Friday, August 21, 2009

The TOP-3 impactful IT trends -- or is it really just ONE?

Over the weekend I had to make up my mind which 3 IT trends are most impactful to prepare for a short editorial in a german magazine. The reason I say impactful is that this industry is usually so full of hyped up trends that it sometimes becomes difficult to sort the wheat from the chaff. Impactful means what is really making a dent in the way companies purchase and deploy IT products, as opposed to what are they all talking about. .

So, trying to avoid bias, and instead of wrecking my own brain, I decided to ask the crowd on twitter for some ideas, and within 24h I had a few responses, which are visible inthe comment section below. Although there are only 4 responses (admittedly not exactly a statistically significant sample), the one trend all seem to mention is cloud computing.

Notably absent is the trend around social computing, which I think is as significant as cloud computing.

The combination of these two key waves of change is significant because they have a common underlying cause. The sea change in IT away from scarcity (little of everything: memory, disk, users, locations) to abundance (masses of everything: memory, disk, users, locations). Of course not everything changes from scarcity to abundance. IT resources are continuing to shrink in terms of IT staffing and budget. This, in my personal opinion, is forcing the third mega trend: Simplification

So, what do we have now:

(1) Cloud computing (incl. virtualization, anything-as-a-service, on demand, etc.)
(2) Social computing (incl. social media, web and enterprise 2.0, collaboration, mobile, etc.)
(3) Simple computing (incl. any data everywhere all the time, better user interfaces, etc.)

If one had to combine these 3 trends into a single term one might chose CROWD COMPUTING,
defined as an approach that leverages the abundance of memory, disk, users and locations while keeping cost and compexity to a minimum to make this approach truly sustainable for the masses.

Can one make a prediction based on this? Probably not. But, if you have read Taleb's "Black Swan" you probably agree that our ability to predict things is invesely proportional to our desire to do so. So I will refrain from any predictions and keep with Yogi Berra who said:

"Predictions are hard, especially when they are about the future"
"The future ain't what it used to be"

So, while I am not trying to make any predictions, I think one can safely assume that the speed of change will continue to increase and it will be ever more impossible to accurately predict what will happen in the world of IT. However, one thing seems to be clear. If the trends of Cloud, Social and Simple computing truly converge into a sea change around CROWD COMPUTING, any enterprise software that is not quickly moving in this direction right now is faced with a severe challenge.

What do you think about CROWD COMPUTING?


Friday, July 17, 2009

Timeless Software

I just recently got assigned as the marketing lead for the Office of the CTO at SAP.

One of the things I am working on is to take the concept of Timeless Software (that our CTO Vishal Sikka has been talking about for quite some time), and find out how the concept is being received by the various constituents and target groups, take in their feedback, and improve the communication around it.

It's a fun assignment. You talk to 10 people about it, and you get 11 opinions. But the interesting thing is, everyone seems to have an opinion. Timeless Software seems to resonate at a fundamental level as something that "sounds right". But there is still quite a journey ahead to not only validate the concept, but to fine tune the message around it to the various target groups.

It's still early days in the project. I will have to talk to a lot of people to really get a good understanding of the different interpretations of timeless software. But one thing has already become clear, even though the names and labels might still change a bit over time.

Applying the newest technologies to make software better in order to support business change management - without disrupting the business operation - is the right idea for enterprise software. Timeless software is what customers expect. And it is not something that can ever be done perfectly, or be 100% complete. It's more of a set of attributes and quality characteristics every piece of software should be scrutinized against. Given the fact that we have thousands of customers who have run our software for decades, the fact that we have completed the enterprise SOA roadmap, that we have pioneered the switch framework for selective activation of functionality in our enhancement packages are all in evidence that we're well under way. And the new push under the label of timeless software will move this along even more quickly in the direction on software innovation on a stable core without business disruption.

So. That's what I think the concept of timeless software is all about. What do you think?

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Cloud computing ... de-geeked (work in progress)

Yesterday I started a little challenge on twitter to see if we can come up with a non-geek definition of Cloud Computing in 140 characters or less. 
I am posting the responses here in the order received and will update as more definitions are coming in. 

I look forward your your comments on this one.

Cloud Computing is ... 
@jonerp (John Reed)
Is *supposed* to make life easier by using the Internet to help me do things my own computer would choke on.

@timbo2002 (Tim Sheedy)
(1) IT Vendor and analyst hype designed to further alienate IT from the business. How's that?
(2) Your business as a service

In cloud computing you login to the program you want, which is hosted elsewhere, for a monthly or quarterly fee.

"What's cloud computing? That's exactly the point -- you don't need to care. It just works, wherever you are"

@mgd  (mark dixon)
(1) Cloud computing provides application, database, platform, storage, and computing services in a virtualized utility to enable agile business.
(2) Using computing services on demand, on a pay-as-you-go basis, like I buy electricity from my power utility.

Darren Crowder
A cost effective hosted platform that provisions business software capabilities on demand e.g. like electricity or water

Christian Büngener
Services and applications that are hosted on and accessed through the Internet

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Face off ! Facebook gets its fan base miffed .. a bit

Facebook decides to change its terms of service. Fair enough. 
Some people get wind of it and start a protest group. Fair enough also. (Thanks Anne)

And that group grew from nothing to more than 36,000 protesters almost over night. Sounds like phenomenal growth, but compared to the 175 million accounts on FaceBook, this is actually very little. 

Or is it? Maybe size does not matter? What's really at stake here? 

Let's see... Granted, FaceBook needs to have the right to do things with (y)our/their content, otherwise there would be no sharing, no forwarding, no collaboration.  No fun, in other words. 
And I don't think most people really mind that social media platforms have the right to manipulate and distribute the content we all contribute so willingly. And I think we all know, once we put our content into the public domain, it's pretty much "out there" for anyone to look at, copy and distribute. Fair enough. 

Given the assumption, however, that most of the 175 million people on FaceBook have little or no clue about the risks to their privacy and intellectual property rights, the problem is about the need to create transparency.  

That's why I like the initiative and jumped right in when I found out about the protest group.
- This is not about protesting against FaceBook
- This is not about pointing out another flaw in the emerging world of Social Media.
- This is also not about whining, because FaceBook changed the terms of service.

It's about creating awareness. It's about a call to action to all Social Media platforms to follow 5 simple rules to keep us all on facebook, twitter, myspace, blogger or any other platform for that matter. 

- Be very clear up front about what you intend to do with the content we contribute
- Give us a way to opt out easily if we don't like to play according to your rules 
- Allow some discussion before you actually change your Terms of Service
- Notify your clients before you're making a change
- Keep educating your clients on these issues, we are all learning here.

These should be the common rules of courtesy we can all subscribe to, and they are no so different from what we all commit to when we borrow a book from the library. And it's also important for enterprise software companies who depend more and more to tie the worlds of collaborative innovation into their standard processes. 

So. Dear social media platforms. It is important we address these issues in a open and proactive format. We are your platform. And we are willing to help. You know how to reach us. 

User contibuted content, co-innovation in communities, and collaborative development of new products and services are a key engine to innovation.  In this economic climate let's not screw that up, please?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

SAPPHIRE reloaded ... What do you want to experience?

2009 will mark the death of events .. events as we know it, I mean. 

A lot of people/companies will not spend the money to travel to some random location, just to consume the content they can download afterwards, or see keynote speakers from 100 yards out. And with the advent of social media, telepresence, and many other ways to engage with vendors in a relevant and specific way, the whole business of events as we know it will change. Has to change. I think it's about time, and the economic downturn is only accellerating the inevitable. Or so lots of people say.


Yet, there is still a lot of a value to taking the annual pilgrimage to the BIG event, watch the keynotes "live", see the big acts on stage at the post-show party, meet a lot of your peers and the experts etc. However, the question remains, now more than ever, are our customers really getting the most out of these happenings, with hundreds and hundreds of booths competing for attention, with speech after speech, and with meeting after meeting, until you are so tired you really really want that party and the free drinks. Is there another way? Yes there is. 

This years SAPPHIRE needed to be different, and will be different.  

SAP like every other company in this business is rethinking the whole concept of "events", and is taking a step back to look at how people want to consume information, and to make a trip to this event even more worth while. As one of the content strategy leads for the CIO village at this years SAPPHIRE, I have decided to try to tap into the wisom of the crowds to make this part of the show the best it can be.

So. The listening has started. What would you like to see at SAPPHIRE '09? And how do you want to consume this information moving forward? 



Saturday, February 7, 2009

What you blog is who you are (WYBIWYA)? Identity Crisis Looming?

I still remember when Desktop Publishing swept away "typesetting" studios like a technology tsunami in the 80's. "What you see is what you get" became the marketing battlecry of a new generation of technology evangelists, touting Mac's and 300 dpi Laserprinters as if they had invented the anti-gravity belt and the cure to the common cold.

20++ years have passed, and now we are very deep in a new publishing tsunami, that has put several million people in the global content creation business. Not that everthing that's facebooked or tweeted has great value, but it certainly creates a digital footprint that presents both opportunity and risk. Opportunity since 1:1 online marketing will be able to shift into a completely new level of accuracy in the next 10 years, and consumers will enjoy the benefits of "target" marketing that evolves beyond hyperannoying spam into "permission selling". Maybe. Hopefully.

Risk, because the majority of people really have no idea how much of their personal details they are willingly, and maybe overly naively exposing to "identity bandits" in the waste lands of online crime.

I don't want to make this more dramatic than necessary, but I see details on the Web that I don't even know about people whose homes I visit on regular basis, and who I have known for decades. Why don't we just post our social security numbers, bank accounts, mother's maiden names including our password list in to the cloud and be done with it?

Ok. Sarcasm aside. There is, like I said, a real opportunity. What you blog is who you are, and I will continue to be out there in the blogosphere. I will also continue to try to educate and warn about the Über-exposure to private details this opportunity presents.

Enterprise Software vendors are called upon to both offer their expertise in this space, and to rapidly learn about the new challenges of an emergent digital identity footprint that is vastly different than what we have learned from enterprise software in the past 5 decades. Companies like SAP, IBM and others have for many decades successfully dealt with securing the identities and assets of millons users ... but this is a new world out there ... and new ideas are urgently necessary.

I look forward to hearing your views and ideas about identity management in this new frontier

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The dawn of social software --- maybe -- hopefully

Last year I finally dipped a toe into the the Social Media ocean and got pulled in very quickly and deeply. And I am not alone, more and more people I know are finally overcoming their resistance and are establishing a rudimentary presence on twitter &  facebook and are even beginning to blog.

I believe we are seeing the end of the "early adopter" phase of Social Media, and are now ready to enter the "bowling alley". (Forgive me for applying the Geoffrey Moore "crossing the chasm" methodology to this area.)

Seeing that more than 30,000 people were watching the SAP Business Suite 7 Launch on Twitter, makes me think the Marketing and Public Relations Industry might be one of the bowling pin segments for turning the corner from the experimental stage of Social Media to the more commercial phase. In addition, the cost cutting and travel restrictions of the current economic lull might lead to enough "pain" and therefore critical mass to herald the dawn of what I would dub "social software".

I would define social software as a mashup between the social media tools that are emerging by the truckload every day (just think of the tool-cloud around twitter as an example) and the "established applications" that still dominate the work place. 

The worlds of collaboration and process management are begging to be brought together. Most people I know are still bogged down with fighting the email hydra one mail at a time, realizing that, the more they deal with their mail box, the more they are getting overwhelmed by it. Communication and collaboration does not happen one mail at a time. Also, most fellow occupants of dilbert-space I know are still working in a very "waterfall" oriented process, taking weeks or months to crank out a deliverable, only to find out it has become obsolete during the production process, because they did not engage early enough with the target community to get feedback.

Granted. The tools are there. The Instant messengers. The Twitters. The Facebooks. The Nings. But there is still a great divide between the "professional" software world, and what you do in your "private" software environment. And until there is a robust offering that brings both worlds together, corporate IT will still watch this space with a great deal of resistance. 

Social Software could fix that. Social Software would mash up your "personal network applications" with your office applications. With the right context, persistence and security, and great integration with relevant back office processes and applications like your customer relationship software. 

Today, the gap between office software and community software is still miles wide. Social software would be very welcome by many, especially the early adopters, but I have yet to see someone emerge with a clear vision on how to bring these two worlds together. Maybe SAP with its Duet and Alloy products, mashing up the worlds of MS-Office or Lotus Notes with end to end business processes is an important first step. 

Maybe the next step would be for facebook and SAP to collaborate to create "bizbook?", and take the social media revolution to the next level?

Your thoughts?



Friday, January 30, 2009

The Two Sides of SOA ... take a look at the flip side

A lot of folks still think SAP is falling behind in the SOA space, especially after reading media that paint a limited view. For example, Informationweek online in Germany recently only referenced one Gartner Report, in which SAP was shown as lagging behind IBM, Oracle and Microsoft.

»Magic Quadrant for Application Infrastructure for New Systematic SOA Application Projects«.

In this study, SAP only falls into the "niche" quadrant, which lead to a lot of commentary in the past several weeks.

However, if you look more carefully, you'll see that this report only refers to situations where companies are building up their SOA infrastructure "from scratch". Honestly, this is neither the area SAP is targetting, nor does it sound like a good idea to proceed with this course of action when you have an existing application landscape in place that is already SOA-enabled.

This is where SAP is focused. Delivering a SOA-enabled set of end to end industry processes, that can act as your business process platform, to allow rapid development of composite applications. In this space, the situation is quite different, according to this report, also from Gartner.
»Magic Quadrant for Application Infrastructure for SOA Composite Application Projects«.

SOA has two sides, and this year the difference will become more clear.
- The "build from scratch side". (Have fun programming business logic)
- The "leverage a SOA-enabled application platform for rapid composition side"

The choice should be easy to make based on your requirements. But I think we also still have a steep hill to climb to explain this story to all of our customers, especially since it the SOA-hype has subsided and there is very little "innovation buzz" around concepts like "use what you have".

These days, however, my reaction would be "Sounds good to me" ...

What do you think?

Thursday, January 29, 2009

SOA has arrived ... now what?

These days, it has become a bit more quiet around the topic of SOA.

This is very good news. It means, that it has arrived, and people are now taking advantage of service oriented architectures, as opposed to experimenting with it, or debating it. This is a very normal process and the same happened to other hype topics in the past.

Now what? Should we just move on to the next topic "de jour", the next 3- or 4-letter acronym to hype up, and forget about SOA?

I think not.

I think in the next 2 years, especially with the brutal pragmatism imposed all of us in IT by the global economic crisis, it is more important than ever to speak about service orientation. Forget for a minute about the architecture, and focus on where the whole concept came from in the first place.

Service oriented.

For me that implies looking at the business first, at the value your business provides, and how the applications you are running are supporting that value. Once you have clarity around that, you can reap the benefits of service oriented architectures.

If you just talk about SOA, business people will just roll up their eyes, as opposed to their sleeves, and you will not get funding for a project.

I think Software as a Service, On-Demand and cloud computing are the killer application for SOA, and will truly help us along on our joint journey to Software AT your service.

But we all need to talk less about SOA (technology) and more about business services and business value to succeed in making technology more relevant, and significant to any business.

Thats my call to action and new years resolution, what is your's?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

2009 is the year to get into the cloud .. but not head first

If you listen to the pundits, and I really try to do that as many times as I can, 2009 will be a year of transformation for the enterprise software market. The large incumbents like IBM, Oracle, MicroSoft and SAP are slated to gain share of wallet, there is going to be a consolidation of the "stack" (StackWars), and the emerging concepts around Software-as-a-Service, Cloud Computing and Virtualization are predicted to gain traction.

So far so good. Ho Hum. Any real news here?

I think 2009 is the year to get into the cloud ... but, like I mention in the header, not head first.
Cloud computing to many sounds like a renaissance of mainframes and time share, especially when you combine it with the benefits of virtualization and Software-as-a-Service consumption model.

The real breakthrough benefit, however, is not delivered by where the software is running. Or by how it is being consumed. I believe the transformational power of this concept is rooted in where it has its source.

The source of the powerful appeal of cloud computing is not the concept of taking existing enterprise software and "sticking it" into the cloud. This will not work, especially in the case of highly customized, industry specific enterprise software, where there are just too many issues around integrity, elasticity and availability to be a real alternative to the current on premise model.

The source of the powerful appeal of cloud computing is the way software will be developed for the cloud ... by combining it with the "wisdom of the crowds" approach of social media. I believe "Cloud-Ready" software will evolve more organically than the software produced in the classic prescriptive programming models of the last century. There will be trial and error, and many many feedback loops. There will be collaborative innovation, and incremental break throughs. There will be customization on the fly and there will be mashups at the personal level, to really make the software fit your pesonal style. And there will be powerful integration with the existing software, already running in the enterprise. And, as I postulated in my last post, there will be a continuation of Middleware, in the guise of Service-Ware, or Process-Ware, that will not run in the "middle" of anything, but "around" everything to deliver governance, integrity, consistency and transformation.

That, in my mind, is the appeal of cloud computing.

The Cloud, like so many concepts in the past, will not replace anything in computing, but add a new, exiting, much more fun dimension to enterprise software.

That's my 10 cents for today (P.S. 10 cents vs. 5 cents because of inflation)


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Is Middleware a concept of the last millennium?

I would like to kick off my blog with a question.

As software evolves to an online consumption model, is Middleware a concept of the last millennium and will be replaced by an "integration as a service" model? And if yes, by when?

To this point, this does not seem the case, especially in enterprise software. In the enterprise software space, it becomes ever more important to ensure process integrity not just inside the walls of the enterprise, but across the entire value chain. And that "chain" evolves more and more into a true collaborative network, with rapidly changing endpoints and governance models.

But maybe the concepts of Middleware have to be re-thought?

Maybe its no longer about something that sits in the "middle", but something that "surrounds" the processes and provides services to deliver integrity & governance, transport & translation and more.

Maybe Middleware is dead. Maybe this is the age of ServiceWare? ProcessWare?

I look forward to your thoughts and comments on this