Without improved collaboration between SAP analytics teams, shorter development cycles and improved software quality will remain ellusive.

Apple made news recently for some high-level executive departures and role changes. Mobile software head Scott Forstall, retail chief John Browett, and Apple Maps product manager Richard Williamson have departed. Other executives like Jonathan Ive and Bob Mansfield have increased responsibilities. When asked about these changes in a recent BusinessWeek interview, Apple CEO Tim Cook said:

You have to be an A-plus at collaboration. And so the changes that we made get us to a whole new level of collaboration.

So while there were specific missteps with the Apple Maps software in iOS 6, those missteps weren’t the only reason for executive realignment.

Collaboration is challenging in large organizations like Apple. And SAP. The Business Intelligence platform is created by a large number of teams in diverse locations that span the globe. And while these teams put their heart and soul into the development of the platform, there are clear signs that collaboration is sometimes difficult to achieve. When collaboration isn’t possible, development teams take short-cuts. These short-cuts meet deadlines, but often fail to delight customers. Some recent examples:

  • Using Apache Derby to store persistent data instead of the CMS or Audit databases, particularly in Lifecycle Management and Monitoring
  • Requiring customers to manually formulate tedious codes in Web Intelligence to render scorecards, bullet charts, and geo analysis for the Mobile BI application. Neither the Web Intelligence client application nor the Visualization service (CVOM) are able to keep up with mobile requirements
  • Complaining on the recent All Access SAP webinar about Apple App Store approval delays. But when BI Mobile 4.4 app is submitted on December 14 and emerges on December 17, the documentation still isn’t ready until December 21 (we hope).
  • Failing to integrate Explorer tightly into the the BI platform. Five years after its debut as Polestar on the XI R2 platform, it still isn’t fully integrated with the BI Launchpad, Central Management Console, or the recently updated Mobile BI app (that just added Dashboard and Design Studio support)

After the long development cycle to introduce the BI 4.0 platform and the on-going efforts to stabilize and harmonize the platform, SAP needs to send a clear message to customers and partners. It’s not enough to serve up new products in the dining room. We need to see and hear that the kitchen is getting overhauled as well.

I’m not asking for SAP to hang an analytics executive out to dry ala Apple’s Scott Forestall, as I’m not sure it would be productive. Besides, executive changes aren’t the only changes being made at Apple, they just happen to be the ones that are visible for a very private company. But I would sleep better knowing that tangible changes are taking place to improve collaboration at all levels of the SAP analytics organization. SAP needs to communicate these changes publicly. After being told to wait for BI4, then to wait for Feature Pack 3, then to wait for BI 4.1, customers are losing both faith and patience.

Without improved collaboration, the goals for shorter development cycles and improved software quality will remain elusive.


What steps would you recommend to SAP to improve collaboration on the Analytics products?

Business Intelligence, Social Networking, and Mass Collaboration

Will social media inspire new ways to collaborate with business intelligence?

I was introduced to LinkedIn by one of my former co-workers and quickly adopted it. It seemed to be a great way to maintain my professional network and keep in touch with old friends. Although some would consider it boring in comparison to other social networking sites, I prefer to think of it as “MySpace for grownups”. According to a June 18, 2008 article in the Wall Street Journal, LinkedIn’s average user is 41 years old and has a household income of $109,000.

View Dallas Marks's profile on LinkedIn

What is most fascinating about the assent of sites such as MySpace and Facebook is how quickly AOL went from on-line powerhouse to irrelevance (moment of silence, please, for disgruntled Time Warner shareholders). From the demise of dial-up to the proliferation of non-AOL instant messenger clients, it’s core features (and reputation) have been supplanted by others. Will Monster and Dice similarly disintegrate by the disintermediation created by LinkedIn?

I’m currently experimenting with Facebook and Twitter, just to see what all of the buzz (or tweeting) is about. (If you’re on Facebook, be sure to look out for the Business Objects Board (BOB) fan page and the BOB Piece of Flair.) So far, I’ve shunned MySpace because I don’t have a band and somebody else named Dallas Marks has set up shop there.

I’ve already discovered that maintaining one’s on-line identity through all of these sites can be a challenge. Which is why I’m glad my good friend Josh Fletcher turned me on to Digsby. Digsby consolidates your IM, e-mail, and social networking into a single IM-like client. If you use more than one IM client (AOL, Microsoft, Yahoo, etc.), you should use Digsby for that reason alone.

Social networking has also come to Business Objects, first with the discussions feature in XI Release 2. But now, even companies like Antivia allow customers to “Unlock the true potential of your business intelligence community by bringing the most relevant aspects of social networking (think MySpace, Facebook, Wiki’s) to your BusinessObjects environment.” And that will be the real test, won’t it? Will these tools and technologies move from the personal realm to the enterprise?

As a Web Intelligence instructor, I teach people how to share documents with each other using the Business Objects BI Inbox and the discussions feature. However, it seems that organizations are reluctant to adopt these features. Management doesn’t want to log into anything – please push it to my e-mail… And most discussions about Business Objects reports also occur in Microsoft Outlook – not the best tool for threaded discussions or knowledge management. Realizing the gap between the tools and how users want to use (or not use) them, APOS Systems is taking the “if you can’t beat them, join them” approach with its new Integration Kit for Microsoft Outlook.

Perhaps the Facebook generation currently entering the workforce will bring with them new ideas to workplace collaboration and performance management?