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Will SAP HANA Lead to a Big Data Revolution?

December 17th, 2012 by

SAP HANA – Big Data

Lots of folks focus on HANA as a competitor to Oracle, and it is.  Even if HANA adoption and sales were to completely devastate SAP’s biggest competitor (Oracle) that would not be HANA’s biggest impact–, the HANA product has the potential to disrupt entire industries in the context of Big Data.

Unlike Big Data, I’ve been skeptical about the benefits and use of social media in the enterprise, writing about it in Why Social Media Marketing Success Is Elusive for Business and Social Media Fads and the Risk to the Enterprise.  On the other hand, Big Data hasn’t gotten anywhere near the attention even though it has a fairly clear business case.  Big Data has the capability to transform enterprises, organizations, and even entire industries.  We are not talking about abstract “build it and they will come” theories here either.  We are talking about a revolution in the way business is done.

Big Data will have huge impacts on customers, products, even whole regions of the world.  What do I mean when I refer to Big Data?

BIG DATA:  The ability to analyze large volumes of both structured data (like transactional data streams) AND unstructured data (social media, industry information, news trends, etc.) leading to market makers and market losers across virtually all industries.

This ability to synthesize structured and unstructured data streams with technology advances WILL transform companies and industries.
 
Over the next 5 – 10 years:

  • Computing power will continue to grow.
  • High speed memory processing (like in SSD drives) will improve.
  • Massive memory storage will come down in price.
  • In-memory database technologies will mature.

This “perfect storm” of Big Data know-how and technology advances will lead to the ability to identify:

  •  Subtle and even unknown market segments.
  •  Market and sales trends.
  •  Customer sentiments, needs, and wants.
    • Leading to new product or service opportunities.
  • Competitor strengths or weaknesses.
  • Etc., etc., etc.

Big Data will be part of the ERP iii [FN1] technology innovation driving customer focus related to customer acquisition, customer retention, and marketplace performance.  Big Data represents a business transformation shift in how business will be done in the future–, it represents a potential seismic shift in business performance in the marketplace.

The Big Data Revolution

The struggles are the semantics in how to synthesize the information and filter the nuggets from the noise.  Big Data allows you to understand what the keys are in terms of words, concepts, and ideas.  It then allows you to synthesize those keys with the various data sources.
 
In other words, how do you take the product sales information (transactional data), customer demographics (transactional), corporate market knowledge (unstructured internal), key word search (semi-structured internal and external such as with Google or Bing), with marketplace intelligence (unstructured external, including external social media), and innovate new or existing products and services?  That is the challenge that some folks are beginning to work on today.  That is the challenge that SAP’s HANA product enables for the future enterprise. 

Big Data means “Business Intelligence” will finally become, well, intelligent!

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[FN1]  For more information on ERP 3 see this comprehensive ERP treatise ERP vs. ERP II vs. ERP III Future Enterprise Applications.




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Why Social Media Marketing Success Is Elusive for Business

May 21st, 2012 by
Social Media in Business

Social Media in Business

In several social media channels I participate in one item continues to surface again and again –, “How do you ensure business benefit from social media?”  Underlying that question are the very basic issues of how do you ensure some kind of financial return. 

Although some social media folks understand the need for real, measurable results for business, especially in difficult economic times, there are those who simply insist that you must pay for something that is unproven and may never produce any real results.  They seem offended at the idea of insisting on financial results.

Many of today’s social media efforts are like “exploring” the great unknown without any clear map of where you are going or plan on how to get there – it is more like aimless wandering

Lots and lots of folks who call themselves “social media experts” really have no idea what to do when it comes to business.  They may be “experts” at individual interactions like building big personal “followings” but they struggle with using social media channels for business.  Add to all of this the recent news published in Forbes about GM pulling out of their advertising with Facebook (see The Real Reason GM Left Facebook) and you can see there is a real problem.

Resolving the Social Media Dilemma About Business Return on Investment (Social Media ROI)

Social Media Fads and the Risk to the Enterprise are real when there is no business consideration of profit (which companies need to survive) or focus on business activities.  I’m always baffled by the genuine lack of understanding of a need for profit in business if a business is expected to continue operating.  Too often the thought is that companies should just believe in social media, spend money on it, hire expensive social media consultants, and not consider the expenditure of their limited capital resources.

To finally achieve financial business benefit we have to identify the “root cause” of why financial business benefit is so elusive.  So far I haven’t even heard anyone articulate the cause of the difficulty in leveraging social media for business purposes which leads to a financial return.  Certainly there are some social media “rock stars” out there who defy the conventional wisdom but,…

Current social media marketing methods are colder than cold calls.

The Social Media Marketing Problem – Targeted Markets

The business problem for social media is that it is individual–, it is “social.” Okay, that sounds silly, what I mean is there are no target market economies of scale.  Sure, you can develop “volume” but is it the right volume, is it the right target, are you using the right channel, do you even know who you are trying to reach or how you are going about reaching them?  Do you know what they want?  Do you know how to use that medium to reach them?  More recently Harvard Business Review explored Three Myths about What Customers Want which directly addressed the issue that most customers do not want to engage with your brand.  Further, if it is related to sales activity they likely don’t want to engage much with your either.

The biggest platforms, namely Twitter and Facebook (and to a lesser extent LinkedIn) are limited in how you can segment, stratify, or gain market intelligence for marketing efforts.  The idea of one off, individual, personal connections has no economy of scale.  When I refer to “economies of scale” in this sense I am not referring to raw numbers, I am referring to economies of scale within your target market or potential customer base.  No private enterprise who wants to stay in business can afford to go after every possible customer.  This is why they target certain segments and markets. 

Consider the difference between social media and more established Internet channels.  When someone searches in Google they are looking for something very specific, it is highly targeted.  If their search is related to a product or service and they click on your ad you can bet they are reasonably far along in their purchase consideration.  They might still be researching but they are researching and find your blog post or company web site, but it is still a very targeted effort related to a purchase decision.  Your company blog or website is likely attracting people looking for information related to a potential purchase.  There is some initial “filtering” mechanism over enough users to provide a reasonably targeted “economy of scale.”  This is NOT the case with social media.  Many of today’s social media efforts are like “exploring” the great unknown without any clear map of where you are going or plan on how to get there.  Today’s social media is like yesterday’s cold call telemarketing but without any target list to start with.

Current social media marketing methods are colder than cold calls because there is so little ability for truly productive focus.  Where more traditional advertising mediums have built-in filtering mechanisms before human effort is involved social media is just the opposite.  The marketer becomes the filtering mechanism even before a virtual “cold call” can be effectively made. 

Today’s social media is like yesterday’s cold call telemarketing but without any target list to start with.

In many ways this is worse than the California Gold Rush in 1849.  People went West dreaming of Gold Rush riches just by digging up the ground around areas where gold had been found.  Today’s social media explosion is like digging for gold in the middle of the ocean.  You float around for a while, try to dive to the bottom, hope that you are actually able to go deep enough to land on mush and then start digging for gold.  Never mind that there may not be any gold where you are looking, or even if there is you may not be able to stay submerged long enough to collect it.  This is the current state of social media.   You go deeper and deeper into the water of  “social connections” until you finally hit the “mushy” ground of “enough” connections or “likes” and you start digging in the mush with your marketing effort, hoping to discover the “golden” sale.  If you chose the wrong social media outlet, or if you failed to accumulate the right “target” group, all of your energy, investment, and effort may be completely wasted.  Sure, you’re “popular” but popularity doesn’t pay the bills (unless you are a celebrity), never mind that economic conditions are difficult.  This doesn’t mean a few “lucky” individuals or situations won’t lead to “gold” but it does mean that for the time being it will be very difficult for social media business success to be scalable and adaptable.  Social media by its very nature is individual making it even more difficult.

Social Media Market (Unrealized) Potential

Today’s social media is much like China and India in times past.  They had gigantic populations consisting of over 1 billion people each but these were not marketable consumers.  It wasn’t until huge economic, social, and cultural changes took place over nearly a generation (or more) that Indian and Chinese markets were slowly opened.  In China this is still a slow, painful, and difficult process.

The Social Media Marketing Problem – Social Media Landscape

We looked at the social media effort required for each social media channel.  Now comes the rest of the ugly reality–, the social media landscape itself.  It is such a fragmented mess how do you even know where to spend your time, effort, and energy?  At some point in the not too distant future there WILL be consolidation.  There always is!  You may be spending tremendous efforts, finances, and energy on channels that in a year or two may be irrelevant.  In a year or two there may be completely different social media channels which make many existing ones obsolete.

If you want to see a PARTIAL picture of the “social media” landscape the Businessinsider has provided a good overview http://www.businessinsider.com/social-media-marketing-landscape-complicated-2012-5. The scary thing is this is probably not even half of the actual social media sites and resources.  Keep in mind this fragmentation in the available social media marketing “channels” is only compounded by the lack of segmentation to make any marketing effort meaningful.  So now you understand the problem.

Conclusion on Making Social Media Business Focused

The social media problem for business has two key parts, the current efforts are generally more labor intensive than telemarketing efforts.  The second part of the problem is the fragmented “channels” available.  Social media efforts beyond the individual (and not the company trying to use this) are so diluted, fragmented, and obscured that it will be some time before meaningful methods for business benefit emerge.  Figure out how to develop target markets meaningful to business and then how to deal with the fragmentation and these will serve as powerful marketing channels.  Whoever can figure these problems out, and then make them scalable and reproducible will have a blockbuster business.

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SIDE-NOTE:  When I refer to “social media” I am not referring to more established but modern internet marketing channels like blogs or web sites.  These may, or may not, contain any “social” components at all.  Unfortunately too many social media evangelists today throw everything into “social media” in a desire to be able to point to something that “works.”  Some of them do this out of ignorance, still others do it deliberately because they know that there is little or no payback method that is scalable and repeatable for true “social” media.




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The SAP User Experience

April 9th, 2012 by

SAP User Experience

SAP User Experience

Over a decade ago SAP embarked on a journey to revamp their outdated user interface.  Enter “nJoy” SAP with all of the new “N” transactions.  But it has been over a decade now and other than some nice refinements to the GUI not much has changed.  A decade in the technology space is like a century in other areas.  Isn’t it time to take a hard look at the application suite again?

So you have the cute “Netweaver Business Client” but there hasn’t been a lot done to change the user experience for SAP applications.

Features, Functionality, Usability, and Performance Directly Translate Into User Experience

SAP Features, Functionality, and German Engineering

Let’s look at SAP’s years of leadership in the features and functionality area of Enterprise applications:

  • No matter what any other enterprise software vendor claims they can not come close to the depth of enterprise application experience SAP has.  A recent SAP fact sheet claims more than 183,000 customers in more than 130 countries (retrieved 4/8/2012).
  • SAP supports at least 22 major industry vertical solutions [FN1] covering such diverse areas as Automotive, Banking, Chemicals, Governement (Public Sector), High Tech, Mining, Pharmaceutical, Retail, etc.  Each of these areas has its own specialized process nuances and the application additions require specialized support.

The SAP application suite is massive as well.  If you’ve ever looked at an SAP price list you’ve probably been thoroughly confused and overwhelmed.  The SAP enterprise application footprint is gigantic.  SAP R&D spend for 2011 was about 13.5% of gross revenue (or about 1.9B Euros) and with a few exceptions SAP R&D spend is generally in the double-digit area of gross revenue.  Think about that, 1.9B Euros in R&D spend is more than the gross revenue of most of their competitors enterprise application sales.

Consider the depth and breadth of application functionality in the context of the various solution options available (see Footnote 2 below for a SMALL sample from ONE Application Component area) [FN2].  If you’ve ever had to deal with an SAP price-list trying to develop enterprise solution architecture, or license requirements, you may quickly become overwhelmed by the massive feature and functionality landscape. 

SAP Performance Options

Many of SAP’s products are hardware and database agnostic.  I don’t mean that it will run on any hardware, or any database, but it will run on most major platforms.  Because of the way the applications are structured they will also run in what SAP callls “2 tier” or “3 tier” landscapes.  This means the applications are scalable, in both size and performance, to whatever level of hardware investment you decide.

With the introduction of SAP’s HANA in memory computing solution(s), performance within the application is changing by orders of magnitude.  Massive amounts of data and programs are now loaded into, and then read from memory rather than from hard drives.

Whether you want to scale up or use HANA system performance should never be an issue.

Usability, Usability on the Wall, Who’s the Fairest of Them All?

Now we get to the heart of the matter.  As demonstrated SAP is a GREAT engineering company with huge R&D spend, a comprehensive industry solution portfolio, and a mountain of enterprise application options.  They’re German, what did you expect? Scalability and performance are not issues so the only area left is usability.

The “nJoy” program is about a decade and a half old.  In technology terms that is like the difference between the Stone Age and the industrial Revolution.

Unfortunately on the user experience curve they are in the IT Stone Age.  While there are great functionality enhancements coming out in the various enhancement packs at the same time the ability to use the application suffers.  Each major version of the SAP GUI offers a more pleasing screen, but it is still the same underlying data entry requirement–, the same fields, the same tabs, the same screens, the same old everything with a little bit of “lipstick” added.  But it is still the same fat, bloated, over-engineered user experience. 

SAP User Experience Customizing Pain

Please, don’t tell me about GUI XT or any of the other “customizing” options for screen layouts.  The starting point stinks and then you expect a customer to pay (consulting time, employee time, system integrator time, etc.) to enhance or modify the screens.  The SAP enhancement or modification option is not simple either — a simple screen enhancement is a significant engineering undertaking.  Unlike several modern “drag and drop” applications SAP requires development work to add new fields, change field labels, populate data in those fields during transaction run time, screen development is needed to “build” a new screen layout, and then you have to reassign a new “Z” transaction with copies of the modified underlying programs, adjust security, etc.  It takes a major engineering effort to make SMALL changes to the user experience.  SAP you have GOT to change this!  Your customers should be able to focus on the user interface without having to worry about all of the underlying engineering.

A Model for the SAP User Experience

Recently I offered The PERFECT SAP Acquisition Target in a CRM application called “SugarCRM.” As an SAP consultant who wants to see SAP continue to do well there are a lot of lessons that can be learned from them.  They are a cloud vendor who has set their target on Salesforce.com.  They provide a great navigation and ease of use experience.  And best of all, you can alter field labels, hide fields, add custom fields, completely change the layout of screens, and a whole host of other things without having to do any coding at all. Even if this isn’t an acquisition possibility for SAP it might help some of those German engineers in the SAP CRM space to download the opensource version and explore it.  Maybe they will learn a little something from a scrappy upstart who recently received $46 million in venture capital.  And this was from several VC organizations so a number of investors are betting millions on SugarCRM’s marketplace viability–, even in a marketplace saturated by salesforce.com and Microsoft.

Apple has Proven that User Experience Can MAKE the Market by Addressing Customer Pain Points

It’s been a long time SAP since you have seriously considered a remake of the user experience.  Since then Apple has proven that addressing customer “pain points” is a market winner. It’s about time to take another hard look at the user interface and user interactions because SAP “usability” has always been a customer pain point.  The “nJoy” program is about a decade and a half old.  In technology terms that is like the difference between the Stone Age and the industrial Revolution.  Don’t you think it’s time to get really serious about the user experience paradigm?

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[FN1] Retrieved 4/8/2012 from http://help.sap.com/industries.  Along with this there are “sub” solutions within several of the industries and across industries.

[FN2]

SAP Application Components

like SAP Auto-ID Infrastructure, SAP BOBJ Spend Performance Mgmt, SAP CRM, SAP ERP, SAP SCM, SAP SNC, SAP SRM, …

SAP Best Practices

SAP Best Practices packages are available in different country versions for various industries

SAP BusinessObjects portfolio

like Address Directories & Reference Data, Crystal Reports Viewer, SBOP Data Federator, SBOP Enterprise, SBOP Extended Analytics, SBOP Text Analysis, …

SAP Business One

like SAP Business One 8.8, SAP Business One 2007, Crystal Reports for B1, Remote Support Platform for B1, …

SAP Connectors

like Business Connector, …

SAP Content

like BI CONT, SAP Business ByDesign CONTENT, …

SAP Cryptographic Software

like SAP Cryptographic Library, …

SAP Development Projects

like customer-specific development projects software, …

SAP Education Products

like Acrobat Con Learning by Adobe, Knowledge Acceleration, RWD Info Pak Suite, SAP Productivity Pak by RWD, SAP UEM by KNOA, Training Content for SAP KW, …

SAP Frontend Components

like NetWeaver Business Client, SAP GUI for Windows, SAP GUI for JAVA, SAP ITS, SAP IGS, …

SAP In-Memory (SAP HANA)

like SAP HANA Enterprise Edition, SAP HANA Enterprise Ext. Edit., SAP HANA Platform Edition

SAP Mobile Solutions

like MOB ACCAPROVER INT, MOB HR APPROVAL INT, MOB MGR INSIGHT IPD, …

SAP NetWeaver and complementary products

like SAP NetWeaver, SAP NetWeaver CE, SAP NetWeaver Mobile, SAP NW Identity Management, SAP MDM, SAP Content Server, …

SAP On-Demand Solutions

like SAP Sales OD Integration

SAP Rapid Deployment solutions

like SAP Business Communication Management rapid-deployment solution, SAP CRM rapid-deployment solution for Sales, Marketing, and Service, SAP IT Service Desk Operation rapid-deployment solution, …

SAP Solution Extensions by Partners

like BOBJ XBRL Publishing UBMatrix, SAP CPS Full (Scheduler), SAP Ext. Diagn. by CA Wily, SAP IncentivePayback by Vistex, SAP Quality Center by HP, …

SAP Solutions for Governance, Risk, and Compliance

like SAP Global Trade Services, SAP GRC Access Control, SAP Process Control, SAP Risk Management, SAP Nota Fiscal Electronica, …

SAP Technology Components

like LV for Solution Manager, Remote Support Component, SAP Landscape Transformation, SAP Solution Manager, SAP Support Enablement Package, SAP TAO, …

Adapters

like Informatica, IWay, Seeburger, for SAP NetWeaver 04 (EP Edition), for SAP XI 2.0, …

Composite Applications

like Industry Composites Applications (SAP COMP App for BOP, for E-Tax) SAP DOCB, SAP CQM, SAP XIEP, SAP XLPO, SAP SOP, …

Country-specific Add-Ons

like HR-CIS, SAP Core CEE, SAP E-Recruiting – LOCFR, SAP HR-CEE, SAP IS-U/LOCIN, SAP IS-UT CEE, SAP Real Estate CEE, …

Fuzzy! Products

like Fuzzy! Analyzer, Fuzzy! Bank, Fuzzy!Boykottcheck, Fuzzy! Double, Fuzzy! Post, Fuzzy! Umzug, …

Industry-specific Components

like Banking Services from SAP, SAP Bank Analyzer, SAP CFM, SAP Deposits Management, SAP Discrete Industries, SAP Insurance, SAP IS-U, SAP Mill Products, SAP Oil & Gas, SAP Patient Management, SAP Retail, SAP Trade Industry Demand Mgmt, …

Miscellaneous Components

like AppServer LINUXx86 64 on 6.40, Convergence Tool, SAP Kernel, …

Plug-Ins

like SAP Plug-In, SAP Enterprise Portal Plug-In, SAP Solution Tools, …

Supplementary Components for Cross Industry Solutions

like Project Management, Life-Cycle Data Management (SAP PLM Integrations), SAP Railcar Management, SAP Test Data Migration Server, SAP Visual Basis, …

Sybase Products

like AFARIA, Sybase Mobile Sales, Sybase Mobile Workflow, Sybase Unwired Platform, …




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