator,” Bair stormed.


What do you think? Is Bair right? Will more regulation lessen the chances for another meltdown?



There’s a cross for you to bear

Things to go through if you’re going anywhere

- Sly and the Family Stone, 1969



Slyfamstone-dance!.jpgWe recently reported that in the past few years HR has stepped up to the challenges of the global recession. Multinational payrolls are routinely run paperless, and increasingly error free. Partnerships with IT have resulted in enterprise wide efficiency gains and quicker returns on technology investments. And high quality, reusable training programs are available on mobile devices for rapid deployment to the field.


As its core activities become sharpened, HR is partnering with other business functions to share resources, along the way gaining valuable skills in analytics and big data. And it has become an influential advocate for the demands of the new workforce, in areas such as sustainability, ethical sourcing, and work-life balance.


But it is still a long way from becoming a peer in the C-suite. What more will it take?


HR has long asserted that people are the organization’s most valuable investments. Yet capital assets, managed using financial statements, remain undisputedly the most valuable investments in the organization.  Managers of those assets occupy the top levels of the hierarchy, and wield great power. While HR may still be many years from achieving the ability to measure people investments with the same rigor and precision as finance, it can get the respect it wants by assuming some of the burdens that belong to financial managers. This is going to require HR to step up again, into much bigger shoes.



Stand before your investors and be accountable


In our era of capitalism, investors (or shareholders) control most companies. While there is much debate whether it is for better or worse, their interests nevertheless come first, and managers must satisfy investor’s standards of measurement and reporting. Historically, investors have not been particularly sympathetic to HR expenditures, regarding them as likely sources of waste. Some reasons include the inability to extract clear financial returns, or an aversion to put employees above investors.


Yet the last two decades of research shows clearly that human capital investments are strongly associated with positive returns and increased shareholder value. Why do investors not accept this? While investors recognize the importance of good management of human capital, the lack of transparency inhibits comparison to other capital assets.


HR can address this shortcoming by providing investors information that is not idiosyncratic, but rather helps them evaluate competing opportunities, along with manager competence in realizing value from people investments. Because human capital is an inherently risky investment, workforce risk should also be included. Toward these ends, HR ought to support efforts to create a standard for HR reporting.



Stand before the law with your executives and be accountable


Managers of financial assets are facing renewed pressure to behave judiciously regarding the resources they control, and report their activities accurately, facing fines, imprisonment, and civil liability for even minor violations or misstatements. Yet if your investments in people are really that valuable, you need to be willing to adhere to similar standards of conduct and disclosure, and withstand scrutiny.


Think that would be easy?


Consider, for example, whether you would really bet questionable employee selection practices and criteria (such as organizational fit, consensus hiring, GPA cutoff scores, or brain teasers) against a possible multimillion dollar judgment if it could be revealed that their use systematically discriminated against entire groups. 


Consider further that the same analytics used to select and develop talent could also place a smoking gun right in the hands of HR. And yet, revealing that HR knew its practices discriminated illegally could be just the beginning. Suppose, as in the case of Enron, someone left additional discoverable documentation that attorneys could easily portray as wanton callousness, and the paper trail lead right up to the C-suite offices. How much sympathy do you think a jury would have if your best defense is “there’s a war for talent out there!”?


Now imagine if it were you instead of Enron: what would it be worth to you to lie or conceal what you are really doing? Are there greater consequences for telling the truth? In either case, would you have to make several changes, really fast?


By submitting to the highest levels of scrutiny, HR would expose the entire organization and its executives to potentially increased liability for their stewardship of valuable human capital assets. It is likely such scrutiny would include auditing by persons who know very little about human capital management, yet would grow more suspicious the more HR had to explain itself.


If you can handle that kind of heat, that is, if you can provide clear documentation, and sign your name to it, and bet your freedom, finances, and reputation on it, then you deserve the same respect as financial managers.



Stand before your nation and be accountable


Some of the proposed the legislation around carbon pricing proceeds from the idea that companies do not pay the full cost of consuming valuable natural resources that also pollute the environment, and instead pass substantial costs to taxpayers. Similarly, if HR asserts that human capital is the most valuable resource, then it needs to ask: could it assume the full cost of consuming and polluting the nation’s human capital?


Think that’s a silly question?


Human capital is an economic good that is both public and private. It is developed in joint partnership with the government (which supports an immense national educational enterprise from pre-school to adult learning), individuals (who invest in marketable skills), and companies (who invest in firm-specific skills for their employees in order to generate economic rents).


As a public good, human capital accumulation reduces criminality, medical care costs, and dependence on public assistance, while producing favorable citizenship qualities such as volunteering, community involvement, charitable donations, and likelihood to vote and perform public service. As a private good, human capital increases personal income, household wealth, family stability, and healthiness. As a jointly public and private good, human capital accumulation drives industrial productivity and workforce quality. Both valuable and invaluable, human capital is truly a resource like no other.


HR needs to develop its organization’s human capital in such a way to avoid becoming the same kind of polluter company that destroys other kinds of national resources. Likewise, since the cost of consuming human capital is regularly transferred to taxpayers and individuals, perverse HR practices devalue both public and private goods, and deprive the national economy of consumers, market participants, and a steadfast citizenry.


As HR becomes more able to value human capital investments and include them in financial statements, human capital consumption behavior will become much more transparent. It will then become obvious whether a business is a polluter.


To avoid destroying the nation’s most valuable resource, HR should adopt a professional code that if it cannot develop the private good, it ought not despoil the public good. Nor should it deny a future employer the possibility of developing the private good from which both it and the employee can extract value.



Stand…all the things you want are real


HR has for almost 50 years attempted to put a dollar value on human capital, yet has been admonished repeatedly that it cannot just declare human capital investments valuable, and write them into existence on financial statements.  Even if HR could begin doing so immediately, demonstrating the value of human capital in financial terms will not give it the respect it so earnestly seeks. Rather, HR needs to demonstrate that it can handle managing the most valuable resources in organizations and nations, and the enormous responsibility that goes along with both.

admit1.jpgThe recent figures about social media show that roughly 80% of the Internet users are social already and that people spend more time with social media than on gaming. Although the majority uses social media to stay in touch with family and friends, more users become fans of certain brands or get otherwise interactive. In other words, we extend into virtuality.


Thinking about it, I wondered how children born today would live in such a hyper-connected world, once they are grown up - which would be around 2030. Please follow me in my small thought experiment. Let us start with age three in 2015, as the children will probably become aware of technology around that time. Hopefully not in form of a potential smart phone induced attention deficit disorder, if their parents spend too much time online and not enough with their kids. But as a father I trust the power of the toddlers to get their fair share.



Touchy Kindergarden
Most children without get in touch with the online world in the kindergarden latest. I am pretty certain, that some kind of creative boards for painting and play will be used from 2015 on and they will probably come with video telephony and chats to get in touch with anxious parents. Kids will find it quite normal, that surfaces that look like flat screen are interactive and that they see their parents while talking to them or get in touch with them through typing. Furthermore, the increasing educational pressure will probably lead to specific learning programs for the kindergarten on suitable devices and surfaces. And yes, I am really looking forward to see how the industry comes up with a device that survives mud baths and being used as a versatile hammering tool.



Interactive School
When our 2012 children enter school around 2018, learning by then will be based to a large extend on interactive media, online material and self-education. As today’s children are starting early with smart devices and social media, it is safe to assume that school kids and youngster  will be used to play, learn, work and express themselves interactively. Additional changes will come from the private side of life, as devices, TV, social media and gaming will have merged into a seamingless entertainment experience. Furthermore, all kind of daily things will interact with us: mirrors, tables and other surfaces with in-build screens, interactive clothes monitoring our health and performance, tools watching their use and all devices we use to connect to the most near-by data stream aka Cloud.

So this is a technological view, a scenario of the future, that you might be familiar with already. But how will the daily life of the 2012 generation feel and look in 2030?


Life is a cabaret

My view is that the commonality of the hyper-connected world will lead to a life style significant different from now. I think, it is safe to assume that the daily experience in 2030 will be significantly more shaped by an entangled world than ours today. Life won’t be just a cabaret in 2030 of course, but the feeling will be close and the common life of today will be perceived to be boring – or at least lack spice and color. Technology will offer self-expressing instruments that will transform much of what we consume into an outright entertainment. Information that is not transformed into a kind of entertainment won’t get much attention. Some examples: news will show more virtual zoom-in and interactive scenarios, educational content will be more like co-acting in a Shakespearean drama than just reading or watching it and cameras will allow us to record, replay and share everything we do instantaneously.  This trend will act both ways: we will perceive information only if it is entertaining and we will organize our life to be entertaining. So the children of 2012 will have grown up in an increasingly interactive and noisy environment and will have learned to present themselves from early childhood on. What they will do in 2030 is to live a life as an entertainment or as I call it: lifetainment.


Are you prepared for it and will you take an acting class right now?




In July, I was in China for our second annual customer meeting. One of the things that made this event special is we didn’t try to export the US version to China but rather built an event ground up for China.  As Chinese consumers gain affluence, we expect them to act like Westerners and are puzzled when they don’t. It’s why Western marketing efforts often fall short in China.


Tom Doctoroff, head of advertising giant J. Walter Thompson’s China operations, has just published a book called ‘What Chinese Want: Culture, Communism and China’s Modern Consumer.’  A Westerner trying to characterize 1.5B people is a tough challenge but Doctoroff has the right pedigree; he was a recipient of the Magnolia Government Award, the highest honor given by the Shanghai government to expatriates.


In a WSJ article, Doctoroff makes the case brands have to follow three rules to win a following among Chinese buyers:


1. Leverage conspicuous consumption

Luxury items are desired more as a display of status than for their inherent beauty or craftsmanship. As such, products used in public command large price premiums compared to ones used in private. High-priced foreign cars are relatively common but the most popular household appliances are inexpensive domestic models.

According to a study by the U.K.-based retailer B&Q, the average middle-class Chinese spends only $15,000 to fit out a completely bare 1,000-square-foot apartment.

Häagen Dazs leveraged this concept to become the most popular ice cream brand in China.  While it is difficult to sell a $5 carton of ice cream to be eaten at home, Chinese consumers flock to their high-profile downtown location stores.


2. Promote external benefits

Product messaging should not emphasize the benefits to the person himself but rather to how others see the person. Beauty products don’t make a woman ‘feel prettier’; they must help her ‘move forward.’  Parents don’t take kids to pizza parlors so they can enjoy the food; parents reward their children with academic “triumph feasts.”  Even beer can’t be marketed as refreshing to the drinker,

… in China, pilsner must bring people together, reinforce trust and promote mutual financial gain.

De Beers’ successful repositioned their global slogan, “A Diamond is Forever,” from celebrating eternal romance to representing a covenant between families.  The diamond itself is a visual reminder of the obligation.


3. Stand out but fit in

Luxury buyers want to show they have succeeded but remain understated. Audis and BMWs are preferred over flashy Maseratis. Mont Blanc’s six-point logo is popular because it is conspicuously discreet.

Successful brands appeal to Chinese parents by promising “stealthy learning” for their children; this is intellectual development masked as fun.  McDonald’s has this figured out:

Happy Meals include collectible Snoopy figurines wearing costumes from around the world, while the McDonald’s website, hosted by Professor Ronald, offers Happy Courses for multiplication.

Even peanut butter has to combine “delicious peanut taste” with “intelligent sandwich preparation.”

The so-called American dream seems to be alive and well in China, but brands that miss the fundamental difference in emotions and motivations are not likely to be successful.


Follow me on twitter @jbecher.


This blog was originally posted on Manage By Walking Around.

Alberto Savoia, founder of Pretotype Labs and former Google innovation executive, says pretotyping – a method for deciding whether or not to pursue a new idea – can save companies millions by helping them avoid costly flops and get the right products to market


Innovation is all the rage these days, with companies and contributors racing to rock the market with the ‘next big thing.’ Unfortunately, most new products and innovations fail – not because they are poorly executed but because the idea wasn’t the right idea.


“The biggest challenge in innovation isn’t coming up with new ideas, it’s identifying which of those ideas will be successful in the market,” says Savoia. “Pretotyping helps organizations test their innovative ideas to make sure that they have the right ‘it’ before they invest in building ‘it’ right.”


I sat down with Savoia in Silicon Valley earlier this month for a lively Q&A. Savoia explains why a seemingly great idea goes bust while an outright crazy one makes bank, and argues that pretotyping, often seen as a ‘just a start-up thing,’ is relevant to companies of all sizes.


Jennifer Lakheim: What was the inspiration behind pretotyping?

Alberto Savoia: I’ve had the good fortune of being an early employee of two companies that went on to become industry giants – Google and Sun Microsystems – but in my heart of hearts, I’m an entrepreneur. After my first stint at Google from 2001-2002, I had a successful start-up. Then I had (a second) start-up. We felt we were doing everything right. We raised a sufficient amount of money, had great people. Everything should have gone perfectly, but when we launched the product, not enough people wanted it and wasn’t successful. I asked myself, what went wrong here? I went back to Google (in 2008) with the intention of studying failure: Why is it that eight out of ten start-ups fail? Why do 80 percent of new product introductions flop?


What is the crux of the pretotyping approach?

Make sure you’re building the right ‘it’ before you build ‘it’ right. This doesn’t just apply to technology; ‘it’ could be anything. If you’re an author, before you write a book you want to make sure there’s a market for it.


Aren’t companies doing this already? Researching whether there’s a market for your widget seems like a no-brainer in business.

They think they know the market, but really they’re just guessing. All entrepreneurs fall in love with their great idea, so they invest a lot of money, launch it, and nothing happens. Google Wave, which was supposed to replace email, is a famous example. It was done by two of the smartest people at Google. It had the pedigree; it had the people. Email was ready for an improvement, and yet – after a significant investment – the launch fell flat on its face. Why? Because, instead of actually collecting data on whether or not people would use the product, they asked for opinions about the product and based the development on that.

What’s the difference?

I’ll give you an example. Remember Webvan? They presented the idea and asked people if they’d like to order groceries online. Everybody said, “Yes! Of Course! The Internet is cool; it’s a convenient service; and I like to shop!” So, on the strength of that positive reaction, they went for it and launched the company, all out. In just a few years, Webvan raised nearly a billion dollars, built huge refrigerated warehouses full of stock, and acquired a fleet of vehicles. Well, it turns out that even though nearly 100 percent of the people surveyed loved the idea of Webvan, only about two percent of them actually used it. And the company went out of business.


Apply pretotyping to the Webvan example and instead of spending over $100 million to launch the company based on surveys, they would have started small and watched what happened. They would set up the website, advertise it one market – say, San Francisco and its suburbs – and see how it goes. They would not buy warehouses and trucks; instead they’d work out some kind of deal with a supermarket or supplier to fulfill the orders. Had they done this, Webvan would have seen that the number of people who said they would use the service was dramatically different than the number of people who actually did use it. They would have seen that the majority of users were in the city. It would have been apparent that they needed to scale back the concept, tailor it to city-dwellers and forgo the suburbs. And they would know this without having spent enormous amounts of money. The Webvan story might have ended differently.


Webvan illustrates one innovation blunder: over-investing in a concept that turns out to be nonviable. Are there any other common mistakes companies make?

The second error, even more painful, is killing the right idea too early. Take Twitter. Get a focus group together and ask them if they would like to communicate to the world, in 140 characters, that they’ve just gone shopping or done laundry, and in turn follow other people posting the same kind of information – well, it sounds ridiculous. If you relied on just that, the idea would have been killed. And today Twitter is worth almost $10 billion.


How can innovators use pretotyping to help determine what is actually a viable idea, and not one that just sounds good in theory or, on paper, seems patently absurd?

The challenge is, until you build something, you’re dealing only in ideas, and ideas are abstract; the most you can solicit from an idea is an opinion, which is also abstract – and subjective. To get objective data, you have to get out of this ‘thought-land’ as fast as you can, and that’s what pretotyping is all about. It is the process of figuring out what you can do, short of building the product or a prototype, to see if there is really a market for your innovation.


My favorite example is IBM and speech-to-text technology. Thirty-five years ago, it was thought that professionals and managers could not be expected to type; back then, only secretaries and programmers typed. IBM felt the only way they could succeed in the personal computer business was to invent speech-to-text, so that users could just speak to a computer and not use a keyboard. This was going to cost a fortune. IBM did preliminary research that indicated people would indeed buy a technology that allowed them to talk into their computers rather than type, but they (wisely) decided that before making a huge investment they needed to find a way to test this hypothesis.


They did it by making what I credit as one of the earliest pretotypes. They built nothing – no hardware, no software. They simply put a person in a room with a screen and a microphone and told them to start speaking. The test subject would say something and – thanks to a behind-the-scenes stenographer– their words would appear on screen, simulating speech-to-text.


Guess what IBM learned? Just like with Webvan, what people thought they wanted was very different from what they would actually use. The test subjects said they wanted to talk to their computer, but after five minutes of actually doing it, their throats were getting sore and the room, with everyone talking to their computers, was noisy and obnoxious. They were over it. So IBM learned that speech-to-text technology was, at the time, not worth developing. That is the essence of pretotyping.

You also cite the example of Jeff Hawkins and the Palm Pilot as an early pretotype. What’s that story?

Legend has it that before committing to develop the Pilot, Jeff went into his garage and cut a block of wood that would fit in his shirt pocket. He carried it around for months, pretending it was a handheld. If someone invited him to lunch, he’d pull out the block of wood and tap on it as if he were checking his schedule. If he needed a phone number, he  would pretend to look it up. He even tried different design faces and button configurations by gluing different pieces of paper to the wood block.


Both of those examples involve pretotyping-like activity in large companies. Isn’t this the stuff of start-ups?

Actually, the companies that are the most interested in pretotyping are the largest companies. I admit I was surprised by this; I also thought it was a start-up thing. But if you look at the existing ‘waterfall’ model for new product development in the enterprise, it makes sense. Traditionally, a company decides they’re going to launch a new product, spends two years in development, a year in testing and refinement, and then they launch it. People are dissatisfied with that, because it takes a long time and if the product falls flat on its face – which happens all the time – they’ve just wasted an enormous amount of money, time, and resources.


Do you find that large, established companies are receptive to the idea of pretotyping? Or are they stuck in their (perhaps outmoded) ways?

It’s true. The bigger and more established the company, the harder it is to get into the frame of mind to do experiments.


How does an innovator in a large organization combat that to be successful?

Whenever there is innovation, there are two constituencies: one is the bright-eyed, bushy-tailed engineers with the great idea. Then there are the people on the business side, asking about headcount and resources. In a conventional, waterfall scenario, the first camp only gets people to buy-in to their idea if they are powerful and charming and have a history of success as an innovator. More often, you’re just a guy with a crazy idea, like Twitter, and you get shot down.

At Google we say ‘Data beats opinion’ and ‘Say it with numbers’. Pretotyping does this: it moves you from the world of ideas to the world of data. The discussion between the innovators and investors is no longer about opinion. You don’t just think your product is going to be great; you have data to back you up. That changes the conversation. I like to say: ‘Innovate like a start-up; go to market like a grown up.’


Beyond that, it’s really just a matter of time, given the rate of change in the market, that concepts like pretotyping are widely adopted. If you look at mega trends in business and technology, it’s not just optimal, but essential. Things are moving too fast to start with big plans. If you have something with a two-year development plan, it’s going to be obsolete before you launch it. It just doesn’t work. You need to be very nimble and do things quickly.


This story was originally published on


Dan Everett

Too Much Hadoopla?

Posted by Dan Everett Oct 19, 2012

I was speaking with a colleague who is presenting at StrataConf + HadoopWorld next week in New York. His session Tying the Knot Between Hadoop and EDW explores the roles both play in big data projects and various approaches for bringing the two together. I was pleased when he told me about the content of his session because there is so much hoopla about Hadoop (Hadoopla) when it comes to big data. Don’t get me wrong; I think Hadoop has an important role to play, but it‘s not the only technology you need to get value from big data.


Most industry analysts define big data in terms of volume, velocity, and variety of data. If you just have big volumes of structured data, a database is going to work just fine to support your analytic needs, especially if you’re using a high-performing, analytic database, such a columnar data warehouse like SAP Sybase IQ, or an in-memory platform like SAP HANA. If you have a need for real-time monitoring and analysis such as risk analysis, fraud detection, and algorithmic trading in the Financial Services industry, event stream or complex event processing technology is well suited to address high data velocity needs. The sweet spot for Hadoop is collecting and storing unstructured data to address data variety needs and acting as a pre-processing/staging area for analysis. In fact, the most common deployment of Hadoop so far is sessionization of weblog files to understand user behavior on websites.


From my perspective, there is probably a little too much Hadoopla because to get the most business value from big data you need a variety of technologies working together. Mitsui Knowledge Industry (MKI) is an example of an organization realizing the value of big data by utilizing Hadoop and an analytic database. Reducing the time to perform genome analysis helps them deliver personalized medical treatment optimized for an individual patient’s gene mutations. Hadoop is used to collect and store a large library of DNA data from multiple patients and to pre-process a patient’s digital genome sequence for analysis using an analytic database. By comparing an individual’s information to the data in the library doctors can recommend better targeted treatments. You can learn more about the application in this video about MKI.


Do you think is there too much Hadoopla?

Or am I just an old dog that can’t learn new tricks?

If you agree with me why do you think there is so much Hadoopla?


One final thought, if you’re attending StrataConf + HadoopWorld next week you might be interested in From Traditional Database to Big Data Platform in addition to the session I already talked about above.






Run Better Speedway

Situated right near the cavernous lunch area is the Run Better Speedway, a much bigger, faster version of a toy racetrack. I gave one of the cars a spin and peeled some major wheel. In fact, I got a little carried away and sent my car careening off the track right at turn two. The Run Better pit crew (Adam, Reed and “Baby” Zack) assured me it’s a problem turn where everyone wipes out. I asked why the track is making an appearance at TechEd and was told: “To bring fun to the people.” I’m down with that. And you should be too. The 10 best times out of the two minute races win free SAP hats. Start your engines!















SAP Shop

Seasoned SAP event-goers are no doubt familiar with the SAP Shop. It sells all sorts of swag containing the iconic SAP logo. I was surprised to see one of the shop merchants re-stocking some of the shirts. Do people really buy this stuff? I had to ask and was pretty much blown away by the response from Adam Hilldore of Chamberlain Marketing Group, the preferred swag vendor of SAP. “It’s always busy here,” said Adam. “And I am constantly surprised each year by the best-selling items.” This year, it’s the Powerbag  Backpacks which will set you back more than 100 large. “They have an actual internal power source to charge mobile devices,” said Adam. Mini-speakers, eco-friendly apparel and anything iPad related (four different styles of iPad cases!) are also flying off the shelves.















Technology Showcase Test Drive

This is a really great area to get a sense of how some of SAP’s latest and greatest tech works. I was shown a demo that involved an everyday technician scanning a QR code to bring up more info on a particular widget that might need repair. The technician’s back office people could be looking at the widget data at the same time as the technician to determine the issue. “It’s a standard-based, open application that anyone (read: internal IT department) can develop on,” said Pankaj Kumar, Solution Manager for SAP SW Cloud.






Social Sharing Photo Booth


SAP social media gurus Chrissy Bryant and Kevin Cassidy joined me in the Social Sharing Photo Booth (I'm in the Village People get-up) for this, ahem, classic photo that we just had to share on Twitter. Glossy hard copies are also provided. Swing by and get your freak on!





Social Media Hubsocial2.jpg


I am actually sitting at the Social Media hub right now, as I finish writing this blog. I've witnessed many attendees swing by to check out the video monitors displaying various Twitter streams and other social data associated with SAP TechEd. Many others are seeking the advice of SAP's social media team to learn more about LinkedIn, Twitter and more. Speaking of more, SAP's Kevin Cassidy tells me there are more people tweeting compared to last year which makes it feel more like SAPPHIRE NOW-sized social behavior. "There's also a lot more photo sharing and people seem to be having a lot more fun compared to last year," said Kevin. SAP's Brian Ellefritz has noticed a nice up-tick in overall Tweet-age because attendees have more followers compared to a year ago. "The same amount of Twitter activity reaches more people," said Brian.


Learn more about the Social Media hub here.


What have been your most magical moments at TechEd this year?

“The amount of information we now generate in two days, equals the amount of information generated from the dawn of humankind to 2003. People need help managing this information so that they can make smarter business decisions quickly.” - Thomas Ohnemus, VP of Solution Marketing,  SAP

As the pace of business gets faster and the amount of information continues to increase, making sure the right data is available and accessible when executives need it is a tough challenge. Furthermore, the desired information must be presented in a format that is easy to understand and remember.  For today’s generation of workers, that format is interactive, 3D visual communications. 


Visualization technology originated from the growing need to make it easier to handle massive amounts of information. By transforming data into 3D models, users can access, analyze and act on the information in a completely new and very familiar way. While initially conceived to help with an enterprise’s product life cycle data, the benefits of 3D visual communications has stimulated adoption throughout entire organizations.


Top 5 Benefits of 3D Visual Communication


Below are the top five benefits of 3D visual communication proven to help companies improve operational efficiencies and bottom-line profits:


  1. Faster, Better Communications: Imagine the difference between finding a location using written directions or following a colored, graphical map with the route boldly marked.  Visuals are clearly easier to understand, which makes them ideal for business communications. By translating complex company data, such as the new design of an airplane, into a 3D model,  users throughout an organization can literally see the information come to life. When engineering or other product development divisions make revisions, those changes are instantly incorporated and shared with all interested parties. Another communication benefit to 3D visuals is the fact that they can be understood regardless of a person’s native verbal language. Visual communications eliminates high language translation costs and inconsistencies due to human error.
  2. Improved Data Access for Greater Collaboration: “A typical global manufacturing value chain could have as many as 1,000 potential users who could benefit from their company’s product data, but simply can’t access it or lack the tools or expertise to use it.” (The Advent of Visual Manufacturing, Longview Advisors.)
    One of the biggest benefits of 3D visuals is that users don’t need to be IT experts to create, open or understand the information presented. In fact,
    translating difficult data into a user-friendly format ensures everyone can access the same data and use it to make decisions within their areas of
    expertise. The more input provided on the project at hand, the better the results.  This is a tremendous improvement over traditional business processes, which inadvertently confine information in regional or divisional “silos."
  3. Data Interoperability: The visualization technology used to create 3D models leverages an organization’s existing tools and systems. It takes what are normally incompatible formats and standardizes the data so all relevant pieces of information can then be synthesized together. Data interoperability is a tremendous benefit to organizations that lose billions of dollars a year due to systems that do not work together.
  4. Sreamlined Operations: Presenting data in visual form results in less duplication of work. This is because drawings, documents and models are all generated from a single source. When information is updated in one document, it is automatically updated everywhere else. By giving people the right data at the right time, work gets done faster and more accurately. For example, repairs and product maintenance take less time and customer service representatives provide better first call resolution.
  5. Shorter Product Development Cycles: By improving communication and collaboration, the entire company can move in the same direction with the same goals. Visual 3D communications allows multi-departmental activities to be performed concurrently, such as creating marketing materials while making product revisions.  Also, product manuals are easier to produce, update and follow when they are in a visual format, ensuring they are always
    consistent with latest product releases. All of this, plus better utilization of existing resources leads to shortened time-to-market product timelines.


3D visual communication technology helps people work together in order to make faster, smarter business decisions. It lowers costs and improves productivity by eliminating duplicate work and focusing all resources on the same outcome.  Best of all, converting complicated data into easy to understand visuals invites everyone to contribute their unique perspectives. The result is innovation unlike anything seen before – faster, more creative and higher quality ideas. It’s a sustainable, competitive advantage that will absolutely be critical to success in the ever-changing business environment of the future.

smallgamers.jpgLast weekend I experienced innovation in its truest form. I snagged tickets to see the Video Game Orchestra (VGO) at Boston Symphony Hall. For two hours, I was, as they say, transported to another, better place.


Mind you, I am not a gamer. In fact, when I venture into the den where my son is immersed in some 3-D tableau, I typically avert my eyes from the screen before I succumb to motion sickness. So yes, it was my son’s idea to go to the concert. 


VGO is a rock band backed by an orchestra—they call it “rockestral.” Picture this on stage. A full orchestra with complete strings, horns, drums, and a harp. These consummate musicians were flanked on the right by a 16-person choir. In front of it all was a rock band with bass and acoustic guitars, drums, tambourine, chimes—you name it, they had it. Not to forget the solo violinist with a shock of wavy hair who sprang out of nowhere every so often to add yet another piquant element when least expected. But here’s the best part. Keeping the whole shebang anchored was Haruka Yabuno on the keyboard. When she was pounding away, this woman was the rock solid foundation that turned each song into pure, pulse-pounding joy. From Final Fantasy VII and Street Fighter to Kingdom Hearts, Grandia and Chrono Trigger, I was transfixed.


The reason why I found the VGO so innovative is because they were not only a joy to experience, but they were genuine. The producer, Shota Nakama, was humble and sweet as he repeatedly thanked the audience for their support. The concert was part of VGO’s efforts on Kickstarter to raise $30,000 to release an album next spring. Kickstarter is an angel investment concept where aspiring artists can raise funds in exchange for perks like early or free access to published works, honorable mentions, or custom-made creations. VGO met their funding goal, raising almost $37,000. But unlike other funding instruments, such as VCs, artists that raise funds through Kickstarter keep full control of their creations. I’ve blogged about the pluses and pitfalls of the democratization of content, and this is an example of the greatness of the new model.


The melding of different genres to create something different isn’t entirely new. Last century old-timers might remember the strings sections in The Rolling Stones song, As Tears Go By. This century’s heroes, though, have to be the gamers. True innovation has its own unique beauty, and the VGO has this full force. This is how every business needs to approach innovation. Start with a solid foundation that keeps it all together. Change it up with something the customer hasn’t thought of but really needs—once they get it. Above all, be genuine. Let’s hear it for the gamers.

Even though SAP HANA is primarily marketed as a big data buster, there’s actually much more to this in-memory juggernaut than meets the eye. I quickly found this out after a chance meeting with SAP customer Tamko, a manufacturer of building products, at SAP TechEd 2012 in Las Vegas.



Tamko is a privately held company with all business operations planted firmly in the continental U.S. While they don’t have big data problems commonly associated with a global supply chain, it still has plenty to worry about when it comes to getting the right information to the right people at the right time.


Tamko implemented SAP ECC in 2007. Over time, access to data became more complex and time consuming.  In 2011 the company turned to SAP HANA (by way of Rapid Deployment Solution) to provide the business with access to their own data and allow them to develop their own reports rather than rely on others.


“SAP HANA is a brand new appliance that takes advantage of our SAP systems side by side,” said Chuck Martin, Director of Application Development at Tamko. According to Martin, SAP HANA is more about building a “long-term foundation” for data reporting. Pranav Bhatt, Senior Programmer at Tamko, said a few “quick win” surprises popped up along the way, thanks to their decision to use a Rapid Deployment Solution. “There was no need to rebuild a new system from the ground up.  Just do some basic testing and it’s good to go. The Rapid Deployment Solution requires much less IT resources – you don’t need a big-bang IT team to make it work.”


Because of this, Tamko now asks “why not SAP HANA?” for most of its IT projects like the following:


  • Maintenance Reliability Dashboard Project
  • Mobility Reporting initiatives
  • BusinessObjects Experience – Explorer
  • Mobile BI – WebI
  • Manufacturing Operations Dashboard
  • Sales History on WebChannel (prototype)
  • New/Changes to existing reports
  • Customer facing portal


As you can see, Tamko isn’t using SAP HANA to crunch billions of records in milliseconds.  By tapping its power for everyday reporting needs, and a host of other projects designed to make the company run better, “new opportunities present themselves frequently”, said Martin.


Follow me on Twitter @TClark01

Admiral Mike Mullen

Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) recently hosted an event in NYC to honor Admiral Mike Mullen, recently retired chairman of the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff, for his instrumental work in repealing the US military’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy.


This policy made it impossible for GLB service members to openly disclose their sexual preference while in the armed forces. Admiral Mullen fought for the repeal because he believed that the military would be stronger as a result of its diversity, and that those who wanted to serve should serve freely. Early results to date have shown positive results in terms of morale and effectiveness.


As was Admiral Mullen’s belief, maintaining a diverse workforce is not only the right thing to do, but the business critical thing to do. Businesses must reflect the talent pool and marketplace, which are increasingly diverse. Driving innovation in products, processes, and go to market approaches is key in the business world today, and the varied perspectives of employees with different backgrounds, cultures, and ideas help do just that. In order to foster an inclusive workplace and environment, both within a company’s own walls and throughout its ecosystem; people need to believe that they have a place to belong, regardless of the way they look, or their orientation, or their country of origin.


My colleagues and I had the pleasure of attending the momentous tribute to Admiral Mullen as representation for SAP, a dedicated sponsor of the event.  You could feel the awe in the room at what had been accomplished by an institution not usually known for leading in this respect.  It inspired others to rally behind the power of diversity and make establishing a diverse workforce a priority in their organization. If the military can do it, so can any business.


In short, reflecting and including diverse perspectives and people helps businesses run better. Innovate better. Sell better. And helps the world run like never before.


Image Credit:

Vishal_Sikka1.jpgWhat happens in SAP TechEd Las Vegas definitely does not stay in Vegas. And that’s a good thing.


SAP’s premier technical event, now in its 16th year, officially kicked off this morning in Sin City with a keynote presentation from Dr. Vishal Sikka (pictured), member of the Executive Board of SAP who heads up technology and innovation for the company. For good reason, more than 6,000 (in-person and virtual) attendees had a tough time keeping mum about SAP’s latest innovations and flooded the #SAPTechEd Tweet stream with news about free developer licenses, a partnership with and much more. Here are the best Tweets from Sikka’s keynote.


@ericvallo: @MarkYolton takes the stage to kick off #SAPTechEd. Yep, it is like a big family reunion. Group hug. Bring it in. 


@MathiasWild: Please 'welcome the godfather of SAP HANA' says @MarkYolton. Welcome @vsikka on stage for #SAPteched keynote! 


@mgillet: @vsikka replying to @markyolton perhaps not best idea to use Godfather in Vegas (Vishal smiling)


@ABridgwater: Will Vishal Sikha use the word "innovation" within the first 60 seconds of his speech?


@vijaysankarv: @vsikka makes an excellent point - there is no justification in increasing complexity in existing landscapes.


@dahowlett: “If we're not serving the needs of end users then we're missing the point.” <spot on.


@PeteHumble: Empower our end users. Renew our products without disruption. Real-time platform. Three key imperatives from Vishal at #SAPTechEd.


@GroupSoftUS: HANA is more than a database, it represents the way how we renew ourself. @vsikka about 'The #HANA Effect' at #SAPteched

@SAP: "The point of HANA is there is no limitation anymore." - @VSikka at #SAPTechEd

@marksmithvr: @vsikka states other database vendors are trying to recreate the magic of #SAPHANA through technology - nice Jab to Oracle & IBM.

@puneetsuppal: "1 million inserts per second" - @vsikka on what #HANA can do! Insane, I say - but exhilarating!

@gpmyers: This is the perfect crowd for @vsikka to "talk nerdy to me.”

@gregchase: @vsikka forecasts replacement of "batch" with deep, broad, real time, on demand, agile processing.

@JavaBeanhead: Holy Petabyte, Batman! SAP Hana is available on Amazon Web Services for $0.99 per hour!

@pixelbase: Last time SAP announced a major UI initiative was "Enjoy SAP" in the 90s. Today's looks way more promising.

@m_kalim: Sam Yen talks about 49ers using @SAP #Mobile #FanExperience app #SAPTechEd! <- Go @49ers!

@MicoYuk: Anybody else wondering if #Oracle is taking notes from #vsikka on how to present an accurate FACT BASED Keynote? #justsaying #SAPTechEd   


@sylviasant: What a hipster: "I was a data geek before it was cool.”- @vsikka


@theFundooGeek: "The point of #HANA is, there is no limitation anymore." - @VSikka


@imirisola - Amazing things can happen when we put our minds to it. Kids programming mobile apps on #SAPTechnology #SAPTechEd. I almost broke in tears here

This week on we have a special treat for our readers – a podcast to go along with our story on Perfect for People, a Dutch SAP partner that specializes in CRM implementations. Perfect for People recently achieved SAP’s Active Quality Management partner accreditation for its continuous and focused improvement of quality management processes in customer projects.


Based on the SAP 10 Quality Principles, AQM gives partners the tools and methods to minimize project risks and maximize benefits in their customer projects. A large part of this program involves standardizing project documentation and processes so that all aspects of the project are routinely monitored, stakeholders are kept in the loop, and little is left to chance. For partners, the AQM accreditation has proven to be a differentiator in the bid process, as savvy customers trust the partner has demonstrated its commitment to project delivery excellence. The reward isn’t just upfront – AQM leads to greater customer satisfaction at the end of the project as well, as Perfect for People's customer voices in the article. 


You can find out how Perfect for People applied its knowledge of AQM methodology to a recent SAP CRM and Sybase implementation project they did for their customer PPG. If you don’t have time to read the article, you can listen to the podcast at your desk, in your car, or on the go.


And if you are at SAP TechEd this week – have a great event! 

Would you believe HR has never had it better? Technology has given it access to huge applicant pools, making it easier to find the most talented candidates, and provide them with high-quality training once they are hired. Global payroll has become routine. HR operations have become so efficient in the last five years that they now driving those efficiencies throughout entire organizations.


Say what, didn’t get that memo? It is because HR still has an image problem, not a usefulness problem. What HR needs today is an extreme makeover to highlight the enormous across-the-board advances, rather than prolonging HR’s error-prone, lazy, and bureaucratic rep it has been given.


We reviewed over 2B impressions from online conversations including more than 400K mentions of HR in blogs, news articles, and social networks. The results: HR appears to be a hot topic but not necessarily led by an overly passionate group (Passion Intensity score: 30 and overall Net Sentiment score: 57). One of my life quotes is with every negative there is a positive. We explore the top 5 things we love and 5 things we don’t like about HR.


written with Ray Rivera and Tammie Eldridge as Part #4 of the Forbes Social Intelligence Report by SAP and NetBase


SAP HCM Infographic.jpg




sign1.jpgWhen it was recently announced the U.S. unemployment rate fell to 7.8% after the economy added 114,000 workers in September and August, some very public figures cried foul and vented on Twitter. Mad Money’s Jim Cramer also took to Twitter but for a slightly different reason. Here’s his famous Tweet that suggests SAP should crunch the numbers in question:


"Just give the payroll calc job to $SAP or $TIBX and we can get them daily!”


Can SAP HANA accurately crunch the U.S. unemployment figures via national payroll data? Daily?! I checked in with a few of SAP’s HANA experts to find out.


We can really only speculate, as nobody collects this data today,” said David Hull, Senior Manager, Technology & Innovation Platform Marketing at SAP Labs. “Hence the controversy over the recent numbers - they're not based on hard data, and so they're likely accurate within a certain margin of error.”


To clarify the process, Jim Cramer is suggesting companies send their payroll data to someone like SAP, in addition to the way companies are currently required to report to the IRS. “That way, not only is the jobs report based on hard data, it also can be reported daily instead of only quarterly,” said Hull.


To determine how much data this is, Hull said you would need to visualize and estimate the data set which might consist of an irreversible hash of a person's social security number (to anonymize it, yet still report on a individualized basis), how many hours per week they worked, who they worked for (represented by a hash of the company's employer ID or social security number), zip code, age, etc.


With around 200 million people in the database (including active workforce and educational institutions reporting data), Hull estimates around 1KB of data per person, per payroll period.


“Unless my math is wrong, that's about 10TB of data per year,” said Hull. “Let's say you want to size for three years of data, that's 7.5TB compressed, which would require a 16-node cluster with 16TB of DRAM. We have partners that ship these today.”


Of course, getting all U.S. businesses to send SAP their payroll data would be a project that would take some time to complete. Is there a near-term pilot that would simulate what Jim Cramer is asking? Joe King, Chancellor, SAP HANA Academy, thinks there is via the following:

  • Immediately load all appropriate historitcal labor statics data into a SAP HANA data mart on the external facing site
  • Build out a complete set of analytics on top of that data
  • Search out paycheck issuing  companies to have them send us their historical data
  • Determine if those paycheck companies ' numbers are indicative of a change in the labor statics as reported today

“We can then meet Jack Welch's challenge of knowing when the announced labor statics are not supported by other metrics,” said King. “We could then do real time analysis.”

millen.jpgIf I was a millennial, I would be annoyed with popular media.


Whether they are called Millennials, Digital Natives, or Generation Y, people under the age of 30 are typically portrayed as having unrealistically high expectations for their career and over-inflated sense of their abilities.  They are lazy, lack emotional intelligence, and don’t take criticism well. But they can be easily won over by the latest gadget.


These generalizations make for amusing reading but they aren’t very useful to a Gen X manager trying to recruit more Millennials into the workplace. After a fair amount of research, I’ve come to the conclusion that just about everything we’re told about Gen Y isn’t true.  To borrow a phrase I came across, Millennials are misunderstood, misinterpreted and misinformed.


I’m a big fan of myth busting and found two great articles that help dispel myths about millenials. Both Strategy+Business and MonsterThinking encourage employers to “forget what you think you know about your Gen Y employees.” Here are their top myths about millenials and a dose of reality:


Myth: Millennials don’t want to be told what to do.
Reality: Millennials are more willing to defer to authority than either baby boomers or Gen Xers.


Myth: Millennials lack organizational loyalty.
Reality:  Young people of every generation change jobs more frequently than older people.


Myth: Millennials aren’t interested in their work.
Reality: It isn’t that Millennials aren’t motivated; it’s that they’re not motivated to do boring work.


Myth: Millennials are motivated by perks and high pay.
Reality: Research shows no relationship between a person’s generation and whether he or she is motivated by perks and high pay.


Myth: Millennials want more work–life balance.
Reality: Millennials and Gen Xers agree at about the same level that the demands of their work interfere with their personal lives.


Myth: Millennials are apathetic.
Reality: Millennial’s attention tends to wander quickly which means they appear bored to other generations. In addition, Millennials value service and respect more than money and status.


Myth: Millennials have trouble finding jobs.
Reality: Millennials have trouble networking, relying too much on automated skill matching services rather than interpersonal skills.


Myth: Millennials think they’re smarter than you were at their age.
Reality: Millennials can be smarter because they have easier access to information to make better decisions. As I’ve written before, their memories are cloudy.


So what does this all mean?


I’d be foolish to generalize how to deal with millennials just like you’d be foolish to believe the standard myths. There is one thing I know for certain: If you create an environment that listens to your employees and values their contributions, you can attract candidates from any generation.


Follow me on twitter @jbecher.


This blog was originally posted on Manage By Walking Around.

“It will shape my opinion of SAP more than 1,000 briefings.”
-Adrian Bowles, Industry Analyst, in a tweet from @jbowles on SAP’s “It Gets Better” film.

The implications of being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) vary greatly around the world. In some places, the best places, being LGBT means – well – nothing: LGBT people are afforded the same legal rights and civil sanction as anyone else. In other places (and there’s more of them than you might think) being the way you were born to be is punishable by life in prison, or death.


I live in the first kind of place, and boy am I glad. I’m not gay; I don’t lean left; and much of what my contemporaries praise as progressive is, to me, just plain weird. Adjusted for the San Francisco Bay Area, I’m pretty much Newt Gingrich. Yet nothing delighted me more than when, in the fourth grade, one of my daughter’s born-male schoolmates started living (and attending school) as a girl. How cool is that? The kid has parents willing to step outside the bounds, and the local public-school backed their play. The best part is what happened when little Johnny turned up in a dress – nothing. There was a bit of nervous giggling in her immediate proximity for the first week or two, but before long Johnny was Jane and that was that. It was such a non-event to my 10 year old that she didn’t mention it for a month.


Is this child transgender? Is “she” gay? At that age, who knows? Stepping into a female role might be the realization of the kid’s true nature; it could also be ‘just a phase.’ That’s not the point. The matter here is that, whoever this kid is – straight, gay, transsexual lesbian and opera-lover – he or she has the right to be it, without repercussion, prejudice, or shame. In this case, we as a society effect the ideal: being true to oneself is not a political issue, a social quandary, or a pathology; it’s a basic and presumed human right.


I reflect on this today because SAP, where I work, announced it has extended the reach of its “It Gets Better” film by releasing translations in nine languages: Chinese, French, German, Hindi, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and closed captions in English for the hearing impaired. (To access the translations, click the “cc” button on the YouTube video player.)


Back in June, I had the pleasure of reporting on the SAP contribution to the It Gets Better project founded in 2010 by Dan Savage, author of “Savage Love,” to help prevent suicide among lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth.  It features a collection of more than 50,000 videos, SAP’s among them, made by people of all ages and walks of life, celebrities, politicians (among them U.S. President Barack Obama) and corporations. The films, collectively viewed more than 50 million times, encourage young people to reach and get help if they are experiencing bullying and rejection because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. 


SAP’s film was, in a word, special. It featured SAP’s co-CEO Jim Hagemann Snabe, a cast of many ‘out’ executives, and Steve Fehr, an SAP employee who lost his son Jeffrey to suicide after years of anti-gay bullying. It resonated with many, many people, prompting this effort “to share the film with more people who need to hear it,” says SAP’s Moya Watson, coordinator of the grassroots project.


Her comment got me thinking: Among those people are many who live in places a far cry from my town –  places where being different can mean, whether court commanded or self-imposed, a death sentence. And those places, as was the case with Jeffrey Fehr – who lived and died just 100 miles away in suburban Sacramento – aren’t necessarily all that far away.


I did not know Jeffrey, but I wanted to take the opportunity to honor his memory by reflecting on the progress we’ve made in some places, making the case that it’s way past time for this betterment to spread everywhere, and urging you to take 12 minutes and watch this film. Watch it in English. Watch it in French. Send the link to someone in Russia. Keep watching until we all speak the language of change. 

The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines “diversity” as follows:

1: the condition of having or being composed of differing elements : variety; especially : the inclusion of different types of people (as people of different races or cultures) in a group or organization <programs intended to promote diversity in schools> 2: an instance of being composed of differing elements or qualities: an instance of being diverse <a diversity of opinion>.


However, this specific focus of the word on race and gender, which is now a primary part of the definition, is only a few decades old. In the 1978 landmark United States Supreme Court ruling on university admissions, the word ‘diversity’ is used for the first time as a noun to refer to both a qualitative distinction of ethno-cultural groups and their quantitative distribution in institutions of higher education (from the paper “On diversity”).


In the early 90s the word “diversity” became closely linked with HR initiatives that promoted “tolerance” for differences in race, gender, ethnicity, religion, and sexual orientation. It was used as part of efforts to eliminate discrimination against people who weren’t part of the majority – whatever that majority was. 


In the past few years this mindset has evolved to more positive ground to “diversity as a competitive advantage.”  Diversity of the seen and unseen – culture, thought, style, skills, education, workplace flexibility, and perspectives – ensures that every member of the team is represented and valued. This more inclusive definition allows for a broader and more productive discussion.


This is obviously a noble pursuit but it’s worth pushing to see if the data truly support diversity as a driver of corporate value.  It does. The numbers, anecdotal evidence, and logic all support diversity as a business enabler:

  • In a Forbes Insights report, “Fostering Innovation Through a Diverse Workforce,” 85% of survey respondents agreed a diverse and inclusive workforce brings the different perspectives a company needs to drive innovation.  97% of the companies surveyed had formal diversity and inclusion strategies in place, viewing it as a competitive advantage that helps capture new clients, and adds to the potential for adding consumers in emerging markets.
  • Companies with a strong commitment to diversity on average outperformed their peers with higher profit margins, and greater return on equity and assets. (“The Business Case for Commitment to Diversity”, 2008)
  • The 2009 report, Does Diversity Pay? Race, Gender, and the Business Case for Diversity, showed that companies with greater racial and gender diversity performed better in terms of sales, revenue, number of customers, and market share.
  • Employee satisfaction and engagement hinges partially on satisfaction with a company’s treatment of diverse people. (Catalyst – “Why Diversity Matters”, 2012)
  • The 2010 McKinsey Women Matter report showed companies with the highest share of women in their senior management teams outperformed those with no women by 41% in return on equity and by 56% in operating results.


It makes sense. Diversity of thought, view point, and mindset leads to more innovative results than “like-thinking”.


As SAP looks to be increasingly innovative, it is good business practice to tap into all of the unique backgrounds, experiences, and ideas its employees represent. During a recent meeting with employees, SAP’s Co-CEO Jim Hagemann Snabe said, “I want SAP to be an admired innovator and diversity of teams is a huge contributor to innovation.” A workforce that is representative of the world we help run better is a vital contributor to that image of admired innovator.


From October 8 to 12, we celebrate the diversity at SAP with Global Diversity Days – our annual event dedicated to diversity and how it drives innovation, strategy, and business results.  By embracing diversity we hope to also fuel innovation. It’s the right thing for our employees as well as our company.


Follow me on twitter @jbecher.

retail2.jpgLike many shoppers, Joe Shopper doesn't always remember his grocery list.  When he goes to the store he usually returns with without many intended items.  Sometimes he forgets altogether, blindly walking by sales of his favorite foods; and other times he remembers an item but changes his mind when he can’t find his preferred brand. 


These are moments when sales are lost for the grocer: opportunities to up-sell, cross-sell or remind shoppers that their favorite soup or tomato is on sale.


Precision retailing offers a solution. It capitalizes on scatterbrained shoppers like Joe, and helps them find the products they want (or don’t remember they want).  It is similar to the displays of gum and magazines at the checkout line.  We rarely come in looking to buy them, but since they're there, we can’t resist.


Yet precision retailing is even more effective than the magazine rack at the cash register.  The technology can even help retailers make make predictions based on what time shoppers enter the store. For example, if Joe goes to a drug store only to find his favorite brand of toothpaste and is out of stock, he will likely go to a different store.  But if the first store had used SAP's precision retailing solution to tracks its inventory, it could have guessed he was shopping for toothpaste and also suggested a different option and kept his business.


By providing targeted information and promotions to customers on the fly, SAP's precision retailing platform makes the entire store the checkout line.  It uses SAP HANA technology to offer customers deals constructed just for them, while they are in the store. Each deal is sent to customers’ smartphones for maximum effect.


Businesses are already reaping the benefits of the new technology.  Stores that have used the system reported seeing as much as a 20 percent increase in promotional conversion rates.  On top of that, basket sizes have risen up to 15 percent, and 10 percent in up- or cross-sell suggestions.


Although the world where a corner butcher remembers your regular order is largely a thing of the past, precision retailing brings some personalization back to the shopping experience. The ability to keeping time-based customer data on customers is not new, but the ability to remind customers of items they regularly buy is transformational.  If Joe buys cereal every two weeks and hasn't in the last month, he probably could use some more.  With precision retailing, he is alerted of this via text. The personalized shopping experience of precision retailing is not only beneficial to the retailer, but helpful to customers as well.

Last week I told you about my vision of the future where alarm clocks and calendars and coffee machines all talk to each other. It’s a future where the Internet of Things (IoTs) and Machine-to-Machine (M2M) conversations are the “social network of machine and man”, making our lives enormously easier and more productive.  I received many e-mail follow-ups about your own IoT scenarios. From iRobots that intelligently clean your house and notify you on your smartphone before you get home for a party you’re hosting, to practical examples in healthcare like low battery alerts for pacemakers or life-saving notifications to an elderly person’s smartphone and their doctor. 


(By the way, I am a keynote speaker at the CTIA Conference in San Diego, on Oct 10, 2012 where I will be discussing my vision of the future.  I’ll post a link to details for those who can’t attend).


How mobile solutions help shape the IoTs/M2M vision


Today’s market of Mobile Security players have been tactically focused on a market called Mobile Device Management (MDM).  While an important market, we see the MDM market as rapidly commoditizing, with the real distinguishing characteristics being the ability to handle potentially billions of devices that need to be managed. The only effective way to solve this is in the Cloud.


Most MDM solutions today don’t scale and are not built to take advantage of the Cloud, to note just two limitations.  These are precisely the areas where we are investing heavily in our MDM solutions, and we’re making big strides in the market.  We will be showcasing our MDM product, SAP Afaria, running on HANA (our BigData In-Memory Database), all in the Cloud, at SAPPHIRE NOW from Madrid in November.


Beyond MDM, market research shows that every mobile device has an average of 40 business or productivity applications on them. If these applications are being administered by a company, they need to be managed, hence the growing area called Mobile Application Management.  Then, the devices in the enterprise will likely have 100+ documents that need to be accessed, and whether it is DropBox /, or an inside the firewall document sharing location, enterprises will need a Secure Content Management story to their Mobility Security solutions.


The billions of devices in people’s hands today will also be supplemented by trillions of “things” in your life that are on the Internet that not only need to be securely provisioned, but also monitored for data. Think about your smart car, your smart refrigerator, your smart thermostat – the smart vending machine, the smart tractor, the smart logistics hub, the smart city and much more.  This continuum is depicted in the chart below which outlines SAPs vision for Mobile Management on axes of Richness and Reach – stretching from millions of devices to billions of Apps / Docs to trillions of “things”.  We are working actively with marquee customers to make this happen.


Supplementing this Mobility management, SAP HANA provides a big data infrastructure to handle large volumes of data that are streamed from “things” so as to make intelligent choices through the use of analytics. This enables smart vending machines to decide when to alert the “supply chain” as to when they need to be replenished, even correlating the analytics with third-party data, like weather information, so as to anticipate a hot day, leading to more profitable sales!


There is a lot more I will write in future blogs about the details of what we have planned in the Internet of Things and Machine-to-Machine (M2M).  We have a research team that is building really cool technology in the M2M area based on real customer scenarios, and we will soon be appointing a leader for the initiative that will help us take the solutions we develop with customers to the market on a broader scale.  We are also identifying a set of close partners who will bring critical elements of the technology stack needed for M2M solutions.  So don’t expect SAP to go it alone – there will be a combination of select software companies, system integrators, Telcos and Infrastructure players we are actively engaging with to help bring the solution and vision to market.

Stay tuned. This is an exciting area of innovation for SAP.

During a recent break, I finally read a stack of articles I had put aside for months. I was most absorbed by the Time Magazine cover article ‘10 Ideas That Are Changing Your Life.’ You can read each of the ideas by clicking on the links below, but for those of you who have limited time, I’ve provided my own summary for the first five:

  1. Living Alone Is The New Norm
  2. Your Head Is In The Cloud
  3. Handprints, Not Footprints
  4. The Rise Of The Nones
  5. Food That Lasts Forever
  6. Black Irony
  7. High-Status Stress
  8. Privacy In Public
  9. Nature Is Over
  10. Niche Aging


Living Alone is the New Norm

In 1950, Americans who lived alone made up only 9% of households; in 2011 solitary households reached 28% which makes them tied with childless couples as the most common U.S. residential type. Solitary dwellers are primarily middle-aged women aged 35-64 but young adults from 18-34 are the fastest growing segment. Living alone is not just a U.S phenomenon: the percentages are 47% in Sweden, 31% in Japan, and 34% in Britain. Not surprisingly, only 3% of households in India are singletons.


According to sociologist Eric Klinenberg, living alone does not mean we are lonely.  Instead, Klineberg claims it allows us “to do what we want, when we want and on our own terms.”  When we are alone, we recharge and are more likely to create true connections when we spend time with other people.


Your Head is In the Cloud

I blogged about this phenomena last year under the similarly-titled ‘Our Memories Are Cloudy’. As I said then:

The research shows that we forget things we are confident we can find on the Internet but we are more likely to remember things we think are not available online. Furthermore, we are better at remembering where to find something on the Internet than we are at remembering the information itself.

The Time article claims that the average American spends ~12 hours consuming information which represents 34 GBytes of data. I would have guessed a higher number.


Handprints, Not Footprints

Gregory Norris claims we would be more effective in reducing our carbon footprints if we talked about the positive impact we have through the cumulative effect of all of our reductions.  This is standard cognitive science at work; positive improvement goals are more motivational and easier to keep than negative reinforcement ones.  Norris calls this approach handprints and allows people to track their own progress at  In another cognitive twist, if your friends improve their handprints because they learned about a technique from you, your handprint improves as well.


The Rise of the Nones

19% of Americans report they have no religious affiliation, double the percentage in 1990. However, this doesn’t mean they aren’t spiritual; only 4% identify themselves as atheist or agnostic. Instead, they seem to reject organized religion as too rigid and institutional. These so-called ‘nones’ are creating smaller, more intimate worship communities which often meet in members’ homes.


Is this trend limited to the U.S.?  The article doesn’t say and I can’t find any research for other countries.


Food That Lasts Forever

There’s a persistent urban legends that Twinkies last forever due to the amount of preservatives they contain.  This myth seems to have been debunked and most estimates claim the real number is 25 days. Canned spam, on the other hands, is good for around 10 years.


Joking aside, food spoilage is a significant problem: 30% of all food in the U.S. spoils before being eaten and estimates are as high as 70% in developing nations.  Spoilage is usually caused by bacteria.  New techniques for controlling bacteria place food in a plastic pouch and subject it to very high pressure (87,000 psi).  According to the article, fruit treated this way remained fresh for three years and a pork chop tasted ‘normal’ seven years later.  I believe this technique could not only improve food safety but also significantly reduce the energy we use to cool and store foods.


How can we tie all five of these ideas together? Apparently, the seven-year old porkchop will be eaten by someone who lives alone, eschews organized religion, and can’t remember the hand print Website.


Note: Time permitting, I’ll summarize the other five articles in a later post.


Follow me on twitter @jbecher.


This blog was originally posted on Manage By Walking Around.

Work Out Loud.jpgIt’s no secret that social communities have become essential to the ways we communicate, make purchases and consume content. They connote shared experience – the hallmark of the new Era of Collaboration and Pull Marketing.

But too often, I still see the ghost of push marketing in social channels, in the form of banner ads, unsolicited emails and pop-up tactics. Is this a resistance to new technology or just too many marketing folks sticking with what they’ve done for ages?

“Social communities leverage an increasingly expensive asset – people – by allowing them to work out loud, connect with more people, establish trust, and find relevant information and solutions more quickly,” proclaimed Rachel Happe of The Community Roundtable during the September 19th live edition of “Coffee Break with Game-Changers Radio presented by SAP. Happe suggested that human capital investments may still be at odds with technology investments, which are supposed to reduce the burden on knowledge workers.

Declaring that digital storytelling is a critical new competency, Sean O’Driscoll, CEO of Ant's Eye View, sent the marketing old-guard on a new path. “Social engagement is a journey with defined stages leading to the fully engaged enterprise. Now we have the convergence of people telling stories and technology as the new marketing delivery platform.”

SAP’s Mark Yolton crystallized the most egregious wrong committed by traditional marketing in the last decade. “Our mindset needs to change from push marketing to pull. Stop interrupting your customers. You need to be there when your customers need you.”

To learn more tips from these savvy experts on how to build and grow a truly social business community, tune in to SAP Radio. You’re invited to post your comments below or Tweet to #SAPRadio, one of our favorite social communities!

SAP Radio Coffee Break with Game-Changers Logo-121211.JPG

In the good old days, if we had to contact our bank or for that matter any business, we used to reach out to our phones and give them a call.

The call would then be routed to a call center (usually, after about 10-15 minutes of listening to some music that would be played while we waited for an agent to get free and take our call).

This, of course would be after having had to find our way through the maze of options (which used to be so complicated that it required us to be entirely focused on the options, blacking out everything else in life).

Then the times changed. Emails got ubiquitous and we could write an email to contact with the business. However, we still used the phone as the primary means for contacting someone at the business who could help us solve whatever it was that we were trying to solve.

The businesses still continued to invest in the contact center (some continued to have this in-house, while most of them out-sourced this to some organization in India or Phillipines or wherever they could get the lowest cost labor).

Then the times changed again! The social media revolution started and we got Facebook, twitter and all the other social media tools. The marketing teams in all these businesses wanted to ride on this wave and created twitter handles for their organizations.

This was an important moment!

People now could tweet their complaints to these businesses directly and openly! Most important aspect was that this was out in the open which could potentially damage the reputation of the business. So,  businesses would be forced to respond to ensure that the complaint doesn’t get out of hand.

This indicates a definite shift of customer behavior. Now, whenever, I have a complaint or want to contact a business, the first thing to do is to check if they have a twitter handle. If they do, then tweet my question or complaint to them directly instead of going through their call center.

This indicates that businesses are now required to monitor both the social media channels (twitter, Facebook, etc) and also maintain their call centers (for their customers who still would like to talk to someone who don’t have a social profile yet and would hence like to talk to someone at the business.

Now, there is a choice for the business:

-       Continue with the status quo and manage both the social and the call center channel

-       Re-look at the contact strategy

While most of the businesses so far have been taking the 1st option, more and more businesses are now looking at the 2nd option.

Some options that businesses have if they decide to re-look at their customer contact strategy  are:

  • Make the social channels the main channel for all customer contact and use the call center as the secondary channel (primarily used to escalate). There are some distinct advantages that this strategy offers:
    • Improved customer service :
      • You are now forced to have an exceptional service (as the reputation of your business is at stake, and in the open), which in the long term will help the business.
      • When other customers see that you are providing a great service, this improves the brand value of your business and creates a positive spiral.
    • Reduced cost:
      • You could use technology solutions for monitoring and responding the queries on social media.
      • You could re-deploy some of the call center agents in more productive roles and reduce the overall cost of managing the service team.
    • Improved brand equity:
      • By making the social channels as the primary channel for contact with customers, you are now enabling or ensuring that your customers connect with you on these social channels. This will enable you to identify your customers, their influencers. You can now participate and engage them in productive dialogues.
      • This will also make your social foray sticky in your customers minds
    • Opportunity to re-design the way you do business
      • There has been a  lot of talk about social businesses and how social channels have now provided an opportunity for businesses to re-design their work culture. Businesses can now become more agile and nimble on their foot to enable them to adjust to the changes in their environment
      • This probably could have the biggest impact on both the top-line and bottom-line of your business.
  • Completely do away with the customer call centers.
    • The only medium for customer support then becomes the social channels and email.
    • Businesses can have immense cost savings (due to moving away from call center operations and at the same time increase the engagement across the social channels.
    • Having a separate channel for service and brand on the social channels can increase both stickiness and brand transparency.
    • There is an element of risk involved here. If you don't get this right the first time, every time, there lies an opportunity for a PR disaster. However, if done well, there is also the upside of tremendous positive word-of-mouth, which in my opinion is a big enough upside to take the plunge.

Though these approaches have a lot of advantages if done well, they also have the potential for a PR disaster if not handled well. We have already seen many such social media provoked disasters (McDonald’s #McDStories, FedX story, etc).


So, it really is a difficult thing to manage. However, it is always such difficult things that when done well, set you apart from your competitors.


Do you think that businesses should adopt this strategy and do away with their call centers all together or do a slow transition?


Do let us your thoughts by sharing them as comments here..


PS: Some interesting point-of-views that I have come across on this topics are as below:

  1. The Psychology of people using Twitter as a customer service channel
  2. The power of social customer service by David Howell.
  3. Delta airlines show that a separate customer service handle on Twitter can improve response time
  4. How FedEx turned a disaster into a PR win
  5. Are Twitter and Facebook changing the way we complain?
  6. SAP’s primary support channel on Twitter
  7. Bank of America showcase their Twitter customer service by following up on complaints.
  8. Here is a funny take on how customers feel when they connect to your call center and have to wade through a lot of options to even talk to someone.


ZDNet's Adrian Kingsley-Hughes had an alarming blog today.


Quoting a third-party report from Chitika Insights and Google's own public stats, it appears that 60% of iPhones are running iOS 6 just 3 weeks after its release, while Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, after 3 months, resides on just 2% of Android devices.


The most 'popular' flavor remains Android 2.3, Gingerbread, which runs on 55.8% of Android devices, despite being three versions behind and not being updated for a year.


gingerbread dudes

After Gingerbread, the next most popular is Ice Cream Sandwich, which after a year has just 23.7% share.


Now, mobile devices have a short lifespan. 2 years is typical; 3-4 years is pushing it. So Google's inability to get more than half of Android users off a 22 month old flavor (Gingerbread was released in December 2010, though to be fair, no devices appeared until after that Christmas) is, in the post-PC era, equivalent to Windows 7 taking three long years to bypass Windows XP (which, coincidentally, was released 11 years ago).


Google can take steps like hand out the latest Android SDKs 2-3 months before its official release. That will help ensure that new devices have the latest updates. But it doesn't help with existing devices, which often never get updates.


This is bad for users, who miss out on cool new features or security fixes, but also bad for developers, who are forced to develop for a lowest common denominator lest they cause their app to break.


Kingsley is right when he ascribes the problem to "so many cooks with their hands in the Android broth."


(Speaking of Android, check out the trio of webcasts about managing Android devices and building Android apps for enterprises.)


The handset makers and the carriers each want to customize Android before they release it to users. Often, that means no updates will ever arrive, because neither of the above parties is incentivized to do them. As Kingsley says, "the handset makers have sold you a phone and hope to never hear from you again until it's time to buy again," while "the carriers already have you hooked up to a multi-year contract, and as such don't seem to care about what operating system your smartphone or tablet runs."


Kingsley offers some solutions: work closely with select OEMs and carriers, or bypass carriers in favor of handset makers.


Me? I favor a market-based solution. Sign contracts with carriers and handset makers that explicitly reward them a) the faster they deliver Android updates to users; b) the faster their users download those updates. And give them the chance to earn significant incremental revenue if they truly hit their numbers.


Why? Because reducing fragmentation and getting users onto the latest version of Android makes the latest, greatest apps available to them.


That will boost app sales at Google Play. And it will also cut development time and cost for developers, freeing them write more and better-quality games and apps. And that builds the Android ecosystem, in turn attracting more customers.


If I were Google, instead of nagging or beating its partners into compliance, I would make it in their financial interest to update Android faster. Offer a carrot rather than the stick. I doubt Google has tried this approach. But it's the one that I think could make a big difference.

On the Business Innovation site, we deliver the top blogs, news and  featured content on business innovation for professionals looking to grow and  gain a competitive advantage. We cover hot topics and thought leadership onmobile applications, cloud computing, big data, real-time analytics and the top challenges facing  executives and leaders in sales & marketing, finance, human resources and much, much more.

Each week, we curate and publish the top 10 posts of the week on business  innovation from across our content categories. We hope you find these articles  valuable, informative, and interesting. Enjoy!


It Is Time For A Parental Control, No Texting While Driving Phone?

By Todd Wilms, @toddwilms

Did you know texting while driving causes 11 tean deaths a day? This article brings to attention some starttling facts, laws in place, and next steps for a parental control on texting.


The Biggest Competitor To The iPad In The Hot Education Market

By Eric Lai, @ericylai

If you always thought the iPad was only tablet for the job – you’d be surprised to learn that education is challenging the paradigm. Eric Lai brings to light details about the Kuno Tablet.


Does Cloud Create Jobs Or Destroy Them? Here’s What You Told Us

By Jacqueline Vanacek. @JacquelnVanacek

Jacqueline Vanacek took to Twitter, Facebook, and blogs to sort through all the shared opinions on cloud. As well as shares an infographic from SAP and Netbase on the cloud computing findings.


A Mobile World: Recruiting Strategies Must Adapt [Infographic]

By Will Staney, @willstanley

Is your company’s career site optimized for mobile? Will Stanley and his post’s powerful infographic validates why your company needs a mobile-friendly career site that is attractive to the on-the-go workforce.


What Is A Content Strategy And Why Do You Need It?

By Michael Brenner, @BrennerMichael

If you’re looking for a brief overview of a content strategy, why you need one, and how to be successful – this post will answer all your questions.


Seven Rules For Dashboard Success

By Simon To, @substring

It’s something every exec wants, but doesn't really know what it’s for and what it should be. Simon To shares the should’s and should not’s for dashboarding.


14 Lessons HR Pros Can Learn From Fantasy Football

By Daniel Newman, @DanielNewmanUV

I never thought there would be a correlation between Fantasy Football and anything productive, but people always surprise you. Daniel sets up the connections between FF and how HR Professionals choose their talent.


Better Social Media Engagement Tops Marketers’ Wish List

By Steve Olenski, @steveolenski

Steve Olenski gets the holiday fever early as he discusses the number one thing marketers have on their wish list this year. Check out what 78% of marketings, according to an Awareness survey, selected as their top priority.


Big Data May Ensure Sustainable Sushi

By Irfan Khan

Big data isn’t just for companies, it’s helping the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administrating and their ”species of concern” model data sets on breeding habits and migration patterns. Things that may be able to eventually save certain species, like the blue fin tuna, from becoming extinct.


Success In The Business Intelligence Game

By Jamie Oswald, @oswaldxxl

Before you can determine if your Business Intelligence project was successful, you should have a clear baseline on what business intelligence success should look like. Jamie’s post clearly defines what success is, and what it isn’t, as well as what it should look like when it’s done.


This post originally appeared on Business Innovations from SAP and was republished with permission.

Good analytics is a combination of art and science, where the skillful analyst combines an entire matrix of prior knowledge with good judgment about authentically meaningful qualitative differences. Like software developers and computer scientists, there are a lot of self-styled big data analysts and  “data scientists” out there, most minimally competent, some adequate, and a few good ones—the analytics wizards.


The analytics wizards do the work of ten, perhaps a hundred adequate analysts. If we are lucky we may work with one or two of the good ones in our careers. It is easy to recognize them from their work, but it is much harder to explain what they do that separates them from the rest.


Like the Pinball Wizard described in the same-titled song by The Who, good analysts seem to play by intuition. But looks are deceiving. What appears to be intuition is explained later in the song: “ain’t got no distractions/can’t hear those buzzers and bells/don’t see lights a-flashin’.” Indeed the hallmark of the analytics wizard is the ability to filter out the noise, and not get distracted by it. Keeping the ball alive and getting the replay is the object of the game, not lighting up the board or making more noise than everyone else.


What is the sound of noise not happening?


So how do the analytics wizards do it? A fundamental is that they know the difference between inputs and outputs, and don’t confuse the two. So at the very outset, good analysts realize that filtering out the noise is not the result of what they do, but the driver. Analytics wizards are masters of the robust and enduring theories that govern the phenomena they are studying, and can frame the goals of their analysis according to these theories. Note that these theories are not the same as “book knowledge”, and it doesn’t matter whether they are developed by academic study or acquired as know-how. What does matter is that good analysts compare everything they see to these theories, which allows them to classify phenomena quickly, and determine which surprising things that come up are unexplained, and which are the result of errors in the system, for example, poor observation.


Good analysts are likely quite skilled at mathematical modeling, but it is a necessary and not sufficient condition for being a good analyst. A math or code jock who is nevertheless ignorant of the enduring theories can still produce results, but cannot tell whether the results are good or even relevant. Rather, their criteria for good lie in some obscure statistical “goodness of fit” or parametric test. Analytics wizards have internalized some of the theories into their own mental models of how the systems of the world work (“stands like a statue/becomes part of the machine/feeling all the bumpers/always playing clean”), and are constantly comparing what they see to their own models. If they score a hit, it seems easy, but really they are testing everything they see against a script. The difference is that it’s a really, really good script.


What else do the analytics wizards differenly from the adequate ones? Find out by reading the full text version on

hana).jpgLast week, Oracle chief Larry Ellison told thousands of Oracle Open World attendees: “the SAP HANA in-memory machine is like, really small” and “you know, that's a little bit smaller than what we offer.” As a result of these careless comments, records were set straight, brains were fried and, yes, SAP released the hounds.


I think SAP’s swift and severe reaction to Ellison’s remarks is justified. Simply put, if Ellison hadn’t said what he said, SAP wouldn’t have unleashed a wave of blogs, case studies and videos on the #OOW Twitter stream designed to remind those who care that SAP’s in-memory computing offering is by no means “really small”.


For the record, SAP developed a 100TB HANA system with IBM which is available today. Want real business benefits? Try this on for size. Or this. Or even this. SAP also ran a full page ad in The Wall Street Journal (pictured) that says: “Apparently, Oracle Needs to Fact-Check Their Fact-Checkers.”


Some think this latest spat between SAP and Oracle is a waste of time, makes SAP look bad and/or doesn’t offer any real value to customers. Some went so far as to suggest that boundaries were crossed because the #OOW Twitter stream was (gasp!) “hijacked.”


Let’s be clear: False statements aimed directly at SAP were made by a very public figure during a very public event. Is now really the best time to be discussing the finer points of Twitter etiquette?


The popular image SAP has projected as being a nice company where nice people come to work is true. Employees respect each other, the environment and its customers. These are major reasons why SAP was ranked the 24th most valuable brand in the world in 2011, ahead of Nike and Amazon. And now with the “warm, good vibes” SAP HANA is projecting, I guess it’s not hard to see why Oracle likes talking about us.


But please, Larry, next time get your facts straight. Because, as the late, great Bill Bixby once said: “Don’t make me angry. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry.”


Recommended Reading:


The Top 10 Reasons SAP HANA is Disrupting Larry Ellison’s Grand Plans


Are Brands Entering an Era of ‘Truth in Advertising’?

If any publicity is good publicity, the Dodd-Frank Act got a healthy shot in the arm from the two candidates for U.S. president during their first debate on Wednesday, with each contender discussing financial regulation at length.


Romney Dodd-Frank 10-04-2012“You have to have regulation, and there are some parts of Dodd-Frank that make all the sense in the world,” former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said. “You have to have transparency, leverage limits.”


But Romney was mostly critical of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, passed under President Barack Obama’s first term. A key criticism was that parts of the act are vague and undefined, leaving the markets to decipher what it means to be compliant. Yet Romney didn’t offer much detail about his own plans for financial reform.


A federal court was much more specific when striking down part of Dodd-Frank last week.


Hammering Out the Details


The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission had not adequately rationalized its constraints on energy commodity bets -- set to take effect next week -- according to U.S. District Judge Robert Wilkins. “The Dodd-Frank amendments do not constitute a clear and unambiguous mandate to set position limits, as the Commission argues,” Wilkins said.


Another key repercussion of Dodd-Frank could be problematic for electronic traders: moving instruments currently traded over the counter to more centralized trading platforms. Electronic trading typically requires broader disclosure of trading interest to encourage competition, according to the University of California, Berkeley’s Dr. Terrence Hendershott, who has studied potential impacts of Dodd-Frank.


(SAP will host Hendershott for an exclusive luncheon, featuring discussion of this major Dodd-Frank implication on Oct. 9 in Chicago. Click here for more information.)


The Healing is in the Details


New Dodd-Frank regulations feature “lots of belts and suspenders” that inhibit risk-taking in the market, Goldman Sachs chief Lloyd Blankfein said last month. Romney seemed similarly displeased with the scope and ambiguity of Dodd-Frank during Wednesday’s debate.


But a patient isn’t likely to stop one course of treatment in favor of another without knowing specifics. The financial services industry is undergoing much-needed therapy, and it knows little to nothing about the alternative.


“Such an enormous economic crisis was prompted by reckless behavior across the board,” Obama said. “Does anybody out there think that the big problem we had is that there was too much oversight and regulation of Wall Street?”


Related Articles:


Romney stresses he wants bank regulation, but slams Obama reforms” by  Lucia Mutikani


Judge Nixes New CFTC Trading Curbs” by Jamila Trindle


Goldman’s Blankfein: ‘Gotcha’ Culture Detrimental to Growth” by Liz Moyer

Two critical aspects of fast-growing small businesses are constantly running a kind of tortoise-and-hare race: sales and operations.


Many companies become so consumed by sales that they fail to see that if operations fall too far behind, it can lead to disaster. Mark Lehew, SAP’s national VP of strategic growth enterprises, told me recently, “You’re hiring a lot of people to meet demand, but you don't have good business processes in place,” he says. “The more you scale up, the more inefficiency you create. And suddenly you can’t see across the business, so it’s harder to keep control over everything.”


And that’s when the hare runs out of breath. “You start a company, you sell 100 widgets, and you think you’re going to be rich,” Marty Metro, founder and CEO of, told my colleague Rob O’Regan recently. “At the end of the month, you find that you had 29 days of record sales—but you can’t pay the rent. That’s when I realized that sales don’t pay the bills; profits do.”


How to deal with this issue? The answer is not to stop selling; it’s to keep operations in the race. But rather than reacting to sales increases after the fact, when it’s more difficult for operations to catch up, better to anticipate the operations needs beforehand and get them moving before things reach a crisis point.


The easiest way to do this is to use revenue thresholds to signal the need for operations changes. Here are three thresholds that matter, according to our experts:

  • Threshold #1: $10 million. This is when businesses face a much-maligned but important aspect of growing up: middle management. Companies can’t act like startups anymore, with everyone scurrying around trying to do everything. “It’s time to build a real organizational structure,” says Karl Stark, managing director of Avondale Strategic Partners, a firm that advises high-growth business clients.
    Of course, there’s a tradeoff here. In return for better-structured, more efficient processes, costs can begin to get out of hand. “After you invest in middle management to get to the next level, you’re kind of in no man’s land in terms of profitability,” says Grant Fraser, CEO of Navigator Business Solutions, a technology solutions provider that targets SMBs. “You’re paying for that extra layer of management, so now you have to jump from $10M to $25M to cover the costs.”
    There’s another major investment needed at this level: operational systems, which are much more expensive than PCs and spreadsheets. The guiding principle here is visibility—the company needs to invest in systems that enable it to pick up trends in growth and spot potential problems. “As a CEO, when you start to lose visibility into the field, that’s where systems become more important,” says Fraser. “You’re not involved in every transaction anymore, so you have to have data and systems in place to tell you whether things are going up, staying flat, or going down. By the time you realize what’s happening, you’re six months into a trend, and it might take you another six months to change it.”
  • Threshold #2: $20 million. Gone are the days when the CEO could be involved in every transaction from office supplies to cold calls. At $20 million, he or she can’t even be involved in every major deal. That means it’s time to surround him or her with grown-ups who have the business chops to add the strategic discipline needed to drive sustainable growth—in other words, professional management.
  • Bob’s Discount Furniture, a Northeast-based company, had to confront this reality in the mid-2000s, when founder Bob Kaufman and his three partners saw that their abilities to both grow and manage the company were starting to lag. They made a decision to sell to a private equity firm, which they knew would bring in some new management.
    The first to arrive was Bill Ballou, the company’s CFO, in 2005. Six months later, they hired a new operations executive to run warehousing and distribution. Six months after that, the board brought in a new CEO, Ted English, the former CEO of the TJX Companies.
    Ballou’s first task was to rebuild the financial and operational reporting structure. “We formalized warehouse operations reporting, store level reporting, and the assessment of potential properties to open up new stores, with all the financial metrics behind a new store,” says. “That had not really been done before.”
    The changes had a big impact: Bob’s had launched 18 stores during its first 15 years; in the six years after being acquired, the company grew to 43 stores.
  • Threshold #3: $75 million. Speed and intensity are the main ingredients at this level. The business is really beginning to scale and diversify into multiple products, business units, customer segments, and geographies. Getting the company’s supply chain to respond to all these new demands is a major challenge. Having a sophisticated talent management process to build the company and hang onto key people is critical.

What do you think? Have you seen these thresholds in your business? What would you add?

Jonathan Becher

Home Field Advantage

Posted by Jonathan Becher Oct 3, 2012

Most sports fans know that home teams have an advantage over visiting teams even though they have never seen any hard facts that prove it. While fans believe in the home field advantage, they hotly debate the reason for its existence. Over the years, I’ve heard a variety of explanations from not having to travel to playing in familiar settings to being in front of supportive fans. In addition to these psychological explanations, some people claim the formats of the games themselves are the cause: for example, in baseball the home team bats after the visitors giving them one last chance to win while in hockey the home team is allowed to make player substitutions after the visiting team which can create better match-ups.


LeagueHome Wins

In the book Scorecasting, the authors compile won/loss percentages for each of the major U.S. sports league and show that the home field advantage really does exist. (I’ve recreated the table from the book.) While the edge is minimal in baseball, it’s pronounced in major league soccer – nearly seven in ten games are won by the home team. However, the authors debunk the commonly held theories around travel and familiarity with the surroundings. Instead they claim that home teams get slightly preferential treatment from the officials, which gives them an edge in winning the game. Despite allegations of corruption in officials, the bias is likely unconscious and perhaps even involuntary. Every once in a while officials get caught up in the emotion of the crowd and make a call that pleases the home team. As this article points out, the increased home field advantage in soccer might be explained by the fact an official in soccer has more opportunity to influence a game’s outcome than in other sports.


If the home field advantage exists in sports, it’s natural to wonder whether it exists in business as well. Are M&A deal prices influenced by whether they are negotiated at the acquirer’s office or in a neutral location? Sales calls are typically held at the customer site but would vendors achieve a higher close rate on their own turf? Should job candidates avoid salary negotiations in their future boss’ office?  In this vein, researchers conducted a series of experiments to determine if people were more successful in negotiations that happened in their own offices than in unfamiliar locations. As might be expected, home team negotiators outperformed those in ‘away’ or ‘neutral’ locations.  This suggests you shouldn’t ask your boss for a raise in her office but rather in your own office or even in a neutral location like the cafeteria.


Unlike sports in which the home field advantage is attributed to the officials, the researchers believe psychological factors are at work here. If changing offices isn’t possible, the researchers suggest improving your confidence:

In our study, we gave some of the visitors a fake negotiation skills test and then provided them with false feedback. Irrespective of how they did on the bogus test, we told them that the results suggested that they are gifted negotiators. Sure enough, this confidence booster helped visiting parties overcome the home-field advantage that the office residents enjoyed.


You can be confident that in business, like sports, the advantage goes to the home team. This blog was originally posted on Manage By Walking Around.


Follow me on twitter @jbecher.

Jonathan Becher

Swarm Intelligence

Posted by Jonathan Becher Oct 3, 2012

What do the Southwest Airlines boarding process and the video game Halo have in common?


They both rely on swarm intelligence to improve their experience.


Swarm intelligence describes the behavior of a population of simple agents whose aggregate behavior exhibits intelligence unknown to the individual agents. Groups exhibiting swarm intelligence have no central leader but rather members interact with each other based solely on information they have locally. Examples in nature include ant colonies, flocks of birds, schools of fish, and bacterial growth.


Stanford Professor Deborah Gordon explains in an entertaining news segment on what we can learn from ants:

"Ants are not smart. But colonies are smart. So what’s amazing about ants is that in the aggregate, all of these inept creatures accomplish amazing feats as colonies. In an ant colony, there’s nobody in charge. There are no managers. There is nobody telling anybody what to do. The queen does not give rules. She just sits there and lays eggs."

Similar behavior exists in herds of caribou that migrate across the Arctic coastal plan to a specific calving ground even though it is unlikely any of the individual animals know where they are going. Or in a vast school of fish that can simultaneously react to a prey and collectively change direction in an instant – seemingly as if it were a single fish. The intelligence of the swarm appears greater than the sum of the members.


According to the book Smart Swarm, Southwest Airlines used a simulation based on swarm intelligence to determine whether its open seating policy was more efficient than other airlines’ assigned seating. The digital ants were given only a few simple rules: find an open seat, wait if the path was blocked, ask other ants to move if they were in the way, etc. The resulting simulation showed that open and assigned seating were roughly equally as efficient, convincing Southwest to keep its longstanding policy. Instead, Southwest added an optional early bird fee which allows travelers to check in earlier to get a better place in line.


Recently I had the chance to describe swarm intelligence and the Southwest Airlines boarding process to an avid video gamer I met. He countered that the popular video game Halo likely uses swarm intelligence as well. From what I understood, there is a species in Halo known as the Hunters which are made up of thousands of tiny, orange worm-like creatures. On their own, the individual creatures can’t do much but when banded together they dramatically increase their strength, intelligence, and maneuverability. True to the concept of swarm intelligence, the Hunters have no leaders which make them very difficult to deal with.


Early in my career I worked at a company called MasPar which relied on thousands of processors to conduct massive amounts of coordinated computations in parallel. Recently the concept of massively parallel processing has regained popularity as relatively inexpensive computers and large of amounts of memory can be combined to solve problems not previously able to be tackled. SAP HANA is an example of such a system which has been used to reduce traffic jams, analyze cancer genomes, and better model energy demands.


I’m personally looking forward to seeing SAP HANA used to create swarm forecasting models. These models will support better predictive scientific models and allow proactive guidance for business processes. We may finally stop just looking in the rear view mirror.


Follow me on twitter @jbecher


This blog was originally posted on Manage By Walking Around.

small272627_h_ergb_s_gl.jpgIn a hyper-connected world, companies ignore customers at their peril. Hence, the explosion of technologies that promise the clearest path to customers’ hearts and minds. The reasoning goes if we let companies into our world a little more, we’ll get more of the products and services we want, the way we want them.


I was thinking about this the other day as I attempted to pare down my collection of customer loyalty offerings in my bloated wallet and on my cluttered mobile devices. Trying to figure out what to keep and what to toss, I came to one conclusion. Customer focus has nothing to do with loyalty programs and special offers per se. Amazing customer service is about how you make the customer feel.


For example, how many employees actually understand how to show they care about the customer? And, how many companies provide the right technologies so employees can put that caring into action. I’ve been renovating my 100+ year-old house for the past 18 months so have been on the front lines with all manner of companies trying to sell me products and services. I recently began working with a designer for my half bath on the first floor.


As I sat with her in the showroom for about four tedious hours of on-screen design, online and catalog searches, and phone calls, I started imagining an alternate, better universe. What if she had real-time access to a business network?  What if she could instantly connect with a network of suppliers able to bid on the components of the bath? Imagine if she could give me the best quote for the job within minutes of our sitting down to talk. I’m happier because the job starts faster. Her company realizes revenue faster. She gets her commission sooner.


But that’s not what happened. My designer has software from 2005 that does rudimentary dimensional design. It’s not connected to anything but the server in her office. Three days later, I called expecting her to have the bid together. Instead, she returned my call after two days to tell me that she didn’t have the bid ready because she had taken a couple of days off. What’s more, she really couldn’t talk then because she was working on another customer’s project that morning. 


All the special deals in the world cannot make up for an experience that makes the customer feel unimportant. My message to her and every other company out there is this: refocus on what really matters to customers. Give your employees the advanced technologies they need to pay off on the real-time promise. Then train them on how to treat customers so they feel like they’re the most important people in the world. Because they are.

This week at DSAG, which is the SAP User Group conference for German-speaking countries, we exhibited our Social CRM offerings. Due to the tremendous interest in leveraging SAP offerings to manage consumer reviews, we decided to write a short follow-up to our last blog.

For some industries, user opinions are given so much weight that evaluation management has become one of marketing’s most important tasks. Foremost among these is the hotel industry. The tremendous growth of TripAdvisor, and similar review sites, is evidence of the power of social business. It’s fair to say that consumers are storming to web applications that provide user – in this case guest – reviews. Many websites even bundle guest opinions from other review sites and offer of course travel booking services. As a result, traditional service providers are struggling to reach the masses.  Indeed, they are even experiencing customer churn.


As Firgure 1 shows, the phenomenon of customers increasingly informing themselves with the opinions of others holds true for many industries.

for blo 3.jpg

Figure 1: Internet users find out about user opinions …

(See: ACTA 2011: “Trends in e-commerce and social networks as a brand platform”)


When we make purchases these days, we have access to new means that make us “smarter” than ever before. Consumers can leverage a wide variety of sources including consumer reviews, blogs, company websites, social networks, price comparison websites, etc. Interestingly enough, this not only holds true for luxury goods like a new phone or car, but also for commodity goods such as water or paper.

How companies react to social feedback varies from buying fake consumer reviews at one extreme to not caring what’s being said at the other.  Let’s assume we are taking review management seriously. How do we best monitor what’s being said? To begin with, our companies can take advantage of modern monitoring capabilities that not only provides us with consumer review data, but also gives us data specific to our brands, products or services. SAP Social Media Analytics by Netbase equips us with such advanced monitoring & analysis capabilities. The tool yields these results thanks to Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Sentiment Analysis technology. Check out our overview video here.


The next step is to act based on what’s being said. SAP Social Customer Engagement OnDemand (click link to see video) helps companies better manage incoming feedback and service requests from social channels.  It achieves this by routing comments from sources such as Facebook or Twiter to the appropriate experts. The solution comes with out-of-the-box integration to Social Media Analytics  This equips our organizations with modern CRM ticketing capabilities as well as embedded analytics. Our companies can now engage directly with consumers where it makes sense.


Another important prerequisite for high quality engagements is our ability to foster collaboration – internally and externally. Consequently, the term “Social biz” not only addresses our company’s mindset towards social media and dialogue marketing, but also our openness and IT capabilities around social collaboration technologies. SAP social software offerings provide such cross-enterprise social platform capabilities so we can collaborate as a team, as a division or a company with our customers and partners. Check out blog by Esteban Kolsky (@ekolsky).


One potential starting point is to contact the Co-Innovation team at SAP. We haven’t managed to identify the wasted half of the advertising budget yet, however, we are succeeding in managing an ever more important aspect of the purchasing decision.  We hope you’re  enjoying the blog series: “march to Madrid”. See you at SAPPHIRE NOW!

Let us know your thoughts.

Niclas Otte (@ottenic) and Sven Denecken (@SDenecken)


273672_l_srgb_s_gl.jpgIt is becoming increasingly clear that marketers and advertisers have been divided into two camps. There are those that embrace the idea that they are share equal responsibility for their brand with their consumer.  They see themselves as co-brand managers, in a world where customers can shape and share their opinions about brands faster than ever before.  In this world, companies have to see themselves as media companies - publishing varied content to meet the needs and expectations of their savvy and vocal audiences.


And there are those that don't.


Only one of these groups has a future.


"New marketers see a real opportunity to craft real, authentic content - to be storytellers,” starts Luca Penati, Managing Director at Ogilvy Public Relations. "They know that the idea of 'pushing' content, or interrupting their audience is fundamentally over. A good story should engage the audience. It should be relevant and create a call to action. This is the perfect match for consumers who demand to be both 'entertained' and 'informed. And often, to be part of the story itself.”


Content Bridges Brands and Consumers

Consumer behavior for content is so varied and so complex these days. It is no longer just the complexities of reaching a multi-device audience.  The audiences’ demands vary day by day, or are even altered at different times of the day. What they read on their tablet to start their workday is very different than what they will digest on the weekend or on the couch after a long day at the office. This flexible demand adds a layer of complexity as to how brands deliver their messages.


Smart brands are looking toward telling stories - in line with their business strategy - to deliver their message.  These stories are digestible and are shareable.  They allow for more entertaining and more informational messages to be relayed to their audiences.


Luca continues, "Consumers have a choice between your message and hundreds of similar message.  They make quick decisions to engage or move on.  If your brand's message is not compelling - that combination of information and entertaining - you run the risk of them moving on, probably to a competitive message."


Luca agrees that the next 5 years will see a shift in how organizations think about creating and publishing content.  "It is too early to tell if the title 'Chief Content Officer' will stick, but there is this trend to oversee the entire breadth of stories brands aim to tell and then to measure how the audience perceives those messages and engage with them."  There is no shortage of nay-sayers who fundamentally don't believe a word of any of this and have no intention of changing.  The rest have come around, but are stuck with the operational question “how do I implement this?"


How To Implement This

There are 4 stages to transforming staid, traditional messaging into digestible, sharable stories for your audience.


1. Strategy: Many companies succumb to hubris and just start publishing. "Big mistake," says Luca. "Always start with the audience and the behavior you wish to modify, and then determine your goals for that group. Content strategy needs to be aligned with business strategy."  Instead of just diving in on new content, do you have existing content you can repurpose, or edit into a new usable format?  "Many companies miss the opportunity to craft some great content because they don't look at their existing library - they jump in creating ‘the new’ which causes an unnecessary delay in delivering the message into the market."


2. Create: Once you have your goals and your existing content repurposed, now start creating new content to fill those gaps.  Don't mistakenly think "true" content does not rely on great creative and stunning copy.  These are just as important now as they ever were. It is a question of how to use these resources.  Think about taking the audience on a journey based on what they want.  Address their needs through interesting stories that are relatable to your audiences.  If you have a sound strategy, creating the content is a straightforward process of empathizing with that target audience.


3. Publish: Even if you know who your audience is, you may not know everywhere they will react favorably to your content.  "You may have to kiss a few frogs before you find that perfect marriage of content, channel and audience," intones Luca.  This is where step #4 is so crucial.


4. Measure: As you publish, think about how you will measure that piece's effectiveness. No matter what channel you chose, can you get accurate measurements for that story.  Measure and evaluate every piece of content.  It can be time consuming and many brands look for shortcuts at this step.  However, insight into what works is your gateway to optimizing your strategy.  You can quickly move into channels that are working and abandon low-return alternatives.


Putting it all together

One great recent example Luca shares is a company who created a series of really poignant, high production value videos.  However, their budget and resources were spent almost entirely on the content creation, leaving publishing and measurement as an afterthought.  It was no surprise in the final analysis that the videos failed to reach an audience, meaning the brand failed to reach their audience.


Luca leaves us with "Companies tend to be drawn to one or two of these areas because it is in their culture, their DNA.  Few are natively good at all four.  Some are great strategy companies, but struggle with measurement.  Or, they can create amazing stories, but struggle in finding their audiences. We find you are better having a balance across all four then being great at just one."

Old world brands haven’t yet realize that everything from the old way of messaging to outright lying brings repercussions (see this case study where the National Advertising Division, which falls under the Better Business Bureau, found statements so egregious they stepped in and took action).  Smart brands engage their audience and take a collaborative approach to partnering with customers (see a great case study here by The Bloom Group with 4-5 better run companies who think this way).


Who do you want to be?


Is that even a question?




To learn more about how collaboration with your audience really means "you both win," follow Todd on Twitter @toddmwilms or connect on LinkedIn.

The European Parliament’s financial committee decided last week to rein in the velocity of high-frequency trading. The Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee’s unanimous vote paves the way for a half-second speed limit on those using computers to execute lightning-fast stock deals.


Europe Reins In HFT 10-02-2012“All market players and trading venue operators would be required to lay down clear rules and procedures for fair and orderly trading, objective criteria for executing orders efficiently and transparent criteria for determining which financial instruments may be traded via their systems,” the committee stated.


The speed limit would be part of Europe’s new financial driver’s manual, the Market in Financial Instruments Directive. True, MiFID still requires ratification by national governments, but that’s not so far-fetched.


All The Time In The World


“Canada, Australia and Germany have adopted or proposed limits on high-speed trading and other technological developments that have come to define United States markets,” Nathaniel Popper wrote in The New York Times. “Countries around the globe are now using America as a model for what they don’t want to look like.”


Harsh? Maybe.


Too harsh? Probably not.


More than two years after the Flash Crash, and almost two months after the Knight Capital debacle, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission began evaluating the control systems of major brokerage firms -- if only by questionnaire. The forms could help the agency better understand how brokerages use technology.


The new initiative could also help the SEC decide about kill switches, which turn off trading outside specified parameters in order to help curtail a disaster. Kill switches are among MiFID proposals, and NYSE Euronext, NASDAQ and other exchanges informed the SEC Friday that they are ready for kill switches.


The exchanges’ letter comes before an SEC meeting Tuesday whose topics will include deterring another Knight Capital-style disaster. This is neither a coincidence, nor a surprise.


On Top Of The World


Exchanges aren’t offering to install guardrails along the highway because it will keep them safe. They’re offering to do so in order to do so on their own terms -- and to keep the government out of it.


Not that the exchanges have to move with lightning speed on this. The SEC has dragged its feet on stricter controls for HFT since the Flash Crash two years ago, according to critics, including the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.


“The competitive quest for greater and greater speed must be balanced with appropriate risk controls so that a clearly erroneous trade does not destabilize markets by precipitating a cascade of other trades in response,” the Chicago Fed’s David Marshall stated shortly after the 2010 incident.


So as the Chicago Fed continues its calls for change, lumbering U.S. regulators will cede market leadership to relatively nimble European authorities who are making progress toward a more stable and confident trading environment. Perhaps it will even be one that the U.S. and other regions deem worthy of emulation.


Related Articles:


EU Lawmakers Seek High-Frequency Trade Curbs in Markets Law” by  Jim Brunsden


Beyond Wall St., Curbs on High-Speed Trades Proceed” by Nathaniel Popper


SEC reviewing technology at brokerages following glitches” by Sarah N. Lynch

Traditional retailing, at least in the U.S., is in a funk. Of the 100 largest U.S.-based retailers according to STORES magazine, only 17 are growing in the double digits. Fast risers are either growing overseas or are in hot categories like mobile phones (Verizon Wireless and AT&T) or discount goods (Dollar General).


You could blame this on the uncertain U.S. economy. But I put equal blame on the mainstreaming of e-commerce. Everyone I know who is my age or younger buys a ton online. There are sexy category specialists - Newegg, Gilt Groupe, GroupOn and Zappos - but gets the lion's share of their dollars.


Fittingly, is the fastest riser on STORES' list (42.5% year-on-year growth). Ranked 15th, already sells more than Safeway, Sears and Macy's. It is the poster child of how to win in e-commerce: low prices, speedy shipping and personalized offers that leverage its rich data on customers. Add a fourth factor: the hot trend of consumers "showrooming" goods at a brick-and-mortar store while checking online prices via a smartphone, from whom they will presumably eventually buy.


How can retailers fight back? I don't think it's through expensive attempts to amp up the EQ (Entertainment Quotient) of their stores. It doesn't fly with time-pressed moms, who control the majority of household budgets.


Nor is the solution to further streamline their supply chain in order to compete with and its ilk on price. Most of the retailers around today survived the initial dot-com onslaught by deploying ERP software and successfully adopting lean and Just-In-Time techniques to cut costs.


In other words, they've done a good job of playing defense. Now, it's time to play a little offense - use technology to enhance customer service, boost sales and, rather than lamenting sales lost through "Showrooming," take advantage of it.


Mobile Point of Service


On customer service, retailers are arming their floor salespeople with smartphones and tablets and apps that allow them to reprice items, check inventory for customers and speeding transactions by conducting them where-ever they are in the store.


Large retailers doing this include Lowe's, which has given iPhones to all 42,000 employees, Sear's, J.C. Penney, Costco, Sam's Club, Nordstrom, Apple, Urban Outfitters and Sephora, the 1,300-store cosmetics chain.


Sephora is using the Mobile Point of Sale app for iOS developed by SAP and partner, Agilysys. Check it out at the SAP Retail Forum North America in Dallas this week.


Precision Retailing


Good customer service is not just providing information on demand and accelerating purchases. It's also about anticipating consumer wants, and delivering them personalized discounts and offers not just in real-time, but at the right time.


If it sounds like I'm going to talk about marrying Big Data and mobile, you're right. This is taking customer data from every channel, from Web to POS, and applying predictive analytics to it, so that you can augment the in-store shopping experience with mobile coupons and reminders that are relevant and not spammy.


"Instead of old-school loyalty programs with their points and reward schemes, you want to give consumers real, meaningful relevant information based on what they're looking for," said Colin Haig, the retail industry principal for SAP.


In other words, the exact opposite of that scene in Minority Report where Tom Cruise is bombarded with ads as he runs through the shopping mall.


That puts the Precision in Precision Retailing.


Rather than describe how this would play out real life, I'll let this video do it so much better. Click on the image below or this link. Added bonus: there's a rom-com storyline cuter than a Katherine Heigl movie and a box full of kittens:


sap precision retailing video

SAP is showing off a Precision Retailing solution, which combines a mobile app with cloud-based analytics courtesy of SAP HANA on the back end. Retailers from L'Oreal, European grocer Groupe Casino and the Montreal Transit Agency are already using SAP Precision Retailing, said Haig.


Haig says that Precision Retailing's ability to help shoppers build lists of recurring items (think kids' clothes, batteries or toothpaste) and offer them discounts means that the solution today makes it perfect for grocery stores and other general stores (think Wal-Mart or Target).


But Precision Retailing can also help speciality stores, the kind that offer high-ticket items or are beset by showrooming customers. Here's how.


First, we must note that only 25% of shoppers who check competitor prices in a store actually end up buying the item online.


That means 75% of shoppers or more are potential net new customers for the store. And the amount of sales lost to showrooming can be reduced - through precision.


Imagine a consumer visiting a retailer's Web site to check if a large-screen TV is in stock. That raises a red flag to a retailer that the consumer may be coming to a store soon to inspect that particular item. When he or she enters the store, the store's app on the customer's smartphone can immediately open and buzz, alerting him or her to a coupon that for that item or category of items that would match or beat competitors' online prices.


Such tactics can win back the shoppers who came into a store fully intending to showroom, says Roland Gonzalez, senior directory for mobile industry marketing at SAP.


"Retailers have always been customer-centric. But now they are trying to be customer-intimate," Gonzalez said.

On the Business Innovation site, we deliver the top blogs, news and  featured content on business innovation for professionals looking to grow and  gain a competitive advantage. We cover hot topics and thought leadership onmobile applications, cloud computing, big data, real-time analytics and the top challenges facing  executives and leaders in sales & marketing, finance, human resources and much, much more.


Each week, we curate and publish the top 10 posts of the week on business  innovation from across our content categories. We hope you find these articles  valuable, informative, and interesting. Enjoy


NFL Big Data Blitz: Don’t Punt; Go For It!

By Irfan  Khan


American Football, although confusing with its complexity, provides great  opportunities for statistic generation. And if you disagreed with your  team’s coach decision to punt on the fourth down yesterday - there’s data  that backs up your choice.



Ingredients For A Hybrid Cloud

By Lindsey Nelson, @LindseyNNelson


Typically, you can’t have your cake and eat it too, however, with a hybrid  cloud you just might be able too. You get both strategic benefits of a private  and public cloud that meets the needs of your organization.



Gartner Dead Wrong About Big Data Hype Cycle

By Irfan  Khan


Although Gartner says big data’s big hype is at its peak, Irfan doesn’t quite  agree. Big data, in his opinion, is totally underinflated especially for  business, science, government and education.



Rethinking Analytics For The Enterprise

By Richard Barrett


The social enterprise, one where all team members participate in collecting  and acting upon information exemplifies the best run  businesses. Richard Barrett suggests 6 steps for enterprises to achieve  this collaborative set up.



Real-Time Is The Wrong Reason For Your Enterprise To Go  Mobile

By Eric Lai, @ericylai


I never knew you could compare mobile and big data to an American  all-you-can-eat buffet, but Eric Lai pulls it off. Learn how Big Data and Mobile  should be brought together to drive right time experiences, instead of  crude ones.



Driving Down the Cost of Analytics

By Thierry  Audas


Analytics give insights to the broader business audience. In fact, recent  research has shown analytics to give an ROI of $10 to every $1 spent. Theirry  Audas presents a few ways to drive down the analytics cost to increase that ROI  even more.



Picking The Right Backup Strategy For Your  Business

By Michael Brenner, @BrennerMichael


Technology providers are now offering powerful cost-effective backup  solutions. Michael Brenner helps bring to light some different solutions that  your business might benefit from.



How Quickly Can Enterprises Deploy iPhone 5 And iOS  6?

By Eric Lai


Your employees demand as much from their personal mobile upgrades as they do  from their business. Make sure your company is a front runner in the race to  deploy the latest and greatest.



Big Data Grows Up

By Lindsey Nelson author Alistair Croll shared his best bet on where big data will  make the biggest impact. I may not have captured it as humoursly as him, but  check out the top three places it will transform.



Why Finance Should Free Itself And Embrace The  Cloud

By Richard Barrett


Security, data ownership, and a luck of customization.  Richard Barrett addresses your finance team’s three biggest concerns against  moving to cloud based solutions and where he would start the implementation.

right1.jpgAs part of its mission to help customers innovate the way they do business, one year ago, SAP acquired Right Hemisphere, a leading provider of visual enterprise solutions. The combination of SAP’s vast set of business information and Right Hemisphere’s visualization capabilities changed the way businesses of any size create, manage and deliver products and services across their enterprise and their supply chain.


To celebrate the one year anniversary of Right Hemisphere’s acquisition by SAP, Robert Merlo recently sat down with Hans Thalbauer and Michael Lynch to chat about how things have been going so far. While the conversation centered on the tremendous progress already made with integrating the visual enterprise solution into SAP’s business suite, it is the benefits and potential of 3-D visual communications that really got these guys excited.


First of all, welcome. I’d like to start by talking about the strategy behind the initial acquisition. In what ways did SAP see Right Hemisphere complementing its business?

Hans: We were working with many customers where engineering operated as a separate department, which made it difficult for the rest of the organization to access and leverage their information. The question was what we could do to improve the collaboration and communication throughout the enterprise so that the tremendous product innovation from engineering could be connected to the entire supply chain. The answer, of course, was 3-D visual communication.


The vision and strategy behind the Right Hemisphere acquisition was to create a center of business information that brought together data from engineering and the business suite, and then delivered it in an extremely easy-to-use visual format. In doing so, we would also give customers the added benefit of enabling real-time collaboration between all departments.


Michael: I agree. The value of this acquisition to the customer is extraordinary. It is a tremendous win because all the product, supplier and business information is now presented in a really consumable, easy-to-understand way. As new solutions come to market, people are seeing how powerful it is to combine visual communication with business data; and it is truly transforming how they interact with SAP information.


That makes a lot of sense. Yet, in order to do all that the Right Hemisphere product line must be tightly integrated into the SAP business suite. How much progress would you say has been made in that area?


Michael: This first objective after the acquisition was to make Right Hemisphere’s technology compliant with SAP’s quality standards. The first release came out in record time and not only met these standards but went a step further with deeper integration on the CAD and business sides. The third release is coming out later this year and will be even more tightly incorporated. Really, as time goes on, visualization will become so seamless that customers will just see it as a standard component of the entire SAP solution.

Hans: Yes, and beyond that, the ability to use mobile devices to support R&D, manufacturing and services lines of business has also been accomplished in the past year. The mobile applications are really expanding the way customers can connect with each other and leverage SAP’s innovative solutions.


That’s a lot of great progress. As you know, CAD systems generate tremendous amounts of data. Are there plans to use visualization to help with the analysis, such as making it interoperable with HANA?


Michael: Yes, we are doing a lot of work on the analytics side.  We’ve already integrated visualization technology with business objects and charting capabilities, so that you can interact, for example, with a
3-D image of a product or a manufacturing facility.  By integrating the images with the HANA technology, customers can gather and incorporate tremendously large data sets, such as consumer feedback on product features, in milliseconds.


Let’s shift gears a little bit and talk about the benefits. Why do you think 3-D visualization is a better way to communicate?


Hans: 3-D visualization makes it so much easier for everyone involved to communicate and collaborate. The ability to walk through a correct 3-D model simplifies the communication process, avoids misinterpretations, and everyone immediately understands what the other person or company is talking about.


Michael: We are creatures that live in a 3-dimensional world. So, if we can interact with an object and get information from it in the same way we, say, pick up an apple and inspect it before we bite in, well that is the future of interacting with information. We’ve all seen it in movies, but SAP is doing it now. We are at the forefront of making it a reality and people are going to be blown away.


Okay, can you give us some specific examples of improvements SAP customers have seen so far?


Michael: Sure. Our customers have seen massive productivity gains, especially in the area of content creation for manufacturing or services. Historically, some accounts would take days to put together technical publications. Now, they can do it in an hour including technical illustrations and 3-D interactive instructions. Another area of improvement is the amount of time it takes to find the content. We’ve seen places where people spend 50% of their time just trying to locate the right piece of information. By using visual content, people can navigate around the product to find specific content, cutting that 50% of their time down to probably 5%. The third area of savings is around travel. Sending out work instructions using 3-D images with very limited text allows people to understand what needs to be done without having someone travel to train them. We’ve actually had one customer completely eliminate their training travel budget. Finally, the last area customers have seen a productivity gain in is plant uptime. Businesses lose thousands of dollars every minute a plant is down for maintenance. By optimizing maintenance time, you can see a return very rapidly. Taken all together, the overall ROI is far less than a year, which is terrific for customers looking to invest in Visual Enterprise.


Let’s look out a bit to the future. What’s your perspective on where visual communications is headed?


Hans: We’ve been strictly following the roadmap to embed visualization into SAP’s Business Suite and will soon be bringing new visual manufacturing solutions to the market, but we will not stop there. The next steps are to expand to new industries and address new markets, such as areas where we might leverage visual assembly or work instructions in the consumer market.


Michael: Right, you are exactly on track. I think the future is mobile, analytical and visual. And, I think SAP with HANA can also make it really fast. From the manager of the shop floor monitoring workflows with his tablet to the Dad using visual instructions to put together the new toy he just bought, the work we are doing will be common place in the next five years. It will be expected and SAP is far and away in the best position to be the leader.


Right Hemisphere was a fairly small, entrepreneurial start-up company that was acquired by a global organization. How do you think the people assimilation and integration has gone?


Michael: As the CEO of a smaller company, one of your objectives is to be acquired by an organization like SAP.  Obviously, the investors were happy, but it also was really important that the employees understood they had a place to grow.  Fortunately, we’ve had almost no one leave. People are very excited about what has been accomplished so far. Knowing that through SAP’s resources our work will have a global impact is wonderful.


Hans: I would like to thank everyone from Right Hemisphere but also from SAP. Everybody has gone way beyond what was expected. It was a very easy integration process, especially considering the many time zones involved that required people to work at all times of the day.  Our success comes down to the people and it is great to see how everyone is really engaged and works as one team.


It looks like it has been a good year and there are lots of good things to come. Anything else you like to say about the acquisition?


Hans: I want people to know that every KPI has been met and over-achieved by the team. This is just the beginning and big things are still to come.


Michael: Yes, I agree. We are on the verge of making 3-D visual communication commonplace. It will be an exciting future. Thank you both for your time and for reflecting back on the first year of the SAP Visual Enterprise!


Robert Merlo ( from SAP Visual Enterprise solution marketing is happy to answer questions from this interview.


Recommended Reading:




3-D Visual Communications: A Better Way of Sharing


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