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Jon Reed Interviews Franz Aman: Podcast Transcription Print E-mail
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Aman: What, from my perspective, always helps in functional lines is to move away from "guesstimates" and gut feeling and all that and really train yourself to measure, understand data, make database decisions. Fundamentally, you can't really manage what you can't measure. It's a really old expression, but it's so true. So, really think about the KPIs, really think about what measures you have to put in place in order to drive certain outcomes.

It's stunning every single time when you get into a discussion, whether it's at the board level or whether it's at the project team level, the moment the person with data around the table speaks up, shows the data, the discussion immediately takes a turn. I've seen so many of these discussions at all kinds of levels where people are arguing their points, they're making great arguments, they're very convincing, very assertive - but the moment the one person around the table with the data speaks up, all that crumbles and you have a whole different level of discussion.

What I'm encouraging everyone to do on the LOB side - the line of business or function -is be that person around the table who actually has the data. Contribute that point of view and take the discussion from people being assertive and chest-pounding, etc. Get away from that. Go towards data, rational approaches, and make sure that everyone understands the business, understands your function, what's going on. Drive it that way. You're going to have better outcomes, and your company is going to be more successful. Data clearly shows today that companies that make decisions based on data and deploy Business Intelligence for it are more successful and are actually winning more often than the companies who just do it based on gut. I think that's the most important one.

Once you've mastered that within your function, step back, look at the bigger picture, compare notes across functions because no function is an island. You've got to be able to hook yourself into the bigger picture for the company and understand the strategy for the company and how you and your execution, from a functional perspective, contribute to the overall goal for the company. That's kind of the next step up, but start with being the person at the table with the data who can make great arguments. Then look at connecting the business strategy and company strategy with what you're doing and executing on.

Reed: It sounds to me like your advice would be a combination then for SAP professionals to look at the product roadmap and understand the products that are going to be emphasized and the tools that are going to be needed, but not to get overly focused, either, on just the technical tools. They need to understand the business drivers and the reason we're doing this stuff is to help people make smarter decisions based on measurable data.

Aman: I couldn't agree more. There are tools that you have to work with, so you have to understand those and make sure you pick the right ones. Every one of us has done home projects: we started something and maybe it didn't go all that well. Well, maybe it didn't go that well because we may not have had the right tools, so we run to Home Depot or one of these shops and we buy a bunch of equipment and then off we go. What you see even with home projects is that if you have the right tools, the right materials, jobs are becoming so much easier. Things look better, the outcome looks better, but you're also way more efficient.

Everyone has to understand our product portfolios and roadmaps to the extent that they can pick the right tool for the job. If you have any questions or problems with that, SAP certainly can help you. In the past, from an SAP network BI portfolio, what I've seen is that there have been fewer tools and, in some cases, customers use the one tool as the hammer and everything looks like a nail and they're just trying to drive that in. Things actually have become a whole lot easier and more exciting. I really encourage everyone to look at that breadth of capability.

As far as the roadmap is concerned, fundamentally, the products and everything in the BI space work together today, so it's not like you couldn't get started or you couldn't do things. Certainly, we're working together across SAP to make sure that it's going to get super easy, totally integrated and transparent evermore going forward. But we have the best integration today of anyone out there, and that's just going to get better. You can look at what's here today and work with that.

Also, make sure you engage in the ecosystem with other customers of ours. With Sapphire coming up, we have all these conferences, including the SAP Business Objects user conferences where you can exchange best practices with customers and learn a whole lot about how to approach it from a business perspective and all that. Be really active, exchange ideas and experiences; it helps everyone and makes everyone a much better "BI geek," if you will, but with the purpose of contributing to the business and to the company.

Reed: Well, Franz, we're running out of time and the one thing I wanted to hit on before we wrapped up was the software as a service trend. We're hearing a lot about that this year, and I'm sure it has something to do with the stress over budgets or at least the additional attention to cost savings in IT. There seems to be some momentum for BI as a service. Perhaps one of the highlights of SAP's current software is a service strategy, but there's also a question of how this Business Objects BI as a service capability fits in with SAP over the long term. Do you have any comments on this market opportunity and what this can deliver for customers?

Aman: We've certainly seen the opportunity around SaaS or OnDemand, as we call it, for some time. Business Objects originally was one of the first BI players really looking at that seriously and investing and, as a result, today we have the biggest BI OnDemand SaaS subscriber base out there with more than 200,000 subscribers. We're being referred to as the de facto leader in SaaS BI by endless firms out there. We have a pretty good perspective, I think, on that and we've pushed that forward very hard.

What we've seen traditionally is that a lot of customers do want to deploy on-premise because you want to keep your huge data volume locally within your firewall, etc., but they actually also need to engage with suppliers, with folks outside of the firewall. So we've seen a lot of these on-premise customers deploy our on-demand capability in addition in a hybrid model. Of course, we've also seen smaller companies, and companies who are under pressure to do things quickly for part of their business, jump into our on-demand BI capability just right then and there.

In these more challenging economic times, you see another reason why it also makes sense and that has more to do with the accounting and the finances and the fact that a lot of the on premise implementations require customers to make capital investments. Capital investments under current circumstances are long-term liabilities, so they don't really want to show that on their books; the expense and pay-as-you-go model looks a whole lot more interesting. So we're certainly working with our customers to find the best model for them. Then, let's figure out how we can do this.

I think OnDemand has a very important place in the set of options. We're certainly a leading shop in OnDemand BI, and we can help you with that. In these times, it's definitely an option to consider, but let's sit down and figure out what makes the most sense for you. The beautiful thing is that the solutions we're providing on premise, we actually have those capabilities on-demand as well.

Reed: Franz, we've covered a lot of ground in this podcast. Are there any remaining points we missed that you wanted to touch on?

Aman: No, I think we covered a lot of ground, indeed. I'm certainly happy to have folks reach out to me. Definitely feel free to reach out and leverage our ecosystem, our community out there on SAP/SDN. There's so much good material out there and there's a lot of best practices, coaching, etc. I'm just looking forward to 2009. I think it's going to be a thrilling ride, and I have to say it's a lot of fun working with SAP on all this stuff - I'm having a blast.

Reed: On that note, I'd like to thank everyone for joining us for this podcast on Business Objects skills trends. This podcast was brought to you by JonERP.com, bringing you career answers for SAP professionals. Thanks for listening in and check back soon for another podcast.

Editor's Note: This interview is not a verbatim transcription of the podcast. It was edited for clarity and readability; however, no content from the podcast conversation was removed.

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