Database Wars II: Different Players. Different Field. Different Result.

Eric Lai

Did you ever lay awake at night pondering why the expression is “knowledge is power,” not “data is power”? Yeah, me neither. But then I started thinking about the press conference that SAP is holding tomorrow.

As you might have read in the New York Times, Reuters, or Bloomberg, SAP (my employer) plans to announce some product news on Tuesday around mobile and data management software.

It’s a follow-up to our December announcement when we said we planned to become the no. 2 database vendor by 2015.

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison thinks that we have to be “on drugs” to think we can play on its home turf.

Note to Larry: SAP is already no. 4 in databases, on the strength of a trio of Sybase products: ASE, used in just about every Wall Street firm; the market-leading columnar database, Sybase IQ; and the quietly popular (and versatile) SQL Anywhere.

And if you look at where data management is headed, SAP has already made other gains, and is poised to make even more.

Some historical perspective. I started writing about technology in the mid-90s, during the tail end of the decade-long first Database War. Oracle was emerging as the top dog in a pack of vendors that included IBM, Ingres, Informix, Sybase and Microsoft (which was still licensing SQL Server from Sybase at that time).

Powerful and huge, Oracle’s relational database was the perfect technology for that era. Big muscles were in. High school jocks chewed steroids like candy. An ex-bodybuilder (Arnold Schwarzenegger) was the most famous man in the world.

Challengers thought the way to beat Oracle was by getting bigger and stronger than it. So they all tried to prove they could store more rows of data or crunch transactions faster. As with bodybuilding and steroids, this fixation on performance led to artificially-enhanced benchmarks all around, which led to a distrust of benchmarks that lingers to this day.

Also, this strategy didn’t work. Take the last serious challenge to Oracle, the object-oriented database. Object-oriented, and, later, object-relational, databases were indeed more powerful at storing fast-emerging Web content such as videos, images etc.

So object-oriented vendors nerdishly talked up their speeds and feeds advantages. Besides running headlong into the emerging cynicism about benchmarks, there were two other problems with that strategy. For all its hype, the Web was – and is – just a niche of the broader enterprise market. And object-oriented vendors failed to cater to “bread-and-butter traditional business-data processing applications where high performance, reliability, and scalability are crucial,” former Informix CTO Michael Stonebraker said at the time. “Companies are justifiably loathe to scrap [relational] systems for a different technology, unless it offers a compelling business advantage, which has rarely been demonstrated by object-oriented databases.”

The Game has Changed

This leads me back to my original question, why nobody says “Data is power.”

That’s because raw numbers mean nothing. Numbers need to be sifted through, analyzed for patterns, applied to the right problems and displayed to the right level of detail for the viewer.

Only then can we humans can glean knowledge useful for making intelligent decisions.

This has always been true. But it’s become critical in the last decade, now that we can gather billions or trillions of data points in a short amount of time.

Here, SAP is already the leader. According to Gartner, SAP leads the $12.2 billion global Business Intelligence, analytic applications and enterprise performance management (EPM) market with 24% share, vs. Oracle’s 15.6% share.

The needs within data management are shifting, too, away from monolithic, over-built products towards efficient, focused solutions tailored for the problem to be solved.

This parallels what’s happened in popular culture. Gargantuan, oiled-up muscles seem stupid. What people care about is practical strength, such as a strong core, and lean, Bikram-toned torsos.

Take T-Mobile, which wanted to create personalized deals for its 30 million American customers by mining data from store cash registers, text messages and call centers. Using the HANA in-memory database, T-Mobile was able to slash the time to create tailored customer offers to 3 hours from one week.

That’s a reduction of 98%. And it’s a performance boost that a conventional relational database topped by an in-memory layer would be hard-pressed to achieve.

Don’t believe the FUD. HANA may be in-memory, but it “is a full, ACID-compliant database, and not just a cache or accelerator,” says SAP Executive Board Member in charge of Technology, Vishal Sikka. “All the operations happen in memory, but every transaction is committed, stored, and persisted.”

Analysts like Richard Sherlund of Nomura Securities call HANA “not just a new database” but “a new secret sauce to be leveraged in important new ways.”

How? Because SAP’s goal isn’t just to deliver HANA to market, but to ensure HANA (as well as ASE and IQ) support all of SAP’s key applications like Business Warehouse, BusinessObjects and its flagship ERP.

That turns HANA into a “disruptive technology that can accelerate growth for SAP, differentiate the SAP ERP, BI and BW, and make the company’s products stickier,” says Bernstein Research’s Mark Moerdler. He predicts HANA could be a $4.4 billion business by 2015 (it reaped 160 million euros ($212 million) in its first six months, well above its 100 million euro target).

That may sound daunting. At the same time, there are 110,000 companies that today run an Oracle database with an SAP application. HANA, or ASE, or IQ together provide multiple, potentially cheaper alternatives for each of those enterprises. In this way, we avoiding the mistake our predecessors made.

And SAP is going one further. We and our partners are building hundreds of mobile apps that deliver the right information to the right users at the right time in the right fashion (graphical dashboards that let users drill down with a swipe of a finger). Charite Berlin hospital is already equipping its doctors with a patient dashboard that pulls up real-time data using HANA.

The world has changed. We are drowning in data. Is your current database the best choice for keeping you afloat? There might be a better choice. Without giving anything away about Tuesday, that’s what SAP is delivering.



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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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Why New Technology Has An Adoption Problem

Danielle Beurteaux

When 3D printing became a practical reality, in the sense that the actual printers became more efficient, less expensive, and more accessible to the average consumer, there was an assumption that the consumer 3D printing market was going to take off. We’d all have printers at home printing…. what? Our clothes? Toys? Spare organs?

That has yet to happen. 3D printing company MakerBot just went through its second employee layoff this year, driven by a market that’s developing much slower than predicted.

That same thinking is in play with a somewhat more prosaic technology – digital wallets. Apple Pay was released this year, as was Samsung Pay. There’s also Google’s Android Pay. During an earnings call, Apple CEO Tim Cook said: “We are more confident than ever that 2015 will be the year of Apple Pay.” But that expectation has yet to be realized, at least vis-à-vis consumers.

Consumers aren’t using any of the digital wallets en masse. According to Bloomberg, payments made via mobile wallets – all of them – make up a mere 1% of retail purchases in the U.S. The reason is that consumers just don’t see a compelling reason to use them. There’s no real reward for them to change from SOP.

Both these instances highlight a problem with assumptions about mass adoption for new technology – just because it’s cool, interesting, and accessible doesn’t mean a market-worthy mass of people will use it.

Who is more likely to use mobile wallets? Emerging economies without a stable financial and banking systems. In those environments, digital payments present a more secure and quicker method for purchasing. These are the same areas where mobile adoption leapfrogged older technologies because there was a lack of telecommunications infrastructure, i.e. many never had a landline phone to begin with, and they went directly to mobile. The value-add already exists. (But there are also security issues, to which consumers are becoming more sensitive. A hack of Samsung’s U.S. subsidiary LoopPay network was uncovered five months post-hack. Although one was expert quoted as saying the hackers may not have been interested in selling consumer financial info but instead in tracking individuals.)

Here’s some interesting data and a good point made: mobile payments are most popular in situations where the buyer already has his or her phone in hand and the transaction is made even quicker than swiping plastic. For example, purchases made for London Transit rides are responsible for a good portion of the U.K.’s mobile payments.

Mass technology adoption is no longer driven simply by the release of a new product. There are too many products released constantly now, the market is too diverse, and the products often lack a true raison d’être.

Learn more about how creative and innovative companies are finding their customers. Read Compelling Shopping Moments: 4 Creative Ways Stores Connect With Their Customers.


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Is Digital Business the Answer to the Climate Crisis?

Kai Goerlich

By Kai Goerlich, Michael Goldberg, Will Ritzrau

Among the studies of climate change that indict human inventions and activities for the ecological damage done to the earth, there is a hopeful glimmer that digital business can bend the curve to reduce carbon emissions. According to #SMARTer2030, a study by the Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI) and Accenture Strategy, it is possible, during the next 15 years, to hold worldwide carbon emissions to 2015 levels by digitizing business processes and applying data to decisions about resource use. That would represent a valuable contribution, according to the research, in decoupling economic growth and greenhouse gas emissions, thus helping to solve the tradeoff between the two.

SAP looked at a subset of companies in six major industries that are currently using business software such as enterprise resource planning, data analytics, supply chain, logistics, production planning, resource optimization, and remote access. Then SAP did their own analysis to estimate how applying these technologies to emerging digital business models in these industries globally would contribute to reducing carbon emissions.

The “Business as Usual” Scenario

The heat is on. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world body established in 1988 to assess the impact of humans on the climate, notes in its most recent report that “business as usual” practices would lead to temperature increases between 2.6°C and 4.8°C by the end of the century—beyond our expected ability to reverse the damage.

More IT = Less CO2

By rolling out information and communications technologies (ICT) across the global economy, total emissions of carbon dioxide equivalent could be cut 12.1 gigatons by 2030 and help forestall temperature increases, GeSI research has concluded. GeSI is an ICT industry association working with, among others, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to improve its members’ sustainability performance and promote technologies that foster sustainable development.


About Kai Goerlich

Futurist and resource optimization thought leader

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