Friday, December 21, 2007

TYTW—The Year That Was—Festivus for the Restofus Edition…

Well campers, as we come to the end of our posting year for 2007, we wanted to take a minute to thank you for your support, comments, and encouragement in helping us get started on this little venture. When we began blogging The Performance Guys earlier this year we couldn’t even get our families to read the thing, let alone anyone of any importance; and now there are thousands of you visiting the site every month, something that we’re frankly still a bit mystified by (Ed. note—maybe it’s a Festivus Miracle!)

In any case, we will dispense with any airing of grievances, and instead wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday Season! Here’s to a great 2008, where we resolve to try to use this blog for good, not evil; write and act closer to our age, and continue on our quest for the holy grail of BI and performance management that we’re sure exists somewhere…

We’ll see you in January, 2008!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Tis the Season to be Mobile

There’s no doubt PDAs will be popular stocking stuffer this year, whether it’s the new iPhone, Blackberry, or Windows Smart Phone, there’s something out there for everyone. The mobile market has always been read hot but when I read a recent article about RIMs Q3 earnings announce that more than doubled, I couldn’t help but write a post about the growth of mobile and the relevance to mobile BI.

BI vendors have been waiting for years for this egg to hatch, bringing the power of business intelligence directly to the users mobile devices has been a strong area of interest for quite some time now. Just take a look at where some of the BI players are at with their mobile strategy, read about the Business Objects mobile strategy, and how they are making BI available on any mobile device. Cognos 8 goes mobile as well extending the value of the Cognos 8 Business Intelligence architecture by providing users with access to timely, secure, and personalized information on their BlackBerry® wireless devices. Microsoft is also in the mobile BI game and is actually one vendor who has an interest in both the BI and the mobile businesses. They have a whitepaper on using windows mobile and business intelligence for making better business decision wherever you are.

Look for the wave of PDA user empowerment to continue and vendors to look for simpler ways to get information into the hands of the business users. Good or bad, BI on the mobile device is yet another reason to make us all more addicted to our little dingleberries!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Public Sector Performance Management

We here at The Performance Guys like to tackle a variety of BI and performance management topics (with an occasional BPM post thrown in just to keep Pat happy--I kid, I kid...). But it's not very often that we talk public sector, and this story from the Chicago Tribune highlights the fact that county government (in this case, the black hole that is Cook County government, in which Chicago is located) has its own performance management challenges as well, and that the issues that we try to attack and address with business intelligence are not limited to for-profit companies--they affect organizations of all types and sizes.

The issue confronting the County is not a new one--they lack critical visibility into where the budget is being spent, and whether or not a proposed tax increase will actually have the intended impact. Now, speaking as a Chicagoland resident for over 25 years, I can tell you first hand that in the past, passing a tax hike was as easy as finding Lake Michigan. With the government fully aligned with the City and Mayor Daley, there's never been a huge debate when fares, fees, or levy's have been instituted.

But take a look at this passage from the article, which could be a transcript from any for-profit company around the world:

At public hearings the county has hosted on its current $3.2 billion budget plan, its leaders sometimes sounded like CEOs reassuring shareholders their investments would pay off: "We don't waste anything," Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans said in November: "The money that we're asking for is money we will put to good use."In seeking $890 million a year in new tax revenues, Stroger said he has achieved "enormous operational efficiencies" during his year-long tenure, and has adopted "modern business practices."

Stroger also points out that he has introduced "performance-based budgeting" using productivity benchmarks.Seigle's idea for a Cook County bankruptcy filing would not solve its "revenue problem," Stroger spokeswoman Ibis Antongiorgi said in a statement Friday (see box above). "When any business, public or private, refuses to raise revenue while expenses continue to outpace income, then it is time for all stakeholders to consider drastic expenditure reductions. Cook County government needs additional revenue to pay its employees."

What's missing from Stroger's budget plan is specific-enough objectives, said Gidwitz, a director of Rush University Medical Center, which works closely with the four county-run hospitals. "Where you can cut is the second question," he said. "The first question is, 'What do we need? What are the priorities and strategies?'"

What's interesting about this budget squabble is how leaders from the private sector are being asked to get involved and help the County address its issues and raising critical questions that you hear project teams talk about in most EPM projects--how do we institue processes that solve our problems and help us be more accountable? And when you read the quotes from the former CEO's and executives, what becomes apparent is that like most organizations and performance management, they know they have a problem, but aren't sure how to fix it. Enter a great performance management opportunity!

Many times, especially in Cook County and Chicago, the government isn't too high on public accountability and disclosure; but in this case, we get to see some interesting insights into the challenges that government has with accountability, budgeting, and performance, and how the principles we advocate and write about here can be applied to the public sector as well.
Can't wait to get back for Christmas!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Pumping Some Serious Iron

Just off the heels of the PerformancePoint Server launch, Microsoft is getting pumped up again with another major BI product launch just around the corner. SQL 2008 holds the promise of trusted and secure data and the ability to leverage core business intelligence functionality to gain better business insight, now that’s strength that even the Govinator couldn’t handle. SQL Server has long been the backbone of Microsoft’s BI story, together the wave of PerformancePoint Server 2007, SharePoint Server 2007, and soon to come SQL Server 2008, Microsoft is really stacking up the rack. Watch for more details on the launch of SQL Server, in the meantime you can get more familiar it by watching the demo here,

Friday, December 14, 2007

TWTW, "Predictions? We Don't Need No Stinking Predictions!" Edition...

Making the connection between the subprime lending mess and personal performance management as only Pat can...
Cognos and Applix, finally together where they belong...
More Cognos! More Solutions! More of everything for everybody in every vertical everywhere!
Oco is completely Loco...

OK Santa's little helpers, that will do it for us this week--more parties to attend, more performance management mayhem to unleash, more timewasting games for PG Nic to uncover. See you next week!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Still More BI Predictions

So just when you thought it was safe to get on with business because we have so completely and thoroughly covered BI in 2008 via multiple predictions as noted here, along comes yet more BI predictions from Oco. I guess that gives us a total of 20 predictions on BI in 2008 (at least that we know of). The Oco 5:

- BI goes diagonal. In 2008, we will see the era of vertical and horizontal BI solutions converging toward diagonal solutions -- those focused on specific business problems extending across similar industries. (Huh?!? I am not sure I even know where to start with this one)
- BI Best Practices...customers will insist on best practices to measure and improve their performance. (I would file this one under the Seth Grimes obvious category. In other news, data quality is important and A-Rod is well paid)
- Technology will move from an IT priority to a business decision. Business users will decide what type of technology, what business model, and even which vendor. (Not only are these mutually exclusive, but anyone who ever took a project in front of a purchase committee knows this is self evident. )
- Growth of the IT Light Solution Model. Forward looking organizations are looking at projects more strategically and selecting business models to move faster. (There is more here but it doubles back on business model, vendor and some reference to IT off shoring)
- BI adoption rate expands into small and medium-sized organizations. BI will become more mainstream in 2008 with adoption in the mid-market. (I am having a hard time with this one for a variety of reasons including BI for the mid-market is such an old idea, small companies like Microsoft spend a lot of time here, say it with me "open source", and the sentence makes no sense.)

Generally, I would like to give credit for having a point of view and sharing it with the market. However, when you apply the Jim Rome rule, "Have a take, don't suck", this clearly does not meet the standard. It looks like the Oco guys saw competitor LucidEra's top 5 and shifted into action mode. Not fast action, because they are down 15 predictions to team Lucid, Intelligent Enterprise, and the Performance Guys.

However, 10 days later when they get in the game, they produce the BI equivalent of a football team looking at 3rd and 25 who runs a draw play to clear 5 yards for the punt team. BI goes diagonal? Seriously? You can't make that up. Seriously?

It looks like Oco is on to something with SaaS BI, focus on segments and customers, and appears to have a smart CEO. They also make a guarantee of success and apply a fixed bid methodology to their delivery approach. Very interesting. It also looks like their marketing, or at least their PR sucks, and that the CEO did not read the press release where he was quoted before it hit the wire. (I am also not sure about the Cincinnati Bengals Nike Swoosh logo thing, but that is another column.)

Oco has some name brand customers, a strong value proposition and a chance to succeed in 2008. Here is hoping they make good.

Cognos Blasts the Performance Management Market

We've spoken in the past, as has every industry analyst if you ask them or read their work, about the fact that it appeared that the Cognos performance management offering was starting to appear a bit worn around the edges, what with the newer, flashier acquisitions and products being released out into the market.

Well earlier this week, on December 11th, the fine folks in Ottawa started firing back, issuing a torrent of press releases touting their new performance management vision, new financial performance management solution plans, strategic financial planning solutions, as well as a pharmaceutical performance solution as well, which addresses a key market that other vendors have not explicitly called out.

Now the skeptics and competitive vendors among us will point out, and perhaps rightly so, that these press releases are nothing more than a rebranding of the Applix products now that the acquisition has been completed. In in part, they would be correct. But it's hard to argue with the fact that when you read the reviews of the Applix acquisition from analyst firms who caution customers and prospects to get a better idea of the Cognos plans before committing to the Cognos solution, this is a necessary step to help regain lost market moment momentum that inevitably occurs during these "we bought them but don't quite own them yet" periods.

But if you dig down a bit further into the first press release, you see that they're really beefing up both the innovation center concept; and with the introduction of the pharma performance solutions, they still have a really comprehensive offering around the discipline of performance management--it's good to see them back in the game and fully engaged.

The Window Dressing Begins...

News this week from our friends at Cognos that with the closing of the Applix acquisition, they're ready to get going on the rebranding efforts, starting with the names, which take on the "Cognos" front end, while retaining their "Applix" back end.

Frankly admitting that "The products do not currently integrate with the Cognos 8 BI software," and that that work should be done sometime next year, is refreshing. Too often vendors who grow by acquisition try to apply some quick back-end band-aids, which end up fooling no one. And with the enormity of the roadmap exercises facing the big vendors as they try to digest these acquisitions, few would believe that the necessary resources have already been devoted to back-end integration at this piont anyway.

It's been a busy week for our friends up in Ottawa, which we'll continue detailing next...

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Personal Performance - O'Neal Goes Golfing As The Ship Goes Down

The sub-prime mess continues to expand and move the market with everything from today's rate cut and dow drop to the President's bail out plan for home owners. What is interesting is how rarely you get a look into the inner workings of the institution as the tidal wave mounts. In the case of Stan O'Neal and Merril Lynch, it appears as the crisis mounted, he was golfing.

I ran across this article from famed author Michael Lewis (Moneyball, The New New Thing) in Financial Week that gives precious insight into O'Neal's last days at the helm. Between August 12 and September 30th O'Neal played 20 rounds at 4 different courses. You can look it up on the USGA website. While ML was busy losing $8.4B, O'Neal's handicap improved slightly from 10.2 to 9.1. With his expected $160M buy-out, it is a good bet his handicap goes even lower.

The article with commentary from Lewis inside the mind and out on the course is worth the read. I guess personal performance when the chips are down really counts.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Here Comes Another Bubble

This one's worth a watch... love the "blog, blog, blog, won't you please blog this song" part, so I did.

Friday, December 07, 2007

TWTW, The Count Edition

10--no, 15 possible trends for BI in 2008 (cue "The Count" laugh)...
ETL--Cadillac, Toyota, or the power windows that are really standard but could be sold separately--discuss amongst yourselves...
Finance, meet IT, IT, Finance--ok, um, wow, this is awkward...
SAP and Microsoft--two great tastes that taste great together!
Why do we think this study was sponsored by the makers of Altoids?
Business Objects and SPSS--two great tastes tha--oh wait, we did that one already.

Well, that will do it for us this week everyone. Two of the three PG's will be getting all gussied up for the big holiday shindig at PG Guy's house tomorrow evening. If a holiday party is in your weekend plans, enjoy the debauchery and remember--lamp shades go best with a plaid or brighter colored sweater.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Lucid Predictions for BI in 2008 and Beyond

December means holiday sales, all you can eat football, any excuse for a holiday party, and operating plan reviews. Often this includes a look back at the year and a look ahead. Our good friends at LucidEra added their good cheer and prognostication to the BI market with a press release and blog on what is ahead for BI in 2008. According to team Lucid:

1. SaaS BI will gain market traction. (We assumed this based on Lucid's funding round this year)
2. Innovation will be led by smaller vendors (Hmmm)
3. There will be a shift away from tools to pre-built apps (may not be great for Lucid)
4. Applications that integrate data and improve processes across transactional systems will drive the next wave of SaaS (they are on to something here)
5. A new breed of BI channel partner will emerge (or old partners breed new services and offers)

Full credit to LucidEra for having a point of view and sharing it via multiple channels. I would not be surprised to find they are growing, especially via their Salesforce relationship and focus on applications tied to revenue visibility. Every CEO wants to know, "where is my deal?" so this makes all the sense in the world.

However, if prediction 3 is right, it does not bode well for Lucid and small fry. Now that Cognos, Hyperion and Business Objects have all moved their BI platforms and applications to the P/L statements of larger applications providers, the law of the jungle suggests that unless the small guys deliver a discontinuous innovation with high barrier to entry, the large full stack applications vendors will win early and often.

An entertaining rebuttal to the Lucid top 5 was posted by Seth Grimes in his weblog with Intelligent Enterprise. Seth gives Ken Rudin credit for insight, followed by suggesting that his top 5 list was "mighty
solipsistic". Ouch. Like Dennis Miller ouch. (Yeah, I didn't either so I looked it up with my friend Merriam.) Not sure this makes Ken Rudin out to be Bill Parcells, but maybe it explains why LucidEra lists itself in their own customer list. Got to say, I don't think I have seen that one before.

Seth then adds his own list of BI prognostications for 2008:
  1. Ever increasing attention to data quality
  2. BI integration of streaming and text-extracted data.
  3. Location intelligence.
  4. Collaborative analytics.
  5. Advances in natural-language query and question-answering capabilities, which will all the same remain far from mature.
  6. The start of attention to data provenance, reliability, and uncertainty
Generally not bad additions, but I don't know that I buy the idea that data quality is any more important next year than it has been over the last 10. Since Seth points out that his list is not exhaustive, I would like to add a couple highlights not covered in either of the above lists.

12. The intersection of business process with business intelligence and performance management. Gartner suggested in their last BI MQ that combining BI with process management was likely to happen this year. It did with Tibco buying Spotfire as we noted here. Both Forrester and Gartner indicate this is a no-brainer, and Ken's item #4 starts to point this direction, but this is by no means limited to SaaS and is much more about process than data.

It is only a matter of time because process management as a market is projected to be a $6B stand alone market by 2010 by IDC, and it is growing at about 25% CAGR. Looks pretty sexy next to the BI growth numbers, however the BI guys don't have a good solution. Oracle has some notion of integration-centric process management, Business Objects has no actual process management capability but SAP is heading in this direction via Netweaver, Cognos relationship with Lombardi is dead, and SAS appears to be doing barney partnerships with a couple vendors while they try to figure it out. It is coming. Write it down.

13. Open source BI is big and getting bigger. See also JasperSoft and Pentaho. What don't you get about free?

14. Simplicity and ease of use. Somebody commented on this in a response to Seth's blog and is right on point. Why can't my BI portal be as sexy as my fantasy football dashboard and reports? It remains my contention that if everyone could customize their applications, dashboards and reports with everything from their favorite sports team to their Second Life avatar, BI usage would skyrocket.

15. Predictive analytics. This crosses into the process management world as well as complex data mining and modeling. Business Objects just announced a partnership with SPSS as we noted here. If predictive analytics can continue to be simplified and broadly available, things will get interesting.

It seems we could discuss further the intersection of the BI and performance management, but rationalization of overlap in the portfolios of the big vendors will happen naturally over time.

Here's to an exciting 2008!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Is ETL still a standalone market?

With the recent wave of consolidations in the BI and performance management space, there’s one vendor that’s rather glaring in that it’s still a vendor—and not a division of one of the big behemoths—and that’s Informatica. You really do have to give this company credit, with their singular and laser guided focus on one aspect of the BI market—data integration, and all that entails..

While they briefly ventured into the world of analytic applications back in 2003-2004, they eventually abandoned that strategy and refocused both their development, as well as their sales efforts, on the far-less sexy, but all-of-a-sudden far more important aspect of integrating data from any data source, cleaning it up, and getting it ready for use.

It’s a sobering, but often realistic fact of life that when something bad happens, while one group suffers, there’s likely another group that actually benefits—morbid to think about, but part of the world in which we live. We mourn a relative dying, but funeral homes and graveyards actually need people to die to stay in business. Our car breaks down, the tow truck takes Visa; the plane is delayed, the Body Shop in the terminal makes a sale—it happens all around us. Now OK, you’re obviously asking what the F*&% this has to do with data integration. And I’m getting to it. The “bad” compelling event that caused the most suffering in the business community earlier this century was Sarbanes-Oxley. Tons of headaches, additional costs, consultants, filings—all the “stuff” that we didn’t have to do before. But what happened here was that as a result of needing to absolutely ensure that the data was clean and trusted, we then put a premium on companies that could provide us that assurance. Enter vendors like Informatica. See, it was worth it to stay with me right?

So INFA has been chugging along, and was long rumored to be a natural fit for any number of vendors, but particularly Hyperion, SAP, and Cognos, once Business Objects bought Acta (which INFA then sued the very next day for patent infringement and won, albeit a reduced verdict just recently), and IBM bought Ascential. But those acquisitions never came, for reasons we’ll leave to the side for now.

And now that Microsoft, SAP, Oracle, and IBM all have their own flavor of data integration and ETL capabilities, has Informatica missed the boat? Or can they maintain their relevance in a specialty market that’s now an ingrained part of a larger offering? In the “department of unfortunate timing” category, they had recently signed OEM agreements with SAP and Cognos, so were certainly making moves to stay independent and maintain their viability. But now, we need to wait and see what shakes out with the respective product roadmaps that everyone is waiting to see from these vendors before we have a clearer idea of what to expect.

The need for clean, timely, and trusted data is certainly not abating—if anything, it’s more of a need and requirement than ever. But increasingly, the question of whether I need the Cadillac of data integration, or a nice boring Toyota of ETL is one that customers will be asked to answer. And if the Toyota can be offered with the free rustrproofing, sunroof, surround sound speakers, and GPS that vendors like Oracle and MSFT can easily bundle in, might that not be enough for most people.

Or is data integration that important that only a Caddy will do?

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The CFO-CIO Partnership in Performance Management

Much is obviously made of the focus on the line of business (that’s "LOB" for all you performance management insiders) regarding performance management software and applications, and rightly so. After all, most IT pro’s have no idea what planning and budgeting software actually does, much less which product actually fits best for the finance teams, so while they will often act as a primary gatekeeper or “rule out but not in” the preferred vendors, they rarely act as the decision maker, and in fact have often been relegated to a signatory on the PO in the entire process.

But there’s a strong case to be made for allowing the CIO to move up from the back row of chairs against the wall and join the main table at these discussions. For while the CIO is often now reporting to the CFO in the wake of the regulatory and financial scandals of the early 2000’s, they now command a vast array of applications and infrastructure investments that give them a unique and highly desirable perspective on the technology being used within the organization, beyond whether responding to whether they’re an “Oracle or SQL shop.” Let’s discuss just a few of the key reasons for ensuring that you have a strong CFO-CIO partnership in your organizations today as you embrace performance management projects:

First, they can bring invaluable experience and lessons learned from past implementations. Whether it be an SAP or Siebel project, they can point out the pitfalls and lessons learned from what was likely a long and drawn out process, and ensure that in BI and performance management, this time around you don’t make the same mistakes.

Next, they can point out new trends and technologies that they’re seeing their peers use, or that are starting to be adopted, and give you the pro’s and con’s of adopting those technologies yourselves. For business people who are used to a Software as a Service model in many aspects of their lives, SaaS may not be a big deal—but there may be significant IT implications, limitations on how the application can be used or who can access it at any one time—and you need to ensure you’re aware of how a new technology would impact your use cases.

They know ROI. In part because in many cases their past IT projects have often failed to achieve the lofty ROI goals set by the project team at the time of purchase. They know the staff that it requires to implement such products, the hidden fees and resources often required, and the unforeseen pitfalls that may not affect your project directly, but that will impact the broader IT environment, and further complicate their lives, while slowing down your project. While we on the business side often tend to get fairly excited about the potential of the technology, they can give us the straight scoop.

Additionally, they know the products that are making the biggest impact on the market. We’ve all read about the frighteningly short tenures of CIO’s these days, which means that your own CIO has likely been around the block at time or two. This is a good thing for our purposes, because it means they’re likely highly networked and know many of the vendors you’re evaluating from their prior lives. They’re plugged into their own roundtables and networking groups, and they have the off-the-record conversations that senior executives have that will let you know if you’re on the right track with your project. After all, at the end of the day this IS an IT implementation—and their neck is also on the line to ensure that it’s a success. They’ll be the ones to let you know if the product you’re evaluating has had issues elsewhere, and what those issues might be.

Now, there are likely 100 more reasons to ensure that the CIO is part of the discussion as you get ready to fully embrace the promise of performance management, but hopefully these few, if not giving you pause, then perhaps help you ensure that the CIO is at least on the “TO” line of your next project evaluation meeting, and not just a “CC.”

MicroSAP Anyone?

Posted with limited comment, because this would likely make our heads explode...

Monday, December 03, 2007

Personal Performance - You Just Got to Read This

So in an effort to discuss performance in all its many facets, Monday brings you an update from the personal performance category - bad kissing means you do not pass go and do not advance to second base. According to the article today in CNN and elsewhere, bad kissing is bad for relationship performance. A recent Gallop study notes that the majority of men use kissing,"as a means to an end -- namely, to gain sexual access." Hmmn, really? Thank you Peter Gammons (the Red Sox are good too)

In other news, the sun rises in the east, the Yankees are likely to spend big in the free agent market, BI vendors will push dashboards, the Patriots win again, and women place more importance on kissing in the relationship.

Stay tuned for other performance developments...or something

Predictive Analytics and Performance Management

Our friends at Business Objects continue to be busy in putting together their BI and performance management portfolio, as they announce a rather significant OEM agreement with SPSS to embed their data mining and analytics platform within BusinessObjects XI.

Good news all around for customers of both platforms; obviously with SPSS being a smaller player in the statistical and data mining space, there's a lot of (hands clasped before saying this word) "synergy" in bringing these two solutions together. First, the unification of two relatively complimentary technologies against a common foe--in this case, SAS, just as last week it was Abobe and Microsoft was the target.
It's an interesting combination that SAS hasn't been able to completely exploit in the marketplace, the combination of forward-looking, predictive analytic capacilities embedded into the business intelligence and performance management process. But it has some solid capabilities and potential to take performance management solutions up a notch in terms of their sophistication.

And while it's early days, it still does remain to be seen if this actually gets BI and information into the hands of more people, or if it's just a richer analytical environment for the experienced and sophisticated BI and analytics users that are already using the tools. If it doesn't expand the (pardon the pun) "universe" of users for the BI environment, then I'm not convinced that this is much more than a marketing relationship, since the BI sales process and the hard-core analytics sales process hit two different audiences with two different products.

But if they can find a way to embed the anlytics into BI processes, and make BI more process aware to the average user, thereby attracting more folks to the BI environment, then I think we can actually be getting somewhere. But kudos to both groups for seeing the potential of BI and predictive analytics and moving to bring them together in an alternative to the big dog SAS.


With apologies to missing the Friday recap, some worthwhile posts to catch-up on before starting off this week...

This just in, Portals may be the next frontie--wait, didn't someone already say that?
Cognos checks in with the performance guys...
BOBJ and SAP seal the deal...
Adobe and BOBJ seal THEIR deal...

Quick week last week, we'll look to make it up in these next 5 days...


Friday, November 30, 2007

Portal Wars--The Latest Volley

Regular PG readers will remember this post from about 10 days or so ago where we talked about the potential future importance of the Portal in determining the BI strategy for many companies. The thinking goes that since so much BI functionality is being put into the portal, and with the increased need to collaborate and work across teams, this "Team BI" concept becomes critically important to how we use BI information as individuals, as well as how we align with our corporate and organizational goals.

So it's not entirely surprising, given this hypothesis, to see Business Objects announce yesterday that they're going to provide a free PIK (or portal integration kits to you BI rubes) from the XI platform and Crystal reporting roducts into the Microsoft SharePoint portal, affectionately known as MOSS (Microsoft Office SharePoint Server--catchy, isn't it?).

This integration is a great attempt to lower the threshold of the potential issue of having different collaboration and BI tools in-house, which is a smart move for both companies--Microsoft, continuing its partnering ways with all BI vendors and platforms, making MOSS a versatile and open portal platform that can work with everyone, and for Business Objects, they get to show their flexibility and independence as well, and can draft behind the momentum of MOSS in the marketplace.

Good times, good times...

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

All The Cognos News Fit to Print

The Performance Guys are happy to report that our good friends at Cognos are now reaching out to us directly to keep us informed on all the great things happening with Cognos and IBM. According to the note from Cognos,

"The Performance Guys is a respected business
intelligence site and we’d like to help keep you and your readers
up-to-date on what’s happening at Cognos."

We appreciate the compliment. In the future we hope we can evolve to "highly respected," followed by "industry leading" and potentially over time, "market moving." We are all about performance.

Here are the latest updates from our friends at Cognos.

They have recently been acquired by IBM, press release is here.

Cognos dashboards continue to be good for performance. Whitepaper for download here.

Radio Cognos podcasts here. I confess that I need to interrogate this and report back. Comments welcome. Also need to start working on Performance Guys Radio.

Performance Guys to headline Cognos High Performance roadshow in Tulsa. Link here. Ok, the last one is not official Cognos material, but it could happen. And Tulsa is a beautiful place. The website says so.
We look forward to getting more updates from the Cognos team and commenting as and when appropriate. Or when we get a minute to comment.

In related news, Business Objects acquisition by SAP was approved by the EU. There is no comment as to whether the current unrest and riots in France are related.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Adobe and Business Objects Deepen Their Partnership

News last week that Adobe and Business Objects continue to work together across multiple fronts, integrating Crystal Xcelsius and other technologies (previously an agreement was signed to align the Adobe process management capabilities) to fight the evildoers up in Redmond.

Adobe has had some great financial results recently and is really on a roll, and there were minor rumblings about them being interested in potentially acquiring Business Objects before SAP stepped in earlier this year. So with that possibility off the table, the two companies continue to find common ground from which to compete against a common enemy.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

TWTW, Things We’re Thankful For Edition

Today we pause to take a break to celebrate that most Ameri, er, NORTH American holidays (which, it must be told, was already celebrated by PG Nic and his ilk last month) by giving thanks for so many things in our little corner of the blogosphere. Here’s just a short list of things we’re thankful for this Thanksgiving…

That we’ve never heard Darren actually sing his BI songs in person…
That we had Business Objects stock at the time of the SAP takeover…
That someone finally bought Longview
That Microstrategy doesn’t care what you think…
That this guy is out there protecting us…
That we really have never seen a report do THIS before…

And of course, we’re thankful for traffic spikes, repeat visitors, increased cross-posting, more snarky anonymous comments, and most of all, for a lively discussion on all things BI, process, and performance management.

Enjoy the holiday weekend, we’ll be back and ready for a long session on the stairmaster on Monday morning…

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Portal Wars—The Future Frontier of BI Dominance?

As we continue to sift through the coverage of the IBM and Cognos combination and get ready to take a breather for the holidays, we can start to leave the news of the most recent acquisitions in the wake, and focus on the factors that will likely shape the market in the coming years.

One such area where the industry may pivot, surprisingly, is not even in the BI products themselves, but farther upstream, in the portal. As more and more functionality moves into the middleware layer of the IT infrastructure and collaboration becomes easier and more integrated into how we work, (with additions such as process engines to help us along, let’s say), attention is moving to how we access BI in addition to how we use BI (and what BI we actually use).

Several vendors have reported very robust sales for their portal products as the functionality in them improves and more and more content is funneled through this part of the technology stack than in the application layer. And it makes sense for employees. With the personalization and customization that you can do in the portal environment, it’s often times where you start you day. I would completely plead guilty to starting more than one BI demo logging into a dashboard or scorecard and seeing my metrics and goals and confidently stating that “as I log on in the morning, I can see that sales are down” or whatever drivel I would spout. But the truth is that’s a pretty unnatural act for most people. They don’t start the day in a scorecard, they start the day with email, and logging onto the company portal or intranet. Whether it’s company news, useful links, or internal HR information, intranets and portals are the place where most people start out online. And now more and more companies are putting the KPI’s, goals, metrics, and key tasks in their portal so that both individuals and teams can get the most up to date information in the place where they already spend a lot of their time.

This was frankly one of the main reasons why the BI vendors never got the scope or reach they were after in terms of users and seats. The 20% penetration ceiling is due to lots of factors (as we’ve previously discussed here and here), but partly it was due to the fact that they didn’t integrate on a wide scale with the portal technology that had become the corporate standard—i.e. the above vendors.

And since the vast majority of the enterprise customer base now has some combination of Websphere, Netweaver, Fusion, or SharePoint, my sense is that you’re going to see a lot of new features and functionality head here; and once you’re hooked into a portal standard, it’s going to be far easier for the portal vendor to sell you on their other technology that’s already integrated into the portal than it’s going to be to connect another vendor into the portal.

You heard it here—trust the Portal, Luke…

More on Consolidation - Business Objects and Cognos together?

Interesting comment and prognostication from Rob Preston at Information Week regarding consolidation. While Cognos being consumed by IBM is notable for the size and last tier one vendor to leave, Rob believes there are many more to come, some sooner rather than later as the tier one players - IBM, Oracle, SAP and Microsoft - as well as the tier two players in software - HP, Symantec and CA continue grow. Among the interesting suggestions here:

- SAP would be a great acquisition for IBM. Among the reasons cited was the marriage of applications from SAP to IBM global services. Not mentioned is the perspective $5B+ overlap of BI and EPM applications. Not out of the realm of the possible.

- A mention that Oracle may be running out of big companies to buy, but buying a big services company is unlikely according to Jason Mayward from Credit Suisse Worldwide because "Oracle isn't interested in the relationship business." He said it, I didn't.

- MSFT could still be interested in Yahoo.

- A Joint venture between and Workday, the SaaS ERP company built by the same great people who brought you PeopleSoft.

I suspect the consolidations will continue and the big will get bigger. What will be interesting is to see the next class of companies who deliver new value and innovation in the shadow of the larger players.

BI and Performance Management Invade OOW!

Anyone looking for some insights or clues as to how seriously Oracle is taking the BI and performance management market need look only as far as this post from Rittman Mead Consulting, an Oracle centric partner in the area of business intelligence and data warehousing.

Now admittedly a more technically focused review on BI platform and data warehousing functionality than we tend to deal with here at Performance Guys, but in seeing statements like :

..."There were hundreds of business intelligence presentations, with a separate Hyperion stream, dozens of Oracle BI EE talks, BI keynotes and presentations on the new data warehousing and analytic features in the 11g release of the Oracle database. What’s more, all of the main conference keynotes had business intelligence as a major component..."

It doesn't take a genius to see that this is a space that Oracle is just a bit serious about, and with all of its main competitors now fully vested in their own BI strategy, it's a more than impressive opening move to show its customers, developers, CIO's, CFO's, and even CEO's that this is just another part of the IT budget that Oracle wants you to spend with them.

Talent Raid!

Our old friends at Microstrategy are at it again. Love them or hate them, you have to acknowledge they have a defined marketing strategy that’s very public, very brash, and very much not seeming to care about what other people think. You want earnings guidance? Pshaw. Lower support costs? Give me a break. Conventional marketing? You’re kidding, right?

Their latest gambit focuses on publicly announcing their desire to raid talent from both Business Objects and Cognos at the grown up version of a career day, to be held on November 29th at Microstrategy offices in cities around the world.

If I’m Business Objects or Cognos, do I not just have my senior people stand outside the Microstrategy offices that night to see if I recognize anyone? Or do I not care if my people are going to this company?

Probably the latter I’d suspect—after all, if people want to leave and feel that they have a better opportunity elsewhere, you’ve likely already lost them. Plus, given all the activity around HR and personnel issues these days, if I'm smart I've already had private, 1:1 chats with all my key people to keep them around.

And while I’ve certainly received my fair share of emails and phone calls from friends and former colleagues in the past few months inquiring about potential openings, only Microstrategy would be bold enough to go public with their quest for the best talent. Personally I love the approach. As the saying goes, it's not bragging if you can do it--so let's see who they can peel off.

I'm just thankful on this Thanksgiving week that there's still have a vendor is keeping things interesting!

Monday, November 19, 2007

IT Management as a Performance Management Project

We here at the Performance Guys are always happy to welcome new points of views to the world of performance management, and our friend Paul Ross begins today to add a new dimension to the discussion around performance in an organization with his first blog entry on IT systems management and its role as an asset in driving organizational performance.

Granted Paul will have a more Microsoft-centric viewpoint on things, but given the fact that he's helping to market a $1B business, I think his viewpoint represents a more than credible voice to how performance management is not just a business issue, but goes to the heart of how an organization thinks about IT--is it just a cost center, or can it be more than that? I think Paul's blog will attempt to prove the latter point.

We can't help but feel a bit like Judge Smales and Danny in Caddyshack in welcoming Paul into the discussion in person, and not just in random anonymous comment postings (not that he would do that, we're just saying...)

Paul's blog is also listed over the right, be sure to visit often and add it to your bookmarks.

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Week That Was, Big Blue Edition...

A Vote for the Performance Guys is a Vote for Family Values...
Thanks for playing, Cognos...
8 Ball Corner Pocket, Cognos 8--get it? No? Neither do we...
Why does the number 3000 keep sticking with us? Oh yeah, this is why...
So be honest, who rushed the stage in San Diego to get a piece of Pat?
Oh, THERE are all the Cognos articles...

OK folks, that will do it for us this week. A pretty significant one in our little corner of the technology world we think. We need a drink...

Finally, the IBM/Cognos Analysis Begins Rolling In...

There's been a lot of talk this week about the relatively ho-hum reaction of people around the industry to the news that IBM is acquiring Cognos, thereby completing the consolidation that everyone had been predicting would occur as BI largely ceases to be a standalone category.

Part of the reason is that quite frankly this had been expected for well over a year--I've spoken with people who were working for all the major BI and ERP vendors who have said they were on SWAT teams or on marketing teams preparing for this news back in 2006. It's long been seen as a pretty natural combination, with little product overlap and the ability to seriously extend Cognos' reach through the IBM services group.
The other reason is more my opinion, but I think people used most of their energy around SAP and Business Objects, because of the size of the acquisition, as well as the implication on the industry regarding the independence of Business Objects now that it was a part of SAP. IBM and Cognos don't really have that element of overlap or intrigue--probably due to the fact that it just makes a lot of sense given the consolidation trend.

So while the emails among the competitive teams of all the big vendors have been on fire this week preparing their field teams for the talking points and competitive analysis, the press and analysts have been relatively quiet.

But now we're starting to see the analysis roll in from lots of different sources, most all of it positive:

Rob Ash was apparently golfing when he first took the call from IBM indicating their interest...
Lee Pender from the MSFT focused Redmond Channel Partner IT magazine tells us all to save ourselves, the end of the BI world is near...
Mary Hayes Weier from Information Week talks to the remaining independent vendors who predictably are still carrying the "Independent BI is still the best" party line...
And finally, Bert Hill of the Ottawa Citizen tells us that "Breaking up is hard to do" and talked dissolution fees should someone else want to enter the picture at this point as well as talking about Rob Ashe's compensation accelerators in the deal...

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Performance Guys in the Spotlight

We here at the Performance Guys are not usually in the business of tooting our collective horns (as our grandmother was fond of saying), but it must be pointed out that our own Performance Guy Pat is on tap to deliver the keynote at the big Shared Insights Business Performance Management Conference this week in San Diego, CA.

Aside for getting the deluxe accomodations that always come with being the head honcho at one of these swanky swank resorts that host these sort of shindigs (the Hotel Del Coronado takes center stage for this particular event), Pat will be sharing both his wit, charm and actually, spot-on knowledge of where the process management market is heading, which, in light of all the acvtivity in the BI space, should make for an interesting speech.

To our multitudes of fans down in San Diego, if you're dried out from the weekend, try to crash the party and go see Pat in action!

Monday, November 12, 2007

3000 Consultants Trained on PerformancePoint?

So says Eddie Short, a VP at CapGemini, attending the MSFT PerformancePoint Server launch in London a few weeks ago, when asked about his firm's commitment to the Microsoft product. In fact, that's not 3000 consultants in the next 5 years, that's 3000 consultants by the end of THIS year. Gerry Brown, senior analyst at the Bloor Report, picks up the story in this IT Director blog posting.

As we probably all know, consultancies are generally not in the business of taking their talent off the streets for training unless there's a business model that shows that they'll get their investment back in spades. And Cap isn't the only one--the other big SI's are also investing heavily in the new Microsoft offering, albeit a bit more discretely than Mr. Short's organization.

Another data point from which to triangulate here--the price point of PerformancePoint Server. As has been known for over a year, the $200/user, $20k/server price is far, far below what the other vendors typically charge for similar, or even the same technology. And in the last year, many of the competitors to PerformancePoint have been associating price point with sophistication, scalability, and feature function set--the old "you get what you pay for" mantra. The thinking goes that if it only costs that much, there must not be a whole lot in it, or it's just for small and medium sized businesses.

But if it is, when why are there 3000 Cap Gemini consultants soon to be able to implement the product? Cap doesn't "do" 6 day engagements, they do 6 MONTH engagements. So Mr. Jones must see a business opportunity here somewhere...

8 Ball Corner Pocket

Have you ever played pool against a really good player and wonder where your turn went? The BI market has seen enough moves in the past 18 months to make Fast Eddie Felson shake his head in disbelief. Oh and no, my “8 ball corner pocket” title wasn’t referring to the end of the Cognos 8 product, or was it? Lame BI jokes aside, the one thing this acquisition does do is put IBM in an interesting position to actually be able to provide the technology and truly implement on it with one of the most complete software to services BI solution sets. Services has long been the abandoned love child of BI vendors in the past, as the technology has matured vendors have traditionally looked to partners for implementation services. Over the past 10 years IBM has built strong practices from data warehousing to performance management partnering heavily with BI software vendors like Business Objects and Cognos.

From a technology perspective I’d strongly agree with Guy’s take on the strengths of the big four, IBM will also have a nice marriage of the Cognos BI functionality and their data management technology; master data management and ETL capabilities they acquired from Ascential, in March of 2005. For this performance guy, it was been a exciting to be in the middle of a market while its consolidating so rapidly. As the balls get re-racked and the new players chalk up their cues, it will certainly be interesting to see the new strategies that unfold and the direction.

Finally, the Table is Set

With IBM's move to acquire Cognos now official, the consolidation once predicted by the sages in the world of industy analysts has finally come to pass. Leaving aside some of the other not-insubstantial players still out there but less like to be acquired (SAS and MSTR come to mind, as they did for BOBJ blogger Timo Elliott), we have a very interesting line-up remaining--vendors with incredibly deep pockets, all having the same customers in one department or other, and each with their own angle from which to advance their vision of BI:

SAP--from the ERP system
IBM--from the database but with one of the strongest implementation arms
ORCL--from the database and ERP/EPM applications
MSFT--from the database and Office

This is of course broadly speaking--there's overlap all over here (Dynamics ERP from MSFT for instance), but as we move to the next generation of BI, it will be interesting to see how each of the vendors are able to exploit their strengths, and their opponents weaknesses, to their advantage. More to come on this deal analysis later!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Counter Point - Absence Management, People Management and Family Values

Great post by the original performance Guy, last Wednesday discussing the impact of Absence Management and commenting on a recent article in Business Week discussing how employers are fighting the issue of employees playing hooky. This topic is of high interest to many people - both in senior management and at the line level. And the reality is that that the approach endorsed by the Business Week article is completely opposed to the reality that organization performance is a function of people.

For the defense, I submit a great article from Jeffrey Pfeffer in the most recent, and regrettably, last issue of Business 2.0. In his article, "It's time to live up to family values," Pfeffer, a professor of organizational behavior at Stanford University's school of business, notes that a key issue for employers is the declining birth rate and the reality is that most employers don't practice what they preach in terms of work / life balance. Among the damning stats:

- 86 million Americans do not get a single sick day to care for a sick child
- The US is the only industrialized nation without a policy of paid leave for infant care
- Many employees don't get paid vacations
- The current policy of 12 weeks UNPAID family leave is resisted by many employers
- Many people and organizations would rather have sick people on the job than at home, at the expense of performance and productivity

Pfeffer notes that the over the last decade, companies on Fortune's list of top companies to work for (Fortune is the parent company of the newly departed B2.0) have notably improved work-family benefits. And those companies typically beat benchmarks for shareholder return. While this is not the entire story unto itself, the top line would seem to indicate that being good to employees and their families is good for the stock and good for performance. Is there a better indicator of strong performance management?

On the flip side of the coin, you have companies that focus on performance, not if the employee is in the office or has punched the time clock. A great example of this is Best Buy, also mentioned in the Business Week article, but with little detail. This is unfortunate, and likely due to the fact that their story runs counter to the slant of the article. Best Buy is on the forefront of the concept of performance impact with their concept of ROWE - Results Oriented Work Environment. The net of this is that performance is based on (get this) performance, not hours worked. Best Buy does not care if you are in the office, they only care if you get something done. The concept is covered in Business 2.0's April edition.

According the the article, more than 60% of the Minneapolis' based Best Buy's corporate workforce at the home office is now managed based on ROWE. If you factor out senior executive staff who are measured on things like EPS, the real percentage is even higher. According to the article, implementing a resulted oriented approach as improved productivity by 35%. You heard that right - the team is more than 1/3 more productive when measured based on what they produce, not what time they show up at the office.

According to a spokesperson in the article, the program "has forced managers and employees to be really clear about what needs to be accomplished". This is interesting for a variety of reasons including the revolutionary idea that performance should be judged on well defined goals, not the number of hours worked, whether you were at your desk promptly at 8am, or whether at performance review time your boss happens to like you.

Interestingly, Best Buy is has not only spun off a consulting organization to impart this success to other organizations, they are also experimenting with the ROWE concept for their retail stores. While there are some obvious hurdles, if they achieved 50% of the performance improvement in store that they have achieved at corporate, the results as measured in sales person productivity and by association, same store sales, would be extraordinary.

Also interesting to note that the companies called out as using software to track absenteeism in the BW article include Wal-Mart, whose contributions to performance management include low or no health benefits and locking 3rd shift cleaning employees in store, and Dell, who happens to have restated their earnings and fired their CEO for playing fast and loose with the numbers. If this smacks of a double standard, it should. Or at a minimum, it is reflective of a corporate culture and how performance is managed and incented or not.

In a performance oriented world, always-on world, it is my strong belief that if employers spend half as much time on employee care and incenting performance as they did trying to play defense against the small number of people who abuse the system, we would all be much farther ahead.

Friday, November 09, 2007

The Week That Was, Academia Version...

Everything you wanted to know about process management in a single blog post...
TMI people, TMI...
Pat gets all Wall Street on us...
Redmond gets its search on...
If a person doesn't show up are they really not there? Hmm...
Marketing? Performance Management? HA that's rich...

That will do it for us this week, thanks everyone for playing, and we'll be back with you bright and early Monday morning!

Cross-Blogging Content Stealing Feaver...Catch It!

Over at the sassy blog of the stars, Red Slice (now linked over on the right as another blog we here at the Performance Guys highly recommend), Maria brought up a topic that she and I have talked about on several occasions, that being the real impact of marketing on the bottom line. And that got me thinking to the impact of performance management on marketing

To paraphrase the gist of her entry, marketing is often censured when things are not going great, and not given nearly enough credit when they are. And to a certain extent, I suspect that will always be the case, as sales is always going to be as quick to blame when things are bad as they are quick to take the credit when things are good.

Additionally, it's also true that in many cases, the direct impact of marketing, or lack thereof, can be hard to attach to a given sale. Few are the clients who you'll actually get to say "we bought your product because of the nifty ad you ran in the Wall Street Journal last week."

But take marketing away, or cut the budget, and we give sales a convenient (and, truth be told, somewhat true) crutch to complain about the "lack of air cover vs. the competition," or the lack of leads in the pipeline (which, if my father, or perhaps George Castanza's father, were running things, would be solved by a simple "pick up the damn phone and call someone if you want a lead!") But I digress.

The point is that marketing often allows itself to fall into these defensive postures by often times not proving its worth or value to the business. And performance management can play a role in marketing just as it can in finance or operations or HR or any of the other disciplines.

Marketing departments are run by metrics--impressions, clicks, web hits, downloads, attendees, visitors--all these things are great first level KPI's that give us an indication of whether our marketing programs are on track. But they certainly don't tell the entire story or prove worth.

Actually that's in the next level down where you move from leads, to qualified leads, for instance. Was the person just visiting the website, or were they gathering information for a vendor evalutation they're about to do. How many of the webinar attendees have a current project budget? You get the picture.

Ultimately tracing the marketing activity through to the first sales call is a great measure to track marketing success for hi-tech companies, since advertising and brand building is not done on a huge scale. And while marketing can't make the customer actually sign on the dotted line, there are many metrics within everyone's business that give an indication of how well marketing is performing. Tracking these against goals and objectives linked to qualified deals is a sure fire way to ensure that you're getting the biggest bang for your buck on your marketing spend.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The New Science of “Absence Management”

The adaptability of technology to any variety of performance management causes is limitless, and I recently stumbled upon the latest use of analytics and information to focus on one of the most hidden, yet troublesome areas of cost to companies today, employee absenteeism.

Whereas in the past we would likely get a raspy voicemail from a co-worker or underling informing us that they were too sick to some into the office, today the communication is much less personal when we get an email—we can’t judge the “fakeness” of the message or actually talk to the employee to see if they’re really sick, or just not coming into work. And as people learn how to game the system, it’s becoming more and more of an issue for companies today.

Well leave it to good old American ingenuity—where there’s a problem, there’s a solution, and where there’s a solution, there’s money to be made. Much like factoring companies swooped in to take over aged receivable and loan balances and stepping up collection efforts for manufacturers and banks, now companies are digging into employee absence data to look for trends and information that can help get people back to work and increase worker productivity within the organization. And a new cottage industry focused on the area of “absence management” has sprung up.

As Business Week magazine points out in its latest issue, employers are starting to say “enough’s enough” with employees not showing up. With the cost of absenteeism rising to over $74 Billion in lost wages and time, organizations are trying to pinpoint reasons why employees don’t show up from work, to take the dreaded “corrective action.” That’s where the new absence management vendors spring into action.

There are obviously a lot of different reasons that people don’t come to work, most of them in and of themselves benign and normal. So part of this effort is to find the cheaters and the people who are basically lying about their reasons for not working and take the appropriate action. But a larger effort is to find the reasons “why” people are most calling in sick or taking days off. By pinpointing these issues, companies can then take the corrective action needed to remedy the problem permanently. One example pointed out in the article referred to workers on a team with a boss they loathed. The underlying reason for the elevated absenteeism of people on his team? Quite simply, they didn’t want to work around him. So by analyzing this information and confidentially talking to members of the team, they HR staff was able to pinpoint the problem and take the necessary corrective action and get people back to work.

Which pretty much sums of the promise of performance management!

Better Late Than Never

Microsoft announced the expansion of their Enterprise Search portfolio yesterday with Microsoft Search Server 2008 Express. Fashionably late to the search party, Search Server 2008 is based on SharePoint and is a downloadable offering that provides secure, powerful enterprise search capabilities – all for free! Anyone can download a release candidate now at, with the final RTM version available in H2 FY08. Microsoft is certainly putting emphasis on how you arrive rather than when you arrive to the party, this fall has been full of enterprise software releases including Unified Communications, PerformancePoint Server, and now Enterprise Search.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Managing Performance - Getting Fired

So this is an interesting week to talk about performance, especially performance in context of people. More specifically, when performance goes bad, who takes the blame. The last few business days have provided some very high profile examples of senior executives who have lost their heads...

The sub-prime mortgage mess has ended the tenure of Stan O 'Neal at Merrill Lynch, followed shortly by Chuck Prince at Citigroup. Turns out money was not free, as well as ability to manage risk as part of business strategy is critical. Among the things of some interest in this story from a performance point of view:
  • We now have the answer to, "what does it take to get fired?" According to a recent account in Fortune, in O'Neal's case it is $8.5 billion write-down on sub-prime mortgages. O'Neal is categorized as "having no ability to manage risk". Sounds like a fine bit of understatement. A very hard fall for a well known executive who has graced all the major magazines as a strong leader and strong performer over a long career at ML.
  • In Prince's case at Citi, the amount currently stands at $3B, a number widely believed to be conservative. The actual story will take some more time to figure out.
  • The O'Neal story has additional legs for 3 reasons - he is black, so his departure, along with the departure of Richard Parsons at Time Warner, is seen in some quarters as cause for concern. He is expected to leave with a package in the neighborhood of $150M - go big and go home. Finally, he and the board appear to have sent him packing without a succession plan in place. This last is potentially more unbelievable than his exit package. Isn't the corporate governance 101 handbook with chapter on "executive gets hit by bus" part of standard b-school fare?
While I am not equipped to provide a commentary on the state of the mortgage business or the state of CEO pay and packages, these are very clear example of poor performance and being held to accountability. It also points to the importance of people in all things performance. No amount of technology can help people execute on a flawed strategy. More importantly, technology still requires people to build strategy, execute the strategy and be held accountable for the performance of the organization.

What Are We Doing With All This Information?

As you might know I’m hot down the path of Personal Intelligence, a somewhat ambiguous category that spans into how technology impacts our personal lives. I recently read an article in Wired magazine that puts some proof in the pudding and takes a knock at Google and whether they are helping the problem or creating more of a mess, titled Thanks, Google. You’ve turned me into the most efficient time-waster ever.

At last week’s CFO conference in Chicago (already heavily blogged on by Guy) Erik Brynjolfsson a Professor of Management at MIT Sloan School of Management, commented on how rapidly digital growth is occuring. In the next 13 months alone, the digital information produced will double that of all the previous years recorded, just take a look at The Expanding Digital Universe: A Forecast of Worldwide Information Growth Through 2010 Websites like facebook, myspace, and youtube are good examples of how our lives are becoming filled with new digital content at an alarming rate. The topic Brynjolfsson hit on in a business context was interesting to the PI conversation, as information becomes more abundant the ability to manage, navigate, and prioritize the information becomes scarce. This brings me back to the Wired article that speaks to how productive we are in our daily lives, and whether a portal that manages your stocks, RSS feeds, and online calendar actually makes you more productive. There are some interesting similarities between the business world as Business Intelligence enters a new trend around end user productivity and how the tools and technology provide the information we need to become more productive in our jobs. In the world of Personal Intelligence the same rules seem to apply.

Monday, November 05, 2007

2008 - All About Process Management

The word of the day is process. The word for 2008 is Process Management. At the most recent Gartner IT Symposium in Orlando, the keynote laid out their 10 strategic technologies for 2008. The strategic technologies were defined as capable of disrupting IT, business or both, requiring strategic investment (Eg: real money), and Gartner is suggesting you don't want to be late or left behind. Check this eweek slide show for the overview. Gartner's top 10.

1. Green IT
2. Unified communications (seems like we have talked about this before)
4. Metadata management
5. Virtualization 2.0
6. Mash-ups and composite applications
7. Web platform and WOA
8. Computing Fabric
9. Real World Web
10. Social Software

Among the things of note is that business process shows up on the top of the software stack as a must have. Maybe this is response to the Moore's Law effect currently happening to analyst BPM forcasts - the size of supposed market doubles every 18 months according to Forrester, IDC and Gartner. Also interesting that Gartner makes reference to starting with process modeling for all classes of users with the idea that complete process management suites are required to bridge the gap between process as a discipline and whatever is happening in IT regarding SOA.

This topic is likely top of mind for many organizations as they look to unlock the next generation of repeatable performance based on process. Watch this space for more details.

Friday, November 02, 2007

The Week That Was, CFO Style...

Wow, like WOW, what a keynote!
A more, ahem, "analytical," view of the SAP/BOBJ deal...
HELLOOO RESTON WOOOOOOOOOOO--PerformancePoint Continues its world tour...
Pre-Occ-U-Pa-Tion, Pre-Occ-U-Pa-Ay-Shun, it's takingmyeyeofftheball...

That will do it for us this week, putting an APB for Pat, last seen living it up in the lap of luxury in the Tom Douglas Seattle restaurant empire...


"If We All Have it, How Does it Make Us More Competitive?"

So continuing my recap from the CFO conference earlier this week, and particularly the keynote presentation from James Dallas of Medtronic...

As the CFO conference started, the moderator flashed some statistics on the screen from a recent study conducted by CFO magazine focusing on a few areas around technology. One of the statistics focused on whether or not CFO's felt that the technology they had in-house gave them a competitive advantage. Approximately 60% of the survey respondents said that they thought that technology "did" give them this advantage.

As Mr. Dallas started his speech, he seemed to question these results--querying the audience and asking them who had ERP, who had CRM, who had BI? And as everyone answered that they did, he asked the $64,000 question: "So if we all have the same technology, if we're all using SAP, Oracle, Microsoft, etc., how does that make us more competitive? We're all using the same products!"

Well that got the room buzzing, and certainly set the tone for the rest of his excellent keynote speech. But something struck me as ringing very true in his statement. If we all have the same technology, how CAN we make it so that we're more competitive and excel ahead of our competition?

The answer for me is crystal clear. You use the product better, smarter, you find ways to make your people more productive and make the technology work for them. In their jobs, in their roles, in their processes. The reason that so many technology projects fail is because we ask our teams and employees to change the way they work to fit the product. What results is a huge spike in usage of the product right after training, followed by the "blue" (if you're typical) or "green" (if you're lucky) ski slope of erosion of usage as people drift away from the product or leave the department, and return to what they were previously using. And the technology hasn't helped anyone.

But by fitting the technology into the way your company works, and focusing on what makes your workers more productive with the same technology that your competition is using, that's where the difference lies between #1 and #2. The game isn't won in the center--everyone has the technology.

No, as Mr. Dallas reminded us so capably, the game is won at the margins--and a focus on making the technology work for you, vs. you working for the technology--that's where the battle is being fought today.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

My Culture Will Eat Your Strategy For Lunch...

While Performance Guy Pat was up closing big business in PG's Guy and Nic's hometown earlier this week, we were both at the CFO Technology Summit in Chicago for the annual conference held by CFO Magazine to tie together finance and IT people and see what happens.

The keynotes are worth a few posts here, as they were very substantial and insightful, particularly right out of the gate, with the CIO of Medtronic, James Dallas, who spoke about the need of IT and Finance to start speaking the same language if they want to truly move the business forward together.

Mr. Dallas started his career in finance, and had a role in an Atlanta-based bank in the cost accounting side of the house when he started getting more involved with IT projects, and thought he could become the conduit between IT and Finance to help them understand each other and where they were both coming from. He's kept to that creed over the years, to the point where he mentioned that the entire IT staff at Medtronic is enrolled in a "finance competency" course (my words, not his), so they can learn "the language of the business." Seems like an excellent idea to me, I wish more groups would go forward with this.

However, one of his slides was particularly insightful in terms of getting these type of finance/IT projects off the ground--and that is, to keep in mind the company culture before imposing new technology on your workers. He took this comment, "My culture will eat your strategy for lunch" from a colleague in his company, who made the comment in response to the proposal of a new stratetic project within the organization.

And while it's humorous, it's also a often overlooked aspect of performance management projects. The technology can look great, do great things, even let you get to the "leading edge" of data access, but if it doesn't fit in with your people, it will fail. We've all seen the surveys and graphs charting new software usage, where it climbs during the pilot phase and peaks the weeks after training, only to fall back down to the 15-20% of the population who regulalry use the product or have an acute need for it.

Mr. Dallas' point is that we need to consider how our people use information to get them through their day--and give them the tools that help them do their job better. In other words, understand the culture of your teams, and make the technology work for how they do their jobs--not the other way around.

Sage advice that we'd all do well to heed as we think about blanketing the world with our respective applications!

Another Angle on the SAP/Business Objects Merger

So while we've commented a few times (like here, here, and ok, here) on the potential issues behind the impending SAP/Business Objects merger, today on, writer and investor Vasu Vijayraghavan chimes in with a more financially oriented analysis of the balance sheet fundamentals of both companies, and comes to the conclusion that the deal isn't a great one for SAP shareholders--to the point where she's sold her shares.
Now the Performance Guys are not in the business of touting a specific stock, and we certainly don't pretend to be as educated as the experts in the field. But in contrast to a drive-by "this deal stinks don't do it" type of article, Ms. Vijayraghavan cites some compelling reasons why this isn't good for holders of SAP in her opinion. Some tidbits to support this hypothesis:

#1: Most of the BOBJ current financial metrics are, on the income side, worse than SAP's, with a table full of supporting data contained in article;

#2: Balance sheet and cash position of BOBJ including outstanding liabilities and restricted cash;
#3: Significant increase in total liabilities due to recent acquisitions (up to 38% of total equity from 2% last December, primarily (it would seem) as a result of the Cartesis acquisition, which was the biggest investment the company made this year)
All this, coupled with the decrease in quarterly revenues, has her antennae up. Now Business Objects investors are protected of course, with the offering moving ahead full steam and the stock trading at the offer price.

These facts could be more of any issue, however, when it comes time to derive the "synergies" that SAP investors will be expecting from the acquisition. That's when we'll see if these issues raised are just disparate data points, or precursors to some major restructuring that needs to occur to ensure SAP continues to deliver. To date we've heard nothing from both SAP and Business Objects other than the party line, which is focused on changing very little in the structure of both organizations. However, it will be interesting to see if that stance changes should the underlying financial fundamentals of both companies continue to diverge.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Is SAP Too Preoccupied?

We've wondered here before that in this Performance Guy's opinion/hypothesis, was Oracle always intending to go after BEA and not Business Objects, forcing SAP's hand and tying them up in a costly and lenthy acquisition and integration process while continuing to encircle them with more competitive technology?

Now news comes that Oracle has added to its performance management portfolio with the announcement of their intent to acquire Interlace Systems, a maker of integrated planning systems, which in large part acts as an extension of sales and operational planning--kind of a "planning for planners" type of approach. This move will further differentiate Oracle's performance management portfolio, and adds a solid extension of planning capabilities that you would expect to be used in sales cycles as soon as the acquisition is closed.
Interestingly, the "SAP may be distracted" angle was just picked up by another blogger we're now linking to on the right hand side here, Tony Baer at Tony's insights are interesting in that as he looks on the Interlace site, while they have IBM, Oracle, and SAP as partners, the SAP partnership does have prominence over the others, particulalry on the support and certification side vs. what they are doing with Oracle, and he surmises that this may be another acquisition that Oracle has snatched away.

Time will tell, but first BEA, now Interlace, stay tuned for more developments...

Friday, October 26, 2007

PerformancePoint Launch Update

One more quick one before the end of the week... Alight, it’s time for this Performance guy to do a little bit of tooting his own horn. It’s no secret that PerformancePoint Server has hit the world with a bang, officially releasing in late Sept. I wanted to share some of the special sauce and give a glimpse into how enormous this launch really is. Let’s start with the technology preview program, since Feb 2007 it has had over 10,000 downloads, pretty amazing. Next, let’s talk about press as there has been a tremendous amount of news that has hit the wires in the past few weeks around the launch of PerformancePoint, here’s a small taste:

Richard Pends, OLAP Report, June 27, 2007 “There is now no doubt that Microsoft is deadly serious about taking a very big bite out of the performance management market. PerformancePoint has a scalable architecture, designed with considerable attention to performance, and early customer reports are positive. Indeed, PerformancePoint is reported already to outperform some of the established market-leading products.”

John Hagerty, Market Outlook: Microsoft’s Looming Impact on the Business Intelligence and Performance Management Market) June 27, 2007
“It’s the total Microsoft solution, not just the BI/PM products... While some competitors will dismiss Microsoft products as not scalable or lacking functionality, that assessment is short-sighted.”

And finally lets talk about execution, if you’ve been wondering why this performance guy has been so quiet lately it’s not because Van Halen is back together, although that would have been a good guess. The tour at large is over 50 cities and globally, here’s a flavor for what’s happening in the US alone:

20-Sep New York
9-Oct Chicago
17-Oct Milwaukee
25-Oct Reston
1-Nov Honolulu
6-Nov Pittsburgh
6-Nov Houston
7-Nov Kansas City
7-Nov San Francisco
7-Nov San Diego
7-Nov Seattle
8-Nov Houston
8-Nov Bloomington
9-Nov San Antonio
9-Nov Dallas
13-Nov Omaha
14-Nov Seattle
14-Nov Nashville
14-Nov St Louis
15-Nov Boston
15-Nov Overland Park
27-Nov Downers Grove
28-Nov Madison
28-Nov Des Moines
28-Nov Reston
29-Nov Omaha
4-Dec Columbus
4-Dec Atlanta
6-Dec Cleveland
6-Dec Los Angeles