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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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Being an Expert Witness in an SAP System Integrator or Consultant Fraud Trial

May 29th, 2012 by
SAP Expert Witness

SAP Expert Witness

Those who have followed this site for any period of time are probably aware that one of my passions is to see the whole business application space “cleaned up.”

A recent group of comments and private messages I have received about consultants who knowingly commit fraud really got me aggravated.  I’ve actually received e-mails through my site from these “freshers” who would brag about having their fake resume ready and they were excited about actually conning their first customer.  Enough already, I decided to do a series on helping expert witnesses through the litigation process against some of these unscrupulous tactics.  

Although I am NOT, NOT, NOT, a fan of litigation I believe we have reached an unfortunate time in the business application consulting space where something must be done.  There are too many fraudulent consultants, too many staffing firms which facilitate and in some cases participate in this fraud, and too many system integrators who take advantage of clients who do not fully appreciate how SAP projects work.  Please understand this is not legal advice, for that you must consult an attorney. 

You Just Got Called to be an Expert Witness in an SAP, Oracle, or other Business Application Lawsuit

Being called upon or contacted to be an expert witness in a court case for your field of expertise can be an exciting and frightening proposition.  Over the years I’ve been contacted by lawyers and expert witness brokers to do exactly that.  I’ve never taken them up on the offer but have taken the time to understand the process.  If you want to be an “expert” witness in some multi-million dollar litigation about a failed SAP, Oracle, or other business software implementation you will want to prepare for…

What Can You Expect?

First, be prepared to have your writings, resume, personal life, and your past carefully scrutinized in tremendous detail.  Anything you’ve written online, in publications, or even in social media spaces is fair game for legal evaluation over your judgment as an expert witness.  Consider carefully whether you want past events that might be “colored” to affect your professional judgment raised in a court of law (and no, that is NOT why I haven’t accepted any expert witness assignments ;) . 

What are the Legal Requirements for Expert Witness Testimony

First of all expert testimony in the United States is generally governed by Federal Rule of Evidence 702.  That rule governs “technical or other specialized” testimony from experts and virtually every U.S. State has either the same rule or some equivalent.  However, each state can have different ideas of what that Rule actually means in their own state level courts so it is really important to understand what state a case is in, or whether it is in federal court.  In legal terms this is related to “venue” or what court the case will be tried in.  Is it is state or federal venue.

Standards for Admitting Expert Testimony

Two key U.S. Supreme Court cases govern the admissibility of expert testimony.  The two cases which either open the door, or close it, for expert testimony are often referred to as “Frye” and “Daubert.”  To be an expert witness you really should be familiar with these two cases and what they mean to you if you consider offering expert testimony. 

These legal cases use two different standards which are in use to some extent throughout the United States.  The Frye case comes from a Washington D.C. Circuit court case with the case style (or caption) of Frye v. US, 293 F. 1013, 34 A.L.R. 145 (D.C. Cir 1923).  That case established a “wide acceptance” standard meaning that something should not be admitted into evidence unless the subject matter being testified about covered something that was widely accepted.   This usually (although not always) meant that there was lots of published material that had been peer reviewed or scrutinized in other ways.   An expert under Frye addresses issues almost exclusively from the “wide acceptance” standpoint.  Keep in mind that the “wide acceptance” standard may have allowed the “flat earth” society to have prevailed in court in the Middle Ages.

As both science and technology continued to mature at a faster pace additional clarification was added in another U.S. Supreme Court legal case which is often cited as Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, 509 U.S. 579 (1993).  That case established newer and more robust “scientific methods” which must be considered before accepting expert testimony.

While there is no complete checklist, and there are several additional factors to consider, one U.S. Federal Appeals Court has summarized a short list of a few key issues which should be considered for the Daubert standard.  These include:

  1. Whether the theory or technique of the expert can be tested.
  2. Whether there is a known, or potential, rate of error that can be determined with some level of assurance.
  3. Whether there has been any peer review and publication (think Frye here).
  4. Whether the theory or technique is generally accepted in the expert’s community (again, think Frye).  For us it would be in the SAP community.

The Gatekeeper Role to Prevent Unreliable Expert Testimony

The role of the judge in court cases involving expert witnesses is to act as a “gatekeeper” by letting in only those experts who at the most basic meet two key criteria: the testimony has some measure of reliability by fitting the criteria of either of the cases above, and the testimony directly relates to some set of facts or circumstances of the case that the expert will help everyone understand.  The expert’s testimony should help bring enough clarity that the judge and jury can more easily make an informed decision about some fact or issue in the case.

Which Expert Testimony Legal Standard to Use?

It is important to understand that if you end up litigating as an expert witness in a state court case in the United States rather than a federal case you may be subject to different standards and requirements as an expert witness.  Again, which venue is this, is it a state court case or a federal case?  For example, as of 2011, the following states use the following expert witness standards as defined in the legal cases above [FN1]:

[A]s many as 34 state jurisdictions have adopted the U.S. Supreme Court’s standards articulated in Daubert. Those states include Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wyoming – and most recently in 2011 Alabama and Wisconsin.

Currently 9 states and the District of Columbia follow the Frye rule – either specifically rejecting Daubert or choosing not to apply Daubert principles. These include California, the District of Columbia, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington.

Meanwhile, 7 states have their own unique approach and utilize neither Daubert nor Frye: Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Carolina, and Virginia.

This is more than enough of an introduction to the legal standards. There are a few areas to focus on here.  There is the consulting fraud itself – fake skills, experience, and backgrounds.  There are considerations for how much affect the consulting fraud has had on a project (i.e. damages, etc.) and then there are potentially fraudulent system integrator tactics which are designed to maximize their profit while taking advantage of the client. 

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[FN1] Daubert, Frye … or Both? Tracking Florida’s Buy-In. http://www.ims-expertservices.com/blog/2012/daubert-frye-or-both/

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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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