Lest We Forget SAP

John R. Rymer

The "smart money" seems to be betting against SAP. I hear all the time about the company's bleak prospects for the future. A client conversation last week reminded me of how strong SAP’s position is, despite its many issues.

This client, a worldwide manufacturer, is investing hundreds of millions of dollars in SAP software for its worldwide supply chain, financial management and reporting, inventory and order management, etc. The new SAP environment will replace hundreds of disparate applications and, ideally, result in far more efficient operations, far better visibility into operations, and far more uniform products around the world. The members of this client’s SAP implementation team have finished SAP implementation marathons before (at other employers). They know the good, the bad, the ugly.

In this manufacturer, SAP is sticky for four reasons.

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Best practices for using spreadsheets as BI tools

Boris Evelson

By Boris Evelson

We all know that the war of fighting the proliferation of spreadsheets (as BI or as any other applications) in enterprises has been fought and lost. Gone are the days when BI and performance management vendors web sites had “let us come in and help you get rid of your spreadsheets” message in big bold letters on front pages. In my personal experience – implementing hundreds of BI platforms and solutions – the more BI apps you deliver, the more spreadsheets you end up with. Rolling out a BI application often just means an easier way for someone to access and export data to a spreadsheet. Even though some of the in memory analytics tools are beginning to chip away at the main reasons why spreadsheets in BI are so ubiquitous  (self service BI with no modeling or analysis constraints, and little to no reliance on IT), the spreadsheets for BI are here to stay for a long, long, long time.

With that in mind, let me offer a few best practices for controlling and managing (not getting rid of !) spreadsheets as a BI tool:

  1. Create a spreadsheet governance policy. Make it flexible – if it’s not, people will fight it. Here are a few examples of such policies:
    • - Spreadsheets can be used for reporting and analysis that support processes that do not go beyond individuals or small work groups vs. cross functional, cross enterprise processes  
    • - Spreadsheets can be used for reporting and analysis that are not part of mission critical processes
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Oracle OBIEE 11g Launch: "We are back!"

Boris Evelson

Whoever said BI market is commoditizing, consolidating and getting very mature? Nothing can be farther from the truth. On the buy side, Forrester still sees tons of less-than-successful BI environments, applications and implementations as demonstrated by Forrester's recent BI Maturity survey. On the vendor/sell side, Forrester also sees a flurry of activity from the startups, small vendors and large, leading BI vendors constantly leapfrogging each other with every major and minor release.

In terms of the amount of BI activity that Forrester sees from our clients (from inquiries, advisories and consulting) there’s no question that SAP BusinessObjects and IBM Cognos continue to dominate client interest. Over the past couple of years Microsoft has typically taken the third place, SAS  fourth place and Oracle the distant fifth. But ever since Siebel and Hyperion acquisitions, the landscape has been changing, and we now often see Oracle jumping into third place, sometimes leapfrogging even Microsoft in the levels of monthly interest from Forrester clients.

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Your Future Needs A Type 4 Technology Strategy

Randy Heffner

As I discuss with clients the developing notions of Forrester's Business Capability Architecture (see blog post #1 and blog post #2), I have found it important to distinguish between different levels of scope for technology strategy. The primary distinctions have to do with (a) the degree to which a strategy (and the architecture it promulgates) aims to account for future change and (b) the breadth of business and technology scenarios addressed by the strategy.

Thus, I define a four-part technology strategy taxonomy along a two-dimensional continuum with (a) and (b) as axes (IOW, the four parts are archetypes that will occur in varying degrees of purity), to wit:

  • Type 1: project strategy for successful solution delivery. With Type 1 strategy, the goal is simply to achieve successful project delivery. It is beyond the strategy’s scope to consider anything not necessary to deliver a solution that operates according to immediate business requirements. Future changes to the business and future changes in technology are not considered by the strategy (unless explicitly documented in the requirements). The classic case for a Type 1 strategy is when an organization definitively knows that the business scenario addressed by the solution is short-lived and will not encounter significant business or technology change during the solution’s lifetime (history argues that this is a risky assumption, yet sometimes it is valid).
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Database Migrations Are Finally Becoming Simpler

Noel Yuhanna

Lately I have been getting quite a few inquiries on database migrations asking me about migration approaches, best practices, and tooling. Some of the reasons why companies are looking at migrations are because of staffing issues, scalability and security concerns, and cost-saving strategies. Migrations have always been complex, time consuming, and expensive, because each DBMS has proprietary data structures, data types, and SQL extensions. Once you choose a DBMS, you get locked into its platform, often creating a challenge when looking to migrate. Some companies told me that it took them more than a year to migrate some large and complex applications, which is not surprising. Although, tools and services have helped with migrations in the past, they have not been comprehensive and automated, which would make the process simple. Like an IT manager in the retail sector recently told me, “We did not want to spend a million dollars on tools and services just to save a million dollars on our database platform; it just didn’t make sense.”

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Planes, Pains, and Multichannel Engagement

Stephen Powers

Recently on a cross-country flight, I was just waking up when the flight attendant asked me what I wanted for lunch. She was a little annoyed because I kept her waiting while I  looked  through the magazine for food choices, and gummed up the whole works. And who could blame her for being annoyed? She had a whole bunch of people to get serve. I made a hasty selection and mistakenly picked the healthy snack box (organic pumpkinflas granola and apple slices instead of pepperoni and a chocolate chip cookie).

About an hour later, I had some serious hunger pains and would have killed for one of those old-school gummy chicken casserole airline dinners.

What would have solved this? A proper online engagement architecture, naturally. I usually print my boarding passes out ahead of time. So why doesn’t an airline print out the food choices under the boarding pass, or distribute via mobile devices as people increasingly use them for check-in? The airlines could provide other information, too, like how full the flight is, and whether NBC in the Sky will show something good like “The Office” or something not-so-good like “The Marriage Ref”.

So, what’s the problem? Content management and delivery systems aren’t unified.  There are all kinds of opportunities to present rich, consistent, engaging multichannel experiences by integrating technologies such as content management, customer relationship management, document output management, email campaign management, and others. But these are still siloed, due to legacy issues as well as market dynamics (there is no unified solution on the market).

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DevOps Conflict - Do You Feel It?

Phil Murphy

Applications development people can't stand the Luddites in the operations group, and ops people hate those prima donas in apps dev - at least that's what we are led to believe. To explore the issue, two of my colleagues who write to the infrastructure and operations (I&O) role - Glenn O'Donnell and Evelyn (Hubbert) Oehrlich - invited me to participate in an experiment of sorts. They arranged a joint session for the I&O Forrester Leadership Board (FLB) meeting, and I was the sole applications guy in the room - a conduit for I&O FLB members to vent their frustration at their apps dev peers. For those who aren't aware, FLBs are communities of like-minded folks in the same role who meet several times a year to network, share their experiences, guide research, and address the issues that affect their role.

We infused the session with equal parts education, calls for joint strategic planning across all IT work, and a bit of stand-up comedy - Glenn noted that as representatives of our respective roles, he and I were actually twin sons of different mothers. I noted that in that context that our parents must have been really ugly. Once we opened the session for discussion, the good folks in the room wasted no time in launching verbal stones my way. Now, I'm no IT neophyte: I've been in the industry since 1982, and I'm no stranger to conflict - I grew up with 3 older brothers, and we all exchanged our fair share of abuse as siblings will. Still, I wasn't quite prepared for the venting that followed. To summarize a few of the main points, I&O sees apps folks as:

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Yet Another Banking Platform?

Jost Hoppermann

A few days ago, CSC announced its new Celeriti banking platform, which consists of five products: Celeriti Customer, Celeriti Deposits, Celeriti Loans, Celeriti Cards, and Celeriti Merchant. The solution includes, for example, a strong business process focus, business intelligence, and the so-called Web Portal User Interface. The platform has been built around IBM application infrastructure, runs on multiple operating systems such as z/OS, z/Linux, Linux, and Windows, and has been validated for use with the IBM Banking Industry framework. Here is my initial reaction to Celeriti.

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What SQL Cannot Do

Boris Evelson

I recently asked my Twitter followers if they had good examples of queries, business questions that SQL can't do. It turns out a better question is "what SQL can't do easily", so I thought I'd share with everyone what I heard and found. Seth Grimes was the first one to provide an excellent answer with some informative examples - thank you, Seth! I also found very useful articles on typical SQL challenges such as avoiding multiple duplicate sets in your SQL results, and why NULLs create tons of headaches for SQL coders.

There's also a typical SQL challenge with ragged, sparse, unbalanced hierarchies and dimensions. For example, a retail store, a wholesaler or a distributor with thousands of products, and a manufacturer with thousands of parts often struggle with dissimilar data. A pencil in an office supply store does not have the same descriptive attributes (lead type, for example) as a calculator (scientific, financial, etc.) or an office chair (number of wheels, etc.). Or a tire in a car manufacturing supply chain does not have any common descriptive elements (rubber grade, width-to-height ratio) with gear boxes (automatic vs. manual, 4 or 5 speed, gear-to-gear ratios, etc). When looking for correlation between two entities (for example, what is a potential product quality issue that is making my sales go down?) in cases with disparate, dissimilar products (as in retail products or manufacturing parts), the same SQL query cannot work for all products or parts. One would be forced to write multiple SQL queries for each product or part type to find such a sales/quality relationship.

Smart Meter In Utilities – The Lighthouse For Smart Computing

Holger Kisker

Some days ago at Forrester’s IT Forum in Lisbon (June 9-11) I gave a presentation together with my colleague Andy Bartels on the IT market recovery (we predict a 9.3% IT market growth in 2010) after two economically challenging years in 2008/9. In fact, we were making the point that the market rebound we currently see is not simply a recovery but the beginning of a new IT hyper growth phase fueled by a new wave of innovation.

A strong driver of this innovation is what we call Smart Computing at Forrester: the integration of physical world information into intelligent IT-supported business processes in 4 steps: Awareness (via new sensor technology), Analysis (with advanced BI solutions), Alternatives (including rules and process engines) and Action (in industry business applications), plus a 5th feedback loop of Auditability for tracking and learning.

A well-known example of smart computing solutions is smart metering in the Utilities industry. In another presentation in Lisbon, a colleague asked the audience, a room full with all the leading IT service companies, who all had an initiative running with smart metering – everyone in the room raised their hands. Then he asked who actually had more than 1-3 (pilot) projects running – and almost no one raised their hand.

Is smart metering just hype that everyone is jumping on or what is the reality of the lighthouse example of smart computing at this point in time?

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