SAP and Its Consultants Save the World
25 Nov 2011 by CavesolCEO

Sustainability is one of my favorite topics. Big corporations are generally considered evil, which is probably an accurate assumption. Some of them are still doing good things to please their stakeholders and to boost their image. A lot of it is naturally marketing, as customers get a more trustworthy image of a product when it is promoted with a non-profits name and logo. Here's some information about how SAP as a company, its employees and external consultants are making the world a better place.


SAP's Corporate Social Responsibility Program (CSR)


Some might say that SAP has improved the quality of living and working by helping economic growth and streamlining processes, although daily users of SAP GUI might think otherwise. SAP says in its 2010 Sustainability Report that its products have made the lives of 800 million people around the world better by improving safety and health. This is nonsense, of course, as SAP cannot possibly take credit for all the health and safety initiatives that are happening in companies.

The sustainability report is quite interactive and definitely worth checking out. You should read it with caution, though, as the metrics used in some parts can leave some space for dispute. For example, it includes the rates of carbon emission reductions but doesn't take into account how much carbon all the datacenters of its customers produce. There are lots of metrics and for most parts SAP is living up to its targets. One thing that seems to be hard is getting women into executive positions inside the company. Their target is to have 25% of executive seats given to women by the year 2017, while the percentage is currently just 11.7% and there hasn't been much of an increase in the recent years.

In 2010, SAP gave out €12.8 million in money and technology donations to universities and non-profits. There were 715 not-for-profit organizations enabled with SAP products. For example of such an enablement, Refugees United was given a business solution and expertise in 2009. SAP also donates Business Object solutions for NGOs if they meet the requirements, with partnering with programs such as Charity Technology Exchange.

Volunteering is also a big part of SAP's CSR. Its employees did 59 000 volunteer hours helping NGOs and charities with SAP products, corporate administration and processes. The company encourages its executives to lend their management expertise to nonprofit organizations as board members. There are also programs for lower-rank employees to support charitable work. For instance, there's a program in the US in which SAP donates monetary equivalent to volunteer work value to the supported NGO.

SAP is also trying to be a good global citizen by being a corporate partner in numerous charity foundations, such as HandsOn Network in Americas, HOPE Foundation in Asia Pacific, African Drive Project in Africa.


Making money by doing good


It is obviously not just about saving the world for SAP as there are also financial incentives in being a responsible corporation. In its most recent quarterly sustainability update, SAP announced that as the result of sustainability initiatives, it achieved cost avoidance of approximately €185 million since 2008. A lot of the savings come from the decrease of carbon emissions. SAP is also offering helping its customers to realize benefits from sustainability. Valero, for example, made $120 million savings from energy costs on its first year after implementing SAP solutions.

Another part of corporate responsibility that is extremely benefiting from business perspective is university alliances. SAP donates money, gives access to resources, establishes educational hosting services, and has numerous country-specific programs to push its message to universities to attract future workforce. Students are trained and brainwashed to SAP systems, which attracts them to join the ecosystem after graduation. This increases the brand value and prepares students with the skills to work with SAP in the future.


Partnering with the United Nations to be a better global citizen


SAP has partnered up with United Nations to improve its global presence. SAP was one of the first to sign the UN Global Compact, which is "a strategic policy initiative for businesses that are committed to aligning their operations and strategies with ten universally accepted principles in the areas of human rights, labor, environment and anti-corruption". SAP has also been part of research in population growth. Recently, they partnered up with UNFPA in 7 Billion Actions initiative to produce analytics of the 7 billion people on our planet.

SAP already has its Public Sector solutions in many UN organizations, such as UNESCO, WFP, and IOM. The solutions include functionality for human capital management and payroll, for example. The cooperation will continue further in the next few years as there will be a global rollout of SAP systems in the UN. The contract is estimated to be worth $300 million.


External SAP-related charities and philanthropy


There are also other sustainability initiatives that are happening outside the company. CharITy Community, for instance, gets individual consultants to do consulting and training for companies that then donate a certain amount of money to a non-profit.

It would take some consulting hours for an average consultant to become a philanthropist. SAP founders have been quite active in this field, though. Hasso Plattner donated $900 million to charity in 1998. Dietmar Hopp ($1.25 billion) and Klaus Tschira ($1.1 billion) have also joined the billionaires that are giving a part of their assets to non-profit initiatives.


Some other inspiring ideas that will save our planet


There are also other ways SAP consultants can contribute besides voluntary consulting and giving money to charities. Generally, the skill set is vast and that can be used for good easily. End Malaria Project, for instance, got 62 of most renowned business writers in the US to write a book that cost $20 and the revenue went to buy mosquito nets and send them to families in need. The book has become a bestseller.

Running an NGO is not that different from running a business. Successful business leaders who move into charity can make significant impact, see the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for example. Some other good examples of business-influenced NGOs emerge from Silicon Valley. Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition promotes human health and environmental justice in response to the rapid growth of the high tech industry. Charity: water donates money to projects that help getting clean water to people in developing nations.

If you're a consultant, you should take a look if you could move part of your focus from improving business processes to some more sustainable development. You probably have some skills that could have a lasting effect in the well-being of communities in need.

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SAP Runs Social Media
23 Nov 2011 by CavesolCEO

SAP has been doing social media for more than eight years now. It all started with SDN and with the emergence of social media has grown to include a number of channels. All of it is very strategically orchestrated and controlled. The center of the social media hub is sap.com to which various social media channels are linked to interact with different stakeholders. Although SAP is purely a B2B company, it has to deliver its message and listen to end users, developers, CxOs and business owners. 70% of SAP's customer base are SMEs so corporate announcements are simply not sufficient enough.

SAP's social media hub consists of the following channels:


  • Communities - SAP Community Network consists of networks such as SAP Developer Network (SDN), Business Analytics Community, University Alliances Community etc. The idea is to share knowledge and content inside the ecosystem.

  • YouTube - SAP has 10 official YouTube channels with hundreds of videos with tons of marketing material and webinars. There are also some elearning videos available.

  • Facebook - 16 different Facebook pages for different kinds of communications that users can interact with.

  • Twitter - 22 official Twitter names for various communication groups that are basically used for promoting SAP hype and propaganda.

  • LinkedIn - SAP company information, open positions and SAP employees.

  • Blogs - 11 official blogs that also include SCN blogs with 8000 bloggers.

The most social part of SAP's social hub is definitely SAP Community Network (SCN) which consists of numerous communities for different demographic groups. There are currently more than 2.5 million members with 20 000 new people joining in every month. SCN will get a new JIVE-based structure in December to make it even more social and to make content sharing easier for contributors. SAP has had a great idea in rewarding contributors by giving them points for solving problems in the forums, writing wiki articles or blog postings. The more points you make, the more respected contributor you become inside the ecosystem. In this way, SAP has basically outsourced a lot of its user support to communities.

Besides SCN, most of the social media SAP is broadcasting marketing content. If you follow SAP's Twitter feeds, you get the sense how SAP is pushing out marketing information and waiting for community members to retweet it. It's cheap word-of-mouth marketing for hype creation. The interactive part becomes also extremely valuable, however, because SAP does heavy meta knowledge analysis to figure out market trends and business opportunities.

Being active in social media has made it possible for SAP to have a good control over its message. External websites, channels and communities make it harder. For example, SAPFans.com, ITToolbox.com and many other sites have their forums. Numerous external blogs have gotten popularity, especially those from SAP Mentors. These kinds of media filter the official hype and give good insights of what is actually happening. Some companies are also using their own social media platforms that are out of SAP's reach. Yammer, for example, is used by many enterprises such as Capgemini. In fact, more than 70% of Fortune 500 companies are using it. Unfortunately, these discussions aren't public. However, SAP is also trying to reach external communities such as BNET, Forbes and CNNMoney by taking an active role in delivering content.

Besides SCN, interactivity has been largely missing. SAP is increasingly working on that, though, to show that it is taking social media seriously. Recent Twitter chat with CIO Oliver Bussmann was a good example of that. All in all, SAP is doing a good job compared to other enterprise vendors. Although it included most of the social media channels quite late, it is certainly picking up speed. Many channels are already included in delivering the message and we will definitely see more to come, such as Google+.

See more about SAP's usage of social media from SAP Social Media Hub.

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Is Certification Just Another SAP Money Making Machine?
18 Nov 2011 by CavesolCEO

SAP Certification has been covered quite thoroughly in blogs and news in the recent years. The most renowned blogger on this topic is definitely Jon Reed. You can see his ideas and information from Certification5 group from his website. I still thought I should add a couple of my thoughts to the soup. First, a bit of background. I have done one SAP certification two years ago. I did some time studying on my spare time which practically meant there was not too much sleep before the exam. I didn't get the perfect score but with some luck and flashbacks from the work experience over the years, I passed.

SAP offers three certification levels: associate, professional and master. Higher levels are intended to ask more practical questions to really show the applicants true expertise. There are three focus areas: application, technology, development.

I don't have the exact numbers of certified consultants but they are in tens of thousands, maybe even hundreds. As they are open to all, consultants seek credibility for themselves, customers offer it to employees for retention and consulting companies require it for their SAP partnership.

For me it seems that like a great tool for SAP to make some more money. Certification test comes along with a big price tag, i.e. $500 in the US, 500€ in Europe for associate level test (Sales Tax/VAT not included). If you fail the test, you can try twice again by paying the fee, of course. Currently, the test consists only of multiple choice questions that can be automatically reviewed. The test is performed in SAP premises under supervision to keep up the security standards and to prevent leakage of certification questions. Still, the marginal cost for SAP is minimal. They review the test results automatically and send you the certification paper.

And it is not just the certification that is making SAP money. Each test has well predefined training curricula of SAP courses. Naturally, you can attend the exam without taking courses from SAP or its partners but the chances of passing become drastically lower. The questions are mostly based on book knowledge, at least for associate level, and some detail questions are hard to answer even for a consultant who has years of experience from the field. A fresher would need to go through an SAP learning academy, for instance. Online eAcademy will cost around $3500, with also the cost of insanity of going through the enormously boring material. And the less painful normal academy with classroom participation will cost you twice as much.

Dilbert.com

The fact that you can pass a certification only by learning from books and without practical experience decreases the value of being certified. The real worth of an SAP consultant comes from the field. John Kleeman posted a good entry on SCN about SAP consultant's learning model yesterday. It states that 70% of SAP learning comes from experience, 20% from others and 10% from study. I think the people who are hiring SAP professionals realize this. You can see it from numerous forum posts that ask "why can't I land an SAP job although I am certified??". Still, some companies put certification as a requirement but that's quite rare and usually not a defining factor.

Of course, it doesn't hurt to be certified. At least your employer or client will know that you have the basic knowledge of a subject area and have gone through the trouble. It is one proof that you are motivated and have some understanding. SAP consulting has become a commodity and economic times are tough. Any means to get some more competitive edge are good.

Anyway, I have been thinking of getting another one now. Not because it would add another line to my CV, but it would motivate me to study through a subject matter that interests me. It is a sort of goal that keeps you encouraged to learn more, like a marathon. With the exam I am able to prove myself I've studied enough.

You can see information about available certifications from SAP Training and Certification Shop.

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SAP And China
16 Nov 2011 by CavesolCEO

According to the World Bank, the GDP of the People’s Republic of China reached $5.879 trillion ($4 393 per capita) last year, with annual growth rate of 10.3%. The world’s biggest exporter and the second largest economy, that still considers itself as a developing country, manages to grow its economy with its permissive workplace standards, employment laws and cheap labor. This year, the growth has come down, mostly because of the eurozone debt crisis and the slowdown of the US demand, but domestic demand is up as the GDP per capita increases. Despite some skepticism, the growth is expected to continue with the vast market potential, labor costs advantages and comparatively stable society.

For the past decades, the technology knowledge has rapidly increased in China, partly due to technology mimicking of western products. Tech counterfeiting has been a huge business, and has even extended itself to ‘shanzai’ tech stores, like in the case of counterfeit Apple Stores in Kumming city. More importantly, the evolution of China’s own technological competency has happened at a great pace at the same time. State-driven and international investments have created a top-class R&D environment that has established a new breed of Chinese experts in design, engineering and research.

One of the main drivers of this evolution is the local consumer demand of high-end technology devices and appliances, driven by the increase of money in consumer pockets. Chinese OEM companies have grown from cheap manufacturers to global brands. These include Lenovo, Huawei, TLC and ZTE, just to name a few. The astounding entrepreneurial attitude in Asia, state-backed R&D and business execution, as well as cheap manufacturing make Chinese companies dangerous competitors against Western enterprises. For instance, the solar cell manufacturers in the US are almost out of business as Chinese companies are accusedly dumping prices of solar technology.

In SapphireNow Beijing this week, SAP announced it will invest $2 billion in China through 2015 to grow its business. This came shortly after SAP told it will push its sales efforts to Africa and Middle East with the downturn in Southern Europe. It seems that the strategy is to find growth from emerging nations now as the Western economies stagnate. SAP’s China announcement included hiring approx. 2000 new employees and building five to six new offices across China. The purpose is to drive growth and innovation of the country’s SAP market and ecosystem, especially related to SME businesses and the Business One solution.

SAP has been in China for 20 years now (first customer in 1992, offices since 1995) so there is already a great amount of competence. There are 2500 SAP employees, and thousands of certified consultants from 40+ partners. The customer base is also already quite large with 4000 SAP running companies, half of which run Business One. SAP Chairman Hasso Plattner said that there are 14 new Business One customers every day on average. Additionally, Chinese SAP users already have their own active community, ACSU.

So will the Chinese SAP competency affect the role of India in relation to SAP resources? There is a huge number of skilled resources available in the Chinese market with 5 million graduates each year, which is around the same number as in India. Also, the collaboration between the SAPLabs in these two countries has been close for a long time. The economic growth in China has pushed up salaries, which has also affected the costs of SAP consulting. SAP consultant salary in China is close to double of what it is in India. This, the language, and the fact that the competence base is so well established in India, will still keep the distance for some time. However, China will definitely catch up as the local SAP market grows.

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Effects on SAP As Adobe Abandons Flash for Mobile
14 Nov 2011 by CavesolCEO

Last week, Adobe announced it will discontinue its work on the mobile version of the Flash Player. Their strategy is to focus on HTML5 which is already well accepted as a future standard of dynamic web content development.

The problem with Flash was that it is considered insecure, unstable and a battery hog. For these reasons Apple never accepted the Flash Player on its devices. Steve Jobs even posted an open letter about it. However, Flash is still widely used on PC’s. It is great for developing cross-browser dynamic content and for video streaming, and Flash player is installed on most computers. The development of ActionScript is meant for PC’s and not for mobile content where there is not mouse and the user interface is controlled by touch.

I’ve been a big fan of Flash technology since my childhood. As a kid I used to create goofy flash games for fun, and as my skills and understanding grew, I moved to creating Flash-based ads and then to more ‘serious’ developments such as creating SAP data migration tools with Flex. But as technology naturally evolves, I guess it’s time also for me to find new hobbies.

Adobe is not completely giving up on mobile Flash, though. They will still support the mobile Flash Player with critical bug fixes. And developers can still package native apps with Adobe Integrated Runtime applications (AIR) and publish them in all the major mobile app stores.

How does this all affect SAP? The strategic partnership between Adobe and SAP has been around since 2002. The idea was to create rich interactive content in corporate environment. First of all, Adobe Interactive Forms is a great tool to create interactive PDF printouts from SAP systems, although it hasn’t fully replaced the usage of SmartForms yet. Interactive forms are not related to Flash, so it is irrelevant to the announcement. Secondly and more importantly, SAP has included Abode Flex IDE to many of its products. With Flex, developers are able to create rich cross-platform content to be run on Flash player. And this is where it gets tricky.

Mobility is a big part of SAP’s current strategy. The acquisition of Sybase and the launch of the SAP Store for Mobile Apps are just a small fraction of the indications of this. SAP uses Flex to create rich user interfaces and dashboards for analytics. There are many SAP solutions that have adopted Flex technology, and if the solution is used on a handheld device, you will have to reconsider the product strategy. For example, the Web Dynpro has been enhanced with Flash Islands to create richer UIs, also for mobile. Another SAP product that uses Flash/Flex is Xcelsius. It is used for creating rich cross-platform web dashboards. An example can be found from 7BillionActions.org, an SAP-partnered UNFPA project. It is probably that the mobile content that was planned to be on Flash platform will in the future be powered by HTML5.

When SAP executive board member Vishal Sikka was asked about Adobe’s announcement at SapphireNow, he said that SAP "has to deal with it". So, now it’s time to just wait for new announcements from SAP.

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