During CScape at Cisco Live, one of the more interesting conversations I had started with a simple question: Is social software (and collaboration software in general) a set of standalone applications or features of other business applications? This sprang from a discussion on the future of the collaboration technology business and really speaks to a couple of important developments in the market:
There has been a lot of negative press and commentary regarding the recent Queensland Health Implementation of Continuity Project (SAP HR and Payroll), which recently experienced a very public failure as many employees were not paid due to multiple points of failure in the project. The recent Auditor-General's Report on the process is damning, spreading the blame across multiple agencies and the systems integration partner, IBM. I make no claims to be familiar with the intricate details of the process, but I have read the report and feel I have a clear understanding of the (many!) points of failure.
While this project did seem to be a monumental failure, I would suggest that we consider two important facts:
VMware today released an incremental upgrade to its core vSphere platform and took the opportunity to do some product repackaging and pricing actions - the latter being a big win for enterprise customers. The vSphere 4.1 enhancements focused on scalability to accommodate larger and larger virtual pools. The number of VMs per pool and number of hosts and VMs per instance of vCenter have been ratcheted up significantly, which will simplify large environments. The new network and storage I/O features and new memory compression and VMotion improvements will help customers pushing the upper limits of resource utilization. Storage vendors will laud the changes to vStorage too, which finally ends the conflict between what storage functions VMware performs versus what arrays do natively.
The company also telegraphed the end of life for ESX in favor of the more modern ESXi hypervisor architecture.
But for the majority of VMware shops the pricing changes are perhaps the most significant. It's been a longstanding pain that in order to use some of the key value add management features such as Site Recovery Manager and AppSpeed you had to license them across the full host even if you only wanted to apply that feature to a few VMs. This led to some unnatural behavior such as grouping business critical applications on the same host - cost optimization that trumps availability best practices. Thankfully that has now been corrected.
As I cruised the pavilion at Cisco Live in Las Vegas last week, the display that held my attention the longest was the Collaboration ROI booth. There, the network infrastructure provider making waves in the collaboration software market was demonstrating calculations it had done on how its various solutions were improving efficiency and productivity for specific jobs in verticals like retail banking. In the example I reviewed, banks using virtual loan officers were able to obtain more small business customers because the bank was able to have someone "there" to answer the prospective customer's questions. Now, with all the activity going on around me, why was this so fascinating? Put simply, it relates to a fundamental issue for all vendors hoping to compete in the collaboration software space: How do you differentiate in this crowded market?
A number of Forrester analysts have been collaborating on a series of Tweet Jams on topics related to data management. The last session was on BI, and the next one up is on MDM. These are very lively sessions involving many points of view on some quite provocative topics. I'm pasting in text from analyst Rob Karel's blog post on the upcoming MDM session on July 20 in case architects who read our EA blog don't read the business process blog where Rob posts. For most of the EA folks I have spoken with lately, information architecture and MDM are very relevant -- not to mention thorny -- topics. I hope you join us for a great discussion!
Rob's description of the session:
Many large organizations have finally “seen the light” and are trying to figure out the best way to treat their critical data as the trusted asset it should be. As a result, master data management (MDM) strategies, and the enabling architectures, organizational and governance models, methodologies and technologies that support the delivery of MDM capabilities are…in a word…HOT! But the concept of MDM - and the homegrown or vendor-enabled technologies that attempt to deliver that elusive “single version of truth”, “golden record”, or “360-degree view” - has been around for decades in one form or another (e.g., data warehousing, BI, data quality, EII, CRM, ERP, etc. have all at one time or another promised to deliver that single version of truth in one form or another).
My colleague Boris Evelson, who covers business intelligence for Forrester and serves business process professionals, recently wrote a great post about the use of spreadsheets for business intelligence. He explains that while many BI vendors initially sought to replace spreadsheets in the corporate environment, it's now clear that they are not going anywhere any time soon.
Sound familiar? While many governance, risk, and compliance professionals and GRC vendors continue to work toward helping customers consolidate data and move away from spreadsheets, they are still basically ubiquitous. In fact, several of the top GRC vendors are now working to improve the way their tools interface with Excel... Not just for exporting reports, but for data input and analysis as well.
I recommend reading Boris' post, where he details three best practices regarding the use of spreadsheets for BI:
Create spreadsheet governance policies.
Monitor and enforce compliance with those policies.
Give preference to vendors that work well with spreadsheets.
Creating clear policies for what information will and will not be managed on spreadsheets is critical here, and extremely important for the GRC universe. Unless you have specially-built controls, spreadsheets do not give you the level of security, access control, change control, or audit trail you should have for data related to compliance or risk management. Knowing Office tools are going to be handling substantial amounts of important information for the foreseeable future, so it's worthwhile to review and update your policies and make sure they are being appropriately enforced.
If you are an infrastructure service provider and partner of Microsoft you probably haven't been too pleased with the Redmond horde of late. Are they friend or foe? Sure, you can resell and host Windows Server and a plethora of Microsoft applications from your data centers. And if you're ambitious you can even use their Dynamic Infrastructure Toolkit to build your own infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) cloud. But Microsoft's own online services for the enterprise are off limits. Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS), Windows Azure, and SQL Azure are offerings that look a lot like a formidable competitor. Well partner centricity now rules the day when it comes to Azure.
I joined an impressively large crowd at SAP’s World Tour event in Birmingham,UK, last week and was able to spend an hour with Tim Noble, head of SAP’s UK and Ireland business unit, and Chris McLain, who leads SAP’s team focusing on its 150 largest accounts in EMEA. I'm writing an update of my 2007 report "Effective SAP Pricing And Licensing Negotiation" and wanted to know what they thought about the clash between traditional deal-based sales incentives and Forrester’s clients’ need for commercial flexibility and more recognition, by their key software providers, of the wider relationship. It’s a topic I’ve raised before (http://blogs.forrester.com/duncan_jones/10-03-19-open_letter_season_sap), and I was very pleased to hear some things that SAP is doing to reduce this conflict.
I explained why, from my research, software vendors’ insatiable craving for recognizable license revenue at the expense of creating shared incentives for success is damaging to customers and to the vendor. Both Tim and Chris clearly understand the problem. Tim keeps reps on the same accounts for several years and rewards them for metrics such as customer satisfaction to avoid the revolving door sell-and-run approach that characterized software selling before the advent of SaaS. Chris has a team of Global Account Directors that works with local sales, pre-sales, and delivery teams to provide the holistic view that Forrester clients want and struggle to get from SAP’s competitors.
Last year, Internet inventor Tim Berners-Lee called for access to raw data as the next step in the evolution of the Internet. Apparently Transport For London (TFL, UK) was listening and has recently opened its doors to the commercial use of large amounts of primary data sets and live feeds. The data newly available includes: tube and train traffic data, feeds from live traffic cameras, Oyster card top-up locations, pier and station locations, cycle hire locations, and riverboat timetables. Following this up, TFL has announced plans to release further information on bus stops, routes, timetables and schedules. Access to this data represents an opportunity for developers to create travel applications based on real-time information. In one such example a web-based mash-up plots the approximate position of every single underground train. While interesting to Londoners who may be able to navigate their morning commute a little better (there's still no escaping the inevitable squeeze on the Central Line), this is a compelling move by TFL to allow access to the same data it uses to power its own information boards. As we see it, such access:
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.