So Where Were The Best Run Businesses Then?

In addition to my software pricing and licensing research, I also study use of technology to improve procure-to-pay (P2P) processes; so, I'm always interested in customer presentations at software company events, in case I can spot some new best practices or interesting trends. This week I’m at Ariba LIVE in Orlando, but last week I was at SAPPHIRE NOW in Frankfurt, where I attended a presentation by a project manager from a large German car manufacturer talking about his rollout of SAP’s SRM product. Given that it wasn’t in his first language, the presentation was very good, and quite humbling to an anglophone, even a relatively multi-lingual one. (I can say “two beers, please” in eight other languages, but wouldn’t dream of presenting in any of them).

However, the overall case study was disappointing. I won't name the company, but I’ll just say that the SRM implementation didn’t look to me like as good a “leap forward through technology” as I expect to see in a showcase presentation. In particular, I was disappointed to see that this company is:

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Ariba Live 2010: Crowdsourcing, Rhythm Drums, And A Touch Of Good Old Fashioned ERP Badmouthing

Today started with breakfast in the supplier pavilion at Ariba Live and I have to say, this place is PACKED. Ariba reports over 1,000 attendees and there’s hardly an empty chair. In fact, they had to pull in extra chairs at the back of the room for the keynote sessions. I’m no economist but a filled to capacity software vendor event is a good signal to me that companies are now starting to revisit major application investments that have been on hold for the last two years.

Taking a walk to scope out the breakfast bounty I did notice that the services procurement vendors, Beeline and Fieldglass, both had booths set up front and center in the supplier pavilion. These are well spent marketing dollars as each vendor looks to position themselves to fill Ariba’s whitespace in what’s becoming a white hot software category. D&B was also a very visible sponsor, another smart move given Ariba customers’ insatiable appetite for supplier information and data enrichment services. The opening on the main stage had the typical flash, bang introduction with a live band and Blue Man Group styled actors creatively called the “Cloud Guys” moving to the “complex rhythm of commerce.” As I soon realized, this was not the last time we’d hear the term “cloud” at this event. The nice lady sitting next to me (who will remain anonymous to protect the innocent) leaned over and asked me, “I see cloud this and cloud that everywhere — what does it all mean?” Good question.

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SAP’s Co-CEO Answers Forrester’s Questions At Sapphire

Here at the European half of SAP’s global customer event, I had a chance to ask some questions of one of SAP’s co-CEOs, Jim Hagemann Snabe. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to ask for some advice to my country’s leaders on how to manage a two-party government, because it seems like he and Bill McDermott are very happy with their own coalition.

It's very encouraging that Hagemann Snabe, along with other SAP executives I’ve met here, acknowledge that SAP has made missteps over the last year or so, although they are still very confident that they know how to fix the company’s problems. There’s a thin line between positive spin and misplaced over-confidence, so hopefully, in private, he recognizes the challenges he faces. Still, I’d like to see more willingness to accept that SAP doesn’t have all the answers and to get advice from outside the organisation, to help it become customer-centric instead of sales-transaction-centric

Both CEOs want to talk only about new revenue opportunities: increasing SAP’s addressable market, the potential of new on demand products including Business ByDesign, and mobile solutions based on the proposed Sybase acquisition. I asked Hagemann Snabe to explain how he’d improve the value for money that existing customers will get for their maintenance revenue. He mentioned the introduction of customer choice between the Enterprise and Standard support offerings, although that isn’t much of a choice since CPI increases on the latter make it cost almost as much as the former. He also stressed the importance of the ‘Innovation without disruption’ enhancement pack system, which will now be delivered in one simultaneous release each year, across all product lines. 

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SAP Shares Key Customer Initiatives: How Firms Drive Towards Real-Time, Mobile, And Sustainable

At SAPPHIRE NOW 2010, SAP's annual marquis customer event, SAP Co-CEOs Jim Hagemann Snabe and Bill McDermott share insights into how companies strive to align IT strategy with business goals. Three themes: 1) real-time 2) unwired and 3) sustainable.

  1. Real-time. Enterprises need information more quickly; daily, weekly, or monthly updates rarely suffice. At the same time, the amount of data that companies now have available to them is astounding.
  2. Unwired. Firms are increasingly leveraging mobile so that employees, customers, and partners are no longer bound by their IT systems and hampered in decision-making but instead empowered with information and decision tools anywhere. (SAP's acquisition of Sybase adds to their capability in mobile.)
  3. Sustainable. Not just goals towards green and reduction of carbon emissions, companies also want to make sure they get leverage out of their investments; today's technology decisions must make long-term sense on the IT strategy path.

Most organizations who speak with Forrester struggle to balance business goals such as real-time information, mobile access, and sustainability with cost pressures and management of existing IT investments. Firms strive to get the most out of their existing IT investments while balancing investment in newer technologies -- such as analytics, mobile devices, or GRC solutions. Increasingly, IT departments are also facing another challenge -- as businesses can easily go outside of IT to buy and often self-provision new tools to achieve their goals: SaaS and Web 2.0 solutions and mobile devices such as iPads or BlackBerrys.

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Come Join The Sourcing & Vendor Management Analysts At IT Forum

Forrester’s IT Forum 2010 in Las Vegas (May 26-28) and in Lisbon (June 9-11) is around the corner, and our team is looking forward to the opportunity to share our latest experiences, research insights, and strategies for maximizing the value of your technology and vendor investments.

The theme this year is "The Business Technology Transformation: Making It Real." As firms embark on the transformation from IT to BT, sourcing and vendor management professionals must assume new roles. They must help the business understand key technology trends and the trade-offs of new and legacy sourcing models. They play a crucial role in optimizing technology spend -- and in making sure their firms are taking advantage of newer models like SaaS and cloud services where it makes sense.

We’ve got a series of great sessions focused on sourcing and vendor management strategies for making BT work across major areas of technology investment in applications, infrastructure, services, and telco. The sessions include:

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Thoughts On Innovation Management From FEI 2010

I just had the chance to attend the "Front End of Innovation" (FEI) conference at the World Trade Center in Boston May 3-5. This event is sponsored by variety of innovation management suppliers, and included some great speakers like James Surowiecki (author of "The Wisdom of Crowds") and Sophie Vanderbroek (President of Xerox Innovation Group). Though I was only able to attend two of the three days at this event, I was able to leave with a solid impression on the innovation management marketplace.

A few of my notes from this event:

  • There is a unique innovation marketplace. With the sheer diversity of innovation discussions taking place at this event, I found it interesting to question whether the there is such thing as a common innovation management marketplace. I think there is. Everyone I spoke to at this event was either trying to unlock innovation potential within their own organization, or was trying to help their clients unlock their own innovation potential. In this regard, the marketplace for innovation is quite different with the boarder market of social collaboration tools and technologies -which I do not think has the same mission.
  • The market is broader than many realize. Despite the common objectives, the companies in this "market" bring a wide variety of different capabilities to the table. For example, at this event, I interacted with:
    • Companies like Spigit, Imaginatik, Idea8, and Kindling who have software tools focusing on idea management (but each with unique strengths)
    • NineSigma and Innocentive who are leveraging their "open innovation" heritage to bring new business models and a distinct offerings to clients
    • Innosight, which brings more management consulting offerings and thought leadership to lead its strategy consulting engagements
    • Seek, Futurethink, and Maddock Douglas which do not focus nearly as much on technology, but instead on methodologies, thought leadership, and workshops that can help clients clarify innovation objectives.
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Split Liability For Smartphones Warrants A Closer Look

At Research In Motion’s (RIM) WES event last week (April 27-29, 2010), there was a customer panel session on individual liable versus corporate ownership of BlackBerry devices. The panelists included IT decision makers from the education sector, local government, and a large entertainment company. The panelist and audience comments validated the ongoing debate within many IT client firms about the values and challenges of managing an increasingly diverse population of mobile users in the enterprise. The debate around individual liable (IL) vs. corporate liable (CL) mobile device ownership and services payment is heating up.

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“If You’re Not Getting Shot At, You’re Not Doing Your Job."

Source: Maggie Gyllenhaal, as Rachel Dawes in The Dark Knight, © Warner Brothers, 2008

Recently two large software companies separately complained that I was biased against them in the other one’s favour, which was sufficiently ironic to amuse my British sense of humour. “Biased” is one of the worst accusations you can throw at an analyst, because we strive to be scrupulously fair, and ensure that what we write and say is balanced, and evidence-based. So it started me thinking about fairness, and prejudice versus analysis.

I hear a lot of horror stories from clients about outrageous treatment by software sales reps, so one might think that software marketing execs would be shame-faced and contrite. But, actually, they love their companies and believe that analysts are merely stoking up resentment that wouldn’t exist without us, or that it’s the other guys giving their industry a bad name. “You only hear from the minority of unhappy customers,” they say. “Clients don’t ring you up when they are delighted with us.” This is true, but I speak with hundreds of clients every year, so I think I’d have found more evidence of a silent majority of delighted buyers, if it existed. The problem is that the good corporate intentions don't always translate into sales' behavior, when it's a question of spiff or rif.

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