Sunday, June 24, 2012

Infinity Pace and Life in a Startup

I took a run yesterday for the first time in a while. I went on my usual (long ago) route, and found myself struggling near the middle. Heavy chest, heavy legs. I kept telling myself; just get around this corner. Just get over that hill. Then you can take a rest.

On the next to last hill I was about spent. And then I remembered I trick I used long ago, to shift my perspective, as a way to keep running.

This is what I do: I imagine that I am in a train car, reading a book. The pounding of my chest and thumping of my feet are the sounds of the train. But I am taking the train to a distant town, so it is silly to focus on the engine. Better to imagine I'm sitting in the car, relaxing, enjoying the scenery. So I look around, ponder my own thoughts, or focus on the vanishing point of the trail ahead.

A friend long ago described the infinity pace as the pace that you can basically run forever. For someone as out of shape as me it is ludicrous, but still useful as a perspective. And as I shift into the infinity pace, the effort disappears.  And then strangely, for the last single track stretch, I have a sprinter's energy.

As I settled back in my apartment, this perspective shift unlocked something that I've been struggling with in my recent adventure at UniversityNow, Inc. Building a company is hard work, both intellectual and emotional.  And it is very easy to struggle with every hill.  To get caught up in it.  But that is where good practice and process come in.  We use Agile, with its Iteration Planning Meetings, its backlogs, its retrospectives; these are the rhythmic feet pacing us down the trail.  The process becomes subconscious and will get you up the hill.

Its when you look around at the contextual information that flows by, all of the data around you, and have a meaningful understanding of the destination, that the magic happens.

So to my startup friends out there: find your infinity pace.  When you get in that flow you can let in the insights that make the difference.  And you just might have the energy to sprint when it matters.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The false divide of Enterprise and Consumer

These days consumerization of the enterprise is so oft-discussed it is almost passé; clearly enterprise software is borrowing tricks from the consumer web to the point where, in certain cases, they are becoming indistinguishable.

Yet people continue to think of companies as either consumer or enterprise. Isn't that itself old fashioned?

Let's tease apart what most people mean by this distinction when they ask:

I maintain that things have fundamentally shifted. When starting a company you can basically pick and choose the attributes you want, and you're an idiot if you choose too many from the Enterprise column.

Similarly, the people you assemble for the company need to come from background suited to the attribute, not the antiquated enterprise vs. consumer divide.

Here are the attributes for a couple of the opportunities I am looking at.

So I'm thinking the right question isn't enterprise or consumer. It is disruptive or disrupted. And I feel like there has never been a better time to be disruptive.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Choosing my own adventure...

After two and a half years and many adventures at SAP, this chapter has drawing to a close. But like the fun books of our youth, the next chapter is not yet clear...

The stairs seem boring; the window seems right. I'll let you know when I figure it out.

Monday, December 20, 2010

On stage with Google's Scott McMullan at SAP Influencer Summit

Cross-posted here.

A couple of weeks ago Scott and I presented the Enterprise Edition of SAP StreamWork, and detailed its integration with the Google Apps Marketplace. The video is now posted to YouTube, and embedded here:

Highlights include:
  • Designed to extend: we show it extending SAP CRM
  • You are in control: invite anyone who has an email address
  • No friction: sign in with Google IDs.
  • Small business friendly: on the Google Apps Marketplace
  • Secure yet simple: Enterprise Agent deploys on-premise, handling security
Thank you Scott -- was a lot of fun!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Guest spots on DM Radio for Strategic Collaboration panel - SAP, SAS, and Acone

Originally posted here.

Last week I had the privilege to join a radio program with Information Management's DM Radio on Strategic Collaboration. I must say radio was a first for me but it was a lot of fun.

Eric Kavanagh and Robin Bloor of the Bloor Group co-hosted 3 panelists, discussing the new the battle "for where you work" and "your leisure time" which are developing a lot of overlap. The panelists were:
  • myself, SAP
  • Ed Hughes, SAS
  • Dexter Bachelor, Acone

The SAP StreamWork part of the panel comes up at timecode 11:25 through about 26:45 as the first panelist. I talk a bit at the end as well, but since you can't jump forward you might not get there. And to keep things interesting I embedded the bingo works "kooky" and "umbilicus."

But you can register and download the MP3 if you'd like.

Thanks to Eric and Robin for a fun chat.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

StreamWork, Chatter, Yammer... What's the deal?

This week a bunch of us have been hunkered down in Santa Clara at the SAP Influencer Summit talking about SAP's strategy and execution. There were many questions about the relationship between SAP StreamWork and other tools like Chatter and Yammer. Perhaps it had something to do with that rave in SF featuring former presidents that happened on the same days.

Here are some specific questions I was asked:
  • How are you going to compete with Chatter's adoption?
  • Why is SAP doing this at all?
  • Chatter is free; how do you compete with that?
Here is an outtake of some of the questions that flowed...

StreamWork wants to connect the places you work to make you faster and better, while making your life simpler. It is targeted towards making short-term, powerful decisions and with all of the data and people at your fingertips. It is extremely well suited to "finishing off" the business process letting people handle all of the swirling chaos around it, involving the people and information that make sense.

But the questions, to me, are more fundamental. StreamWork doesn't want you to stop using the tools you love. It wants to flow them into the broader conversation and give you the world's best tools on top. StreamWork has a feed, but is not equivalent to a feed; it has the tools on top to get the work done.

Yet since the micro-blogging pattern has gained semi-ubiquity people think things that have activity streams should be compared. OK. But the fact is they enhance each-other. A portion of my tweets show up in Facebook; I don't choose which system to use, but I use them for different purposes, symbiotically. And my friends, we talk over this fabric, often from entirely different systems.

The world is federated, and it will remain so. If you want to pull together a federated conversation to drive it to action, you need to do a few things right:

  • Complete openness -- This means people, data, human languages, programming languages, etc. Let's start with people. Let everyone in the world in for Free. No corporate email required. In fact, if you use gmail, you don't even have to sign in.
  • Standards based -- Standards like allow micro-blogging systems to inter-operate. And it frees your data to use it how you want. You can use our cloud server as your feed server today using this standard, for free. Oh -- and it goes without saying that you should support OpenID, OAuth, SAML, and OpenSocial.
  • Connected to the real stuff -- SAP customers touch your lives in many ways. They produce the food on your table, the drink in your glass, the power to your home. Odds are they touch your business. Don't you think your extended conversation needs access to those systems? With the new Enterprise Edition, your on-premise world is connected to your cloud-world. Let the data (and the real activities) flow.
  • Rapid releases to improve, driven by user feedback -- If you like what we did this month, just wait until next month. If you don't like it, tell us, and we'll fix it. Openly and Transparently feedback driven.
  • Be humble: People know how they want to work. Let them lead the way.
So, in summary: use what works. And hold your vendors responsible. And have fun.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Passion or Greed? Organizing principles for Sustainability

(cross posted here)

A number of months ago, when trying to wrap my head around 'sustainability,' I thought I'd ask the web, and noticed something interesting.

When you search Google Images for Sustainability, you find this:

When you search Flickr for Sustainability, you find this:

Do you notice a difference? I do. And it is based on the organizing principles of Google Images and Flickr Images.

Google's business engine is advertising. Advertising intends to sell. The results from Google are images that people trying to sell you something they have made. Yes -- the ranking is all link-based, but anyone who has used Google over the last 10 years has noticed that the long tail has grown a lot quieter. The top results are very tied to commerce.

I would describe Flickr's business model as either Passion or Love. People photograph what they care about, and share the photographs with people they care about. It is emphatically human. That is why almost all of the results from Flickr have something that virtually NO images from Google have: Peace Plus One.

People, all over the world, are flashing this sustainability gang sign and I would wager that most of you sustainability zealots out there have never seen it, at least from the conversations I've been having. Why? They don't give you money. Peace Plus One is the understanding that we all must collectively improve our society, environment, and our economy. When SAP talks about sustainability, this is exactly what we are after. This is also what we report. We define it as the holistic management of social, environmental, and economic risks and opportunities for increased short- and long-term profitability.

Yes, we talking about profitability, but that is also an indication of efficiency (just as carbon reduction is), or lean-ness, or simplicity. I also like McDonough's counterpoint provocation: loving all children of all species for all time.

But really, it is simple. SAP's organizing principle is to make the world run better.

In other words, Peace Plus One FTW.