I attend several software company customer events each year, and I always feel like the only atheist in a room full of religious zealots. However big or small the vendor, whether it consistently delivers competitive advantage or overcharges for mediocre software, the people who come to the events are usually fans — people whose careers depend on their employer continuing to invest in the product they know.
The SAP UK user conference today in Manchester was no different. So when Jim Hageman Snabe stood up to deliver his keynote, this wasn’t the toughest crowd he’s ever faced. Whatever their concerns about product strategies, support costs, court cases, etc., these people are desperate for him to do well, because otherwise they are out of a job.
Nonetheless, even heretics like me would have to admit that JHS delivered a great keynote. Even Ruby Wax, the Anglo-American comedienne compere was moved to say “you could sell anything.” Here are some of the things that particularly impressed me:
· Likeability. From linking his speech to Ruby’s opening routine, to funny and pertinent family stories, JHS showed what sort of person he is. This is very different from his predecessors and competitors. When he says he wants SAP to be more customer-focused, it’s clear that he means it.
· Clarity. JHS set out simply and effectively where he wants SAP to focus its development. He set out six themes: quality first, stabilize the core, reduce TCO, innovate without disruption, improve usability, give customers predictability. Then he explained succinctly how SAP is addressing each one, in parallel with its vision for in-memory computing, on demand availability, and mobile device usability. Even if you disagree with his vision, you’re in no doubt what it is.
I met recently with Cisco’s UCS group in San Jose to get a quick update on sales and maybe some hints about future development. The overall picture is one of rapid growth decoupled from whatever pressures Cisco management has cautioned about in other areas of the business.
Overall, according to recent disclosure by Cisco CEO John Chambers, Cisco’s UCS revenue is growing at a 550% Y/Y growth rate, with the most recent quarterly revenues indicating a $500M run rate (we make that out as about $125M quarterly revenue). This figure does not seem to include the over 4,000 blades used by Cisco IT, nor does it include units being consumed internally by Cisco and subsequently shipped to customers as part of appliances or other Cisco products. Also of note is the fact that it is fiscal Q1 for Cisco, traditionally its weakest quarter, although with an annual growth rate in excess of 500% we would expect that UCS sequential quarters will be marching to a totally different drummer than the overall company numbers.
Forrester's recent report on Top 15 Technologies To Watch In 2011 once again proved that BI is front and center on everyone's agendas. We indeed continue to see unrelenting interest and ever-increasing adoption levels of BI platforms, applications, and processes. But while BI maturity in enterprises continues to grow, and BI tools become more function rich and robust, the promise of efficient and effective BI solutions remains quite challenging at best, and elusive at worst. Why? Two main reasons. BI is all about best practices and lessons learned, which only come with years of experience. Additionally, traditional BI technologies (ETL, data warehousing, reporting, OLAP) have not kept pace with the ever-changing business and regulatory requirements. In a work-in-progress research document, building on a last year's relevant blog post on next-gen BI, we plan to review top best practices and next- generation BI technologies for our clients to watch and adopt in 2011 to improve their chances to deliver successful BI initiatives. Here's the proposed document outline and major themes:
BEST PRACTICES TO ADOPT IN 2011
Emphasis on business ownership and data governance
Combining top-down performance management, with bottom-up approaches
On November 16, Accenture and BMC announced the expansion of their already existing relationships with joint development and delivery agreements plus additional technology services for the ongoing BSM journey. Beyond gaining additional delivery consultants to BMC’s Professional Service organization, this will also allow both companies to focus on developing solutions which allow IT organizations to optimize and streamline their operation while taking advantage of technologies such as virtualization and cloud computing.
Environmental concerns like climate change have not yet become the primary driver for businesses to define, implement, and execute a dedicated sustainability strategy. Rather, sustainability initiatives are driven today by cost and efficiency opportunities.
However, many companies are realizing that sustainability is increasingly important to advance their brand and competitive differentiation, respond to rising customer and regulatory pressures, attract new generations of talent, and enter or even create new markets. While the growth side of sustainability seems to be generally recognized, it is much more complex to measure and, hence, to manage, than the cost side.
Thus, we see widely varying approaches to corporate sustainability, and many companies are still reluctant to pursue sustainability at all.
A recent Accenture study of 766 CEOs, conducted in cooperation with the UN Global Compact, found that brand, trust, and reputation is the most frequently-cited driver for pursuing sustainability, followed by potential revenue growth/cost reduction, and personal motivation. Interestingly, CEOs rank pressures from governments/regulatory and investors/shareholders at the low end of their motivation scale (see Figure 1 below).
I was in London last week, delivering the opening keynote at the Green IT Expo conference. I had previously spoken at this event back in 2008, and it was nice to see a bigger crowd of perhaps 400-500 delegates, a lively hall full of vendor exhibitors, and a larger and plusher venue (the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in the shadow of Big Ben). In my estimation, the U.K. continues to be the country at the leading edge of innovation and implementation of IT for Sustainability. Why there? At least three factors:
1. Public awareness of climate change. Unlike here at home, there is little debate in the U.K. about the reality of climate change and the need for urgent action to monitor and reduce carbon emissions to slow its effects.
2. Government mandates for carbon reporting and reduction (the Carbon Reduction Commitment or CRC). The public awareness is reflected in governmental policy. Despite the reporting and reduction requirements of the CRC being pushed out in time, the U.K. still has the most teeth of any country or region in its mandate for companies to monitor, report, and reduce (or pay taxes on) their carbon emissions.
3. Leading companies' efforts to improve their sustainability posture. Whether it's Astra-Zeneca in pharma, Tesco and Marks & Spencer in retailing, BA in transportation, or the U.K. Ministry of Defence in the public sector, leading U.K. institutions are making the commitments and investments to transform their business processes in a more sustainable direction.
No, I’m not wasting Forrester’s blog space for yet more coverage of the royal engagement. I think Ariba’s proposed acquisition of Quadrem, that it announced today, is much more interesting. http://ht.ly/3bPei
Forrester has been predicting, and advocating, consolidation in the procure-to-pay market for a while:
While I’m unqualified to comment on whose investors do better from the $150m purchase price for a company with about $50m revenue, I do believe the merger is good news for both sets of customers and suppliers. Firstly, Ariba reinforces its place as one of the four or five large supplier networks that will eventually dominate the market. Its customers now get access to a wider stable of suppliers. Quadrem originated as a marketplace for mining companies, so it is particularly strong in MRO categories and in natural-resource-rich regions such as Africa and Latin America where Ariba is under-represented.
Oracle recently announced the availability of Solaris 11 Express, the first iteration of its Solaris 11 product cycle. The feature set of this release is along the lines promised by Oracle at their August analyst event this year, including:
Scalability enhancements to set it up for future systems with higher core counts and requirements to schedule large numbers of threads.
Improvements to zFS, Oracle’s highly scalable file system.
Reduction of boot times to the range of 10 seconds — a truly impressive accomplishment.
Optimizations to support Oracle Exadata and Exalogic integrated solutions. While some of these changes may be very specific to Oracle’s stack, most of them are almost certain to improve any application that requires some combination of high thread counts, large memory and low-latency communications with either 10G Ethernet or Infiniband.
Improvements in availability due to reductions on the number of reboot scenarios, improvements in patching and improved error recovery. This is hard to measure, but Oracle claims they are close to an OS which does not need to come down for normal maintenance, a goal of all of the major UNIX vendors and long a signature of mainframe environments.
Like the polar ice caps, the traditional edge of the network — supporting desktops, printers, APs, VoIP phones — is eroding and giving way to a virtual edge. With the thawing of IT spending, growth and availability of physical edge ports isn’t keeping up with devices connecting to the network; 802.11 and cellular will be the future of most connections for smartphones, notebooks, tablets, HVAC controls, point of sale, etc.
Recently I participated in a roundtable discussion by members of Forrester’s EA Council on “Getting Strategic In A Tactical World.” Members talked through the challenge of maintaining a strategic focus when the IT (or business) organization was very tactical and of getting the enterprise architecture function to have the right balance of tactical and strategic activities. “Strategic/Tactical Focus” is one of the dimensions of the Archetypes of EA that Forrester has written about, including in this blog, and the balance between tactical and strategic is a key factor in how the larger organization views EA’s relevance as well as the support it provides to EA.
One of the participants, who headed a team of more than 50 architects, asked the others, “How is your department funded – as overhead operations or as part of the project investment budget?” The person who asked this question said that his organization is more than 70% funded out of the project budget. Others responded with a range of 100% operations to 100% project-based. The comments around these different funding mixes were very interesting (all comments paraphrased):
“It’s easier to justify the size of my team if the funding is tied to the amount of project investments we are making.”
“Investment funding levels are too variable – two years ago we cut way back, now we’ve ramped way up. If my team size was a factor of investment funding, we wouldn’t be prepared for the amount of investment we are making now.”
“EA funding as part of ongoing operations budget makes us look like overhead. I don’t want architecture to look like some sort of overhead.”