Many of us purchased our large ERP systems prior to Y2K and our CRM systems almost 3 or 4 years ago. As we enter the next big upgrade cycle thinking about what enterprise application (e.g., ERP, CRM, or SCM) to replace, we'll need to think about the lessons learned. Traditionally, it made sense to put the transactional automation system in first and then go from there. However, with experience, we know this is completely backwards. If you put the big ERP system in, after a few years, some high level muckety muck inevitably asks where are those nice reports that they saw during the demo. Then, we spend the next several years building the right BI infrastructure so we can get to the analytics, dashboards, and reporting tools. A year later, we realize that our data is corrupt and we have duplicates that keep us from making a solid decision. The real question is: do we want to do this again?
In short, the answer is no. You'll want to do this the right way during the next upgrade cycle. Start first by identifying your master data requirements. Think about your business processes you need to support and the customer and product data reuqirements. Then, figure out the type of analytical requirements you'll have. Question you should ask include:
If you want to communicate with your clients, prospects, and colleagues, it's good to make sure that your channels are all working — end to end. Even the largest firms can struggle with this — and nobody gets any larger than Microsoft. The team from Redmond boasts a formidable array of communication technologies and keeping them all in synch can be challenging.
I recently had the experience of joining them for an analyst call, and there was a Live Meeting opportunity for a richer presentation. I was eager to take advantage of that and clicked the appropriate buttons. I was offered an enhanced Media Player stream but like many companies, Forrester locks down its configurations, so upgrading that was not an option. So I chose the web browser version instead. As it happens, IE is not one of the "locked down" components so I had already upgraded to IE7 (and that was not without its challenges; it doesn't work well with some key corporate systems we use here. But that's another issue.)
Well, that turned out not to be optimal either. I got the following message from Live Meeting:
I spent the latter half of last week at the IAPP Privacy Summit 2007 in Washington D.C. It was a great conference with over 1,200 attendees focused on lots of sessions as well as a number of keynote presentations by notables like FTC Chairman Deborah Platt Majoras and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales (where he first spoke publicly about the FBI's troubles). While the conference suffered from a lack of chairs and room, it’s really only a signal of the success of the conference as attendees packed every session.
The caliber of the attendees was also impressive with some of the very highest privacy professionals in attendance, including those from corporate giants IBM, ExxonMobil, Ford, General Motors, GE, AOL, Wal-Mart, and Chevron. The chief privacy officers were at the conference in addition to their direct reports (if they are lucky enough to have any). There was also an exceedingly large number of lawyers (practicing and former) at the conference.
After we leave formal education settings, 80% of our learning is of the informal kind; yet only 20% of corporate education dollars are spent on what is most important to us as employees.Why are corporations spending 80% of their employee education dollars on that modest 20% of the learning we do?
So, what is informal learning? It’s that unplanned discussion with a colleague over an issue you don’t understand and glimpsing a new perspective on how to deal with an issue that has arisen. It’s sending an IM to a remote colleague to get information on how the company is implementing a procedure, and then setting up a 10-minute phone discussion to go deeper. It’s bouncing ideas for a new project off a colleague, then asking her to question your perspectives—like a kind of informal coach. These sound like things we do every day, right? Some corporate cultures actively encourage and support these informal ways of learning through trust, technology—IM, Expert Location, or good intranet search capability—and a supportive culture, while others frown on “taking time away from work” to talk to colleagues.
I recently spoke with an IT manager who came up with a great analogy for a problem I continue to see in the WCM space. He was telling me about how much customization his team has needed to do while implementing a WCM solution, and how he expected some features to be more out-of-the box, like advanced content authoring tools. He commented, “At Christmas time, the vendor sent us one of those gift baskets that vendors sometimes send. You know what those baskets are usually like - wine, cheese, candy. But you know what they sent us in this year’s basket? Brownie mix. We had to bake our own holiday gift. I wanted to call them up and tell them, ‘This is exactly what is wrong with your product!’"
I’ve already blogged here about how much I enjoy using Office 2007. Today I wanted to blog about wikis and blogs. I opened up Word 2007 since I generally like to create things locally and then push them up to the network when I’m ready. I opened Word and clicked on “New” and found two choices; “Blank document” and “New blog post”. Well, that’s kind of cool. Microsoft has already integrated Word and blogging. Might even be able to use Office Live for that...
This brings me to a question that I’ve been hearing a lot from clients lately: Is Microsoft serious about wikis, blogs and other emerging aspects of social computing? The answer is a resounding YES. Wikis and blog are tools for creating content and collaborating. These are markets that Microsoft takes very seriously.
If you haven’t had a chance to familiarize yourself with Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 yet, take a look at the social computing functionality. SharePoint now has the ability to generate wikis and blogs as template types. While SharePoint’s implementation may not be as elegant and full featured as some of the new pure-plays, it is completely and seamlessly integrated into their flagship collaboration product. (Apologies to the folks in Exchange, but let’s face it, you’re email, SharePoint is collaboration) What does this mean? Well here are just a few examples:
Every blog and wiki can be real-time enabled with presence, IM etc. if you are running Office Communication Server
Wiki and blog templates can be augmented through the addition of web parts
Templates can be customized and extended through the use of SharePoint development tools
I owe the title of this blog entry to my San Francisco-based peer, Rob Koplowitz. Why? Well, he has a quicker wit than I do.... Michael Jordan, arguably the greatest professional basketball player of all time, felt he could translate his incredible hand/eye coordination and skills to the sport of baseball when he first retired. The result? He played a few games in the minor leagues, drew a ton of attention, but never came close to the success he had in basketball.
Since Oracle really never competed toe to toe with IBM on applications and BI, the Hyperion acquisition is of a smaller significance for IBM than to other BI vendors. Watch for Oracle to acquire BEA, TIBCO or Informatica to leapfrog IBM in the EAI or middleware space.
It would be logical for IBM or SAP to pick up Cognos (not Business Objects, since it is still going through multiple product integration challenges) as the logical next large BI acquisition. SAP will probably make the first move, and once that happens, the IBM will look at Microstrategy or Information Builders as an alternative BI acquisition.
HP also clearly wants to be a BI player: they recently acquired a top boutique BI Systems Integrator, Knightsbridge, developed an integrated Data Warehousing platform – Neoview, and its NonStop database is used in some of the largest DW implementations. We would not be surprised if the next large BI acquisition comes from HP.
An orthogonal move could come from EMC or Sun, who have been Information Management players for years, with BI being a natural addition/extension. Notably absent from the rumors is Teradata, which in our opinion has to diversify into more layers of the BI “stack” beyond data warehousing to keep its competitive position.
A clear implication of this acquisition is for Oracle’s pureplay BI competitors: Cognos, Business Objects, Microstrategy, SAS and Information Builders, since a combined Oracle/Hyperion BI offering with best of breed components in every layer of the BI “stack” will become increasingly difficult to beat. While many of these vendors were quick to issue statements that they view this transaction as an "opportunity they intend to take advantage of" and that they remain "clear leaders" in the space, it is very clear that they are, as they should be, very concerned of Oracle's new position.
The transaction also has potentially huge implication for Microsoft, which has been giving away its OLAP product, Analysis Services, as part of SQLServer. While Oracle is also packaging OLAP (Express) with its relational database, it was always considered a lower end product to Microsoft. If Oracle decides to bundle Essbase as part of its overall database license, it could make significant cuts into Microsoft’s OLAP market share.
It is unclear whether Oracle will integrate, keep separate, or drop one of the clearly redundant products: multidimensional databases, Oracle Express (currently part of Oracle BI Server) and Essbase. However, if and when Oracle creates the same seamless integration they always had between its Express and relational databases with Essbase, it will truly become an awesome analytical database product hard to beat.
However, contrary to Oracle/Hyperion rosy statements of little if any product overlap, Oracle will face obvious and significant integration and product positioning challenges with multitude of overlapping and redundant products: Essbase vs. Express, Hyperion data integration and reporting tools (formerly Brio) vs. Oracle’s (including recently acquired Sunopsis), Hyperion Sales and Marketing Analytics vs. Siebel’s, plus some others.