diginomica 2014 - Den's choice

Den Howlett Profile picture for user gonzodaddy December 30, 2014
Dennis Howlett weighs in with his personal selection from diginomica in 2014.


Growing the diginomica team in 2014 has allowed us to provide a smorgasbord of diverse topics. Paradoxically, this meant picking ten of my favorite stories has been more difficult than usual. A few jumped out, principally because they covered topics of great interest among the community of those we wish to serve. Others were less obvious but of equal merit for other reasons. Some were just great fun.

10. Spreadsheet hell costs Tibco investors $100 million

It is hardly surprising to learn that although beloved of many a CFO, spreadsheets are treated with an astonishing degree of abuse. There are conferences on spreadsheet management, Professor Ray Panko has been documenting the incidences of spreadsheet error for many years.

Why? I've been banging on about spreadsheet error for so long - at least 17 years - that it's boring. I bet TIBCO shareholders aren't so amused though to find they got caned $100 million because Goldmans mucked up a spreadsheet. Even so, I am certain we'll hear about a few more spreadsheet clangers in 2015. Which in turn will be grist to the business intelligence marketing mill.

9. Simple SAP – the Plattner perspective

When cloud computing, or rather SaaS came on the scene in the early 2000s, SAP mistakenly thought it would not materially impact their business. It dabbled with the entry level market via ByDesign but was convinced that R/3 aka ECC6 aka the Business Suite would not be impacted. In 2008, SAP embarked upon a renewal project under the HANA banner which, from 2010, dominated SAP’s engineering efforts. From 2010 until late 2013, all we heard about was HANA. There was no clear product strategy/roadmap as it related to the core ERP suite and much confusion around what, if anything, would go to SaaS/cloud.

Why? It is no secret that I enjoy good access to many senior SAP executives and board representatives. Apart from the fact this story was shared more than 1,200 times and widely read, it is always a privilege to spend quality time with one of the pioneers of the enterprise apps industry to learn what's brewing for the future. On this outing, co-founder and chairman of the SAP supervisory board Hasso Plattner took a lot more time than I expected to explain what SAP is endeavouring to achieve and how that translates into something that's 'simple.' While there were plenty of questions left hanging in the air, it was good to see something that made sense to a lot of people and served to clarify otherwise murky points. We shall see what 2015 holds.

8. Team Rubicon – living outside the inbox for first responder disaster relief

The market is awash with similar [collaboration] tools but in my experience they either act as functional silos, are really ‘features’ rather than applications or are born out of a different age that doesn’t hit the ‘living outside the inbox’ outcomes mark. Team Rubicon doesn’t care about those consulting led views. It is using Lua because it helps them get the job done.

Why? Living outside the inbox is something many of us strive to achieve as we negotiate the ever more complex collaborative landscape. This was a nice case study with real human interest that demonstrates how utility trumps glitz and glamor. (Disclosure: Lua have comp'd us an account which we use regularly and love it.)

7. The Friday Roast – wearables and the Fitbit Force fraud

What is much more disturbing though is that this fraud is almost wholly unrecorded on the interwebs. Run a search and see what you find? Check out ‘fitbit inaccuracy.’ Almost nothing. Where you can find stuff on Facebook, commenters seem content to simply say ‘get another device.’ That’s just not good enough.

I seem to have a thing about wearables but I was truly annoyed to find out the FitBit Force is little more than a joke. The inter webs seem to think I should lighten up since these devices are only meant to be indicative of activity and not definitive. Well that's OK as long as people know these devices can be wildly inaccurate to the point of uselessness. So much for fitness and health monitoring.

6. I’m an Uber newbie and loving it

Whatever the cab drivers in some countries might say, disruption of this kind has to be good for the customer. My hope is that cities where Uber is trying to gain a foothold don’t cave in to the cab mob who, in many parts of the world, enjoy what amounts to a state sanctioned monopoly.

Why? Oh boy! Given the PR gaffs that Uber has managed to spawn accompanied by a GFY attitude to pretty much anyone that gets in its way, this was probably a bit over eager on my part. But heh...who knows for the future? Maybe Uber will settle down and behave more responsibly. I doubt it somehow. Account deleted.

5. GENYOUth at SAPPHIRE Now 2014 – a delightful set of conversations

When I saw that we had a video shoot with GENYOUth it was always going to be mine. As the oldest guy around I liked the idea of getting young people on camera. We’d been here before when Nikola Bura, a young first generation American boy competed at SAP TechEd in 2012. The video conversation was magic. What I didn’t expect was three people turning up, all wanting to be on camera and all wanting to put questions to me.

Why? I learned a long time ago that about the only thing we can truly give young people is an education. It matters and so to me, getting time with eager youngsters is a fantastic opportunity and this didn't disappoint. They sure knew how to set this old fella back on his heels in what was a surprise and enjoyable encounter.

4. How GE Software is transforming itself for the digital age

“What if Tesla, which has re-defined the auto manufacturing business decided to get into broader service opportunities? Or what if Google was able to build services that allowed you to step aside from the car dealer for service and the manufacturer for parts?” Ruh posits. When put in those terms, it is easy to understand why GE is working flat out to build as wide and deep a software moat as it can around its customers.

Why? GE is a fascinating company at many levels. First and foremost, it has seen the future and recognizes the extent of the opportunity in front of it. It also understands the risks of not doing anything to transform to a services based business. Meeting super smart people is always worthwhile and spending time to better understand how its leadership rolls was a great experience. It's one I'd like to repeat in 2015.

3. SAP: Sikka resigns. Three questions that need answers.

As the chief evangelist for all things HANA and cloud but also with responsibility for the 23,000 person strong development organization, Sikka had a huge portfolio of products to heft. Internally, Sikka was attempting to transform the business to one that reflects the needs of a 21st century company. As someone who grew close to Sikka personally over the last few years, there is a profound sense of sadness at his departure.

Why? Unsurprisingly, this was one of my most viewed stories of 2015. When Vishal Sikka departed SAP so suddenly, it was a shock to the SAP community and even now the ripples continue to be felt. This was much more than an 'inside baseball' story since Sikka is widely credited for not only being the driving force behind HANA development, but also considered it's most successful evangelist and feared competitor representative in deals. But...the world moves on and Sikka is now CEO at Infosys. SAP for its part has moved on, making another blockbuster acquisition in Concur along the way.

2. Oracle Fusion – Debra Lilley’s perspective

I was genuinely surprised at Debra’s enthusiasm given the rocky road of the past that has often been in sharp contrast to the marketing rhetoric and customer grumbles. I ran into several users who said much the same thing. There is always the caveat that getting from the past to Fusion is not quite as simple as may be painted but the outcomes are much better than anticipated in large measure because the user experience is so much better than what went before.

Why? Debra Lilley's insights into the world of Oracle are always refreshing. She is one of the very few consultants who, while deriving her entire living from a single vendor, is not afraid to stand up for the user. I regularly call her to sanity check my thinking and to take a pulse on the Fusion world.

1. Exclusive: Computer Economics study – cloud saves 15 percent

It should not surprise that while applications cost IS higher in cloud scenarios by some considerable margin, every other measure shows savings. The highest saving came from data center operations where the cost fell by an average of 58 percent. This fits in with gripes we’ve consistently heard from end user organizations and analysts alike about the ongoing costs associated with data center operations.

Why? Having the opportunity to better understand cloud economics from the buyer's perspective and with data to back it up is always helpful. Computer Economics does the work to test its findings which we consistently discover to be both reliable and sober. Disclosure: Computer Economics is an affiliate partner.

Disclosure: at time of writing, Oracle, Salesforce and SAP are premier partners of diginomica.

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