IBM Innovation – A new bigger palette

My job is now IBM innovation as a SPEED Proof of Concept (POC) CTO. After 22 years a daily focus on SAP products starting with SAP Basis Training in 1993 on R/3 2.1 and making the SAP technology real for clients, I am now part of a team to accelerate IBM innovation. In the 22 years, of which 17 were with IBM’s SAP practice, SAP has done marvelous job of expanding from one black crayon (R/3) to a second blue crayon (BW) and then building up to riot of colored crayons. It was a wonderful journey of learning, great teams, wonderful adventures, many friends, and successful clients.

Now, as a SPEED POC CTO, I have not only crayons but every artistic media possible to help clients’ realize their digital enterprise via innovation. My job will be to pull together every element, those IBM has to offer, those in the market-place including SAP, those that the client possess, and the brain power in IBM to solve client conundrums with innovative capabilities. It is IBM innovation delivered with speed, velocity, and acceleration to empower our clients is critical. It is so critical that SPEED is not an acronym, but the name, the way, and the mode we work – hence an IBM SPEED CTO.

The SPEED POC team has already had some great successes. I hope to bring my knowledge of technology, architecture, cloud, analytics, mobile, social, security (CAMSS) and applications to the team. More importantly I want to bring what my clients have taught me, that cool, new or innovative is not important in of itself. It is only when cool, new and innovative opens new business capability that drives new business does it matter. I have 3 simple rules I follow when working with clients that I will continue to use.

  1. Understand the client’s real problem and why it is important
  2. Clearly, concisely, describe the proposed solution to the client’s problem
  3. Articulate why IBM is the best choice to deliver the solution

There is no doubt that joining the digital enterprise ecosystem is a critical theme (see last blog on S/4 and digital ecosystem) for IBM’s clients. I’m looking forward to helping IBM drive it with SPEED as a SPEED POC CTO.

So this blog will shift away from a SAP-centric focus to an IBM-centric focus on technology, but the technology has only been a portion of the discussion in this blog. I hope you choose to follow. I promise to be just a forthright as before with you. Thanks.

PS: How I got here Career 2.0 @ IBM.

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Here is to SaaS-cess in 2015

Living on your past successes is the road to ruin. Change is inevitable as the sunset. Whether you see it or not, it sets. The tree in the forest falls causing vibration of the air even if you are not there to perceive it as sound. In 2015, you will see the beginning of the end of on-premise software and systems including ERP systems like SAP.

Clients are no longer willing to buy the infrastructure, software, and services to implement business functions. There will always be a special market for special software, but it no longer necessary for core business functions. Even if business pays a few more pennies on the dollar, they want to buy the service directly and more and more vendors have entered the market with realistic scope and depth of function of business services that running very large businesses on SaaS based solution is possible.

It is not a flatline Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) argument. It is all about speed and velocity of change in technology and in business. Whether it is reacting to technology change like “electronic payment” or business conditions like “extremely low cost of oil”, it is necessary to react and react swiftly. SaaS based systems are better able whether it is because the SaaS system you are one rolls out upgrades without sympathy, something the IT department could never get away with, or because you can switch to another SaaS provider due to more standardized interfaces and a more universal user interface (UI) that requires less training. SaaS solutions provide the velocity and agility not found in on-premise solutions.

While the on-premise system looks like a promising TCO as its 5 year cost may be lower than the competing SaaS system, it falls apart when the inevitable change occurs. The on-premise system TCO is based on the idea that the 3 to 5 year roll-out will occur with limited change, but that change always occurs and in half decade it can be dramatic change. In fact change is the only consistent truth you can bet on on.

Next you’ll argue SaaS doesn’t have enough functionality. That is a limited truth for now. It is rapidly changing as the SI’s plunge into the market to fill the gaps with extensions that verticalize each SaaS solution or extend each solution via internal options (using named spaces in the application) or external options such other cloud based systems. It becomes a question of SaaS agility and velocity vs. on-premise optimization; however, optimization fails massively when the conditions of the system that was optimized changes, and again change is inevitable.

The question for each of us to answer is how will SaaS based systems change your job? If you are functional, what is the SaaS based system that will eclipse your on-premise role and skill set. If you are technical hands on, will you work for a SaaS vendor or will you move to area that is still in demand like architecture or network. IT is still in high demand, maybe higher than ever as technology is not just required for business, but the very fabric of business. Everyone who works on business software needs to evaluate your future based on the inevitable change brought by SaaS.

In 2015 software and especially ERP software will evolve due to change. With change, we have the three choices: move, adapt, or die? You can go to part of the world where on-premise is still new, you can learn how SaaS will impact you and update your skills, or you hang on for dear life hoping everyone else changes their way. As for the latter option, I’m not hopeful. Your success in 2015 is by recognizing the shift to SaaS just like knowing the sun has gone down even though you were stuck in the office.

While we are on New Year’s resolutions, do try to get out and see the sunrise or sunset with someone you love just a few times in 2015. Here is to true success for you, your friends, and your loved ones in 2015.

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A quiet sunset Christmas Eve (24 Dec. 2015) over the Cape Coral, FL canals.

We are all Mad Men for our own brand

Every communication you send is an advertisement for you and your own brand.  You are your own Madison Avenue Advertising Agency on the Internet, and maybe without all the smoking, copious alcohol, and other excesses (or not).  You are your own Mad Man.  Your communications accumulates over a life time, and you need be vigilant.  I can still find communications I wrote on listserves (pre-blogs, pre-forums) back in the late 1980’s.  Every recorded communication is a potential public communication since it only takes about 3 clicks to move it from one media site to another (e-mail to FaceBook, twitter to LinkedIn, SMS to WordPress, etc.).  In fact, every twitter is being placed into the Library of Congress (http://read.bi/VX68Iv), so it is in essence etched in stone.

It brings us to 3 simple rules.

  • Rule #1: Never write something you wouldn’t show your mother.
  • Rule #2: Write not to be understood, but to be not misunderstood.
  • Rule #3: Less is more or “be terse and pithy”

Rule #1 does assume your mother is a reasonable well mannered person, but basically it is important to be aware your communications can end up being read by anyone from a 7 year old on the Internet to a pious leader of nations.  You really don’t know the eventual destination, even if you just sent it to one person.  I’m not saying don’t ever be provocative, swear, or even be adult in your communication, but at least make sure it fits.  Using language appropriate to a rowdy bar in a business communication just shows a lack of imagination   Making characters in a rowdy bar sound like Sunday school teachers is stupid.

Simply, make the communication fit the situation and hope you get quoted well enough that someone can understand your choice of language.   I’m also working on being more positive in communication.  Criticism often can get amplified by the reader especially if they don’t know you or don’t know the whole situation.  It is a personal goal of mine this year. I generally use the rule of “if I’m questioning the language, tone, or word, I probably shouldn’t be using it.”

Rule #2 came from my high school English teacher, Mrs. Leslie Bush, and requires discipline and practice to make sure you are not misunderstood.  We all try to write clearly.  We all try get our point across, but sometimes it just gets lost or it can easily be misunderstood.  Understanding how to properly use grammar helps.  Understanding when to use “emotional” words (see rule #1) and the connotation of words is important.

It is very different to say “it was a terrible mess” and to say “it was an abortion”.  Regardless of your political bias, “abortion” is loaded word with lots of connotations that vary based on your own bias.  That is the problem with emotions – no one experiences them the same way.  If you call upon emotions and loaded words, make damn sure it is the impact you want and doesn’t overshadow your message.

Rule #3 of being Terse and Pithy also came from Mrs. Bush.  Thank you Mrs. Bush.  Be direct.  Be succinct.  Finding the right word can be everything.  Use only the words you need, and not one more.  Don’t introduce complexity for complexities sake.  No one will think your smarter because you totally lost them in your complex sentence structure and $40K words.  Hemingway taught us you can write with simple words and in short sentences and it can still become a masterpiece (sorry, I still don’t like or get Old Man and the Sea and I even like fishing).

Rule #3 really is the writing equivalent of Occam’s Razor (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Occam’s_razor) which simply states the simplest answer to the problem is generally (always) the best.  It is something I see most CIO’s and CTO’s trying to apply to all of their worlds.  Much of the SaaS movement is about finding a simple outcome based solution for business problem.  In this case, you should be driving the reader towards the right conclusion by the shortest path possible.

If you follow these 3 rules, at least for more business and technical writing you may find you will: 1) avoid some sticky situations; 2) be able to better communicate in a written format; and, 3) be able to motivate others to see the world from your view.  After, most of the time when we put words on paper, or into the Internet, we are creating an Advertisement to compel others and over time, we are accumulating our own brand.  We are the Mad Men of our own lives.

Next week, I’ll start discussing a more technical topic of “SAP Enterprise Application Strategy in the Era of SAP HANA, Infrastructure, Platforms, Software and Everything as a Service” which I’ll be presenting at SAP Sapphire in Orlando, FL on Wednesday May 15 from 4:15 PM – 5:15 PM.

Watching with pride and envy and gratitude

When I came to IBM, I said one of my aspirations was to help someone reach a Sr. VP in IBM.  I don’t mean promote them, but I mean be part of their path.  We all work in web of influence.  Helping others mature along their paths and achieve to their highest levels is critical.

At the same time, it can mean promoting people to your level or above.  It is impossible to not feel a twinge of jealousy.  For me, I have to acknowledge this, but then move on.  Good news is I think I got close.

My dear friend, colleague, and now Sr. VP Vijay at SAP has made it.  In all honesty, I had very little nothing to do with it.  Maybe an encouraging word or a bit of advice, but it was Vijay’s work ethic, willingness to take chances, and positive bright outlook on life, technology, and people that got him to this level.

It is not anyone, but all of these combined that has brought him success.  At a large client, he took on the latest Netweaver features when everyone including me said they wouldn’t work.  When they didn’t, he didn’t stop.  He just got some help from SAP establishing a relationship with those in SAP and then succeeded.  Later he turned his gregarious nature, sharp mind, and experience into a blog.  At the point he entered the digital public domain, there were very few and no real IBM policy.  Vijay has lead the way.

In the end, I think I gained the most.  I learned to take a more positive attitude and avoid my darker side.  I moved my blogging from inside IBM and inside of SAP, to this forum.  While I don’t expect to gather the response that Vijay’s http://andvijaysays.wordpress.com/ blog gathers, it has been a learning experience for me.

Now that I have a colleague who made it to SVP in SAP; I’ll have to find someone to work with to make SVP in IBM.  And let me challenge you, who are you helping move their career and life forward?  I think you’ll find you get as much, or more than you give.