Monday, December 28, 2009

More Advice for CEO's

Last week, I shared some advice for CEO's as gleaned from colleagues at Enterprise Irregulars. A few more chimed in this week, and I thought I'd share some more advice to enterprise software industry CEO's.

Greg Gianforte
  • Fix your messaging finally. It's been a problem way too long. Everything else is getting to be so right.

John Chambers
  • Get serious about SaaS. It sells more routers.
  • Explain to us again why you are going after HP's far lower margin server business and pissing a bull off which is 3 times your size?

Larry Ellison
  • Give it up on the cloud already. You know you need it and so many of your execs and customers love it.
  • Be a better partner or be ganged up on.
Leo Apotheker
  • Choose your co-CEO now.
  • Get your message straight. You're not an "in memory, end to end process, SaaS and Cloud hybrid model committed, whatever else you think you are" company. You're an enterprise solutions provider with more innovation than you ever let on. Let people know that. There's nothing to be ashamed of and its still "hip."
Marc Benioff
  • Love you, keep up the innovation, but stop interrupting your partners and customers onstage. Looks REALLY bad. AND show up ontime to your keynotes. The attendees' time is valuable too. Plus Service Cloud 2, Sales Cloud 2, Custom Cloud 2 and Chatter aren't 4 "clouds." Finally, please, keep growing your philanthropy. That's our view into your real heart - and it does SO much good for so many.
Mark Hurd
  • Time to leave. You're killing HP.

Randall Stephenson

  • The Fake Steve Jobs only threatened. The real Steve Jobs will fly over and smash your face with a rock if you keep trying to "incentize" iPhone customers to use less of your network.
Sam Palmisano
  • AARP will honor you this year for being most committed to technology elders. Your data centers, Lotus, Tivoli and other software portfolio, and your average SAP consultant all are the oldest in the business.
Steve Ballmer
  • I don't know what to make of you or your company anymore. That's not a good thing. Figure out what it takes to get your customers and folks like us to make SOMETHING of you.
Zach Nelson
  • Keep fixing customer service. Lay off the stupid anti-SAP campaign. Its neither clever, cute, nor wins you anything. You've got a good thing going with your product now. Get in alignment with that. Keep integrating social features as you are doing now. Way to go.
More great advice there from some really smart, experienced people. If you have any to add, just put in your comment below or at Thanks!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Advice for CEOs

I feel very honored to be a member of the Enterprise Irregulars group - a very plugged group of people, with lots of hands-on knowledge and experience. I asked them what advice they'd like to give to enterprise solutions company CEO's, and I got the following fascinating list of suggestions.

Carol Bartz
  • Ya gotta know when to fold 'em, sometimes even the best poker players come up with a deuce/three offsuit.

Dave Duffield

  • Keep control. No more "got the moves" CEOs.

Eric Schmidt
  • Don't lose your newfound cash flow and cost cutting religion just because the needle is moving up and to the right again.
  • Enjoy. Really. Cut some costs if you can. Its all good.
  • Experiments are fun, but you are a one trick pony and don't have the same power to monopolize that market the way Microsoft did. Ad-supported revenue will die, so cannibalize yourself and diversify with meaningful revenue streams before someone else does it for you.

Jeff Bezos
  • Have a chat with Larry & Bill. See who wants to find the next greatest CEO for their company. Spin out retail under Zappos guy or someone else. And go be a computer industry God by continuing to simultaneously kick some serious butt - you are the only one who can take on Google (see Google Products & Checkout) and Apple (see music/books/devices) and stand your ground.
  • Keep on keepin on, no one does it better.
  • Love what you're doing with cloud computing, but 2010 might be the year to spin it off and let it go its own way.

John Chambers
  • Pay a dividend, recognize you're an awesome cash flow machine that's only going to grow via acquisitions.
  • You got game - keep delivering on Telepresence and revolutionalize the data center.

Karl and Pam Lopker
  • Talk to Vivek and follow the same advice.

Larry Ellison
  • IBM's multi-billion dollar mainframe business is ripe for the plucking with some juicy margins. Sell non-core Sun businesses, and do your magic. Your stock will be $30 before end of next year.
  • There's blood in the water, don't let up and keep pressing.
  • Your consolidation call was timely, and unbelievably effectively done, but 2010 is the year to take Oracle back to a path of innovation. Stop focusing so much on cost-cutting, and unleash some entrepreneurialism within Oracle to drive it to a $300B market cap.

Lars Dalgaard
  • While you still can, and the Street hasn't figured you out, use your ridiculously lofty valuation and goodwill to acquire the technology edge you don't have but many think you do.

Leo Apotheker
  • Take solace in the fact you got a chance to be CEO, most don't.
  • SAP could be a platform for business efficiency - think about providing services that are not software-oriented in 2010. How about doing (across multiple SAP customers) supplier scoring, credit rating, and other benchmarking offerings?

Marc Benioff
  • Religion only takes you so far, sell to Oracle now while you can.
  • Keep it up - you're doing great!

Mark Hurd
  • Call it a career, before HP starts trying to win (and fails) against the big boys. Oracle still has the valuation and capital to make it happen.

Sam Palmisano
  • Buy SAP while people still think it's a premium asset.

Steve Ballmer
  • Hire Jeff Bezos as your replacement by acquiring AWS for a ridiculous sum.
  • Keep up your fiscal discipline, break the company apart, and DON'T go acquisition crazy
  • Time to retire.

Steve Jobs
  • Keep those doctors on retainer, at least until the tablet revolutionizes home entertainment a la the iPhone has done with mobile computing.

Steve Singh
  • Keep it up, you've got the magic and don't need to sell.and don't be afraid of an aggressive acquisition spree.

Vivek Randive
  • If you get a legit offer, don't be too proud, sell and move on.

Zach Nelson
  • The sooner you're honest with yourself about what your company is and can be, the sooner the market will treat you with a modicum of respect.

Lots of great advice there from some really smart, experienced people. If you have any to add, just put in your comment below or at Thanks!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Initial review of

Overview of

SAP recently invited me (after I pestered a few people over there!) to join in the beta program for a new product/service called "" According to the company, "12sprints is software as a service (SaaS) application that brings together people, business information, and analysis or decision techniques with the applications you use today to drive better decisions, meaningful outcomes and
increased productivity." Basically, is an online collaboration space, hosting a few tools related to meetings, planning, and decisions. is a project from the Business Objects group at SAP, and seems to be related to a concept SAP previously called "Bridge Space." Bridge Space was a concept demo a couple of years back at SAP to promote immersive meetings, collaborative decision making tools, linking applications and data into planning and decision-making processes, and just generally making decisions more transparent, collaborative, process-oriented, data-driv
en, and actionable. brings some of this vision into being. This is not SAP GUI, the feeble NetWeaver collaboration tool attempts, or transaction code /ME21N. This is SAP being driven by new thinking and leadership out of the Business Objects team, and rethinking the business of SAP.

This blog entry is a brief review of after just a few hours of use. A tool like this really requires real-world use for an optimally useful evaluation, but I don't have an appropriate use case right now, so this more speculative review is all I can do at this point. I'd like to thank SAP for allowing me to blog about my experiences, though I have to take off a few kudo-points for being barred from using screen shots in my review. Regardless of this policy, based on my use, I'd give a solid B-minus (and I don't grade on a ridiculously inflated scale like that used recently on the Oprah show). This is a very good effort right out of the gate for the service offering. I'm extremely encouraged by SAP releasing this service in the way they did, which I believe is a first for the company - a very transparent, semi-public beta, where all users can see each others' comments, and where the community is clearly driving the future. If the product came with a significantly larger set of decision-making tools and templates, and if there were some clear link in back to SAP's bread-and-butter products, then I would be looking at a solid B+ (or higher!) grade.

Getting Started

Getting started with was pretty easy. I just followed the simple instructions in the e-mail invitation, and I was online in moments. The e-mail came with some suggestions on how to use the product, and the product offered a good deal of usability in helping me become familiar with the product. Interestingly, the welcome e-mail also solicits feedback from users in exchange for a chance to win one of several prizes. Not your grandma's SAP, for sure.

It's a good thing the product is very easy to use, because help is very sp
arse to non-existent for much of the product. While a social tools user would have no trouble picking up the basic use of, a less savvy user will struggle, and even a very experienced social tools user will almost certainly miss much of the capabilities of due to lack of instructions, tutorials, examples, and help.

In many ways, this tool reminded me of Google Wave. You type a comment in, and another user sees it right away. You can see who's online, what they're adding to the discussion, and can add things like Google Wave bots. Google Wave is also meant to be a new style of collaboration tool, like has decent usability, with tools like hints that come back every time you do, until and unless you permanently dismiss them (novice mode). Another capability I liked was what I call the "briefing book," which shows an event trail of what happened in an activity since the user's last participation there. The tools provided for collaboration, decision making, assignment of tasks, sentiment management, etc. were nicely laid out, performant, and stable in my use.

Another way reminds me of Google Wave is that the system is extensible by developers. includes a RESTful API for extensions, which allows developers to build additional UIs for users, or to populate content from an application rather than just manually. It seems like basically anything a user can do from the UI, an application can do via the API.

Developers can also extend the system with new "business methods." Business methods are mechanisms used in the environment, such as a new visualization or new tool (e.g., MindMaps, chat, RSS/Atom feed, etc.). There are a good many business methods already included in the tool without any additional development. Ideas for new business methods can come from beta users or SAP, and can be implemented by beta users or SAP. As of 12/20/09, SAP had received 211 ideas (not just for new business methods) from the community, of which 150 have been accepted into the backlog (81 still pending), and 69 have already been implemented. Some examples of ideas implemented that came from beta user suggestions include the ability to upload an Excel file and turn it into a table, add pending "to do" items to the users' home pages, support attachments and links on comments, and a whole slew of usability items.


Sadly, another way the system reminded me of Google Wave was that it just didn't "click" for me the way e-mail, twitter, texting, Facebook, LinkedIn, and my Motorola Droid did. The system seems to be a solution in search for a problem. Why would I use this system, I kept asking myself. I think I would use this system if it were a collaboration tool attached to a business process in SAP, or a report in Business Objects. If there were business methods for retrieving data from Business Objects, or running an SAP transaction, then this would probably be a useful tool for an SAP user. I could imagine using a tool like this to allocate raises and bonuses, manage a discussion around invoice verification and approval (or rejection!), strategic sourcing decisions, or next year's budget, but only if it really worked dramatically better for me than the tools I already know how to use - e-mail, word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation tools.

In the end, seems like a good tool for planning and capturing meetings, and supporting collaborative planning and decisions. To really get the value out of this tool would seem to require a good deal of discipline. Just as a reminder, I only played with the tool a little, I didn't really get a chance to use the tool "in anger." Using the tool in a real corporate setting would almost certainly have resulted in more insight about the tool, and it is quite possible that I would be its biggest fan if I used it in that setting. But after playing with for a couple of hours, I have to wonder whether - if you had enough discipline for the tool to be of use to you, would you still need the tool?


There is a lot to like about With this service, SAP is showing a refreshing openness, and a willingness to rethink "what business are we in?" It's almost certain (in my opinion, though I have no data to back this up other than my hunch and the product description) that SAP will be connecting "
with the applications you use today" such as Business Objects analytics and reports, and SAP Business Suite transactions. Such a combination would create a powerful combination of business process and collaboration, which I believe would be the real birth of Enterprise 2.0, also attempted by Oracle with BeeHive and the social capabilities of the upcoming Fusion Apps. It will be interesting to see where takes SAP in the future, and vice versa.