Why You Need An In-Memory Action Plan

Timo Elliott

Get Ahead With An In-Memory Action Plan

This is a third post of a series based on a SAP-sponsored breakfast meeting organized in Sydney earlier this year with speaker Donald Feinberg, Gartner VP and Distinguished Analyst explaining the “Nexus of Forces”: social, mobile, cloud and information.

In the first two posts, Donald covered why in-memory is disrupting everything, and why every organization will be running in-memory in 15 to 20 years time, and the business impacts of the new in-memory computing possibilities.

In this post, Donald explains why you should have an in-memory action plan — and how to create one.

These comments are based on my notes taken from the speech, formatted for legibility.

Why you need an in-memory action plan

Why You Need An In-Memory Action Plan

You need to change the way you look at IT infrastructure, applications, and the infrastructure that’s running those applications. Truly, with some of these new technologies like in-memory technology, there are no barriers, things that you can’t do. Words like “no we can’t do it” start to go away.

I’m not going to tell you it’s going to be cheap, I’m not going to tell you there’s not going to be bumps in the road as you’re doing it, but things that you really thought were not possible are possible now. Period.

What do you do in your organization to start to adopt or use some of the in-memory technologies? You are going to spend money on this. Whether the TCO is less or not, you still have to build your skills, you still have to buy applications, you still have to buy the technology and infrastructure and things like that.

Why You Need An In-Memory Action Plan

Build a business case first. Show the value of what you’re going to do. The return on investment may be long or may be short. We recommend short at first. Small projects with quick return on investment will get you more projects that are bigger and have a greater impact on the company. But you have to prove it first – that’s the key.

Assign a small team of people to look at this. Most companies don’t have a research and development organization in IT (the big ones do). But there’s no reason you can’t have one person looking at the things that are possible with the new technologies, looking at how they can make your current applications more efficient, or start to change how you use them.

So set up a CTO or department of the CTO that has somebody in there who’s just looking at the stuff that’s out five years or ten years from now, so that you will be ready to start to do projects with it when it matures to the level of risk that you’re willing to take.

Always do a POC, proof of concept. Do not just assume that because it looks good on paper it’s going to work for you. You need to test it with your data, with your applications, with your people.

Brainstorming. A lot of people don’t realize that your business unit people are much more IT-aware than they have ever been before. Brainstorm with them on what some of these things can happen, in the business, and how they can make use of it. Who has the budget today? IT? Or the business unit? So if you don’t do this, they’re going to do it anyway, and they’re going to implement the technology without IT. The big disadvantage is that the company doesn’t get the broad skill base that is necessary, and that technology is not shared across the business units. It’s much better to keep it in IT, not because you order it so, but because you are moving along in these new ways, with the business units and what they need.

If you believe what I’m telling you about in-memory technology, as being part of your future, it’s not too early to start to define a strategy for how in-memory is going to enter into your organization and be used.

You may decide that part of the strategy is “we’re going to wait two years to let it mature”. That’s fine, but start looking now at where it can fit and when within the organization, so that you’re prepared and ready to accept it when it comes along. If you’re an early adopter, start tomorrow. If you’re more risk-adverse, next year, the year after.

But at least understand the strategy for how this is going to fit in your organization, because as we believe, it IS coming, whether you want it or not, so you may as well start now to look at a strategy for where it’s going to fit in the future.

Questions and Answers

What would you reply to somebody who said “I’ve already got enough problems in my organization already”?

From a short-term standpoint, I can’t disagree with that.

But some of the new architectures and the in-memory technologies can maybe help you with some of the issues that you have today.

It depends on what the issues are. One of the issues a lot of people have is speed: my applications don’t run fast enough. So maybe there’s in-memory technology that can speed that up. Or maybe moving it to mobile will make it run faster.

Looking at the nexus of forces and looking at technology as a solution to some of your problems may actually help you short-term.

Cloud – maybe cloud can save you some time. I’ll give you a simple example: how are your development costs? Use the public cloud for that. Let your developers develop on an Amazon AWS.

Why is that good? Your people don’t have to set up the development environment. You make a phone call, and you have it. When the project’s done, you make another phone call, and not pay for it any more. You don’t have to go out and buy a server that then you’ve got to figure out what to do with after the development project is done. So there’s a place where cloud immediately can help you.

So some of this new technology is mature enough to solve some of your problems. And then, when you start putting your head together with the business units and start to have an impact on the competitiveness and the bottom line of the organization, that’s where you can really make a difference. Some of this technology may enable you, if you’re a retailer, to turn your inventory one more time a year. Is there any retailer that doesn’t want to do that? And not be out of something when somebody wants it?

If the business unit wants to be an early adopter, but the IT unit is risk-averse and conservative, how does the business user drive this change?

I’ve been around a while in this business. If there’s one thing I’ve heard over and over since I started in the 60s, it’s “IT has to communicate with the business”.  We’ve learned that lesson – that doesn’t work. Going out to dinner with your business liaison once a month and talking with them is nothing.

So one of the concepts that we came up with around twelve years ago, with respect to BI specifically, is the BI Competency Center. The reason that has worked is because it takes business people and IT people and puts them together, working together, not talking. So they make decisions together.

If I’m going to do a new project, all the business units decide what the priority project is. This is a concept that works. Some of your companies can’t afford to have full-time people in it, so you do it virtually: you have a meeting once a week. But they still manage projects, they still make buying decisions on products, they still set strategy for the company. The group should not be run by IT (which is hard to swallow sometimes) – but by the business unit. And most important: the CIO can not be the sponsor. It must be higher in the organization.

So if I’m going to have a “business technology competency center” where people from the business and the industry are going to get together to look at new technologies and where they may work, the sponsor has to be the CFO, the CEO, the Board, somebody like that. Then they will work together to do this.

Risk-adverse IT organizations are normal. You have a job to do to keep the lights on and you’re not going to do it if you take risks. It’s that simple – you’re not going to have a job if you take risks.

So how do you fit that with adopting new technology? Again, just like with the research and development with one person, you can take a couple of people from your organization as part of this “business innovation competency center”, sponsored by the CEO, so you can go hire some new people to do it if you need to, or move people over and backfill them.

They may take on a project with a business unit where you see tremendous value to the business, and you look at something that is, say, in beta. And you look at that technology to enable that business unit to be more competitive, more productive, more profitable, and it doesn’t affect the rest of your organization. You still can deliver the things you’re doing, because it’s “outside”. How do you get to that? You have to get senior management in the organization – not the IT organization – behind you. How do you get that? A small project, to demonstrate to them the value of this kind of thing.

Now one thing that comes to mind immediately: if you look at what’s happened in the past ten years with data warehousing – my area – every time there’s been a recession, database sales and data warehousing sales have dropped off. Except in the 2008/2009 worldwide recession, where every segment of IT was negative growth except DBMS, which was flat. In that environment, flat was positive.

Why? Because when the CIO came in to the CEO and said “I need more money to spend on my data warehouse” and the CEO says “are you nuts, with this economy?!”, you pointed to a flat screen on his wall that had key metrics of the business in “real-time” – for the first time, senior management, the CFO, COO, CEO, could physically see the value that information was bringing to their business.

If you can demonstrate physically to them the advantages of some new technology, then they’re going to buy into it and start to fund it. You can’t say something like “I want a new ERP package” – in an economy like 2009, that will get you fired for asking. But if you have some real strong value that you can demonstrate quickly or instantly to them, they’re going to spend money on it if they think it’s going to save money or help them. So that’s what you have to do. Lots of people say “only large companies can afford that” – but anybody can put it together with at couple of visionary people from the business units and one or two people from IT to put this together, and they can be virtual.

Pfizer is one of our BICC case studies. They have 150 people full time in the BI competency center: 75 employees and 75 consultants. Most people can’t afford to do that, and I’m not suggesting you do. But here are models in-between that make sense, that will fit in everybody’s budget.


About Timo Elliott

Timo Elliott is an innovation evangelist and international conference speaker who has presented to business and IT audiences in over forty countries around the world. A 23-year veteran of SAP BusinessObjects, Elliott works closely with SAP development and innovation centers around the world on new technology directions. His popular Business Analytics blog at tracks innovation in analytics and social media, including topics such as big data, collaborative decision-making, and social analytics. Prior to Business Objects, Elliott was a computer consultant in Hong Kong and led analytics projects for Shell in New Zealand. He holds a first-class honors degree in Economics with Statistics from Bristol University, England.



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13 Scary Statistics On Employee Engagement [INFOGRAPHIC]

Jacob Shriar

There is a serious problem with the way we work.

Most employees are disengaged and not passionate about the work they do. This is costing companies a ton of money in lost productivity, absenteeism, and turnover. It’s also harmful to employees, because they’re more stressed out than ever.

The thing that bothers me the most about it, is that it’s all so easy to fix. I can’t figure out why managers aren’t more proactive about this. Besides the human element of caring for our employees, it’s costing them money, so they should care more about fixing it. Something as simple as saying thank you to your employees can have a huge effect on their engagement, not to mention it’s good for your level of happiness.

The infographic that we put together has some pretty shocking statistics in it, but there are a few common themes. Employees feel overworked, overwhelmed, and they don’t like what they do. Companies are noticing it, with 75% of them saying they can’t attract the right talent, and 83% of them feeling that their employer brand isn’t compelling. Companies that want to fix this need to be smart, and patient. This doesn’t happen overnight, but like I mentioned, it’s easy to do. Being patient might be the hardest thing for companies, and I understand how frustrating it can be not to see results right away, but it’s important that you invest in this, because the ROI of employee engagement is huge.

Here are 4 simple (and free) things you can do to get that passion back into employees. These are all based on research from Deloitte.

1.  Encourage side projects

Employees feel overworked and underappreciated, so as leaders, we need to stop overloading them to the point where they can’t handle the workload. Let them explore their own passions and interests, and work on side projects. Ideally, they wouldn’t have to be related to the company, but if you’re worried about them wasting time, you can set that boundary that it has to be related to the company. What this does, is give them autonomy, and let them improve on their skills (mastery), two of the biggest motivators for work.

Employees feel overworked and underappreciated, so as leaders, we need to stop overloading them to the point where they can’t handle the workload.

2.  Encourage workers to engage with customers

At Wistia, a video hosting company, they make everyone in the company do customer support during their onboarding, and they often rotate people into customer support. When I asked Chris, their CEO, why they do this, he mentioned to me that it’s so every single person in the company understands how their customers are using their product. What pains they’re having, what they like about it, it gets everyone on the same page. It keeps all employees in the loop, and can really motivate you to work when you’re talking directly with customers.

3.  Encourage workers to work cross-functionally

Both Apple and Google have created common areas in their offices, specifically and strategically located, so that different workers that don’t normally interact with each other can have a chance to chat.

This isn’t a coincidence. It’s meant for that collaborative learning, and building those relationships with your colleagues.

4.  Encourage networking in their industry

This is similar to number 2 on the list, but it’s important for employees to grow and learn more about what they do. It helps them build that passion for their industry. It’s important to go to networking events, and encourage your employees to participate in these things. Websites like Eventbrite or Meetup have lots of great resources, and most of the events on there are free.

13 Disturbing Facts About Employee Engagement [Infographic]

What do you do to increase employee engagement? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Did you like today’s post? If so you’ll love our frequent newsletter! Sign up here and receive The Switch and Shift Change Playbook, by Shawn Murphy, as our thanks to you!

This infographic was crafted with love by Officevibe, the employee survey tool that helps companies improve their corporate wellness, and have a better organizational culture.


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Supply Chain Fraud: The Threat from Within

Lindsey LaManna

Supply chain fraud – whether perpetrated by suppliers, subcontractors, employees, or some combination of those – can take many forms. Among the most common are:

  • Falsified labor
  • Inflated bills or expense accounts
  • Bribery and corruption
  • Phantom vendor accounts or invoices
  • Bid rigging
  • Grey markets (counterfeit or knockoff products)
  • Failure to meet specifications (resulting in substandard or dangerous goods)
  • Unauthorized disbursements

LSAP_Smart Supply Chains_graphics_briefook inside

Perhaps the most damaging sources of supply chain fraud are internal, especially collusion between an employee and a supplier. Such partnerships help fraudsters evade independent checks and other controls, enabling them to steal larger amounts. The median loss from fraud committed
by a single thief was US$80,000, according to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE).

Costs increase along with the number of perpetrators involved. Fraud involving two thieves had a median loss of US$200,000; fraud involving three people had a median loss of US$355,000; and fraud with four or more had a median loss of more than US$500,000, according to ACFE.

Build a culture to fight fraud

The most effective method to fight internal supply chain theft is to create a culture dedicated to fighting it. Here are a few ways to do it:

  • Make sure the board and C-level executives understand the critical nature of the supply chain and the risk of fraud throughout the procurement lifecycle.
  • Market the organization’s supply chain policies internally and among contractors.
  • Institute policies that prohibit conflicts of interest, and cross-check employee and supplier data to uncover potential conflicts.
  • Define the rules for accepting gifts from suppliers and insist that all gifts be documented.
  • Require two employees to sign off on any proposed changes to suppliers.
  • Watch for staff defections to suppliers, and pay close attention to any supplier that has recently poached an employee.

About Lindsey LaManna

Lindsey LaManna is Social and Reporting Manager for the Digitalist Magazine by SAP Global Marketing. Follow @LindseyLaManna on Twitter, on LinkedIn or Google+.


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What If Chelsea Manager Jose Mourinho Could Be Proved Right In Medical Staff Row?

Mark Goad

Big Data and the Internet of Things brings new level of insight to sports medicine

With the 2015-16 European football (soccer) season underway, we are already seeing the impact of the huge pressure to succeed. In some cases, it is boiling over even this early on, with Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho getting involved in a very public row with his medical staff over the treatment of Eden Hazard during a match. As the season builds momentum, all clubs know one of the most vital aspects of winning trophies is keeping the best players fit so they can play at the top of their game as often as possible.

Last season, just like in every season, we saw injuries that affected teams’ results and possibly their final standings at the end of the season, while other teams capitalized. Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger blamed injuries for the team’s failed title bid, while Real Madrid suffered injuries to players like Gareth Bale and Luka Modric at a crucial stage of the season and lost the title to Barcelona.

There’s no doubt that football clubs, especially the bigger teams, employ first-rate medical staff – physiotherapists, doctors, sports scientists, and so on – but they can only do so much to keep players off the treatment table. Players are human, after all, and keeping them injury-free for such long and grueling campaigns is a big ask. This season again will see players on the end of crunching tackles, over-exerting their bodies, and over-stretching.

What’s less talked about than lost games and league titles when discussing injuries is the salaries paid to injured players. The estimated average cost of player injuries in the top four professional football leagues in 2015 was $12.4 million* per team. Remarkably, every year teams lose an equivalent of 15%-30%** of their player payroll to injuries.

As salaries continue to rise, injuries are becoming just as much of an off-the-pitch boardroom issue as they are an on-the-pitch issue. Consider that if Barcelona’s Lionel Messi, the world’s highest-paid player, spends just a week out injured, the club still has to pay his weekly salary of around $1 million. Not only that, but there’s the huge potential for lost revenue from missing out on UEFA Champions League progress or domestic success because key players are out.

Just as winning seems to mean more than ever, so does football as a business. So with the spotlight firmly on “sweating the assets” – extracting maximum value from the entire squad – clubs are looking to Big Data and Internet of Things technology to consider how player injuries can be prevented with new levels of insight.

Prevention is better than cure

In July this year we saw what could be a huge landmark in the potential of monitoring the risk of injuries, when football’s international governing body FIFA announced its approval of wearable electronic performance and tracking systems during matches. As well as collecting data on statistics like distance covered and heart rate to determine decisions like substitution timings, this also paves the way for wearable satellite devices that keep medical staff updated on the likelihood of a player picking up an injury from over-exertion.

Emerging injury-risk monitoring software uses the concepts of Big Data and wearable technology to pull in and apply mathematical formulas to an exhaustive range of relevant data about players: fitness levels, recent levels of exertion, opponents, age, technique, hydration, even weather. This could help medical staff predict the risk of future injuries with much greater accuracy, allowing them to run simulations and take corrective actions in real time. Imagine a seemingly non-injured key player being substituted during a tightly contested match, only to find out afterwards that monitoring software had indicated he was at a high risk of pulling a muscle. This could very much be a part of the future of professional football.

Going back to Jose Mourinho and his reaction to the Chelsea medical staff running onto the pitch to treat Eden Hazard, it’s interesting to consider how in the future this kind of technology could either support or discredit his position in the dispute. It could help managers work more closely with physiotherapists, as they can visualize the data that shows the risk of injury to players. Although the pressure to win will likely keep on rising, the risk of expensive players injuries could see a big reduction.

SAP’s own injury risk monitoring software is currently in the proof-of-concept phase and will be entering development in the near future. The goal is to build IRM on the SAP Sports One platform as an additional component, and to provide integration to the existing modules of SAP Sports One solution. SAP Sports One was launched earlier this year and is the first sports-specific cloud solution powered by the SAP HANA platform, providing a single, unified platform for team management and performance optimization.

*Statistic calulated using 2015 Global Sports Salaries Survey

**Bleacher Report “Inside the 2014 Numbers of Each MLB Team’s Regular-Season Injury Impact” and NBA Injury Analysis


Mark Goad

About Mark Goad

Mark Goad, Value Advisory Associate, SAP Canada, is an experienced business analyst with industry coverage spanning telecommunications & retail, with a focus on digital business models. He specializes in synthesizing industry trends with a detailed analysis of client-specific data to help customers build out high-impact business & IT strategies. Outside of work, Mark volunteers as a lead management consultant for Junior Achievement of Central Ontario and contributes to a range of thought leadership publications.


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4 Biggest Risks In NOT Using Social Media

April Crichlow

These days social media is critical for success in business. Early adopters have made great strides, using it to engage with customers online and find new clients. For the laggards — typically small businesses that think they don’t have the resources or need for social media — the question looms: “Is social media a fad, or is it here to stay?”

Unfortunately for these companies, social media is here to stay. There are four major risks in not using social platforms as a business tool:

  1. You risk being out of the loop. Social media is a key channel for consumers collecting information and connecting with other consumers. It is also a great opportunity for companies to engage with current customers, as well as potential customers, all over the world. By not using social media, you run the risk of losing customers, credibility, and crucial information that can benefit your business. Even if you choose not to actively participate in discussions, you need be aware and stay informed regarding conversations about your company. Don’t stick your head in the ground and hope for social media to “blow on by.”
  1. You can’t respond to negative comments about your business. When customers are not satisfied with your product or service, one of the first things many will do is complain on Twitter or Facebook, or they will write a bad review online. If you are not actively keeping tabs on these discussions and reviews, they can hurt your reputation and cost you potential business. How can you protect your brand if you don’t know what’s being said about it online? Social media is now the default platform for customer service. Instead of calling an 800 number, consumers want to send businesses a tweet or post something on a Facebook page. When they can’t find you online, they will go to a review site such a Yelp or Merchant Circle to complain and warn other customers. However, if they have a relationship with your company, they are much less likely to take such actions and will instead send you an email or a private message about the problem.
  1. You risk missing the positive comments about your business. Customers also leave positive feedback online about companies with which they do business. However, if they believe their comments won’t be read by the companies they are praising, satisfied customers are less likely to leave feedback.
  1. You risk giving your competitors an unfair advantage. If your competitors are active on social media and you are not, your rivals have a leg up on winning business from potential customers. You don’t allow for comparisons and can’t answer questions in real time. Unless your product or service is overwhelmingly superior, this is one risk you cannot afford to take!

Social media is an excellent forum to participate in discussions happening right now about your business and your industry. Building an active presence on social sites offers numerous opportunities to promote your products and services, provide outlets for customer service, and check up on your competition. It’s not too late to start using social media as a business tool…but one day soon, it might be.

If you are an SAP partner and would like to learn more about this topic, join me on Dec 1st for How to Spend 15 Minutes a Day on Social Without Breaking a Sweat. Register now: (s-user) #SAPMarketingAcademy


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