The Power of Community Comes to Life at SAP’s TechEd

marilyn and craig
Marilyn Pratt and Craig Cmehil, both SAP rock stars, embody the spirit of SAP TechEd.

Walking down one of the cavernous halls at the Palazzo hotel in Las Vegas, we approached one of my Enterprise Irregular (EI) colleagues, David Dobrin.  Dobrin looked surprised to see me and said, “What are you doing here?”  I said, “I’m here to learn!”

Yes, I attended my first SAP TechEd this week and this is where learning happens.  TechEd is in four cities around the world this year: Shanghai: March 13–14, 2014Las Vegas: October 20–24, 2014Berlin: November 11–13, 2014 and Bangalore: March 11–13, 2015.  An “elder” explained to me that TechEd is the physical manifestation of the online community that lives 24/7 around the world in SAP’s SCN community.  The earliest form of SAP’s SCN was launched in 2002.  The community has shape-shifted over the years to become the glue that ties together customers, mentors, evangelists, partners, and every member of the SAP ecosystem.

I was encouraged to attend TechEd by everyone’s favorite community host and star community advocate, Marilyn Pratt.  Between Marilyn and another one of my EI brethren, Craig Cmehil, the inimitable SAP evangelist, I knew I’d be in good hands to learn as much as possible from the community who turns out for SAP TechEd.  As a newbie to the space, my challenge for this trip was to get a better understanding of all things big data and data science.  My hosts, Mike Prosceno and Andrea Kaufmann did a fantastic job lining me up with SAP experts with whom I could share ideas and get a better understanding of how SAP was solving customer problems with big data via its HANA platform.

So what did I learn?

On Tuesday, I tagged along with Marilyn who was introducing Megan McGuire, lead for Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF)‘s new eHealth Unit, to various individuals and groups within the SAP community. The goal was to see team2 how SAP’s technology could further assist McGuire in her ambitious aim to provide timely, accurate information, monitoring, and accessibility for all MSF projects in 26 countries.  The challenges associated with data collection, language differences, data formats, even stable connectivity in remote regions all complicate MSF’s goals of going “digital.”  In understanding the complexity of the work MSF set out to achieve, I could see easily how this could translate to any large organization.  What was particularly interesting to me in the MSF approach was its emphasis on design thinking to frame the approach.  MSF’s strategy was designed in collaboration with ThoughtWorks which has an emphasis on disruptive technology for social good and change.  In the evening, McGuire was treated to the talents of about 75 SAP developers who formed teams and participated in a 4-hour data visualization challenge using MSF data and SAP’s Lumira data visualization tool.  Although I didn’t participate on a team, I was encouraged by how quickly the teams – many of whom had never used SAP’s Lumira – were able to start finding insights in the data.  Again, getting a real-time view into the challenges associated with data formats provided a number of teaching moments.

On Wednesday,  I met with several SAP experts and customers who were all taking advantage of the HANA platform.  One of the most interesting was Enakshi Singh, a neuroscientist, who is working with Stanford University on Genome research.  Singh told me that with SAP HANA, researchers at the Stanford School of Medicine are able to collapse the time to analyze large genome variant data from days to minutes and even seconds. The speed of the platform is accelerating learning and new discoveries around the world in the important work related to understanding the human genome.  I also met with Byron Banks, another one of SAP’s big data experts.  Banks and I discussed some of the challenges associated with what I’m aiming to do with Big Mountain Data.  He was generous with his insights and it was obvious to me how much commercial application of big data and data science can be applied directly to solving some of society’s greatest challenges.  I found the same spirit of generous giving at a luncheon hosted by Moya Watson, another SAP Mentor.  Moya gathered a number of SAP friends and fans (customers) who are interested in advancing technology for social good.  The discussion was exhilarating  and chock full of great ideas.

duke appFinally, I met with an enthusiastic team from Duke University who’ve created a real-time app to collect and present stats related to the famed Men’s Duke Basketball team.  With help from NTT Data, Duke’s athletic department was able to complete a “passion project” begun by a former Duke employee who aggregated all Men’s basketball data dating back from the early 1900s.  The project resulted in the first fan-facing data visualization and analytics tool in collegiate-level athletics. All the data is stored in the HANA cloud and presented via SAP’s Design Studio which was deployed natively on HANA.  The team’s project, which goes by the hashtag: #DukeMBBStats, will launch November 14, just in time for the new season.

When thinking about the SAP TechEd experience, it occurred to me how valuable an asset the SAP SCN community is to SAP’s business.  In the cacophony of over 7,000 visitors to the show, the attendees seemed to all “know each other”  in that way only a strong community can bond individuals.  The community creates an experience with the SAP brand that enriches professional development, loyalty, and spurs innovation.  Where SAPPHIRE, which I have attended many times, focuses on new SAP announcements and a concerted effort to connect with customers, SAP TechEd is an event by the SAP community for the SAP community. It was difficult to tell who was an SAP employee, a partner, or a customer.  It was just a blur of passionate people sharing and learning from their friends and colleagues.

The best lesson I learned in Las Vegas?  This will not be my last TechEd.

 

 

 

 

The Sabermetrics of Social: A Weapon of Mass Disruption

Jonah Hill is not a sexy guy.  He was perfectly cast, however, juxtaposed against Brad Pitt in this year’s academy award contender, Moneyball.  If you’ve not read the book or seen the film, the plot premise centers on the true story of how an under-financed ball team, The Oakland As, leveraged the black art of sabermetric principles to divine a record-breaking season in professional baseball.  The true star of the film was Hill’s character, Peter Brand (Paul DePodesta in real life), who brought a dweebish Ivy League blandness to the romance of American baseball by introducing, well, math. DePodesta was one of, “a new breed of front-office executives whose personnel decisions rely heavily on analysis of performance data, often at the perceived expense of more traditional methods of scouting and observation.” (source Wikipedia).

Stripping out the emotion and the soft factors that tally up player value in baseball is analogous to what’s going on today on the social web.  Everyone’s got their eye on the superstar plays (say, the Old Spice guy, @comcastcares), but they’re missing the raw analysis of true performance metrics.  Making sense of the nuanced patterns is the key to securing competitive advantage.

I saw the film this weekend and couldn’t help making the connection between the film’s premise and the Social Business platform we’re building at Dachis Group.  We launched the Index publicly about three weeks ago.  The SBI is just a lightweight view on a monster social vacuum pulling social data from literally millions of sources about the leading brands in the world.  In order to unleash the power of the tool, you need to get in there, ensure your brand is pulling from all your social sources and start looking for significant patterns.  The social business data platform exists to help brand managers and interested brand marketers discover how social is impacting their brand performance.

We invite you to use this data to hone your social strategy.  As Forbes pointed out recently in its cover story, “Newly armed customer and employee activists can become the source of creativity, innovation and new ideas to take your company forward.”  Harvesting those data sources is our job, but it’s going to take a Peter Brand (Manager) to unlock what the data is telling you.  Relying on consistent, verifiable data analysis, you’ll be able to make sensible predictions that can start delivering wins in the same way the A’s racked up its record-breaking season.  Big data may not be sexy, but gaming the win potential is an irresistible seduction.

There are a host of extremely interesting services coming from the SBI development team.  Very soon, you’ll be able to measure business outcomes framed by a distinct set of measures and metrics that are driving those outcomes.  With user-assigned metadata, you’ll be able to view a variety of dimensions on those outcomes.   This is just a taste of what’s in store.  Social data has the potential to become the long tail that wags the brand dog.  Make sure you’re taking advantage of an early mover advantage, before your competitor does, that is.

I, For One, Welcome our New Social Data Overlords


Historically, the trouble I’ve always had with social media was the precision deficit surrounding the interpretation of its influence.  It always seemed to me that if you could get, say, Chris Brogan to talk about anything, you were successful with social media.  Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration, and social media has really never been my area of expertise in the spectrum of all social business.  Readers of this blog know I focus more on the internal enterprise side of social business.  Because, well, it is more rational maybe?  See my coverage of my first SXSW Interactive.

BUT…

Before I got back into the technology sector in the 90s, I spent a solid few years in the Advertising business.  And not digital or online advertising (it didn’t exist yet). In the real Advertising (TV/Broadcast/Print) world. (With a capital A.)  Think of it as Mad Men for Yuppies (late 80s).  I entered the ad world as an Account Executive on the IBM account. The agency I joined, LGFE, was a boutique outfit, a part of JWT.  We had 100% of the IBM business.  In 1980 dollars, we had a $160M annual media budget for IBM and it comprised the lion’s share of the agency’s billings.  The agency was best known for two things: 1. its launch of the IBM PC and 2. its famous Executive “breakaway” which literally made Advertising history.  But those are great stories for another day.  Like most LGFE employees after the breakaway, I skedaddled my way down Madison Avenue to a new position with Ogilvy & Mather where I helped teach our Creatives about the Unix operating system.  Again, great stories for another day, another blog.  I just wanted to establish a little Mad Street Cred before I get to the heart of this post.

When I think about the burgeoning world of social media, I compare its trends and “findings” with what we were doing 30 years ago in Advertising. Even back then, for all the hoopla, big expense accounts, private limos, and 5-star hotels, Advertising was pretty serious stuff.  It was all about the numbers. (We all thanked the technology gods for Lotus 1-2-3.)  Campaigns that strove to cultivate an emotional connection to a brand were paid for by executives who wanted to see stone cold returns on their investment.  And, I’m going way out on a limb here, after 30 years I’m pretty sure that hasn’t changed.  In fact, the pressure to deliver results from media spend is probably more fierce than ever considering the fracturing of a traditional media landscape that was fairly easy to manipulate in the old days before the Internet and mobile technology.

So fast forward to 2011. No, 2010.  Erik Huddleston joined Dachis Group as CTO. When Erik first arrived, I wasn’t sure what he was going to do.  Get our wifi working in the office or something.  But, the next thing I knew, Erik was presenting at Defrag, whaaa? and young men in black tee shirts that said, “Hadoop” started skulking around the office.   I finally got briefed on what this little dream team was working on buried away in remote locations around the world, and I was kinda blown away.

A beginning step in that effort is announced today for public consumption.  Erik’s team has built a platform that crunches hundreds of millions of data points in near real time to deliver a view on how social a given company is –  how they compare to their industry, their competitors – broken down as best in class by company, subsidiary, geography, department and brand. Culling from APIs, data buys, data partnerships, page scrapes, crowd-sourced data, company contributions, and our own internal data team, we now offer the Social Business Index (SBI) to anyone who wants to get a view into how your company’s brand is performing on the social web.  Over 100 leading companies participated in the early access program to get the data refined and help develop useful insights for its use.  The SBI offers insights for 26,000 brands from over 20,000 companies by analyzing over 100 million social accounts world wide, and hundreds of millions of other sources.

Again, the SBI is simply a lightweight lens on a massive platform that is compiling ground-breaking social data analytics and analysis.  The SBI is free for the companies covered and anyone can sign up to see how your brand is doing at www.socialbusinessindex.com.


This first effort is just a taste of what is coming.  Big data will yield something that has been inconveniently missing in marketing on a large scale: evidence-based marketing with business outcomes correlated to measurable metrics. Internet marketers have done a great job with what’s known as performance marketing, but with the advent of big data, marketing spend can be targeted with much greater precision and brands can engage meaningfully in near real time. In fact, interactive advertising has finally matched broadcast TV spend.  Forrester recently reported that, “By 2016, advertisers will spend $77 billion on interactive marketing – as much as they do on television today.”

This post is a departure from what I typically cover regarding the Enterprise 2.0 sector, but I’m extremely excited about this work.  On the road map is deep analysis into workforce/partner/supplier engagement, so the relevance for the enterprise is huge.  Even having this type of brand intelligence will impact internal operations in many ways.  Agile companies who can react quickly, will be competitive winners in their categories.

If Dachis Group is known only for its BSD (Big Social Data), then I am totally cool with that.  Being first to market with real ROI on social is sweet, and will go far to relegate the buzzfest of social media 1.0 to the history books.