“Ten years ago, Salesforce had a vision that customers and developers could package and sell apps on top of the Salesforce platform. The vision was huge — and the task immense. And what’s emerged 10 years later is a first-of-its-kind marketplace geared to help companies find everything they need to run their businesses in the cloud. A marketplace of apps that helps companies focus on their customers so they can grow faster and be successful. Today, 85% of Fortune 100 companies are using at least once AppExchange app to connect with their customers in entirely new ways.”
Infor hosted its annual innovation summit at its HQ in New York, and while there were plenty of Powerpoint slides across the day and a half (and I will post my thoughts on Deal Architect) that accented Infor’s wide portfolio of industry solutions and customers, I allowed my mind to drift every so often and enjoy the diverse aesthetics of the event
Celebration of Design and Color
It helps to have a captive design agency, and it shows in the stunning interior of the HQ as I have blogged here before. SL Green Realty Corp is making significant improvements to the outside - to restore the façade of the historic building and to build a bocce court on the rooftop.
The breakfast bar the in-house chef served led me to text my wife photos – she would have devoured the fruit selection. I took time to enjoy the burst of colors.
Celebration of Music
From the antique cello in the executive area and the breakout sessions in the huddle rooms named after music greats, to the jazz music (with pianist Eric Lewis) the guests enjoyed over dessert and coffee at the Southgate at the Marriott Essex House, music always seemed to be in the air
Celebration of People
Charles Phillips (CEO), Duncan Angove (co-President), Pam Murphy (COO) and Riaz Raihan (Chief Solutions Officer) were a small subset of the execs who presented and their early education at USAF Academy, U. of London (UK), U of Cork (Ireland) and S.P. Jain (Mumbai, India) reflects the diversity of talent Charles has pulled together.
Ziad Neimeldeen, Chief Scientist shared a slide on the types of skills at Infor's Dynamic Science Labs near MIT in Cambridge, MA.
I was impressed at the wide range of analysts, bloggers and journalists Infor invited to the event - below is a quarter of the list on the stunning two story digital display that dominates the lobby.
Thanks to the analyst relations team at Infor for a thoughtful agenda that allowed us to enjoy a feast for many of our senses.
I have written a longer blog post about Inforum last week here. But in the days since, I have been thinking about the skillsets Dr. Ziad Nejmeldeen, Chief Scientist at Infor, talked about at the Dynamic Science Lab he leads with several MIT alum. The graph below describes some of the science they bring in their backgrounds.
Infor's captive design agency, Hook + Loop on the other hand now has over a hundred “creative” staff with credentials such as Pulitzer Prize winner for Infographics, Digital Effects Editor of the movie The Avenger and fashion designer for Kenneth Cole.
Charles Phillips CEO, spent a significant portion of his talk on Amazon Web Services, the “super computer” they leverage for scaling cloud computing. Another different set of infrastructure skills.
It’s a long way from the engineering, sales and support staff that most ERP vendors have traditionally recruited.
The holy grail in enterprise software is to make functionality as intuitive as that a new user finds when they go to a site like Amazon. There is no help desk, no consultant to help you navigate that site.
We are still a long ways from that but a couple of weeks ago, SYSPRO showed me a series of short, online tutorials which get us closer to that reality. Here is one on a feature in the upcoming version 7 – starts around 0.27 and lasts only 2 minutes.
I have written before about the massive Hadron Collider at CERN and more recently about the Higgs Particle excitement there. So, when my friends at Infor told me their Asset Management software helps with that complex, I had all kinds of questions.
Works Management describes the scope of the challenge below. Complex is the appropriate word.
“With more than one million pieces of equipment to manage, in addition to its internal personnel, CERN uses about 50 external service providers, with a range of service agreements, including fixed-fee contracts, performance-based contracts, task and component based agreements etc. Hence, says Martel, the requirement for a flexible management system, so that every equipment item and maintenance task can be traced – so helping to anticipate malfunctions and maintain uptime for CERN's scientific research programmes.
Today, a large part of CERN's infrastructure maintenance activities, such as caretaking, roads, heating and cooling, security etc, as well as part of its scientific instrumentation activity, are managed using Infor10 EAM, he says. The system generates more than 180,000 work orders per year, schedules preventative maintenance tasks, provides stock control functionality and organises maintenance and inspection programmes. For the scientific instruments, a manufacturing control system has also been set up. With about 200,000 in-scope equipment items identified, Infor10 EAM has become the heart of this system. “
Not quite an elevator pitch, but an attempt to explain all of SAP in less than 10 minutes (wow) by Sanjay Poonen, President Global Solutions and Go-to-Market, SAP. It is inspired as he says by the videos that the Khan Academy has pioneered. The Academy has a library of over 2,400 videos covering everything from arithmetic to physics, finance, and history.
"Digital body language is an art and science that revolves around detecting and understanding prospective buyers' signals and intentions to better communicate with them. The transition that began a decade ago with the arrival of the Internet and its many new sources of information, will require a significant rethinking on the part of marketers, sales professionals, and the organizations they serve."
Steve Woods of eloqua summarizing themese from his recent book on sandhill.com
...I would join a SAP customer and lobby to become part of the SAP
Imagineering Fellowship program. SAP experimented with the program last year
and is in the process of expanding to a handful of newer customers.
I say that after I spent another hour with Denis Browne heads that group for
SAP. I had
lunch with him a few weeks before. This time we appropriately in a
"virtual meeting" (using Adobe's Connect)
and he gave me a 50,000 foot view on some of the projects his group is working
Widgets which allow for much more graphical presentation of enterprise CRM
and other data
Presentation of external RSS and other feeds alongside internal enterprise
"Mirror worlds" which link virtual and physical models via SAP's
configurator and other functionality
Enterprise Knowledge Networking - "Facebook" in a corporate setting
"The Business Internet" - leveraging RFID and other sensors in the
A crowd-sourced "Idea marketplace" to allow for prioritization of ideas for
As Dan Farber wrote last year, none of this is really that revolutionary and I have been impatient with SAP's rate of innovation - but as Denis likes to frequently point out, SAP is the custodian in which thousands of customers put faith, so any innovation has to be filtered with that caution. Which brings us back to the Fellowship program. One way to make customers more comfortable is to have them second employees.
Denis invited me to come to his his lab at Palo Alto for a hands-on visit . When I go, I will try and sneak around to see if they have "Back
to the Future" technology there which can turn my age back to 25:)
A few years ago, doing some research on telemetry, I came across a book on RFID. The author's name sounded familiar. Sure enough when I checked, it was Claus Heinrich, a SAP Executive I dealt with while at Gartner. He was always on the front lines of supply chain management in the mid-90s and so I was not surprised to see him summarize numerous RFID implementations at a number of SAP (and other) customers.
SAP is not a consulting firm and does not actively encourage its executives to write books or articles on innovation, but if it did you would see plenty of examples of pioneering work SAP does in a number of areas.
Instead, most of SAP's publicity in the last few years has been around big, broad innovation areas - like NetWeaver, SOA and its SDN community. And more recently around its SaaS offering, BusinessByDesign and its Business Objects acquisition.
So, in the meantime what SAP Research is doing around wearable technology does not get much play. Ditto with what it is doing in virtualization with VMWare. Or with SPSS around predictive analytics. Or with iPhone support. Or XApps for Mobile Business. In fact, if you look at the innovation categories I track on this blog, SAP is pioneering early work in just about every category.
Even more importantly, its customers are developing innovative extensions around the SAP engine in various verticals. Or are early, joint development "co-innovators" in a number of new areas.
3M became known as an innovation leader because of its ability to unleash hundreds of products, not all successful. Same with Google.
You get the feeling if the initiative is not big and bold, SAP's "aw shucks" about it. And yet it cringes when its big, core projects run long and over budget. As they do often.
If you see my MAGIC definition of innovation, it is about early, alpha technology. It is about intense, small projects. It is about being open to ideas from global pools of talent around the world. It is about tangible business process results.
What SAP needs is an innovation in its own positioning. It needs to move to positioning its "swarm" of innovations, not just one or two big ones every few years. Unleash the work of hundreds of Claus-es. Even better showcase what its customers are doing in those hundreds of points of innovation.