Fundamental Conference Coming Up

Be there or be 4:3 aspect ratio!

I can’t believe I’m late to this party. Fundamental Conference is an event “designed to highlight the best of front-end development and design in one place”. It’s brought to you by a team of SAP folks who work closely with Fundamental Library Styles, which works to bring Fiori’s look and feel to web apps from a multitude of UI frameworks (in reality, that means mostly Angular, React, and Vue these days – but the fundamentality of it means that it can extend to others as developers wish). As a developer, I deeply appreciate the work that is being done with those popular frameworks to make Fiori design mesh nicely with the functionality of their individual component systems.

Fundamental feels like a friendly place where designers and developers put their heads together to think about the future of design, front-end development, accessibility, and performance. If you visit the conference page you’ll see a link to their call for content, so make sure to submit hare-brained ideas. Their SAP blogs, Twitter, and YouTube let you learn quite a bit more, but the best place is really the documentation.

What I like most – perhaps because of my design blind spots as a developer – is the consistent up-frontness of accessibility. I am far too often blasting out web pages and mobile apps without even a second thought to accessibility. Making accessibility a first-class design concern makes the web a tool for everyone – and that most definitely those PO-approving biz apps.

Salesforce Dethrones SAP

Everybody wins! Mostly shareholders.

If you look at the latest quarterly numbers for SAP and Salesforce, you’ll see that Salesforce ($7.72 billion) just edges past SAP (€7.517 billion, at pretty much 1:1 Euro to dollar) in revenue. If the name of the game is counting fat stacks of cash, Salesforce just moved ever-so-slightly into the lead.

Interesting to note that only $3 billion or so of SAP’s dollars are cloud revenue dollars. There is a TON of opportunity for both SAP and other players to mine that slowly shrinking space of large on-premises SAP installations, and on the flip side I imagine that SAP’s cloud ambitions are still only just getting started. Meanwhile, Salesforce lives entirely in the cloud and still puts up double-digit percentage growth numbers, so there’s no reason to think that train will derail anytime soon.

I’ve worked the majority of my career in the SAP world, but I (weirdly, maybe?) am not really a fanboy. It’s not that I don’t enjoy working with SAP solutions, it’s more that…I don’t have a dog in the fight over who dominates what enterprise software market. I just want to be there to do cool things that solve interesting problems. PM

Still More AI Art

You guys. I am so sorry. I know I write about this stuff all the time. I JUST CAN’T GET ENOUGH. NLPGPT-3DALL-E 2GPT-3 againDeepMind. Nobody is ready for how deeply AI tools are going to penetrate into artists’ creative processes.

Check out this showcase of results from a tool (available for public use) released by Midjourney, a research lab focused on “expanding the imaginative powers of the human species”.

This image was created from nothing but the text “bronze statue of henry cavill, photography, beautiful, HDR, 8K, 80mm lens”. LOOK AT THAT. Is that the same thing as a human creating a wholly original work of art by hand? No. But often I don’t want to make the picture – I want to use the picture to illustrate something. And in that case, simple text prompts that generate amazing images that match the concepts in the text are absolutely good enough for me. PM

Check out this issue for more!

Cloudy Days For Industry, But In A Good Way

Sometimes I wish I’d shut up about the cloud already

I feel like every other issue I’m throwing something out from Bob Evans. Apologies, Bob – maybe if you didn’t write such interesting stuff I wouldn’t regurgitate and link to it so often. I’ve written about industry cloud before, but this time Evans takes us to it through the lens of some of the older enterprise players: Oracle, SAP, and IBM. 

With Oracle, Evans calls out a recent huge acquisition, industry-specific apps for more than a decade, and positioning industry as central to Oracle’s business. I’ll add that Oracle’s impressive catalog is what sticks out in my head as its strength. SAP gets kudos for half a century of industry insights and RISE being a success (I wish I knew more details on that). From my view, SAP should by all rights have the largest store of industry brainpower. IBM gets praise for unifying its consulting with its product, and I just gotta agree with that. Is there any other player that can match firepower with boots on the ground at that scale? 

I don’t even know if it’s possible to be too optimistic about cloud. From infrastructure to platform and software, it’s just gonna keep steamrolling through and changing the equation on everything. Until the next thing. PM

Check out this issue for more!

Futurism @SAP

“SAP” and “future” are concepts that rarely connect in my head. That’s not meant to be a hater comment – just that the sci-fi fanboy part of my brain thinks of the future as the place where we travel to the stars, not where we match invoices 14% better. SAP does actually employ futurists, though. This blog caught my eye and got me thinking. It’s a profile of Upen Barve, who along with Martin Wezowski is co-founder of The Future Hub at SAP. 

“We spearhead & shape SAP’s long-term innovation vision, produce and supervise future concepts, create Macro POV’s and build concept cases and concept-prototypes to make the vision tangible. We inspire & strategize with our ecosystem to investigate possible futures, and validate with tangible PoCs.” 

Upen Barve on Future Hub

It takes a bit for the interview to get going. Lots of high-sounding phrases that – while I’m sure have lots of meaning to the futurist crew – don’t take shape for me as a reader until he goes into detail on a few AI outputs and predictions:

  • Barve’s four pillars of human ingenuity and machine intelligence coming together: individual augmentation, enterprise decision augmentation, autonomous operations, autonomous networks
  • Points to a forecast saying between 2042 and 2045 that machines and humans will be at equal capability. Calls it “inevitable”. 
  • Will AI be able to learn emotions? He says gut feelings will continue to distinguish humans from machines. 

I suggest going out to Barve’s LinkedIn profile and looking at some of the videos to get further details. While the future is necessarily murky, futurists and fusionists alike should work to be clear in their communication. PM

Check out this issue for more!

Fishing For Nerds

Over at diginomica, Mark Chillingworth describes a few CIOs out there in the world doing the best they can in the tech talent crunch. They’re making headway by transforming recruiting from an externally-sourced job to an arm of IT itself. A key finding:

talent acquisition is, like technology, not just a bolt-on, but a strategic approach and a good investment.

The folks Chillingworth talked with saw benefit from in-sourcing recruitment. Vital to success appears to be giving recruiters incentives to go the extra mile, and relationships that can only be built with colleagues. When tech talent ups its game, the business notices.

I often work with IT teams. It is no lie to say they are stressed, short-staffed, and in need of skill-sharpening time. Getting good tech talent means investing in lots of things, and recruiting is a key factor. The best people are never on the market, so you need something more than LinkedIn spammers to find them. I have worked with recruiters in the past and I can tell you: if the recruiter is invested in the business they’re hiring for, it makes a huge difference. Recruiting follows the same adage as other talent: you get what you pay for. PM

Welcome To Connector Hell – Here’s Your API Key

I don’t know how I got there, but I landed on the SAP Open Connectors help portal. Open Connectors helps “unify the developer experience across all kinds of applications and services”. Check out how many connectors are available for integration use.

Every platform I touch has a similar concept – there’s a need for simplifying connections between apps, clouds, databases, and everything in between. If you can draw a picture of what you’re trying to do, you can probably find a pre-built connector somewhere to smooth the path.

The ubiquity of connectors shines a light on that eternal question: build or buy? If I can make a Visio drawing and just plug in little pieces with API keys and credentials, doesn’t that lead to agility? If I can hand-write my own custom application in any language I choose, doesn’t that mean that I can truly make anything I desire?

If I need to build something in order to communicate that thing’s value, I will glue connectors together all day long. If I need to make something that can stand the test of time, I’ll happily open VSCode. But the world is changing, and I don’t think that distinction will remain as clear as it seems at the moment. PM

It’s Not Easy Being Green (But It Should Be)

I parse the word “sustainable” in two ways.

  1. A corporate BS buzzword focused on by companies who don’t want to lose their Millennial/Gen Z workforce, mumbling something about making safe communities and locally resilient supply chains.
  2. An environmentalist term meaning this object or activity can persist in such a way as not to immediately destroy our planet/climate.

A couple of items in the last week made me think about these two definitions. First, Julia White of SAP gave a quick talk at Cloud Wars Expo which included some mentions of sustainability. I am cynically inclined to interpret most corporate folks as acting in the first parsing above – but Julia and her interviewer’s chat actually left me feeling more charitable. Give it a listen.

With regard to the second, I saw news that Google and Oracle suffered data center outages in a recent London heat wave. The cloud computing market sure ain’t gonna get smaller, so cloud providers have to both plan for heat disasters and – more importantly – be good citizens of power usage. A study in Science found that data centers use around 1% of all worldwide electrical power, and a great deal of that power goes into cooling. Climate change should be top of mind for an industry that relies on cooler temperatures and massive amounts of power.

Time will tell whether corporations are truly serious about buzzword-chasing. I hope they are. PM

I Want My ERP

This is actually a really cool graphic. No snark here.

SAP turns 50 this year. Stuart Browne over at ERP Today has a great piece on what’s changed over the years, and why – dissimilar to MTV – SAP’s aging has been not-so-graceful in some areas.

In the past, solutions that offered great integration got the most attention from businesses. This was SAP’s kingmaking feature from the start – bundle business processes together and integrate them. Just like MTV with artists aiming for music videos as key to their image, consulting companies put SAP at the front of their partnership plays, creating an entire ecosystem.

But time marches on. MTV adapted from solely focused on music videos to creating other forms of viewer content. Browne rightly points out the best example of this: Beavis and Butt-Head. And then he (convincingly) argues that SAP hasn’t been able to reinvent itself similarly. Monolithic ERP has meant sacrificing the agility of some parts for the sake of moving things “at the pace of the slowest functions”.

Lots to chew on in this piece. I am also in agreement with two things: companies seem less apt to choose huge monoliths and instead want to break things up into best-of-breed, and the skills shortage in SAP consultants doesn’t help. I’ll add that orgs who take hyperscaler capabilities seriously and architect their networks of solutions around elastic platform resources will be best enabled to overcome challenges quickly. PM

Democratization Sweeping The Nation

In my other nerd life at Bowdark Consultingwe podcasted with Shane Young, a ninja master of Microsoft Power Platform, about democratizing the low-code/no-code space for everyone. That episode primed my eyes for an ERP Software Blog piece making some more distinctions about democratization in enterprise IT. 

(Yes – the linked piece above is sponsored. Sponsorship doesn’t automatically render something false, and this sponsor is beating a drum whose rhythm I happen to like.)

There’s a bifurcation of democratization processes happening right now. First is data democratization. Think about every time in the last two decades you’ve heard the term “self-service BI” – that’s the thing here. “Data democratization is the idea of making sure end users have the skills and tools to access, analyze, report on, and use data without IT’s involvement.”

Then there’s what this piece calls “technology democratization”, where IT enables business users by allowing them to BUILD the apps they need: “they want the power to develop solutions that help them do their jobs better-from achieving deeper insights to advancing workflows.” Essentially, we’re talking about low-code/no-code platforms here. 

I have known so many smart, business-savvy people who also think deeply about tech and the processes they perform on the job. They have the right mindset to be developers, even if they’ve never bothered to learn how to write code. Now is the right time to get these people involved in building their own solutions, and IT doesn’t have to hand over the keys to all the systems – they just have to think about providing platforms. PM

See more at this story’s original home.