Here I sit finally getting a chance to reflect on my 30 hours in Saudi Arabia. Yes, just a little more than one day. But one day was enough to change any preconception that I might have had, and spark my interest to learn more. My “day” started with the VIP treatment through passport control – which I must say was much appreciated. The airport in Riyadh is certainly not Dubai International – far from it. But if there were any disappointment at the inauspicious first impression, it stopped there. Although to set the stage, I was invited to Saudi Arabia by IBM to participate in an analyst event showcasing “Smarter Cities” initiatives in the Kingdom. So admittedly, I was only presented the “smart” side of Riyadh. I am eager to see more.
Today, Google announced Google App Engine for Business, and integration with VMware’s SpringSource offerings. On Monday, we got a preview of the news from David Glazer, Engineering Director at Google, and Jerry Chen, Senior Director Cloud Services at VMware.
For tech industry strategists, this is another step in the development of cloud platform-as-a-service (PaaS). Java Spring developers now have a full platform-as-a-service host offering in Google App Engine for Business, the previously announced VMforce offering from salesforce.com, plus the options of running their own platform and OS stacks on premise or in virtual machines at service providers supporting vCloud Express, such as Terremark.
What’s next? IBM and Oracle have yet to put up full Java PaaS offerings, so I expect that to show up sometime soon – feels late already for them to put up some kind of early developer version. And SAP is also likely to create their own PaaS offering. But it’s not clear if any of them will put the same emphasis on portability and flexible, rich Web-facing apps that Google and VMware are.
So Google aims to expand into enterprise support – but will need more than the planned SQL support, SSL, and SLAs they are adding this year. They'll also need to figure out how to fully integrate into corporate networks, the way that CloudSwitch aims to do.
My friend and highly respected colleague, Wayne Eckerson from TDWI, posted a great article called “Purple BI People”. In the article he described some of the best practices for business and IT alignment, and cross-functional skills sets needed for successful and effective BI professionals. Wayne, I loved the blue cow analogy, you know that I always think in metaphors, analogies, similies and associations. But, while I completely agree with Wayne in his near term assessment, best practices and recommendations, I would like to suggest another long term point of view.
Can business and IT ever align on BI? Can business ever be satisfied with IT for delivering successful and effective BI applications? Is there such a thing as BT (Business Technology, the phrase that Forrester coined and promotes) in BI?
I used to think we could deliver on that promise. Not so sure it’s that straightforward now. Just look at some of the hopelessly diametrically opposing business and IT priorities. I hear the following complaints from my clients day in and day out:
Business is all about revenue generation. While IT can support that, much more often cost cutting is IT's highest priority.
Business wants solutions now. Not tomorrow. IT needs to go through due diligence of testing and approving BI applications. Right now, on demand does not sit well with IT.
Business wants to react to constantly changing BI requirements. IT has to plan.
Business sometimes is willing to do something “quick and dirty” – even at the expense of potentially jeopardizing accuracy and adherence, compliance with standards. IT is all about compliance and sticking with standards.
There’s an old adage that the worst running car in the neighborhood belongs to the auto mechanic. Why? Because they like to tinker with it. We as IT pros love building and tinkering with things, too, and at one point we all built our own PC and it probably ran about as well as the mechanic's car down the street.
While the mechanic’s car never ran that well, it wasn’t a reflection on the quality of his work on your car because he drew the line between what he can tinker with and what can sink him as a professional (well, most of the time). IT pros do the same thing. We try not to tinker with computers that will affect our clients or risk the service level agreement we have with them. Yet there is a tinkerer’s mentality in all of us. This mentality is evidenced in our data centers, where the desire to configure our own infrastructure and build out our own best-of-breed solutions has resulted in an overly complex mish-mash of technologies, products and management tools. There’s lots of history behind this mess and lots of good intentions, but nearly everyone wants a cleaner way forward.
In the vendors’ minds, this way forward is clearly one that has more of their stuff inside and the latest thinking here is the new converged infrastructure solutions they are marketing, such as HP’s BladeSystem Matrix and IBM’s CloudBurst. Each of these products is the vendor’s vision of a cleaner, more integrated and more efficient data center. And there’s a lot of truth to this in what they have engineered. The big question is whether you should buy into this vision.
Yesterday I attended the first day of SuccessFactors’ California customer conference at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco. Efficiency, speed, and good orchestration were evident throughout the day. The CEO, Lars Dalgaard, is a high-energy person who exudes confidence in the growth of his company. He is a real showman, and rather than giving a high-level company overview, his 90-minute presentation focused on product demos with touchscreen projections that worked fairly well. He clearly knows the products, has market momentum, and is driving the company forward. Lars would say, “We are about ‘Execution!’” The SuccessFactors slogan is “Success = Strategy + Execution.” The touted “new” offerings include recruiting (it’s been out for two years); a core HR data management app called Employee Central; calibration; goal execution; and the brand-new offerings through acquisitions -- Inform for workforce planning and analytics, and CubeTree for social collaboration. Acquisitions are new for SuccessFactors, so it hasn’t had experience in bringing together different company cultures and technologies, but my bet is that they’ll be successful.
I have long resisted and will continue to resist for the foreseeable future any notions that the BI market is commoditizing. A single simple look at the BI maturity in enterprises and next gen BI technologies is a simple proof that we are far, very far, from any kinds of commoditization. Consolidation is quite a different story. Last week's SAP acquisition of Sybase and my roaming the exhibitor / partner floor at SAPPHIRE in Orlando are two more proofs. On a huge SAPPHIRE exhibition floor I could count software partners by the number of the fingers on my hands. Why? Because everyone who matters has been acquired by a competitor! Most of the exhibitors were management consultancies, systems integrators and other SAP implementation partners. Hence, a lesson to independent BI vendors: offer your own full BI stack or position yourself for an acquisition. No other long-term options in my mind.
But as always I welcome all and any comments and opposing views.
I've had a couple of interesting discussions about telecom and network equipment makers in the last few days. How can they take advantage of the cloud mania? Here are some quick thoughts:
1. Offer their equipment on a pay-per-use basis. Requires them to assume capital risk and bulk up the balance sheet. Might cannibalize gear sales. The usage pricing should be attractive for occasional use, but unattractive for constant use.
2. Create a cloud service that complements and advantages their telecom gear. Since the equipment sits in telecom operators and service providers around the world, work with customers to create a service that builds on data collected, with permission, from the experience of those customers.
3. Explore whether there's a service-only offering that is attractive to operators and hosters. Can a telecom equipment vendor offer capability as a cloud service, rather than as an on-premise product? There's probably something, but I don't know the market well enough to know. But I can't imagine cloud services fully replacing on-premises equipment.
What are your thoughts on how telecom equipment makers can take advantage of cloud services opportunities?
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
Is it me or do you feel like everyone is restructuring their IT organization – or at least talking about it? Chatter among CIOs often turns into a debate over the merits of plan-build-run models versus demand/supply models – or any other IT model du jour. So, I was eager to get my hands on the first draft of Marc Cecere’s presentation on “Future BT Organizational Models” that he’ll be delivering at Forrester’s IT Forum in Las Vegas (it’s next week, so I’m up to my elbows in draft presentations – reviewing our CIO analysts’ content, pushing their thinking further, and frankly reveling in all the new research). Here’s a sneak peek: