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.