Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Snake Oil or Wonder Drug - The art of the possible in SAP

Today is the first day of SAPPHIRE / TechEd in Madrid and the key note was full of how IT could be with the help of SAP. I was also lucky enough to attend TechEd in Las Vegas where the message was similar if somewhat biased towards how SAP HANA could help.

Now I can see how this "Nexus of Forces" (Mobile, Cloud, In-Memory, Social) could change the way IT works for a business, but my problem is the yawning gap between the vision the IT I talk to most weeks.

I covered some of the problems that exist in my last blog on 3rd World IT, but even without these problems where would you start if you were a CIO.

  • Do you turbo charge with SAP HANA
  • Mobilize with SAP Mobile Platform
  • Automate with SAP NetWeaver Process Orchestration
  • Beautify with Gateway / Personas / UI5
  • Move it all to the cloud and take part in the Ariba network
or do nothing cos it's all too hard to figure out how to move under the weight of your existing systems which are sucking resources away from innovation.

I think I see 3 general paths to take :-

1) It's all snake oil : Assume that all of the benefits above are currently snake oil or will take some time to be "affordable". In this strategy you should sweat the assets you already have and make sure you can run them at the lowest possible cost using commodity resources.

2) Fool Rush In : Assume that all this stuff is amazing and will transform your business overnight. Start many parallel projects and implement the dream. You will need a crack team of technology savie people who can solve problems on the fly and make this stuff work.

3) Step back and Plan : Assume that some of the above stuff might help but go through an exercise to plan where it will help the most - and start projects from this list. For this you will need some Enterprise Architects and a crack team of technology savie people who can solve problems on the fly and make this stuff work.

I think the wise path is 3, but I see too many SAP customers stuck at 1 (often because of badly written outsource contracts).

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

3rd World IT

Have you ever wondered why some companies find it really hard to adopt new stuff and others seem to eat it up.

I think it could be similar to the discussions that some people have about why 3rd world countries can't just up and become first world over night. For a country to make this move they have to have certain things in place that can take years to achieve. These would include :
  • Basic infrastructure (roads, sewerage, electricity etc)
  • Peace and Law and Order
  • Stable Political Environment and Low Levels of corruption (this never goes away - see David Cameron dinner parties)
  • Natural Resources (to fund the economy)
  • Stable Commercial and Trading system
Without these they can't jump to the 1st world as the 1st world just assumes that most of the above is already their. Would a Starbucks work with out the above ? Are iPhone apps important without these ?

So what are the IT indicators for a company with 3rd world IT ?

You might think that this would be simple, surely 1st world IT companies has new shiny computers and 3rd world don't, but I think it is more complex than this. Lets work on the items above one by one :


It is one thing to have a super set of hardware with fancy virtualisation software, but if you don't have people who know how to use it, it is like having power stations you can't fire up or a sewerage system no one know how to un-block. Just look what happened when the Romans left Britain, all the infrastructure was their but no one knew how it worked.

Peace and Law and Order

If everyone is fighting and you can't trust the state you get anarchy. This is where policies and guidelines fit into a 1st world IT company. 3rd world companies spend too much time on civil wars over competing vendor stacks.

Stable Political Environment and Low Levels of corruption

In the context of 3rd world IT - I would see partners and software providers playing the role of aid agencies and/or corrupt government agencies. Get these right and you can build a stable platform that can help you grow, get it wrong and they will suck funds away from where you need it.

Natural Resources

Probably obvious but you can't get from 3rd world to 1st world for free, if IT isn't funded as an asset all you can do is limp along. In don't blame companies for under funding IT as done badly IT can spend money quicker then anyone for few benefits.

Stable Commercial and Trading system

I would suggest that in the 3rd world IT context a commercial system is best represented by the processes that decide which projects get done based on robust business cases.

So what is your IT department ? 1st world or 3rd world ?

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Bill Gates you should be ashamed

Bill Gates you should be ashamed of your operating system.

Having just wasted another 8 hours of my life getting a 1-2 year old Windows Operating System to perform at anything like an acceptable level I am convinced that Bill Gates should be ashamed of what he has launched on the world.

How can a company have created an operating system that does the following :-

  1. One service pack takes 3 hours to apply !
  2. Running one program (Google Chrome) takes 788Mb, this from the guy that told us we would never need more that 640k of memory !
  3. Boot up takes at least 2 mins - when Google Chrome states 8 seconds and OSX is about the same
  4. After running the already slow OS for more than 12 months requires a re-build of the OS !
Finally, he then wants £80+ to upgrade to the next version which claims to be less resource hungry - right I believe you !

I guess much of this is caused by TECHNICAL DEBT but Bill please take some of your personal fortune and create an OS that works.

Or let's hope that Apple or Google see you off.

I would love to do one of those calculations that works out how many man years Windows has cost mankind (like to one that figures out how fast Santa has to travel), perhaps I should start a Google survey, I would log about 3 weeks of my life.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Grand Designs meets ERP – A rich palette for the Business Process Expert (BPX)

In the UK we have a TV show called Grand Designs which is all about people who have big plans for either renovating or building unique houses to live in.

Following all the announcements at TechEd 2010 about the technology innovations with us or in the pipeline it occurred to me that the options and opportunities available to Enterprise Architects and Business Process Experts is increasing exponentially. This is very exciting in that the solutions that can be delivered should (finally) amaze/delight the business but it does come with the danger that this flexibility means that it will be easier to make costly mistakes.

This is why it is so important that you have a robust Enterprise Architecture to point the way and a good Business Process Experts (BPX) that are able to interpret these architectures.

So what things need to be rolled into the Enterprise Architecture Roadmap ? The list below gives a view of the areas that are/will be impacted by new Technology from SAP.

  • Portal and Role Based Content
  • Business Process and Rules Management
  • Composite Application Development Tools / User Interface Tools
  • Master Data Management
  • Integration Broker / Enterprise Service Bus
  • Bulk Data Movement and Cleansing
  • Business to Business Gateway
  • Mobile Platform / Device Management
  • Lean Consumption of Enterprise Systems
  • In-memory Database Technology
  • Cloud Based Development Tools

So what choices do you have ?

I see three patterns appearing in the SAP install base.

  • Leverage Classic SAP choosing to not deploy any new technology above
  • Evolve from Classic SAP to Composite SAP by introduction some of the above technology
  • Replace existing SAP with a clean implementation with Composite SAP rolled in from the start

Which of these is the right path for you ? This can be answered by your Enterprise Architecture and implemented by the Business Process Experts (BPX).

At its simplest level this means linking the things your business want to do with the IT capabilities that are available, or put another way can any of the "new" capabilities above help IT to help the business to do something faster, cheaper or "better". If the answer to this question is no then Leverage is probably the right path, if the answer is yes then Evolve or Replace is probably to the right path depending upon the "quality" of your current classic SAP landscape.

My main recommendation is not that you should use any of the above technology, but you should have an active Enterprise Architecture that shows either why you are using them or not. Only in this way can you ensure that your IT investments are aligned with where the money is made in the business.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

What I learned at TechEd 2010 today

SAP are focused on providing both Innovation and Evolution to customers. The era of AND was introduced which I think is a good message to the SAP install base that they can move at the pace that makes sense to their business.

Evolution was provided in the following ways :-

  • The release of NetWeaver 7.30 allows form the simplification of the SAP Java landscape (Portal, CE, PI)
  • Project "Gateway" allows the opening up on SAP systems back to 4.6c if required
  • In memory databases (called HANA) allows for the non-disruptive adoption of this technology alongside existing solutions

Innovation was provided in the following ways :-

  • The release of NetWeaver 7.30 provides new features which can be exploited as part of an upgrade included improvements to BPM, Look and Feel, throughput performance and simpler operation.
  • Business Objects 4.0 brings both the Business Objects and the SAP portfolio together in a harmonised release, tools like Event Insight combined with In-memory database technology opens the possibility of true real-time analytics on massive data sets.
  • SAP are investing heavily into the cloud and more solutions will be made available in this area included ByDesign, light-weight apps (e.g Carbon Management) and River for light weight cloud composites.
  • Finally Sybase tools are in the process of being blended into the mix to allow all of the above to be "unwired"

So we are in the era of AND....























Tuesday, October 12, 2010

NetWeaver 7.30 hits the streets - Innovation and Simplification ?

NetWeaver 7.30 is a synchronised release for the following SAP Products that currently run on various version of the SAP Java Application Server :-

  • SAP Composition Environment – CE
  • SAP Process Integration - PI (Java only version)
  • SAP Portal – Enterprise Portal
  • SAP BI Java

Today this was announced at SAP TechEd – Berlin...so what does this announcement mean for customers ?

SAP talked about Evolution and New Horizons – my chosen words are Simplification and Innovation.


Simplification because now you can take a whole bunch of SAP products that greedily wanted their own server and put them together. This means that for the first time in about 5 years you can start talking about less hardware for NetWeaver and not more ! (just in time for you to re-use all that tin for your Business Objects 4.0 and Sybase Unwired Platform...but that is another story). A typical landscape might look like the picture below.


Innovation in that you can do more with one 7.30 box than you could before. You can take all the tools from each separate product and blend your solution across them, so if your Visual Composer applications (typical CE) needs personalisation (typically portal) and a brokered Web Service (typically PI) – all this can be done in one place.

It also means that hard pressed BASIS teams can focus training on 2 application servers (or 4 if you include BO and Sybase!) – which should smooth the delivery of applications – so more value quicker ?


Monday, October 11, 2010

"ABAP vs Java" or "ABAP and Java"

Just landed in Berlin, met up with a friend and within 5 mins we are having a disucssion about ABAP vs Java.

He putting forward the case that "everything" is moving to ABAP and me putting the case that with the advent of NetWeaver 7.30 we can look forward to further investments in the Java application server and a simplification of customers landscapes.

 So who is right ? Probably neither of us....

SAP has a massive investment in both platforms and I think they both have a place in the SAP landscape. To be honest I think we need to be talking about ABAP and Java.

Anyway looking forward to many more discussions over the next couple of days on many different topics, including Sybase, In Memory DB, DyDesign and much more....let TechEd begin :-)