Alexa, how many more conference keynotes will you be featured in?

SUMMARY:

Themes are emerging from this conference season. Brian Sommer provides the top of mind topics and associated quotage.

TSA line from hell – Chicago Midway

Like Derek duPreez, I’ve been racking up the air miles this Spring Conference season, enjoying the (un)pleasant experience of modern day airline travel offset by the familiar comfort of arriving at a selection of large chain hotels with which I have a gazzillion loyalty points that, no doubt, will soon be almost as worthless as airmiles. Ho hum. Travel bitchin’ out the way, some themes have emerged this Spring that are worth passing on to the buyer community.

Emerging themes

Instead of fighting new innovations, older ERP vendors finally discovered multi-tenancy, in-memory computing and IoT. Unfortunately, old school vendors probably won’t lead customers into the future. Incrementalism is not the solution for businesses that want RADICALLY new solutions. This fits into some of the emerging themes Den Howlett has seen on his travels but which have not yet been articulated to a great degree by a buyer community that is feeling its way. 

–          The new leaders are firms many don’t know but with some old hands well known to analysts of serious vintage: C3 (with Tom Siebel), Uptake (with Ray Lane), Aera (with Fred Laluyaux), etc.

–          It’s not a software conference without lightweight drone, Alexa and IoT proof of concept demos. I’m waiting for one of the media to buzz a keynote CEO with a DJI Maverick Pro, beaming the results out live on Facebook – it is do-able

–          Lots of big companies wanting and buying new solutions. They want solutions pegged on unlimited technologies (like Hadoop, in-memory computing, etc.). As a result, the leader board in accounting, CPM and HR is changing

–          Customer wallet-fracking by old school vendors is damaging the brands of vendors who do this. A bad, greedy practice that needs to stop.

–          And what about AI/Machine Learning and algorithms? Everyone has something to showcase although some are not much more than a cool reporting add-on while others are inscrutable black boxes that lack feedback mechanisms to improve their results. Great AI products are mostly a ways off but I’m getting TONS of practice quizzing vendors on their nascent solutions.

Conference and related quotage

On to the associated quotage starting with my end of last year predictions for the then upcoming season:

“An analyst firm will issue their brand new vendor ranking system:  the “predictive parallelogram.” A competing analyst firm, vowing not to be outdone, offers up their “tetrahedral pyramid of technology excellence”.”

“Finally, a tech conference keynoter WON’T take a selfie with the audience in the background.”  Ditto

RevWreck – This is what happens when accounting departments fail to implement new Revenue Recognition standards.” Ditto

“You need a scorecard and a decoder ring to understand which product family is appropriate for your firm and the deployment method you desire.” – And finally, SAP Business ByDesign is relevant to SME

“Because of my doorbell’s placement, I now get daily updates as to when the postal truck comes by the mailbox, the city trash truck pulls up to my house, etc.” – Is 2017 the year to make your home smart? I don’t think so

“How SAP positions itself and explains its strategy in a couple of weeks at its annual Sapphire confab should be interesting. Hint to SAP: Saying words like “HANA” and “Simple” won’t be sufficient.”  The fast, comprehensive SuiteWorld 17 recap

“Longer-term, I remember what Geoffrey Moore once told me: all alliances eventually lead to either the wedding chapel (a merger) or the divorce court. Time will tell.” Ditto

“It’s time all of those millions of ERP ‘consultants’ out there get re-trained and re-badged into big data ERP gurus.” – State of Cloud Manufacturing ERP – Part 1, change is upon us

“One inescapable observation though is that old-school partners like business process outsourcers, offshore firms, old-line on-premises application integrators, etc. are passé.  Neither customers nor vendors need (any)more of these folks, who, in any case, are going away if Phil Fersht is to be believed.”  Ditto

“Proprietary or closed platforms are going the way of the Dodo. Any vendor that thinks a closed or proprietary platform is great is guilty of the worst kind of hubris.” Ditto

“These people dread picking a new ERP solution because of the terrible way they’ve been dealt with previously. They’ve been audited (often too frequently and too aggressively), tricked into paying maintenance on unused software, forced to sign new (less favorable) contracts to mitigate some audit slight, and, in some cases litigated. Top executives want to deal with their existing ERP vendor as much as you or I want to be ‘involuntarily re-accommodated’ off a United flight.”  Ditto

“Even some channel partners at Acumatica’s event this week volunteered to me that “vendors haven’t been building software for on-premises for years now”. I even had a client COO tell me that last year, too! It’s finally sinking in with buyers and sellers of software that if you want newer software, it’s going to be cloud-based. Now, can we end the cloud vs. on-premises debate?” – The state of financial software in early 2017 – hot, cloudy, competitive

“Financial software vendors are only now starting to get hip to blockchain although some may support a related but different concept: crypto-currency. At best, you’ll see some experimental/skunkworks demonstrations of this at Finance/ERP user conferences but full-blown functionality is a ways off.”  Ditto

“I guess as long as there are companies with too many spreadsheets, too much systems diversity, etc., then F&A will need a great, global CPM/EPM tool.” – Anaplan grows into a platform play – is that enough?

“Yes, platforms are great but how many will the market need and whose platform will reign supreme (with apologies to Iron Chef for that last bit)?” ditto

“There is “lots of hobbyist activity” out there re: IoT (Internet of Things) and IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things).”  – The State of Manufacturing ERP – part 5 – The Plex update

“The overused cliché “Hope is not a strategy” is appropriate in this context. I have never believed this argument. Planning is something that is hard to get right and takes time – do it! A failure to plan is a corporate death sentence.” – Reap what you sow – talent shortages or a failure to plan training?

“Their average analytic application takes over 18 months to become market-ready. At the rate they (software vendors) are progressing, we will all be retired before those initial solutions hit the market.” – Visier recent funding rewards a novel approach to building an analytics platform

“Application vendors do not have a cost reduction mindset (quite the opposite) and they don’t know how they’d explain this to Wall Street.” – Procurement and supplier management observations from SAP Ariba Live 2017

“If you’re going to ride this hypecycle, better wear a tin foil helmet and seatbelt.”  Ditto

Image credit - via YouTube and Ballen Las Vegas

Disclosure - Vendors often provide T&E coverage for conference attendance.