Thursday, May 20, 2010

Watch that Stream become a Wave!

(this was cross-posted here)

Hello everyone!

We are excited to be working to support the Google Wave Federation Protocol in SAP StreamWork to let tools – collaboration or business – work seamlessly between any wave server, including Google Wave! With SAP StreamWork, we help business be more productive by letting people drive decisions together. Since our first BETA announcement a number of months ago we have been constantly compared to Google Wave, due to the real-time characteristics of the collaboration patterns we use. While products each have a different focus, they are also naturally complementary, and from the moment we saw Google Wave we were excited about the possibilities of connecting the two. This year’s Google I/O is our first opportunity to tell the story of how we plan to work collaboratively with Google, the Wave Federation Protocol, and OpenSocial.

For those of you who are not familiar with SAP StreamWork, it is aimed at transforming the way people work. When Google developed Google Wave it asked the question, “What would e-mail, instant messenger, and collaborative document creation look like if it were invented in the 21st century?” Similarly, SAP asked the question, “How can people solve important business decisions in a natural, fluid way, making every day more effective and fun?”. SAP StreamWork is a new on-demand, collaborative decision-making application that brings together people inside or outside your organization with information for fact-based decision-making and interactive business tools for collecting feedback, strategizing, and brainstorming, and is available today in a free version for anyone. It is also fully extensible by developers using open REST APIs. in a business context

Many of you make decisions every day, using a range of tools, from e-mail, to white boards, to shouting matches, to business applications and business intelligence. We get the work done, but it often becomes chaotic and hard to follow and can hinder clear decisions. Wave is modernizing collaborative communication; SAP is modernizing business. SAP StreamWork brings together people, information and proven business methodologies to help teams naturally and fluidly work toward goals and outcomes. Teams can assess situations together, develop strategies and make clear decisions, with a full record of what transpired. What better idea than to include anyone with a wave account?

So this is how we see you rolling in the near future: A supplier just notified you they couldn’t deliver materials that you need tomorrow to continue production. Crap! You bring that context fluidly into SAP StreamWork and assemble a team, bringing experts in that industry to see who might have capacity. Some of the people you know are registered as Google Wave users – instead of having to enter a different system, the business discussion complete with analytical and business tools show up in their wave inbox. It no longer matters where people are, or what tools they prefer – they can safely make decisions, in real-time, and directly drive the business applications that run the largest companies in the world. Now that feels like an improvement, yeah?

At this year’s Google I/O we will show the beginnings of this. But, what exactly, are we talking about?

Passing the Wave (Wave Federation):

At I/O we plan to show how SAP StreamWork has added a Wave Server to the platform to enable conversations between SAP StreamWork and other Wave servers. In SAP StreamWork a user starts an Activity where in they invite other participants to collaborate with them on a work activity like making a business decision. The group can then add the data and tools to guide them through the decision process. When an activity is created, StreamWork creates a new wave and federates the content of that Activity to the Wave server of any Wave users that may have been invited to that activity. With this integration Wave users will be able to seamlessly collaborate with SAP StreamWork users to work on the important decisions they need to make every day.

Go Go Gadget! (Gadget / Method Interoperability):

In order to ensure that content from an Activity or wave is properly federated between each other, we had to ensure that the content found in both systems was compatible with each other, and this included Wave Gadgets and StreamWork Methods. Wave Gadgets are shared programs that run inside waves, and are very comparable to StreamWork Methods which are business tools that run inside StreamWork Activities. Theproof of concept will show the compatibility between a StreamWork business method being federated over to Google Wave. We intend to create a generic compatibility between StreamWork Methods, and Wave and OpenSocial Gadgets so that developers will be able to ensure that gadgets or methods built for one system will work in the other.

These are the early days with our Wave Federation Protocol support and we are still in proof of concept stage, but we are excited to discover together with you how Wave, OpenSocial and StreamWork naturally extend each other, and we intend to deliver value to our customers, based on this work, within the next year. So please let us know your ideas, and we can figure out how the make the world a little more productive every day...

Thursday, October 9, 2008

A new adventure is well underway...

A friend pointed out that I hadn't posted in a while, and I thought to myself, True, but I've started a lot of posts.  Most of them were brilliant.  But I've been busy -- with my new gig.

At the beginning of August I joined the Business Objects, an SAP company.  An unlikely move, perhaps, for those who know me.  But as I get a chance to talk more about what we're up to it will seem very likely, in fact exciting, a continuation of the stuff I've been working on for a while now.

I'm going to start blogging under the SAP Community Network machine, and cross-blogging here.   Careful... it doesn't work in Chrome yet.  So stay tuned.  Before long I'll have some software to sell you.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Gun Problem: A Simple Fix

While reading a torrent of coverage over the recent Supreme Court gun control ruling, I again wondered why I wasn't benevolent dictator, since I think (as I often do) I have a simple fix to the problem. Of course this has nothing to do with software, but as people in software know, product managers are always certain they have the answer. So here goes:

1. If someone buys a gun, they are responsible for any crimes committed by that gun, unless the ownership is legally transferred to someone else.

2. If a gun owner loses a gun, they also loose their license to carry guns, forever.

Those familiar with the gun debate will quickly point out, But what about the millions of guns still on the street?

OK, two more rules:

3. If someone turns in a gun to police, and relinquishes their right to ever own a gun, they get $1000.

4. If someone "refers" an unlicensed gun that they are aware of, they get $500. per gun. That's right, point police to a house with 10 unlicensed guns, get $5000. if the guns are recovered.

Fear of punishment and market forces will take over, and the world will become a lot safer, with no freedoms compromised. Or at least so it seems from my sofa.

So what does this have to do with software? Nothing. Except that leveraging people's selfish impulses to help others, and empowering people (while keeping them accountable) is what the next wave of software is all about, and these seem to be good ways to get a lot of things done.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Books are a lot cheaper than Bombs

Or so said Rabih Alameddine on KQED this morning, when discussing his latest novel "The Hakawati," and his effort to help the Friends of the Lebanese Public Libraries by driving donations of books. This seemed to me an apt metaphor for effective SaaS marketing strategy.

Books foment ideas that are spread virally. The ideas spread in cafes and coffee houses, more people read the book, and in time a culture will evolve from the ideas in the books. That is, if the books are good.

Last week, Mike Maples offered sound investing advice: don't invest in a SaaS company who's mission is viral but who sells traditionally (top-down) in an enterprise. Top-down doesn't work for a viral-pitch product -- users won't use. Top down sales approaches are bombs -- they can pave a way into a company, but they can't win the hearts and minds.

I'm talking to a lot of prospective employers now, and one of the key things I try to ascertain is whether the products are built to serve the user, and how. And if not, how quickly I'd be able to change that. For the enterprise workplace to be transformed, the user will have to win, and that is the real mission for the next half decade.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

This Me, not *that* Me!

If what you are is what you eat, this day it seems who you are depends on who you meet. Or which identity you point them to.

Yesterday, I was grabbing some coffee and an eggel at Hugo Cafe, and started talking to a woman who worked at a large SaaS company in San Francisco. Since it was a company I was interested in we talked a bit about their business model, and then I asked her if I could shoot her a note on LinkedIn. To which she replied, "How about Facebook? I prefer that, since it is the most up-to-date."


Friends of mine on Facebook get to see updated pictures of my kids, with no relevance to my business life. Colleagues on LinkedIn get mapped to my "professional" self, with links to my blog, etc. On Facebook she would get the wrong Me.

Last week at the Consumerization of Software event a colleague was lamenting how he toned down his Facebook self, since you never knew who from his business life would stumble across it. Drunk pictures: gone. Fun stuff: 1/2 gone. Oh well.

Another colleague has slowed his Twitter use, since he really wants multiple channels. One for work, one for play. One channel simply doesn't work for him, and it is too bothersome to create multiple users (requiring, among other things, multiple email addresses).

I started to use Twitter to set my status in one place, and broadcast it to various networks. That was great for a few weeks until I understood Twitter's power as a messaging platform. Now I realize that I want to have conversations in Twitter, some that make no sense to my Facebook Friends. Options: de-link Twitter from my Facebook status, or limit my tweets?

With the explosion of social sites, we are stuck in a quandary: how to manage our several (or many) online selves? We struggle with this, lacking the grace that our children will inevitably have, born in an age of transparency. Here is what we clearly need:
  • A way to define our various selves
  • A way to manage content and information for each self
  • A way to push the relevant information to the appropriate networks, sometimes to multiple accounts on a network
  • No duplication of data (no one has time for this)
Oh, I have an elegant solution, by the way. I haven't decided whether to talk about it or just build it. Can anyone point me to a solution that exists out there already?

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The Consumerization of Software

I spent a very pleasant afternoon at The Consumerization of Software conference held by SDForum and Accel Partners, exploring the thesis that enterprise software is becoming like consumer software. Can't disagree there.

Kevin Efrusy led us off on the Consumerization Thesis, which had some memorable points, including:
  • A customer needs to understand the value in less than 1 minute, and get the benefit in less than 1 hour, or you are toast
  • Ruthlessly limit scope, # of account touch points required, configuration options
  • Businesses should focus on metrics that reflect customer success
I particularly like the first one, since it is testable and it rings true.

There were some nice takeaways, particularly in a panel titled "A View on Software from Wall Street." Mike Maples (from Maples Investments), speculated that in a few years in addition to traditional financial metrics, SaaS companies will be judged on their viral coefficient. Mike defined this simply as "How much indirect sales does one traditional sale beget?" That is, if I sell $100 of software, how many additional dollars in future sales will come in with no action from me? This could be in the form of additional user licenses, add-on modules, or simply referrals to new customers with the initial customer as the sales person. If the coefficient > 1, sales will multiply naturally, if it is less than 1, the difference will need to be made up in Marketing $$.
  • "don't respond to RFPs, don't respond to large banks." (in response to when to customize to get into enterprise accounts)
  • "we had a voting system on the web for features. we never had a product manager."
  • OK, a bit strident, and I don't entirely agree with the second point. But I completely agree with the overarching theme of simplicity and focus, and that rang true throughout the afternoon.

    All in all, the consensus was clear: the enterprise is being consumerized. Thank goodness, I'm all for it. But maybe we should come up with a better term than consumerization. Anyone for C13N?

    Monday, June 2, 2008

    Human Easter Eggs (or Last Blast from the Past)

    I found one more gem on my last day with BEA that I can't help but share. Dial back the clock to October 2005, when Plumtree was being acquired by BEA. BEA was figuring out what to call the products, which at the time were the "Plumtree Foundation," which was the base portal, and the "Plumtree Enterprise Web Suite," which included Collaboration, Analytics, and a bunch of other stuff.

    The Naming Police at BEA arrived at new names that some felt were counterintuitive and difficult to say:
    • AquaLogic Interaction (Plumtree Foundation) (aka ALI)
    • AquaLogic User Interaction (Plumtree Enterprise Web Suite) (aka ALUI)
    Since people kept asking what these new names meant, we elected to hold a contest to see who could write the best poem explaining the names. A writer on staff named Nate Loux, who I think of as Donald Barthelme in a cube, came up with my favorite submission, which I can only describe as brilliant. It is posted here.

    We've all put Easter Eggs in software -- what delights me is the easter eggs we stumble across in the workplace. I think that is why a lot of us are in software -- yeah, we're geeks, but it is really about learning the expect the unexpected in your everyday work environment. While it may not be obvious that the poem was an easter egg, it should be obvious that creating an environment that rewards creativity produces the unexpected, and the unexpected is what makes work fun. Which brings me back to the beginning, or the end I should say, of what was Plumtree and then BEA.