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Tuesday, October 18, 2016

HCM Fertile Ground for Data Science

Whether known as big data, data analytics, data mining, machine learning, cognitive computing, or artificial intelligence (AI), data science is a hot topic.

Human Capital Management (HCM) is turning out to be fertile ground for providers to develop use cases for data science. The recent HR Technology Conference in Chicago provided an excellent opportunity for us to learn about the offerings of six such providers.

At the same time, there are other interesting problems for data science to solve in HCM beyond the initial use cases.

Read the rest of this post on the Strativa blog:  HCM Fertile Ground for Data Science.

Sunday, October 02, 2016

Big Data Analytics Not Just for the Big Guys

Big data analytics can be a highly technical subject, but as consumers we come face to face with it every day. 

The personalized coupons we receive at checkout are generated by the grocer’s analysis of our purchase history. Likewise, the targeted ads we see on the web are based on ad brokers’ use of big data generated by our browsing history. Large health insurers use big data to target us with advice on managing our health and lowering costs of medication. And major political campaigns are getting good at using big data to target us based on our demographics.

Based on our experience as consumers, it is evident that the “big guys” know how to use big data. But what about small to midsize companies?

The good news is that business analytics and even big data are becoming more readily available to smaller businesses. This is the result of three big enablers.

Read the rest of this post by Strativa consultant Dee Long, on the Strativa blog. 

Friday, September 02, 2016

Salesforce.com Less Exciting, More Incredible, Amazing

Salesforce.com released its second quarter earnings this week, followed by its quarterly earnings call. To provide a deeper analysis of the state of Salesforce.com’s business, we are pleased to release our SFDC Superlative Index™ for the latest quarter.

Developed by the Enterprise System Spectator, the SFDC Superlative Index is a proprietary metric that quantifies the enthusiasm of Salesforce.com’s executives, by counting the number of superlatives used in their quarterly earnings calls and analyzing the changes in their use of these superlatives over time. Our proprietary list of 12 superlatives currently includes: exciting, incredible, huge, amazing, outstanding, terrific, awesome, phenomenal, fantastic, tremendous, extraordinary, and spectacular.

Dramatic Decline in Superlatives

Salesforce executives used tracked superlatives only 71 times in their conference call this quarter. This is a significant drop from the 97 tracked superlatives used in the previous quarter, which was the highest number over the prior five quarters.

After the call, Salesforce.com’s share price fell sharply in trading overnight and the next day. Many analysts attributed the decline in the share price to the firm’s revised forward guidance and the level of new bookings. But we attribute it mostly to Salesforce executives' declining enthusiasm, as shown in Figure 1.


Analyzing the individual superlatives that make up the Index provides deeper insights.

Excitement Takes a Hit

SFDC executives appear to be losing excitement, using the word "excited/exciting" only 14 times in the most recent earnings call, less than half the number of times used in the previous quarter, as shown in Figure 2.

Nevertheless, CEO Marc Benioff reported that he was “so excited and …  everyone in Salesforce is so excited” about the firm’s new artificial intelligence platform, Einstein.”

He was also enthusiastic about the firm’s recent acquisitions of Demandware and Quip. “But it's been an incredible time for us to acquire some phenomenal assets and I have never been more excited about Salesforce and our product line and coming into Dreamforce, like I said is, just awesome.”

Yet, new deals failing to close before the end of the quarter seemed to take a little off the edge of Benioff’s excitement. “So there [are] a lot of exciting things coming for Dreamforce, and nobody likes to see softness in any particular region…. Like I said, we really saw some great growth and deal flow in the United States, but we did get a bit of softness at the very end of the quarter,” he said.

For his part, any softness at the end of the quarter didn’t seem to dampen the enthusiasm of COO Keith Block, who was still excited to be part of Salesforce.com. “As you know over three years ago Marc and I had many many conversations about coming onto Salesforce which I was super excited about and I continue to be super excited about being here.”


Nevertheless, Business Is Increasingly Incredible and Amazing

The decline in excitement, however, was partially offset by an increase in the use of the superlatives “incredible” and “amazing.” In fact, “incredible” took the top spot from “exciting” this quarter, with “amazing” jumping into the number two spot, as shown in Figure 2.

These two superlatives were especially pronounced in Benioff’s comments about recent acquisitions.
“And as you know, over the last few years we have acquired a number of AI companies. Incredible companies like RelateIQ, MetaMind, Implisit, PredictionIO, Tempo AI and more with amazing, amazing people and technology. We have been able to stitch all this together into this incredible AI platform and this focus on AI and on the critical aspects of AI as the next wave of our industry has resulted in a machine learning team of more than 175 data scientists who have built this amazing Einstein platform. And that’s really why I am so excited and why everyone in Salesforce is so excited.
He continued, “It's been an incredible time for us to acquire some phenomenal assets; and I have never been more excited about Salesforce and our product line. And coming into Dreamforce, like I said is, just awesome.”

In response to an analyst question, even the normally-reserved CFO, Mark Hawkins, shared some of Benioff’s enthusiasm for recent acquisitions. “By the way, I just want to call out, we are super pleased to have Demandware,” he said. “It's just an exciting [acquisition], adding functionality and a unique asset, as Marc called out, that we are super happy to have.”

Of course, nothing generates enthusiasm like the firm’s annual user conference, Dreamforce. Benioff said:
We have never been better positioned for the future. You are going to see that at Dreamforce. It is going to be a rush of innovation. There has never been more new products and more capabilities released at Dreamforce, and you are never going to see a better place to see how all this amazing innovation and products comes together. This is our biggest customer event of the year. Coming very very soon, October 4 through 7. We have got more than 2300 customer speakers inspiring, motivating, empowering, educating our amazing community of customer trailblazers. We also have an amazing lineup of speakers including Melinda Gates, and General Motors' Mary Barra, Congressman John Lewis, and many many more.
Benioff also advised the financial analysts that they were "not going to want to miss" the band U2, which would be performing at Dreamforce, adding, "It's going to be an unforgettable event." 

Rounding out the top five superlatives, SFDC executives went even further in describing developments during the quarter, using words such as huge (6 times) and phenomenal (3 times).

For a complete transcript of SFDC's recap of its incredible, amazing, and exciting quarter, check out the full transcript on Seeking Alpha.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Growing Circle of Cloud ERP

Traditional providers of ERP systems typically sought to expand their functional footprint to include complementary applications outside of core ERP. Now cloud ERP vendors are adopting a similar strategy, bringing significant benefits to buyers.

For most companies, an ERP system is generally at the center of the business systems strategy. But a comprehensive applications portfolio includes much more than ERP. Most companies, even small and midsize businesses, have a surprising number of important systems outside of ERP.

By way of example, Figure 1 shows our proposed future applications landscape for a current client of my consulting firm, Strativa. (Company-specific references are removed). Although just a midsize company, it has plants and distribution centers around the world. As a result, the future applications portfolio will be quite extensive. At the core, within the red circle are the core ERP functions. Outside the circle are other enterprise system
s that must interact with the core ERP system. Nearly all of these systems will be new, or replacements of current systems.

Read the rest of this post on the Strativa blog: The Growing Circle of Cloud ERP

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Oracle Acquisition of NetSuite Is a Mixed Bag

Oracle took another step in its strategy of growth by acquisition by announcing a bid for NetSuite, the leading player in the cloud ERP marketplace in terms of number of customers. At $9.3 billion, the deal is the second biggest in Oracle’s history, after PeopleSoft in 2005 for $10.3 billion.

The deal was long expected, for several reasons. Oracle Chairman Larry Ellison was NetSuite’s original investor, and Evan Goldberg, NetSuite’s founder came out of Oracle. CEO Zach Nelson was an Oracle marketing executive. Oracle’s database is an integral part of NetSuite’s infrastructure.

But apart from helping Oracle in its race with Salesforce.com to get to $10 billion in cloud revenues, what are the benefits of the deal to Oracle? How does it help NetSuite, and what does it mean to the broader marketplace? Looking at the big picture, there are certainly benefits, but there are also several concerns.

Read the rest of this post on the Strativa blog: Oracle Acquisition of NetSuite Is a Mixed Bag

Thursday, June 02, 2016

Announcing the Salesforce.com Superlative Index

We often hear that Salesforce.com is an amazing company. But how amazing is it? The Enterprise System Spectator is proud to announce today a new metric that will be incredibly important for investors, customers, and fans of Salesforce.com everywhere: the SFDC Superlative Index™.

Through the SFDC Superlative Index, we can now quantify the awesomeness of SFDC. We do this by counting the number of superlatives used by SFDC executives in their quarterly earnings calls and analyzing the changes in the use of these superlatives over time.

Our proprietary list of superlatives currently includes the following: exciting, incredible, huge, amazing, outstanding, terrific, awesome, phenomenal, fantastic, tremendous, extraordinary, and spectacular. 

Superlatives per Quarter Reaches High Water Mark

These are fantastic days for SFDC, terrific days indeed. As shown in Figure 1, SFDC executives used tracked-superlatives 97 times in the firm's most recent quarter, the greatest number in the past five quarters.


Analyzing superlatives that make up the SFDC Superlative Index provides deeper insights.

Excitement is Rising


SFDC executives are truly excited about the most recent quarter. As shown in Figure 2, we find that "excited/exciting" has now returned as the top superlative in the first quarter, after a sharp decline in the fourth quarter of FY 2016. 

CEO Marc Benioff reported that he as "really excited to be here, really excited for the first quarter" and he was "really excited" about raising the company's full year revenue guidance. "This kind of accelerated revenue growth [is] something that we’re very, very excited about," he later added.

Benioff's excitement also extended to up-coming events, such as World Tour New York, which he said is already sold out. "So we’ll be excited to see you there," he added. He also said that he was "really excited to visit with all the Salesforce customers and developers who are coming Trailhead DX."

But Benioff saved his greatest excitement for the upcoming Dreamforce conference in October.
"I know the bands that are playing. I know what’s going on and I’m [not] going to give you too much of that yet," he said. "I can just tell you it’s going to be the biggest and most exciting Dreamforce ever."

COO, Keith Block, also shared Benioff's enthusiasm, especially about the firm's moves in Europe. "Obviously we’ve made investments with data centers in Europe which we’re very, very excited about, our customers are obviously excited about that," he said. 

Business is Beyond Exciting

As shown in Figure 2, SFDC executives went even further in describing developments during the quarter, using words such as incredible (23 times), huge (16), amazing (8), and outstanding (5) to round out the top five superlatives.

Early in the call, Benioff described the first quarter as the best that the firm has ever seen, "There is [sic] some incredible numbers you’re going to see including the cash flow number," he said. "We’re well positioned for another great year. This is amazing."

Block confirmed Benioff's enthusiasm. "I mean, this is an incredible company with incredible people and an incredible set of products and customers," he said. 

Not only is SFDC incredible, SFDC customers are also incredible. For example, Benioff said, "Uber, one of the world’s great innovative companies, another expansion in the quarter, they’re an incredible innovator with off-the-chart growth." Regarding a new deal with Amazon in the quarter, Block said, "We love Amazon, we’ve got a great relationship with Amazon, they are a huge user of Salesforce and that certainly has been a huge part [of] this quarter as well."

In describing the firm's Sales Cloud, Benioff let loose with a string of incredibles:
"I mean we know that there is not just a cloud, there is not just a incredible cloud vision for Sales Cloud, not just incredible, social vision. You all know it has been built on this incredible engagement platform built on our Chatter core and then extended into Salesforce1. Of course it has incredible mobility, the best of any enterprise application in the world with more mobile users gone up than any other application that I’m aware of."
We can only scratch the surface in this short post. For a complete transcript of SFDC's amazing, incredible, outstanding quarter, check out the full transcript on Seeking Alpha.

Friday, May 06, 2016

Plex Developing a Taste for Food & Beverage

Plex Systems, a long time cloud ERP provider, primarily to automotive and industrial suppliers, has recently been expanding its focus to the food and beverage sector. T

To see Plex now actively pursuing opportunities in food and beverage indicates that Plex is serious about this market. Nevertheless, even within this sector, Plex is selective in its focus.

This post outlines the capabilities of Plex for food and beverage manufacturers along with steps that it is taking to better serve this industry.

Read the whole post on the Strativa blog:  Plex Developing a Taste for Food & Beverage

Saturday, February 27, 2016

The Role of Fear in ERP Implementation

Photo Credit
One of Deming’s 14 points for management was, “Drive out fear, so that everyone may work effectively for the company.” By this he meant that employees should not be afraid to point out problems, provide feedback, or make mistakes in an effort to improve. Business leaders should engage employees positively in continuous improvement.

But when it comes to business leaders themselves, fear can be a powerful motivator. And, nowhere is a healthy fear more needed than in ERP implementation.

It is difficult to think of a major project that is riskier for an organization than an ERP implementation. It ranks right up there with a major strategic merger or acquisition in terms of potential to disrupt the business. This is because an ERP implementation touches nearly every function of the business, nearly every business process, and nearly every employee. Although ERP systems involve computers, they are not IT projects: they are business change initiatives. Do it wrong, and you may find yourself as a case study on the front page of the Wall Street Journal.

Hopes and Fears

I recently co-led a half-day workshop for a large client in the manufacturing industry that is about to embark on a wholesale replacement of their aging ERP system. The participants were 18 of the firm’s business leaders. We covered the history and role of ERP, reasons for failure, lessons learned from successful implementations, typical processes most in need of improvement, and the roles and responsibilities of business users in the implementation.

At the end of the workshop, we conducted a short exercise that I call, “Hopes and Fears.” We invited the participants to list the things that they hoped would result from the implementation. They responded with a variety of benefits, such as improved efficiency, lower inventory, better planning, and a more modern user experience.

We then asked them to list the one thing they were most worried about, the thing they most feared as they looked forward to the implementation. Here the mood turned more serious as they expressed their fears, such as that they might not get enough training, that inventory might actually increase during the transition, that employees might not speak up when things weren’t going well, and that customer delivery schedules might be disrupted.

But the one thing that worried this group the most was that they wouldn’t have the resources to get the implementation finished while still taking care of their regular duties. Would they have the bandwidth? We had told them that they had to put their best people on this project, but could they afford to do that? Where would they get additional personnel? The top executive in the room spoke up and assured the group that the company was ready to spend the money to make those resources available.

At this point, I told them that I had accomplished my unspoken objective. My goal in conducting this workshop was to put some fear into them, as business leaders. Nothing concerns me more than when I see a company begin an ERP implementation thinking that it is no big deal, that they can delegate the project to the IT department, or to the system integrator. Or, thinking that they can treat an ERP implementation as just another project, like installing a new production line, or implementing a new safety program.

Address Fears in Contingency Planning

Healthy fear can be a strong motivator in ERP implementation. At the same time, fear should not lead to paralysis, leading an organization to not move forward with new systems.The right response is to address each of those fears in the project plan, in the form of contingency planning.
  • Are you afraid you won’t have sufficient resources? Allocate budget to hire additional resources to back-fill the regular responsibilities of project team members. 
  • Are you concerned that business users won’t adopt the new system? Develop and implement a change management plan as part of the implementation. 
  • Are you worried that customer delivery might be disrupted? Allocate extra time in the acceptance testing phase to ensure that doesn’t happen. 
You can never completely eliminate risk in an ERP implementation. But with careful planning, allocation of resources, and management commitment you can greatly mitigate those risks.
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