I first met Steve Lucas at the SAP BusinessObjects User Conference and really enjoy him talking. Generally you have someone with business insight OR someone who can really hold an audience. Steve does both well. Steve had several main themes about how companies need to compete in the new world. Most of them are based on not resting on your laurels. If you know you like being number one, just think about how interested #2 is in taking your spot over.
Companies need to be intimate with their customers in order to compete. It isn't enough to satisfy your customers, because anyone can satisfy your customers. You need to thrill them, you need to make them need you, you need to know what they need before they need it. That's how you keep a customer these days.
Companies also need to recognize that pumping out the same product for 10 years just isn't feasible anymore (unless of course you make these). Steve's example was Sony in mobile music. They invented that category with the Walkman, but at some point Apple took it over because Sony just didn't stay ahead of the curve. You can no longer worry about cannibalizing your own products with new products. If you don't eat your lunch, someone else most certainly will. He quoted that 50% of profits of large companies are from products launched in the last 10 years. There is no set it and forget it in business.
Steve also touched on mobility and sustainability as undeniable forces. It isn't good enough anymore to say "I'm not in front of my computer, I'll get back to you," especially when you are in front of a customer. You also can't ignore sustainability. We all work in regulated environments, and environmental responsibility isn't just about altruism anymore, it's a market force.
One thing I have noticed this morning is that SAP has a lot of great stories about partnering with customers to provide solutions, but not a lot of stories about stuff just getting turned on and working. I realize that's a little unrealistic, but in an on-demand world, is it still the right message that you'll still need to customize?
Assuming all tours like this are based largely on a business presentation with a couple of product tie-ins, it's tough to imagine a much more engaging speaker than Steve.
The first breakout I went to was about Business Analytics. Based on the general buzz I'm hearing, I'm guessing most of the presentations at least touch on business analytics. There is too much data out there to not have access to what you need. The art is in knowing what you need, where it is, how to get it, and how to make sure it is right. SAP claims to have those solutions, but again I'm not sure how achievable they are.
Lots of stories today about bad data. Per Steve earlier, there is no faster way to sink a BI project than to deliver bad data. I would tend to agree.
Excellent affirmation, in front of a largely SAP-ERP crowd, is that while "SAP Analytics should work best on SAP systems, it has been in BusinessObject's DNA since day 1 to ensure you can pull data from any data source, and if we ever tell you any differently, it is time to sell our stock." I started sweating at the beginning of that quote, and probably sighed audibly at the end.
Wish I could have seen more of this session, but a live-blogging event took precedent.
I was very honored (along with fellow-Mentor Steven Johannes and some others) to spend 30 minutes discussing some big picture stuff with Steve Lucas.
I need to take an aside here and make an observation about the lack of social media (tweeting, blogging, etc.) in the St. Louis area on the topic of SAP. There isn't a lot of tweeting and blogging going on about SAP in the St. Louis area. Thanks for hanging with me through that.
This was a fantastic and informal discussion that included a LOT of talk about in-memory generally and HANA specifically being a really transformational platform, where the analytics engine is so fast you use it as the platform as well. Combine that with your mobile device and some right back functionality and you've got what Steve referred to as THE killer app. And I would tend to agree. Giving people the ability to not only make a decision but to act upon it while standing in front of a machine or a store display or a piece of inventory changes the whole game.
The IT team at General Moly presented on their implementation of an SAP Mining solution. My key takeaways were...
Team selection is key.
You should train before you blueprint.
Mining isn't manufacturing, regardless of what your consultants may try to implement!
I know that at least the first two of those are the same for all implementations, but you can never repeat best practices too often!
I'm going to cover the Sybase Unwired Platform presentation by simply saying it sounds great, and I've heard it is great, but I havent yet seen a demo so I can't comment on it too much. As far as Sybase IQ goes, the theory sounds fantastic, and the results are undeniable, but I'm still not sure I'm comfortable with the claim for low TCO on this because it is so fundamentally different than the relational databases we are used to.
Big thumbs up on the muffins at breakfast. Tasted great, plus they were wrapped in fancy paper, so you know they were healthy.
SAP may want to warn people about paying for parking at these sorts of events. I realize I'm a bit of a country bumpkin here, but in St. Louis at least not a lot of people who don't work or visit downtown often (which is most of us) this can be a bit of a surprise.
Thumbs considerably lower for the guy sponge-bathing in the men's room at Union Station. I recognize it's called a "bathroom, but this isn't even a working train station anymore.
As far as lunch goes, I don't know I can say it any better than this.
The wifi for this event was actually REALLY good once you had the key. But, no power outlets means I'm finishing this blog on my iPad. Imagine, if you will, that this list is bulletted.
As I always submit these snap judgments before the networking reception starts, I guess you'll have to gather it's value from the police blotter. If I'm in there, it was sort of successful, but sort of not. If I'm not in there, then it was sort of successful, but sort of not.
In sum, the event was a success. Lots of good info, great local networking, interesting venue. As always at these sorts of events, I'd love more nuts and bolts, but this just isn't the audience for that.