management

SAP responds to the 3 V’s: Increasing Volume, Velocity and Variety of Data

Last week I attended one of the SAP Insider events, the one that combines Financials (Financials2012), Governance, Risk and Compliance (GRC2012) and Human Resource Management (HR2012). I have to admit that HR was the odd man out here. I work with the GRC, financial applications and Enterprise Performance Management (EPM) teams at SAP, but I only watch the HCM space from the periphery. That may change over the next year if companies that are, from my perspective, largely “ERP vendors” continue to acquire and invest in this space. For those who have been living under a rock for the last few months, SAP recently acquired HCM solution provider SuccessFactors and Oracle acquired talent management vendor Taleo. Sanjay Poonen (@spoonen), President & Corporate Officer, SAP Global Solutions made an interesting comment about this acquisition in his opening keynote to all three groups. He said that SAP had “followed our customers, who voted through their wallets.” I believe he was referring to both HCM as well as movement to “the cloud.”

Sanjay kicked off the event highlighting a key concern of many business executives today: the difficulty in keeping up with the increasing volume, velocity and variety of data. Actually Sanjay referred to it as “Big Data” although I suspect that phrase has not completely infiltrated the vocabulary of most top executives… at least not yet. I think there is still an education process that needs to happen before many will understand they have a data problem.

There is no doubt that anyone running a business today understands that both the speed of business and the speed of change, hence the velocity continues to accelerate. Nobody would argue that customers are more empowered and connected and expect service instantly and this, together with continued globalization increases the volume of data required. But have top executives really come to understand that data required for planning and decision-making also expands beyond the traditional boundaries of data that is collected and stored in enterprise applications? Some have, but many, particularly those in smaller companies, have not. This is in part impacted by the “social business” movement. CFOs represent the largest target market for Financials and GRC and CFOs are not known to be the most “social” folks on the planet.

That said, even the increasing volume of traditional data might be enough to prompt action. This was the case for Harcourt Houghton Mifflin, highlighted in Sanjay’s keynote. The merger of the two companies resulted in 8 mini companies, disjointed data, fragmented processes. All of this was going on during a financial crisis. The goal was one version of the truth on an integrated platform to support integrated business planning. Of course the reason Harcourt Houghton Mifflin was featured in Sanjay’s opener was because their solution to this problem was SAP’s Business Planning and Consolidation (BPC) solution.

Harcourt Houghton Mifflin needed to get alignment among stakeholders. According to the video played, they were “looking for something easier to use than Hyperion.” They needed to transform the planning process and they feel EPM 10.0 changed the nature of the way people manage performance across finance and operations. The real power comes not from analytics as a separate tool but from embedding them directly into the applications wherever they are needed.

And therefore the one big announcement from SAP during the event serves to emphasize the convergence of these 3 V’s: volume, velocity and variety. The announcement was that BPC is now running on HANA, SAP’s answer to the “big data” problem. According to Sanjay, “The power of SAP HANA enables financial professionals to perform faster planning, query, reporting and analysis, profitability and simulation in real-time. As a result, SAP helps companies accelerate period-end closing and smarter decision-making — faster than other vendor offerings available today.”  So the message transcends the annual planning, budgeting and forecasting exercise and applies equally to the ongoing financial consolidation and reporting exercise.

However, it is only the Netweaver version of BPC that is powered by HANA (there is also a Microsoft version) and for this to work, the customer needs to be running a version of BW on HANA. The reality is that the version of BW sitting on HANA is still in what SAP calls “ramp up” (i.e. early adopter or what other vendors might call beta testing). So customers interested in BPC on HANA either need to be in this ramp up program, or they need to wait until it is generally available. SAP is hoping that it will exit ramp up by Sapphire in May.

I am hoping to do a more in depth analysis on this once customers are running live. In the meantime, the education process around big data and data management strategies needs to continue. This is more than SAP just creating the need in the mind of their customers and prospects for the technology solution it has developed. This is a real problem for many CFOs today. Many simply don’t understand that technology has advanced to the point of providing a solution.

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Are You Ready to Change the Game In Driving Corporate Performance?

UNIT4 Says “There’s an App for That”

 Speed is the name of the game today. Whether we’re talking about technology innovation, market or economic change or simply the pace of business, acceleration is happening. Mid-sized organizations in particular are pressured by a continuing array of changing circumstances – macro market, competitors,workforce, regulatory actions and financial constraints – all in rapid-fire succession. A wide array of organizational stakeholders need to have the ongoing ability to input/consolidate/analyze changing information , view live performance results tied to current processes, assess risks, and seize opportunities. They need answers and they need them fast.

And yet, the wide array of corporate performance management (CPM), enterprise performance management (EPM) and business intelligence (BI) tools available today are neither fast nor easy to deploy for continuous ‘right-sized’ decisionmaking, nor easily accessible for the wider organizational hierarchy of workers. Nor are they available in a more desirable “pay as you go” format popularized by app stores.  UNIT4, a company known for bringing change-embracing software solutions to market, says look no further for a fresh approach to analytics because now there’s “an app for that”:  UNIT4 Business Analytics Apps.

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ANALTYICS TODAY:  Bulky, tool-like, slow

Organizations should not be forced to settle for large-footprint, expensive, multi-month deployments of licensed analytic software that add new cost with each new requirement.  And yet this has been the only option for many looking for answers from the enterprise resource planning (ERP) operational backbone to which they are tethered.   As deployments have expanded, responding to changing needs and making decisions are like steering a battleship, when in fact today you need the speed and flexibility of a high-powered speedboat. And yet, the hundreds of thousands, or even millions of dollars invested in these solutions makes it harder and harder to abandon ship.

 Some of the largest, most dominant ERP solution providers have attacked the problem through acquisition of equally “large” analytical tool sets that add bulk to the solution and have the potential of further slowing down the decision-making process.

Hence, the global business and public sector community has installed literally millions of large-footprint, licensed software deployments.  That formula is being challenged by a convergence of new mobile and cloud technologies, and fed by the growing impatience of buyers who are questioning big spends tied to long contracts.  What are the choices today?

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)

As an integrated suite of modules that forms the transactional system of record of the business, ERP can provide a wealth of data. But thinking ERP is the answer, per se, is like expecting to get a drink of water from a fire hose without being blasted with far more liquid than you can possibly consume. What you really need is a glass of water. You certainly don’t want to constrain or eliminate the power of the fire hose, but you do want a more manageable way of dispensing and consuming the water on a day-to-day basis.

As ERP solutions have matured over the past several decades they have grown broader and deeper, expanding beyond traditional boundaries, adding more force and power. This is all good because after all, these transactions are the pulse of your business and ERP, in sustaining that flow, has traditionally been viewed as the heartbeat. But if you view ERP as the heartbeat of the decision-making process you will skip a lot of beats, and you certainly don’t want to undergo open-heart surgery every time you need to make an adjustment (change) to your business.

Furthermore, how many people do you know have the patience and fortitude to search for answers by diving right into the details of their broad ERP solution? Whether you are an executive or first-rung manager, most workers don’t have the Information Technology (IT) expertise to drill much beyond what is shown in executive dashboards.  Smaller, bite-sized, but important data collection/consolidation/review and decision-support actions get lost in the larger ERP environment.  The lack of ability to perform these continual, repetitive analytic actions – potentially totaling thousands of daily small performance actions in even a mid-sized organization – can add up to a fairly toothsome financial outcome.

Business Intelligence (BI)

You might ask, isn’t “intelligence” what Business Intelligence is for? The concept behind BI is that, yes, you can distill data, slicing and dicing it in order to extract the “intelligence” from it. The problem is BI is generally delivered as a tool set, which transforms the burden of deciding “what do I need to measure, in what places, how often and with what associated actions” … into a fairly complex task force requirement.  Once the group aligns on these matters (often taking weeks or even months), it must still shop for the tool, validate whether it is compatible with the existing ERP backbone, install, test, train and roll it out.

True, there is no limit to the type of analytics that can be developed using these tools. But the journey is long and it involves considerable departmental, IT and economic commitments.  What’s more, when the first outlier question needs to be answered (i.e. one not previously anticipated), recoding of BI applications can put the team right back at square one of the process.

Corporate Performance Management (CPM)

If a tool set doesn’t meet the needs of the organization, how about Corporate (or Enterprise) Performance Management (CPM/EPM) suites?  To date these have been quite loosely defined and often include financial planning, budgeting and forecasting, cash management, consolidation, legal/financial reporting, and sales performance, but may also include corporate governance, strategy and risk management. These are all critical functions but in taking a suite approach, we are right back to the problem we have with ERP. You lose focus. You don’t need a full suite to answer a particular question or drive one specific decision.

As you can see, it is no surprise that what we have today is a lot of confused decision-makers with no clear idea of where to even start to shop for solutions.

Where in the World?

And to further complicate matters, consider that today’s workforces are consistently on the move, not sitting at a desk behind a computer. They may be visiting remote locations of their own operations, making customer or partner calls or have a mobile-defined job. This makes web-based access very important, if not a “must have.” And with growing organizational reliance on smart phones, iPads and other tablets, workers now expect to find answers on whatever devices they carry with them.

This makes the concept of organizations having the ability to download a templated pre-defined analytics app, extend it as needed to a limitless array of workers (executive and non-executive; mobile or office-centric); and allow them to access and perform change easily – a very appealing proposition.

Introducing UNIT4 Business Analytics Apps

This is exactly the concept UNIT4 is introducing in its new Business Analytics Apps: turnkey, analytic-infused, purpose-built applications to solve a specific problem or meet a particular need. Think of these as bite-sized, “tapas-style” individual applications, available online to organizations through an apps store, easy to download, easy to complete, small and digestible.  Each is a rapid, targeted repeatable response to a specific (often recurring) organizational need, representing a small pay-as-you-go investment with little to no risk, and yet produces a quick Return on Investment (ROI).

UNIT4 Business Analytics Apps are turnkey solutions, 90% complete with two rapid-fire choices for the last 10% of organizational tailoring/deployment:

  • A do-it-yourself option via embedded ‘build & go’ capabilities that’s particularly fitted for those organizations that aim for complete independence to address performance challenges and/or opportunities
  • A turnkey professional service bundle of 5, 10 or 20 days (depending on requirements) via a UNIT4 (certified) professional services team to get it to 100%

Each app will have embedded pre-built analytics tailored specifically for the solution. These analytic-infused solutions do not fall into the traditional categories of ERP, CPM, EPM or prototypical BI tools; they are a reinvention of the performance solutions market.

UNIT4 is working hand-in-hand with strategic customers in various verticals to develop the turnkey solutions. These customers represent industries including local government, education, retail and professional services. The first wave of Business Analytics Apps, true purpose-built, ready-to-consume apps that will also be smartly integrated with UNIT4’s core solutions Agresso Business World (ABW) and CODA Financials. These solutions offer customers a rapid targeted response to business change, emerging risks or new opportunities. The underlying architecture is change-enabling, whereby a change made in one application automatically flows to the other applications.

The first application will be introduced to the market in March 2012. The UNIT4 Business Analytics Apps Store is projected to be open for business in June 2012 with the first wave of applications. From that moment on, subsequent waves of solutions are to be released at quarterly or half-year intervals.

How Do Bite-Sized Analytics Change the Performance Game?

Do these Business Analytic Apps replace ERP or financial transactional applications? No, there will always be a need for ERP and ERP-like transactional systems. However, this approach could very well dramatically change how data collected and stored in these transactional systems is consumed.

It has always been easier to get data into ERP than to get actionable intelligence out. Hence much of the value is left on the table with information that is largely untapped beyond dashboard-like state-of-the-business views. With broad, deep and multi-purpose applications, most organizations simply don’t know where or how to start – without significant resource commitments on multiple levels. By creating these bite-size apps that address recurring specific needs, organizations can simply download the apps, finish them off in a manageable number of days, deploy via their mobile workforces and quickly gain value.

ERP and the accompanying performance solutions acquired by ERP vendors in billion-dollar deals are big-ticket items. And with deployments that take months or years, it’s not a stretch to say this is a scary spend for most organizations. Alternatively, UNIT4’s scalpel-like approach to enabling multiple roles in the organization to solve performance issues offers organizations a no/low-risk value proposition with a fast return, at a very affordable pay-for-use price point.

This approach eliminates much of the analysis-paralysis that can accompany a major undertaking like ERP. And it will also eliminate the confusion and the decision-making over what kind of a solution is required. You won’t need to choose between ERP, BI and/or CPM. These categories will be meaningless in this context. You will just download the app that answers your question or satisfies a particular need.

How Unique is UNIT4’s New Analytic-Infused App Platform?

UNIT4’s newest  Business Analytics Apps suite is not unlike the vintage 1980’s Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups commercial where two people accidentally combine their individual chocolate and peanut butter confections into a breakthrough candy sensation. The “genius” is this bundle of individually proven components:

  • Pre-built, 90% complete templates
  • Available via an app store
  • A turnkey professional service bundle of 5, 10 or 20 days, depending on requirements, to finish it off
  • (Or) a “do it yourself” approach to finish the last 10% based on the embedded ‘build & go’ environment
  • Pay-for-use model
  • Change-embracing platform
  • Backed by 30 years of enterprise problem-solving experience

One truly unique feature not currently available in the market, the embedded social-collaboration capability that allows users to continually amend, change, aggregate and input fresh data and results into the template. This “new” flavor of change for UNIT4, allows the company to advance its reputation as the enterprise solution market’s most change-friendly vendor.

Recommendations and Key Takeaways

For those organizations currently deploying the traditional array of ERP, EPM, CPM or BI tools, it will become increasingly difficult to justify spending money on what (for many companies) is software shelf ware. These turnkey, analytic-infused, purpose-built applications designed to solve a specific problem or meet a particular need can eliminate large up-front spends on EPM/CPM licensing, and significantly reduce (if not eliminate) the effort to define measurements/processes, key performance indicators (KPI’s), and data feed sources. Implementation and training will reflect the ease individuals experience today in downloading and running consumer apps. UNIT4 Business Analytics Apps begin to bridge the gap between consumer and enterprise apps that the industry is talking about but nobody is (yet) delivering.

Businesses and organizations seeking performance enhancements should see benefits from a more targeted response to their specific needs, and there will be a direct correlation between what you pay and the value you receive.

Existing UNIT4 customers should take advantage of the opportunity to help UNIT4 define these new bite-size apps. The more involved you are, the more your specific needs will be met. UNIT4 claims that “imagination is your only limit.” Those business leaders that can imagine a new world of apps will reap the highest reward. Start imagining.

 

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When Women are in Charge

…things get done faster.

I was reminded of this twice yesterday. I have been struggling to keep up the last few days since hurricane Irene knocked power out of my home, and therefore my office. I was “powerless”, from Sunday morning until 2:30 AM this (Wednesday) morning. Being the well-prepared New Englanders that we are, of course we have a generator. Here in New Hampshire it is really a “must.” Without power, we have no (well) water and during the winter (when most power outages occur) we have no heat. But you simply can’t run the generator all day, and even a generator doesn’t give you Internet access. So I have been charging (and re-charging) batteries and visiting a friend who never lost power. I would log on through her network and somehow manage to keep her cats from playing with my “mouse” and walking across my keyboard.

It was while I was herding the cats that these reminders came of how women typically “manage” differently.

First of all, I got a request from Judith Rothrock of JRocketMarketing to review slides and promotional material for a webcast that she and I will be teaming up on for one of our joint clients, Syspro US. This webcast isn’t until October, but here was Judith finalizing the slides and setting up a rehearsal. When I got the message I opened it up and responded within a few minutes. After all, it only took that long to review it and my approach to time management is to (whenever possible) “touch” a document only once. Judith (who, by the way, runs a very successful marketing services firm) was appreciative of the fast turnaround, saying she often found the difference between men and women was in responsiveness.

Secondly, because of the power outage, it was just yesterday that I saw the announcements that Sandra Kurtzig was back on the manufacturing scene with her new company Kenandy (www.kenandy.com). Her “coming out” announcement hit on August 29th, coinciding with the Dreamforce conference. That makes sense since Kenandy’s vision for manufacturing management in the cloud is built on Salesforce.com’s enterprise cloud computing platform, Force.com.

Being an ASK alumni, I have fond memories and a very high regard for Sandy as a software pioneer and also as a role model for women executives and entrepreneurs. She founded ASK Computer Systems in 1972 and was the first woman to take a technology company public. Therefore I sent Sandy a congratulatory note, letting her know that in 2006 I had left the software world and had joined the ranks of industry analysts and would be very interested in setting up a briefing. Within a couple hours, Sandy replied and introduced me to her CMO, Rod Butters.

So you see, it’s all about a simple approach to getting things done, and getting them done quickly. If it is so simple, why is it so rare? As Judith would say, “…no need to cogitate for days on end.” In a world where executives are inundated with communication, where everyone is beyond “busy” today, three entrepreneurial  women (yes, I proudly include myself) set an example for just getting things done.

P.S. In the spirit of full disclosure, Rod Butters was equally responsive (is it Sandy’s influence, I wonder?) and I look forward to bringing you more news of Kenandy’s vision in the near future.

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Does ERP mean Excel Runs Production? What Happens When Enterprise Software Is Too Hard to Use?

 “Ease of use” and the “user experience” are getting a lot of play these days. But what does that really mean? I currently have my inaugural Mint Jutras ERP survey live and have collected more than 200 responses thus far (just the beginning!)  So far, results show that ease of use most likely refers to time to complete tasks (50% picked this as a “top 3” in importance) and intuitive navigation (42%). Of course some other factors were also important including easy access to ERP from anywhere, any time (think access through the Internet and mobility) and the ability to stay in a workspace that combines ERP with other tools (e.g. email, Internet, dashboards, etc.)

In addition, earlier this year I helped IFS North America with a study conducted to explore how usability challenges may cause individuals to work outside the system of record, causing the manufacturer to lose value as employees use other systems. We looked at the degree to which corporate citizens will take action as the result of enterprise software usability challenges (including the use of various types of PC-based software and online free or low-cost applications). We were also looking for generational differences by comparing respondents in four different age groups:

  • 18 to 35 years old
  • 36 to 45 years old
  • 46 to 55 years old
  • Over 55 years

In general, we found there was a generational difference.  Once established in their careers, respondents were more likely to speak up about usability challenges in enterprise software. Instead, younger professionals (between ages 18 and 35) were more likely to change jobs as the result of poorly-designed enterprise software. So if you want to keep those future superstars, beware!

The quip “ERP stands for Excel Runs Production” is often true. When faced with usability challenges in the enterprise system of record, Microsoft Excel is the most frequent alternative. In addition, when faced with usability challenges, respondents indicated they may also use a number of free or low-cost online tools including Google Docs and Dropbox.

Speaking Up

Counter to popular perceptions of younger generations in the workforce, the 18-35 year-old group was least likely to definitely speak up or complain about the poor user experiences they were having with enterprise software. Those over 35 were most likely to definitely say something but extremely unlikely to simply suffer in silence. This pattern may be due in part to the fact that younger managers may feel, perhaps with justification, that they lack influence within the organization so speaking up would have no effect and possibly jeopardize their careers.

Meanwhile, those most likely to say something about their negative software experiences were respondents over 45 years, who would have more influence and also a good deal of experience with both business and consumer-level technologies and have begun to expect the same ease of use in business as they see in consumer technology.

Opting Out

More than 30% of respondents in each age group indicate that they would be likely to use enterprise software that was hard to use or poorly designed less frequently than software that was more thoughtfully designed or easier to use. A sizable majority of respondents also indicated that they were prone to using spreadsheets, including Microsoft Excel, instead of their enterprise system of record . In fact, respondents aged 18 to 35 were most likely to use spreadsheets (75%). Anyone graduating from college or business schools within the last 10 years (at least) has gained extensive experience with Microsoft Excel, seeking the comfort level of familiarity.

Commentary

Some comments and suggestions offered to Enterprise Application solution providers by respondents:

“The interface needs to be seamless and intuitive. We don’t have learning curve time anymore.”

“Make it able to be seen more easily from smart phones.”

“Take lessons from the most popular software interfaces – Microsoft Office, Google, iTunes, etc.  There is nothing more frustrating than using an interface that looks like it’s from an AS400 in the 80’s but was purchased last year.”

“Just show me the information I need and don’t waste my time with ‘pretty’ graphics.”

In general the message was clear. It is all about faster, simpler, cost effective.

Download the study, “IFS: Does ERP mean Excel Runs Production,” at http://download.ifsworld.com/Excel_Runs_Production.  (registration required)

 

 

 

 

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Is the World Ready for SAP EPM 10.0?

Unified – Comprehensive – Transformational

On May 16, 2011 at SAPPHIRE® NOW in Orlando, Florida, SAP  announced the latest version of its enterprise performance management (EPM) solutions. The 10.0 release represents the culmination of a journey that originated four and a half years ago as SAP began to assemble a broad portfolio of products, beginning with the acquisition of Pilot Software and Outlooksoft. Later, in 2008 the merger with Business Objects expanded this portfolio and in June of that year SAP announced a longer term road map. Release 10.0 is the last major milestone of that journey in delivering a suite of products that SAP describes as unified, comprehensive and transformational.  The goal of 10.0 is to “move EPM best practices beyond the finance department to managers throughout the company, helping people make risk-aware decisions that positively impact enterprise-wide performance.” The tools are now in place, but are companies ready and willing to be transformed?

A Bit of History

Effective management of enterprise performance, by its very nature, is dependent on consolidating data and providing visibility. An EPM application can never be effective as a completely stand-alone function. The better it can consolidate data and present it in the proper context, the more effective business execution and decision-making. Therefore the journey of SAP’s EPM solution covers a lot of ground.

The first stop on the journey was Release 7.0, which was delivered in August 2008. This first release honored prior commitments to enhance functionality and incorporated the underlying technical architecture of NetWeaver. Specifically 7.0 focused on ERP and NetWeaver and NetWeaver Business Warehouse (BW) integration into legacy SAP applications (Business Planning and Consolidation and Strategy Management).  It also delivered Business Intelligence (BI) integration into legacy Business Objects applications (Financial Consolidation and Profitability and Cost Management). 

Release 7.5 followed later and was the first to bring the various components of the portfolio together as a suite of products, adding integration of SAP applications and BI. Then Business Objects applications were optimized for ERP (often the source of the transactional detail upon which decisions are based), NetWeaver and BW. EPM 7.5 also introduced cross-application scenarios between EPM and Governance, Risk and Compliance (GRC). But the various components were still separate applications, although with “best-of-breed” integration.

Keeping this all straight is tricky and somewhat confusing, but also reveals the extended scope of the task at hand. EPM 10.0 brings to fruition a true suite, making the heritage of each component a non-issue. The suite brings a harmonized user interface across all components, along with next-generation productivity tools. In addition to the development efforts specific to EPM, it also leverages development efforts from other parts of SAP:

  • In December, SAP launched the SAP® In-Memory Appliance software (SAP HANA™). HANA is now the technological root of everything SAP develops. The message of HANA was always about “big data”. Indeed it allows people to analyze huge amounts of data in real time even at the lowest level of non-aggregated detail. But customer examples highlighted at SapphireNow prove it is also about speed: Examples like reducing the time to retrieve data from 77 minutes to 13 seconds or from 8 hours to instantaneous.
  • In February, SAP launched the culmination of three years’ development in BI and enterprise information management (EIM) software. These were critical components of the of SAP® BusinessObjects™ analytic applications which started rolling out in the fall of 2010 and continue to be built out for specific functions and industries.  Strong BI tools are important but applications ready-built with these tools are more easily consumed by the audience for EPM – namely executives in charge of strategy and execution.
  • In March, SAP launched GRC 10.0 -solutions to help organizations move GRC practices out of the hands of a few so everyone in the organization can participate in mitigating risk and increasing corporate compliance. In concept and practice these functions should be attached at the hip to performance management.

So given this firm foundation built over the past four and a half years, how does SAP substantiate its claim of unified, comprehensive and transformational?

Unified

Unification in EPM 10.0 goes beyond the harmonization of the user interface across the various components of EPM. Yes, a shared user experience does indeed reduce learning curves and a familiar look and feel reduces the intimidation factor of something “new.” But equally important is the unification of EPM with other tools, including NetWeaver and ERP as well as desktop productivity tools. Indeed Microsoft Excel has become a universal management tool, often in place of or in spite of applications that are implemented.

Exporting data from any application to a spreadsheet has become basic functionality that is expected of modern enterprise applications, as is using spreadsheets to import data. But EPM 10.0 goes beyond this simple extract and Excel essentially becomes the user interface.

Several early customers of EPM 10.0 expressed this as one of the major benefits and also key to user adoption.

Case in Point: Under Armour, Inc.

David Roberts, senior manager from Under Armour points out most business professionals have had some exposure to ERP, which provides much of the content for performance management. “But there are a host of ERP players, and there are often very distinct differences and a steep learning curve in moving from one to another. But if the user interface is Excel, even kids right out of college know it and use it. In fact that is how we have built our Business Analytics Team (BAT). It consists of a bunch of kids out of college. We take them from all departments and teach them to collect and analyze data. BPC [SAP BusinessObjects Planning and Consolidation] is the tool used most because they have the skills to use it. We expand their knowledge, taking advantage of add-ins. [EPM can become an add-in to Excel.] User adoption is driven by the fact that it looks so easy. In fact that can become an Achilles heel. As they see it do so much, they want it to do everything.”

Who is Under Armour?

Under Armour is a sports clothing and accessories company, providing high-tech sports gear to professional and collegiate athletes in addition to offering its product lines in retail locations. In 2006 the company expanded its offerings to include footwear in 2006; it continues to expand those  offerings, announcing its first line-up of basketball shoes in Fall of 2010.

Under Armour is a publicly traded company (NYSEUA)with revenues in 2009 of $856 million and 2200 employees.

www.underarmour.com

Data can also be easily dragged from EPM to Microsoft Word or PowerPoint documents (Word and PowerPoint plug-ins are available as well), thereby saving time and effort in the effective communication of results.

While many in the finance department may be content to reside in and communicate via spreadsheets all day, it is also possible to construct personally tailored views that bring in other content, not only from SAP enterprise applications, but from the Internet as well. One could easily construct a dashboard from which 90-100% of the day’s activities, including e-mail and social media outlets, could be conducted.

 

Comprehensive

Indeed, while Excel has become an almost universal “language” for the finance team, it is not just finance that EPM 10.0 is meant to “speak” to. SAP’s BusinessObjects EPM solutions are generally recognized as delivering one of the most complete and mature sets of solutions for the office of the CFO, including strategy management, planning, budgeting and forecasting, financial consolidation, and profitability and cost management. In addition, SAP added a Disclosure Management application to help companies go the last mile in finance in producing accurate and timely financial statements.

But SAP intends for EPM 10.0 to reach beyond the finance office, targeting key decision makers in other functional areas of the business, including supply chain management, procurement, sales, manufacturing and demand planning. The new EPM release powers newly launched SAP BusinessObjects analytic applications designed for role-specific users in a variety of industries and lines of business. These offerings are quite diverse, ranging from risk reporting in banking to trade promotions for consumer products to upstream operations performance analysis for oil and gas or intellectual property (IP) rights analysis for the media.

Across the SAP BusinessObjects portfolio, the 10.0 release encompasses new offerings such as SAP® BusinessObjects™ Sales and Operations Planning. It also further enhances previous releases of the SAP® BusinessObjects™ Spend Performance Management and SAP® BusinessObjects™ Supply Chain Performance Management.

While these specific applications naturally extend to other functional areas such as procurement and supply chain management, at least in some of the early adopters, the planning and overall corporate performance activities of EPM 10.0 haven’t made it too far past the finance department. These early adopters all point to the Excel interface as a means of user engagement. But not all walks of life live and breathe Excel. In some cases perhaps the finance department, which generally owns and runs the solution, isn’t willing to open the doors. Or perhaps the overwhelming volume of data, coupled with the growing complexity of dependencies and data relationships is enough to scare many away. While dashboards and user interfaces have become increasingly tailor-able, often executives simply don’t know where to start.

And the volume is not about to decline any time soon. In fact it only stands to grow and may even grow exponentially. While HANA is certainly capable of responding, interestingly enough, the majority of the testimonials to date have been by CIOs. So making this happen still requires an underlying understanding of how the data and the applications are organized. Without being led by the hand, most executives will simply not venture down the path. Simplification and contextual cues are keys to bringing the proverbial horse to water.

Transformational

Which leads us to the final adjective SAP uses to describe EPM 10.0. Through unification of a comprehensive portfolio, SAP has put the power of transformation within reach of enterprises today. Functional components support risk-adjusted planning. In-memory computing has the potential to open new doors to companies in leveraging massive volumes of data for planning and decision-making, potentially making them more agile and responsive. New user experiences transform the way people interact with applications and data and expand views beyond the structured data within applications like ERP.

But top level executives have traditionally been hands off in terms of going to directly to the source for data. However, trends in mobility may be just the catalyst needed to prompt better engagement. EPM 10.0 includes applications for the iPad (by Apple) and the Playbook (by RIM). With the advent of newer devices that are easy to carry, even easier to use and allow for more graphical visualization, executives are increasingly going mobile and using those devices for more than email and phone. In a way, these unwired devices are tethering them more closely to the business. But the limited real estate on these devices, even on tablets, and the perspective of being “on the move” will force a cleaner approach to communication and perhaps reinforce the KISS principle – keeping communication short and simple.

In today’s global economy, where markets and technology are changing at supersonic speed, where we are bombarded with noise and drowning in data, transformation may be necessary for survival. Keeping it simple will become even more difficult in achieving the goal that David Roberts has set for Under Armour with its EPM 10.0 deployment. David asks, “How do I answer the question I don’t know to ask?”

Indeed EPM 10.0 has the power to transform the business into an efficient, risk-aware, performance-driven culture, but only if the enterprise is aware of the possibilities and open to transformation. Many have a long way to go.

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Management Style and Political Rhetoric

I’m not one to typically make political commentary but I couldn’t help but notice the contrast between these twospeeches. I will let the words of two very different presidents speak for themselves (with just a bit of emphasis added).

After you read the two openers, think about what your management style is and read my final comment.

 George W. Bush speech after capture of Saddam Hussein: 

 “The success of yesterday’s mission is a tribute to our men and women now serving in Iraq . The operation was based on the superb work of intelligence analysts who found the dictator’s footprints in a vast country. The operation was carried out with skill and precision bya brave fighting force. Our servicemen and women and our coalition allies have faced many dangers in the hunt for members of the fallen regime, and in their effort to bring hope and freedom to the Iraqi people. Their work continues, and so do the risks. Today, on behalf of the nation, I thank the members of our Armed Forces and I congratulate them. “

 Barack Obama speech after the death of Osama Bin Laden:

 “And so shortly after taking office, I directed Leon Panetta, the director of the CIA, to make the killing or capture of bin Laden the top priority of our war against al Qaeda, even as we continued our broader efforts to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat his network. Then, last August, after years of painstaking work by our intelligence community, I was briefed on a possible lead to bin Laden. It was far from certain, and it took many months to run this thread to ground. I met repeatedly with my national security team as we developed more information about the possibility that we had located bin Laden hiding within a compound deep inside of Pakistan. And finally, last week, I determined that we had enough intelligence to take action, and authorized an operation to get Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice. Today, at my direction, the United States launched a targeted operation against that compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.”

What does this have to do with management style? Throughout my 36 year career, most of it spent managing in some capacity, my style changed, evolved, matured. In the beginning I believed the team I was managing was there for me – to offload my work, help me, make me look good (or bad). I became a much better manager when I realized instead, that instead of them being there for me, I was there for them – to help guide and develop them. Yes I took responsibility for my own decisions and actions, but the accomplishments were clearly not “mine” but those of the individuals I managed. Big difference.

In a very political environment, this might not get you the most and best recognition or the fastest promotion. But as people that report to you develop and grow, it will lead to maximum gratification and satisfaction.

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