iPad Pro 9.7 – an Enterprise Perspective

I’m now two weeks into owning the iPad Pro 9.7, and for most of those two weeks I’ve used it as my primary device. There were a few comments on my last blog as to why I was trying to use a tablet as my primary device – and I thought this was worth clearing up.

It probably comes down in the first place to what I was searching for – or more to the point the fact that I didn’t know what I was looking for. All I knew was that a 15″ laptop is a lot of computer to have as your only device, apart from a cellphone. There are times when it’s inconvenient, and times (on a plane) where it’s too big, or not allowed during takeoff and landing. I’ve learnt a few things in the interim.

For those of you who asked last time, this is a picture of the iPad Pro in use on a recent flight, with its cross-body satchel from Tumi.

I don’t want to give up my laptop

In the last two weeks I’ve come to embrace the fact that I need a laptop and that’s a good thing. I don’t want to do without a full size keyboard and a big screen, and a clamshell. I’d definitely be happier if my laptop were a little lighter, but I’m not willing to sacrifice power and a great screen for it, so my 4-year old MacBook Pro will remain my laptop until something better comes along.

What’s quite incredible is that my MacBook Pro is still going strong after 4 years. It’s a testimony to the quality of Apple’s design, because I normally get around 12-18 months before the machine is done. A combination of travel and the amount I use it normally sees to that.

I don’t need a laptop all the time

This blog is being written on my iPad Pro, which is the only device I carried with me on my recent vacation to Asia. What’s liberating about this is not carrying a laptop bag – instead, just a small satchel with the iPad, a charger, headphones and a small wash bag.

With a combination of the apps available for it – primarily Microsoft Office, Dropbox and Slack, I can do 90% of what I need without a laptop. For a shorter business trip, or a vacation, it’s more than enough on its own. For a longer business trip, I’d definitely take both, and take the weight penalty.

There are definitely things I can’t do well on the iPad – mostly structured work like presentations, business planning, forecasting and CRM. These are better suited to the bigger screen of a laptop. I’m wondering though if I might leave the laptop at home a little more, especially for day trips to customers.

The iPad Pro 9.7 is a spectacular business device…

I’ve come to absolutely love the baby iPad Pro. It honestly doesn’t make a lot of sense: it’s just an iPad Air with a keyboard, and that’s been available forever. I even used the Apple Keyboard – the silver Bluetooth one, and I tried a few of those 3rd party keyboards in the past.

There’s something different about the iPad Pro though. The keyboard is so compact, and yet so usable (honestly after two weeks, I can’t tell a big difference in typing speed, though accuracy is a bit lower). The screen is simply fabulous – it works in all light conditions, including sunlight, and adapts to the light in the room so it’s never harsh and always bright enough. It’s light enough to throw in a bag and yet feels solid. It’s fast – as fast as a laptop.

Let’s not forget the fantastic LTE cellular modem, which automatically has you online. No messing around trying to get your iPhone to work as a hotspot.

The last thing about the iPad is because it’s a simpler device, it’s less distracting than a laptop. It’s easier to focus.

… And just as awesome a personal device

This was the surprise for me – just how much I’ve started to use it as a personal device. Fold the keyboard away and it’s an iPad at its best. The kicker is you can read in sunlight, even with polarized sunglasses on, so you can read outside. Mrs A was trying to work on her Lenovo X1, and we had to go inside so she could see clearly – the sun made the screen unreadable.

Apps like Amazon Instant Video allow you to download video offline for use on a flight, and WSJ, The Atlantic and The Economist all have great apps. That’s nothing new, but the usability of this thing as a business device makes me want to carry it around. I forgot how great an iPad is for all this.

The battery is fantastic for this – I’m on a 16 hour flight right now, and 2 movies in, I’m at 71% battery. A few days ago, the Lenovo X1 was done, and the iPad Pro still had 50% battery, even after reading in direct sunlight with 100% brightness for the whole day.

There’s still work to do

I think this is the most interesting thing for me: the iPad Pro brings new capabilities to the iPad, and even Apple haven’t figured out how to make best use of them. A great example of this is the keyboard shortcuts, which allow you to move very quickly around the screen. New shortcuts come with each version of iOS.

This applies even more to the third-party app ecosystem: many apps are optimized for the iPad Air, and not yet the Pro. As apps get updated, they get Pro functionality. But for example, I’m writing this blog on the WordPress app, which doesn’t have keyboard shortcuts yet.

This is exciting because it means the iPad Pro is going to get better with time.


The device doesn’t come without downsides. My main gripe is probably that the keyboard isn’t 100% integrated, but that will come in time. Quite often, you have to tap on the screen to get focus, so you can type.

The other frustration is that you really need a flat surface to type. That’s a shame, because I often use a laptop in hotel rooms in bed. The iPad Pro doesn’t work for this – you need the structure of a clamshell. It’s OK on a plane, where you’re sat upright and can balance it flat on your legs, but you’re more likely to get the table out (I do, right now).

It’s also a bit slow to switch between apps. The multitasking could use some work. As I’ve repeatedly said, this isn’t a finished product.

Also, I haven’t really used the Apple Pencil. I think this is something better suited to creative types with the iPad Air 12.9.  Mine is sat in my bag, unused. The proximity of the keyboard to the screen means I use the screen as a big trackpad.

Final Words
I know when I get back to work on Monday that I’ll be switching on the MacBook Pro to grind through the email backlog. There’s no way the iPad Pro can beat the MacBook for this. But the iPad Pro makes the iPad family perfect for shorter business trips when it’s nice to travel light.

Here’s one last pic of it in use on a regional flight in Asia last week.

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Tips for using the iPad Pro 9.7

I’ve had the iPad Pro 9.7 for the last few days, and wanted to give a little update. The initial intention was to use it for 2 weeks as a primary device. How’s that coming along?

The iPad Pro is a companion device

For my use, it definitely is not a laptop replacement. There are things which are just too hard to do on it: Financial Forecasts, creation of Sales Presentations. So there have been times when I definitely got my laptop out.

That said, I’m finding it very different to how I found an iPad Mini or regular iPad for content creation. After a few days with a keyboard I’ve been able to type at a broadly similar speed to how I type on a laptop. Not quite the same, but close enough.

The cellular ability means it’s always on, and that mean I tend to carry it around. It’s great for working when traveling, when having dinner, and other times when a laptop would be too much machine.

The iPad Keyboard is Critical

Without the keyboard, it’s just an iPad Air with nicer speakers. With the keyboard, it’s a primary input device for many uses. If I’m talking to the team on Slack, writing a blog on Medium or WordPress, or tapping away at Quora, this is the device of choice. It’s small and intimate.

More importantly, enabled apps allow you to use cmd-XXX shortcuts, which are awesome, plus there are built-in shortcuts like cmd-H (Go to Home Screen), cmd-tab (Tab between Apps) etc. The keyboard makes me SO much more productive.

But, the Apple Pencil, I’m not so crazy about. I think it’s in my bag somewhere right now. I totally get that if you want a pencil, it would be great. But it doesn’t attach to the tablet so there’s nowhere to put it, and the finger is a perfectly good input device. I’m sensing that the Apple Pencil goes better with the iPad Pro 12.9, which is a device heavily geared towards creativity.

The iPad Pro 9.7 is a business device…

And that’s just it. If you’re a creative type, the iPad Pro 12.9 with a pencil would be awesome. For a suit, however, this is possibly the perfect device. I find the iPad Pro 12.9 far too heavy, because I’m still going to have to carry a laptop. That’s not going to work for me, or for most business folks.

The 9.7, on the other hand, is light enough to add to your bag. It’s worth adding to your bag. The battery life is perfect (I don’t know how long it is, who cares, when you never run out). And the business apps (more on this later) are awesome on it.

… And also a vacation device

It has a brighter, less reflective screen, which adapts to the surroundings (True Tone) and this makes it workable for reading and browsing in the sun. This hasn’t been possible with any other tablet to date. Yay!

And it’s full-featured enough (more on the apps in a moment) that you can expect to be quite productive, if needs be. And at the same time, it’s unobtrusive enough that it won’t get in the way of the vacation.

The Apps are fantastic

The apps were mostly written for the iPad Air, and have screen shortcuts for the iPad Pro 12.9, but that means they will rock your world. Here’s a list of my main ones:

  • Outlook. I’ve ditched Apple Mail and gone for Outlook. With Office 365, it’s awesome.
  • Dropbox. This app needs a little work so you can sync folders instead of files, but it works great for our corporate devices and integrates with…
  • MS Office. The full fat Office 365 version of these apps is awesome, and thanks to Nadalla’s independent business strategy, it natively integrates with Dropbox so you can edit files in the apps on Dropbox in the cloud.
  • Slack. Where would I be without Slack in the enterprise? The Slack iPad app needs a little work, as it isn’t always perfect on context, but it’s still pretty awesome.
  • Medium. I’ve taken to blogging on Medium on my iPhone, but I have a feeling I’ll be moving to the iPad Pro.

The fact that Apple have this set of apps available out the box is simply fantastic, and makes the iPad Pro immediately workable.

Multitasking works great

This was my biggest fear, that multitasking would be an issue. Four-finger swiping between apps has long been a dislike of mine on the iPad, and it worked best when only doing one thing at a time. That’s not how I work. I blog and research, or write email and chat, or browse and watch a video. I’m always doing two things.

The good news is that the iPad’s side-by-side and picture-in-picture features mean that you can adequately do things at once. Combine that with keyboard shortcuts to switch what the primary one is doing and you can move extremely quickly.

And let’s not forget the awesome speakers, which are perfect for watching TV whilst you do email.

But the price…

My only issue is the price. I’ll probably return the pencil, but even still, $1200 is a truckload of money for a tablet. It’s an incomprehensible amount of money, in fact.

It’s true that the iPad Pro has the processing power of a Surface Pro, and it’s beautifully made, and the screen is exquisite, the keyboard very acceptable, and the apps are fantastic.

But it’s still $1200 and I’m not sure I can reconcile that for a companion device.

Final words

The main thing I noticed is that the iPad Pro 9.7 is no muss, no fuss. I haven’t spent hours with Apple Support like I did with the Surface Pro 4, trying desperately to get it to work properly. It’s just worked and been there, and has been always-ready.

There’s a lot to be said for that… But is it $1200-worth? I have 9 days to decide.

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What do I do before 8am? My morning routine…

I know I’m not exactly the first to write about this, but I thought some people might be interested to know what I do when I wake in the morning.

The opening of the eyes

Pretty much the first thing that happens when I open my eyes at 5 or 6am is I pick up my iPhone. Not sure if everyone else lies about what they do or if it’s just me that does this, but there it is!

Actually the iPhone is where I do most of my work on a daily basis. The new 6S+ is So Good that I don’t need an iPad, or a Kindle, or even a laptop most of the time.

I check the home screen and scroll to decide what I want to deal with first. I work for a company that’s headquartered in Bangalore and New Jersey, and my boss is in London, so the day is long started by the time I’m awake.

During the weekend I relish this time because Mrs A loves to sleep and I’ve got 3, even 4 hours before she wakes. During the week it has to happen quickly.

iPhone time

Before I even get a coffee I look to deal with most of what came in overnight. I have a pretty sophisticated email filing system so all the junk is filtered into folders I can’t see by default on my iPhone, so my inbox just contains real things that need dealing with.

I usually start with email, you should know that if I can deal with it on my iPhone, it’ll get done first. Simple emails, Dropbox documents that need reviewing, anything that can be done from an iPhone.

Complex actions like document updates, zip files etc. are filed for later. I’m most likely to deal with those on the flight I’ll be on in a few hours.

Crunching through activities

I methodically work through my phone to remove all the notifications. After email, comes Slack, and then Twitter, which is my main source for news. I’ll read, retweet and see what happened overnight.

I’ll then move onto TripIt, where I check my travel schedule and figure how long before I hit Uber. We don’t own a second car at home, because I’m away a lot, and Uber is less expensive. I Uber everywhere, even if it’s just to the car rental center so I can drive to a customer in the area.

I’ll add to-do items to my Wunderlist so I can deal with high-priority items later on.

No laptop

I almost never have a laptop in the morning. Most often, it’s left in the bag from Friday evening and I don’t open it up until after I’m on the road on Monday.

It does mean that if something needs a laptop, it will be put on the pile to deal with later. I find it’s better not to bring it in the bedroom, and I almost do 30 minutes of work before I even get up for a coffee. The iPhone extra dim hack is one way I make sure I don’t disturb Mrs A.

Coffee, protein and out

I always pack the night before so I’m ready to go, and so I literally grab a shower, black coffee and a protein bar. I find that protein bars help me from eating junk in the airport.

By this point, I’ve marked the things I need to, and I look to see if any of them can be solved with a call. If so, I book a Uber, walk out the front door and pick up the phone.


Weekends run a little different because I have a couple of extra hours. I try to do a small project in that time… a blog, like this one, or some research. Sometimes I’ll chat with friends online.

And then Mrs A will rouse, and we’ll get on with our day.

Hope this little view into my routine is of interest to someone 🙂

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I’ve been meaning to pen an update to this FAQ for nearly 2 years, with this being the primary listed reference on Wikipedia, but somehow never found the time. So here it is, a complete rewrite!

What is SAP HANA?

SAP HANA is a reinvention of the database, based on 30 years of technology improvements, research and development. It allows the build of applications that are not possible on traditional RDBMS like Oracle, and the renewal of existing applications like the SAP Business Suite.

So SAP HANA is an in-memory database, which is for many operations 10-1000x faster than a regular database like Oracle on the same hardware. This allows simplification of design and operations, and real-time business applications.

Why did SAP build a database?

Chairman Hasso Plattner believed that if a database could be built with a zero response time, that business applications would be written fundamentally differently. The research institution at the Hasso Plattner Institution in Potsdam theorized that with modern computers and software design, this would be very nearly possible.

SAP makes business applications and since it was clear that none of the incumbent software vendors like Oracle would write such a database, they needed to build their own. In addition, this would be the springboard for a complete renewal of SAP’s applications to take them through the next 20 years. R/4, if you like.

Where does SAP HANA come from?

SAP built SAP HANA from the ground up, including research from the Hasso Plattner Institute in Pottsdam, the acquisition of the p*Time database, the TREX search engine, BWA in-memory appliance and MaxDB relational database. It has been extended with intellectual property from the Business Objects and Sybase acquisitions, under the leadership of Vishal Sikka until June 2014.

What makes SAP HANA fundamentally different?

SAP HANA is different by design. It stores all data in-memory, in columnar format and compressed. Because HANA is so fast, sums, indexes and aggregates are not required, and this can reduce the database footprint by 95%. Everything is calculated on-demand, in main memory.

On top of this SAP built solutions to all the problems of columnar databases, like concurrency (HANA uses MVCC) and row-level insert and update performance (HANA uses various mechanisms like a delta store). There is also a row store for various specialist requirements like queues and configuration data where the overhead of a column store doesn’t make sense.

If this wasn’t enough SAP added a bunch of engines inside HANA to provide virtual OLAP functionality, data virtualization, text analysis, search, geospatial, graph and web. It supports open standards like REST, JSON, ODBO, MDX, ODBC and JDBC. There is as much functionality in there as a whole Oracle or IBM software stack, in one database.

Does SAP HANA support all types of business applications?

Yes. The first HANA deployments were all analytical use cases like Data Warehouses because the benefits are there right out the box. EDWs like SAP BW run like lightening with a simple database swap.

With a transactional application like Finance or Supply Chain, most things run a little better (SAP claim 50% faster for their own core finance), and the real benefits come from simplification of the app (SAP are building a simplified version of their Business Suite), or from ancillary benefits like real-time operational reporting, real-time supply chain management or real-time offer management.

What’s the business case for SAP HANA?

We’ve built business cases for HANA deployments of all sizes and whilst they vary, there at a few common themes:

– TCO Reduction. In many cases HANA has a lower TCO. It reduces hardware renewal costs, frees up valuable enterprise storage and mainframes and requires much less maintenance
– Differentiation. HANA’s performance and simplicity often mean a business process can be changed to be differentiating compared to competitors. Customer scenarios like loyalty management and anything where speed is differentiating are all candidates.
– Risk Mitigation. Many customers know that in-memory technologies are changing the world and so want to put an application like SAP BW on HANA as a first step, so they can react quickly for future business demands.

How is HANA licensed?

SAP licensing is notoriously fiddly, though they tried to keep it simple with HANA. Here’s the basics, check with your account rep for more details:

– Test and Demo, to get you started at low cost.
– By the 64GB unit, minimum of 2 units. Available in Enterprise (no limits), Platform (no real-time replication or bulk loading), Runtime (for BW or other apps). Pricing is tiered 1-10, 11-20 units and accretive, so 20 is cheaper than 19.
– For 15% of your application value or SAV. This can be great for use cases like BPC, where you pay 15% of the BPC license cost. If you do this for your whole SAP estate then it will include use of Sybase ASE for anything you don’t want to run on HANA.
– For 8% of SAV, for BW. Sometimes SAP run a promotion on this, like 6%, or 20% for BW and ERP. It varies.

All are subject to a 22% annual Enterprise Support levy. If you buy HANA in the cloud then none of this applies – you just pay a monthly cost.

It’s often asked if HANA will come down in price, and it hasn’t in 3 years, though SAP hasn’t put the price up with inflation so it has become effectively cheaper, especially considering the huge increase in functionality. What’s more HANA keeps getting better at compression and data temperature control so you get better value from your license over time.

However new license options became available like the SAV and Cloud licenses and these are likely to continue to be tweaked. SAP will be sure to remain competitive here with IBM and Oracle, who both charge 15% of SAV for their database and include BW.

How big can a SAP HANA database be? Does it scale?

With current hardware, SAP HANA can scale up to 6TB for a single system, and can scale out to 112TB in a cluster, or more. There is no hard limit to the size of a HANA cluster.

By the end of 2014 we expect to see 24TB single HANA systems.

At Bluefin, we regularly work with 2-10TB of memory in a single HANA DB, and this is where we find most business cases make sense. Remember that a 10TB HANA appliance can store a vast amount of data, like all the credit card transactions for a top 10 bank for 10 years or more.

Is SAP HANA Enterprise Ready?

Yes, is the short version.

SAP HANA always stores a copy of data on disk, so if the power goes out, it will load data back into memory when power is restored (generally on-demand, but this is configurable). It stores logs so a very low Recovery Point Objective is possible.

In a cluster, you can have High Availability and in any configuration you can have a cluster for Disaster Recovery and Fault Tolerance for business continuity. There are now a bunch of different ways this can be implemented, depending on needs and budget.

SAP HANA also has interfaces for 3rd party backup and monitoring, like TSM or NetBackup. Solution Manager is supported if you’re a SAP shop.

How does SAP HANA compare to Oracle or IBM?

All three of the major RDBMS vendors have released in-memory add-ins to their databases in the last year. All of them support taking an additional copy of data in an in-memory cache, or in IBM’s case columnar tables. All of them provide good performance for custom data-marts.

Their solutions are similar to the GM and Ford response to hybrid cars – take their existing technology and bolt new technology to it. SAP HANA is more akin to Tesla, who rebuilt the car from the ground up based on a new paradigm.

And so HANA’s capabilities from a business application perspective are 3 years ahead in technology from what others have.

What does SAP HANA run on?

From a platform perspective it runs on SUSE or RedHat Linux, on Intel x86 or IBM POWER processors. HANA appliances must be certified and come either as pre-build appliances from your vendor of choice, or as a custom build using your storage and networks “Tailored Datacenter Integration” or TDI. Either way, with an in-memory database, you need to know that it’s built right.

In addition you can buy HANA in the cloud from Amazon, SAP and various other outsource partners like T-Systems or EMC. In this case, you can pay a monthly fee including license.

What happens if I run out of memory? Can I control data temperature?

Remember that HANA always stores data on disk, so the data that was used least recently will be dropped out of memory if you run out. In practice this means the database can usually bigger than you thought possible.

In addition, the Smart Data Access data virtualization layer allows you to store cold data in any other database, like Sybase IQ or even Oracle and transparently access it like any other data in HANA. This helps improve the TCO of HANA.

It’s worth noting that HANA and Hadoop are great friends – you can store documents and web logs in Hadoop and then store aggregated information in HANA for super-fast analysis. Need to add a new measure? Run a batch job in Hadoop from HANA to populate it.

Notes and sources

Some of this information came from meetings and interviews with the key HANA friends at SAp – Hasso Plattner, Vishal Sikka, Steve Lucas, Franz Färber, Mike Eacrett and many others.

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Disrupting the IT Services market: Consultancy 2.0

Some time ago I had dinner with SAP co-CEO Jim Snabe. Jim is a bright and talented individual and one of the topics we got into was the setting of unreasonable boundary conditions as a mechanism to get the best out of employees. The principle is that by asking for the unreasonable, you will cause people to come up with more creative, better solutions to problems. I was instantly fascinated.

However, it wasn’t until a late phone call with friend and mentor John Niland of VCO Global some weeks ago, that my thoughts started to finally mature on this. We discussed the topic of motivating contributors, and how you get the best out of those people who work for you.

I told Niland that my experience was that the best way to get more out of great employees is to ask more of them. As humans, we tend to be limited by what we believe is possible and this in turn restricts us. In an interesting twist, contributors are actually happiest, when pushed in this way. So I came up with an idea to test this theory:

The SI Smackdown

We took what would normally a 3-4 week SAP HANA technology project and I told a team of two that they had 2 days to complete it. Everyone thought it was crazy. To make it crazier, we orchestrated it to happen live, on a conference room floor, in front of 8000 people. And just to make it interesting, we used two Systems Integrators and turned it into a competition. Oh, and we used a real customer, Consumer Products giant ConAgra, with real data.

Because unreasonable boundary conditions – think back to the conversation with Snabe – were set, the SI Smackdown competitors found a way to make it happen. And then they blew my wildest expectations out the window by not just doing what was asked, but so much more. They demonstrated not just a better IT system running on SAP HANA, but radical ways to show ConAgra how they could change the was they run their business.

The thing that really interested me about this most was that the two participants from my team, once they had a few days off after the conference, were demanding when they could do it again. It turns out that they loved it.

Extreme Consultancy

And so it happened a few weeks ago that I was in a situation. We had committed to a UK conference to show a customer demo and we got the data 7 days before the conference to build the demo with. Worse, I had no resources that week spare to work on it and we had a good portion of our team out at another conference that week.

So, I wondered what would happen if we applied the two concepts above at the same time. Set unreasonable boundary conditions, and ask even more of our employees. So, I designed (OK… handwaved) a really cool solution based on the customer data, using technology that wasn’t available yet and would only be released the day before the conference. Note once again the importance of making the boundaries unreasonable.

Then, I emailed 5 very talented individuals, each of whom would bring an invaluable skill to the table, and asked them if they would be prepared to do the project in their spare time before the conference. Every one of them replied within an hour and agreed. They created the most amazing solution that showed how the customer, one of the largest Pharmaceutical companies in the world, how they could revolutionise their Integrated Business Planning process. Wow.

Managing Contributors

It’s worth jumping back to my conversation with Niland, because my second assertion is that if you want to get more out of your contributors then – I believe – you have to observe an interesting set of rules, which are even more important when setting unreasonable boundaries:

First, there has to be a purpose and you have to explain it. This becomes a shared vision for the contributors, who usually deeply care about actually making a difference. In both cases above, there was a customer scenario and a reason for creating the technology solution. Ensure there are unreasonable boundary conditions. If they think it’s possible, it won’t motivate them.

Second, you have to motivate them by providing them with what they want – and here’s a hint – it’s never about money. In both cases above, they got access to cool technology – a $400k appliance, plus access to software that wasn’t readily available and the request to do something that had never been done before. Be very mindful here because different things motivate different types of contributor.

Third, you have to give them other great contributors to work with, and clear the decks. Both by getting out the way yourself, but also by making sure they have access to get assistance when they need it – assistance from people they respect. Listen to what they need and provide for them.

Fourth, you have to look after their wellbeing because they will not. When you set unreasonable boundary conditions, I’ve often observed that contributors fail to manage their own wellbeing. Ensure they take a break when they need it, and they get days off after a high-pressure stint. But, don’t be confused into thinking that wellbeing is about a 37.5 hour week – that’s Eurobullshit. Happy people can work long hours. Stories of early Apple suggest 90 hour weeks were a regular occurrence and they were some of the most motivated workers I have ever read about.

Does the consultancy market need disrupting?

One of the things I lay in bed thinking about at night is the Consultancy business model. It was borne out of the large business process change and globalization models of the 70s and 80s and it made a lot of people at Accenture and IBM very rich, earning $2000 a day for poorly trained graduates. This got better after the markets crashed in 1999 and again after the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008 and the sorts of customers I deal with are very sensitive to getting value out of consulting projects. Many customers will now opt for fixed-price contracts, which is the right way to do consulting engagements.

But I still agonise every time I get a call saying “we need your help, XXX consultancy quoted this price to do this work and it’s way more than the customer will pay” – and I get a few of those every week. Surely there is a better way? Surely we don’t need 18 month projects that cripple business change and the ability to be agile? We have worked on ways – templates, agile methodologies and amazing people – to be cheaper, better and faster than our competitors but I don’t believe it is enough.

So, I’ve been working with friend and SAP Board Member Vishal Sikka, to try and challenge all of our assumptions about how we deliver consulting engagements (paradoxically, he helped me, by setting some unreasonable boundary conditions). Could it be that the consulting market is ready to be disrupted?

It’s cloudy out there

Cloud advocate Dennis Howlett often waxes that the solution is in the cloud, with companies like Salesforce and Workday offering much faster implementation times. This works great – even for integrated business processes, in the mid-market, but the processes that sit behind the Global 500 customers are so complex – with many languages, end-markets and integration points that if Workday and Salesforce do start to be able to offer a solution, it will probably be just as hard to implement as any other software product. And the consultancy gravy train will start afresh.

To add to this, there is no lever for Accenture or IBM to change – they have a lucrative model and while there is no alternative, they will continue to milk their cash cow. In most cases, I think the customers, particularly at the board level, are in any case not unhappy with the large consultancies and their business model.

Consultancy 2.0

So this is a call to action. Do you think Consultancy 2.0 needs to happen? Let me know your thoughts, publicly or in private. And if you work for a large consultancy, or if you are a board member of the sort of organisations I’m talking about and want to discuss this off the record, then let me know.

And equally, if you would like to help with this by co-innovating on a project together then let me know.

Thanks go to everyone I worked with on this, and particularly to Vishal, Jim, and John Niland for being the contributors and inspiration to this process and to Lloyd, Tristan, Anooj, Gary, DJ, Ollie and Brenton for being the contributors, unwitting guinea pigs and for creating unbelievably amazing solutions.

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10 Tips on using the Apple iPad as your primary device

I can be clumsy when overtired. And so it happened that I broke my laptop whilst travelling to a major conference, and couldn’t get it replaced for nearly 3 weeks. As it happens I then smashed the screen on my iPad, but that’s another story, and anyhow it carried on working.

For those 3 weeks, I had only my iPad as my primary computer. Here’s how I coped – and then ended up loving the iPad more than ever before.

1. Let go of trying to curate complex content

Question is – can you? With my job I often can for some periods of time, because content curation happens in fits and spurts. When a suitable powerpoint presentation is written, you can stick with it for some time.

2. Focus on Task Management and workflow

This was my next lesson – and there are some great software enablers for this on the iPad like OmniFocus. I love this because I can categorize and prioritize tasks – entering them as I think of them, and making sure I actually get things done. This is actually a huge boon for productivity.

I’ve also bought a bunch of apps – Keynote, Numbers and Pages to cover off displaying documents properly that others send me. GoodReader, which allows you to process ZIP files. And a bunch of free apps – Lync 2010, LinkedIn, Twitter, Skype, Facebook. I use most of these on a daily basis and they make a difference to productivity.

3. Buy an Apple Keyboard and an Apple Smart Cover

I’ve tried a bunch of iPad cases like the ones from ZAGG and Logitech, but they all SUCK. They are cut-size keyboards that cause you to compromise. Instead, buy a spare Apple Keyboard and carry it when you need to create content. Conveniently, the keyboard shortcuts also work.

For example, this blog is written on vacation, using the Apple Keyboard on my lap. I can type just as fast as on a desktop computer and I leave the keyboard in the hotel safe when I don’t need it.

4. Always carry the 10W Apple Charger

But only to your hotel room and never during the day. I charge the iPad every night, but never need to charge it during the day. That’s the beauty – on a tough day I get down to 10% battery but I’ve never run out. If you get desperate, you can always steal someone’s iPhone charger!

5. If you’re clumsy, look into AppleCare+

I think it’s only available in the USA so far – in the UK they were not familiar with it – but for $100 you get full phone support, plus accidental damage cover. If you drop, drown or destroy your iPad, Apple will provide you with a replacement on the spot, for a $50 co-pay. They’ll do this twice.

6. Use iCloud Backup

I got my iPad replaced just now after the cracked screen and it was an awesome experience. You back up the existing iPad using iCloud and then reset it. When you set up the new iPad you select “use existing iCloud backup” and it puts your iPad back just the way it was – apps, settings and data – including the latest versions of apps – in about 10 minutes. You can do it at the Apple Store when they replace your iPad. So convenient.

7. Focus on being in the present

That’s the great thing about the iPad – you don’t focus on the computer, you focus on the room. Gone are the days of meetings where people peer into their laptops like there’s pictures of naked ladies on them (get the Friends reference?). Instead, focus on discussing, sharing, creating and white-boarding ideas. Create something great together and then take it home to work on it.

8. Relax

Remember that you don’t need to do everything right now and this is a benefit. So long as you capture what it is you need to work on, you can do it later. But, to do this, you have to let go a bit – and relax.

9. Get focussed on your email activity

The iPad is an AWESOME email device because it discourages long and rambling email responses. Email is at its best when it is used as a mechanism to convey a shared opinion, to pass over a task to someone who is responsible and capable of doing it. It’s at its worst when used for rants, rambles, conversations and grenades – or to avoid a face to face conversation. Make sure you use your iPad as a force for good!

10. Enjoy

Sit back and enjoy what you get in return – no big bag to carry around, no chargers and cables. The simple and elegant tablet and how it simplifies your life. On my latest flight I carried a small slip that included the iPad, its charger, a few necessary documents and a toothbrush. No heavy wheelybag, and everything I needed for a week in technology. Not even a need to open an overhead bin.

Final Thoughts

I’m wondering as I write this whether the day of the desktop computer will return. More and more, my laptop is a tool that I use at home, to create content or do complex financial analysis. Provided it is in sync – and iCloud and Microsoft Exchange ensure that everything is – I just don’t need my laptop during an average day.

And I’d conclude that whilst I still need a desktop – the iPad has become my primary device.

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The SAP HANA Career Guide – Part 5, SAP HANA BW Consultant

Hopefully you have enjoyed the SAP HANA Career Guide so far. This piece focusses in on the SAP HANA BW Consultant. These guys are responsible for upgrading, migrating and HANA-enabling existing information on the SAP BW Enterprise Data Warehouse, as well as the creation of new Data Warehouse solutions.

Where do SAP HANA BW Consultants come from?

Well this one is easy! Any existing SAP BW Consultants – especially those who are more business focussed and don’t have the heavy hitting SQL skills that would make them great SAP HANA Performance Consultants – can make excellent SAP HANA BW Consultants.
This is largely because running SAP BW on HANA is broadly similar to running SAP BW on any other database. The modelling principles, business object principles and key considerations for things like stock or currency conversions remain exactly the same. So if you’re an existing SAP BW consultant then look no further.

What does HANA Thinking mean with BW on HANA?

There are a few important changes worth thinking about. The first are architectural. BW on HANA requires fewer objects – you lose Indexes, Aggregates and some of InfoCubes as well as being able to lose certain types of DSO and Master Data objects.

This means simplification of both the number of objects and with that, data loads and query management. And that brings with it a simplification of project design, methodology, reduction in load times and testing times. It completely changes the way that BW projects are run – reducing project timelines and increasing time-to-value.

How do I cross-train to SAP BW on HANA?

The SAP Customer Solutions Adoption team have produced an excellent course for experienced BW people called “LSA++ – THE LAYERED SCALABLE ARCHITECTURE FOR BW ON HANA“. As is the CSA style, this is designed for those who already have great BW skills and need the HANA specific stuff.

Here, they explain the difference in thinking between HANA and any other RDBMS, and what that means to architecture, design and the practicalities of Enterprise Data Warehouses.

What Classroom Education is available for SAP BW on HANA?

The classroom training is really limited in this example. SAP Education have a course called TZBWHA: SAP BW on SAP HANA – but it is twice the price and contains half the content of the SAP course. I understand that a new course is being written as we speak – hopefully it will contain the right content. In the meantime, I don’t recommend this course.

Where can I go to ask questions?

As before, here are two great places for this. First there are the SCN SAP HANA and in-Memory forums, where you can ask technical questions about all things SAP HANA. Response times are excellent.

Second, you can go to the Experience SAP HANA Discussion area, where there is a similar focus on assistance.

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The SAP HANA Career Guide – Part 4, SAP HANA Operations Consultant

Hopefully you have enjoyed the SAP HANA Career Guide so far. This piece focusses in on the SAP HANA Operations Consultant – which would have been called SAP Basis for regular SAP systems. I’ve always hated this term, and thought it was time for a new one, and Operations is all about getting things running and keeping them running – efficiently.

Where do SAP HANA Operations Consultants come from?

I think the reality is that may of them will come from SAP Basis but there are some important things to note. First, is that SAP HANA only runs on SuSe Linux, so knowledge of other platforms (Windows, UNIX) is only tangentially relevant.

What is relevant is design of technical architecture – although SAP HANA solutions are created from building-block principles and so there are a limited number of possible configurations. Knowledge of High Availability and Disaster Recovery principles are a must, as most SAP HANA implementations require this.

To add to this, a working knowledge of Linux administration, script writing (bash, awk, Python), X-Windows, ELILO as well as networks: all High Availability SAP HANA appliances must have 10 Gigabit Ethernet, for example. Plus, if you have IBM hardware, a knowledge of the GPFS clustered filesystem is a must.

What does day-to-day administration of SAP HANA look like?

Once SAP HANA is set up, it requires remarkably little attention. New nodes are installed with a single command. If you add or remove hardware, one thing you do need to do is redistribute tables between nodes, but this is also quite straightforward.

No optimisation, re-indexing, indexes, aggregates or other elements are required in regular operations so the DBA overhead is much lower than other databases.

How do I find out more about SAP HANA Operations?

To be honest, the SAP HANA Master Guide provides all you need to know and there is a Technical Operations Manual available. If you are already a DBA or SAP Basis consultant with the skills listed above, I recommend you dive right in.

One challenge is getting the SAP HANA software for testing purposes and I hope to have some good news on that this year! If you are a SAP Services Partner then you are able to get the software at a good price as a Test & Demo license.

What Classroom Education is available for SAP HANA Operations?

There is a specific SAP HANA Operations course called TZH200, which may be worth taking if you enjoy learning in a classroom environment. This leads to a certification qualification possible called SAP HANA Certified Technology Associate.

What about running SAP on HANA?

If you run SAP on HANA then you will also need to know SAP Basis – the fundamentals of which are well documented.

In this case, you are probably interested in migrating SAP systems from some other database like Oracle onto HANA, and in this case you do need some special experience. SAP mandate (and I also recommend wholeheartedly) becoming a SAP Migration Certified Consultant, which is a significant investment. If you do not have this certificate then the systems you migrate will not be fully supported by SAP.

If you are migration certified and you have learnt the above material and familiarised yourself with SAP HANA, table partitioning, row- and columnar-stores, the way that HANA manages deltas etc. then you are ready to do SAP HANA Migrations and could call yourself a SAP HANA Migration Consultant. I haven’t created a separate page for that because I believe it is the same core type of person.

Where can I go to ask questions?

As before, here are two great places for this. First there are the SCN SAP HANA and in-Memory forums, where you can ask technical questions about all things SAP HANA. Response times are excellent.

Second, you can go to the Experience SAP HANA Discussion area, where there is a similar focus on assistance.

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The SAP HANA Career Guide – Part 3, SAP HANA Performance Consultant

Hopefully you have enjoyed the SAP HANA Career Guide so far. This piece focusses in on the SAP HANA Performance Consultant.

In the early implementations of SAP HANA, this was by far the most popular type of resource. SAP HANA Enterprise comes with a set of tools including SAP HANA Studio, which contains the SAP HANA Modeller and the SAPScript programming language (which is similar to PL-SQL).

The SAP HANA Performance Consultant takes requirements and builds data models, including the virtual Analytical views and Calculation Views that make SAP HANA special, and builds the SQLScript and CE Function programming code to meet the needs.

Where do SAP HANA Performance Consultants come from?

Whilst building simple SAP HANA models is something that almost anyone with knowledge of Microsoft Access can do, the SQLScript language and CE Functions are technical languages that require a sound programming understanding. Those familiar with programming stored procedures in RDBMS systems like DB2, Oracle PL/SQL and Microsoft Procedural SQL will find themselves at home quickly.

Similarly those familiar with the SAP BW Data Warehouse may find themselves out of there depth here. Those SAP BW consultants familiar with writing complex transformation and update rule code in the ABAP and OpenSQL programming languages may find SAP HANA Enterprise comes naturally – especially those with a technical background and degree. Those who are more business focussed and less technical would be best advised to focus on the SAP BW on HANA consultant.

How do you cross-train from PL-SQL to SQLScript?

The programming languages are fairly similar and any SQL developer will be able to familiarise themselves very quickly by referring to the SQLScript Guide. Note that this guide is updated every 6 months with major amendments, when new releases of SAP HANA are made.

How do I get hands-on with SAP HANA?

The best way to cross-train is to get hands on and build data models. Thankfully the lovely folks at SAP have made this really easy. There is a 30-day free developer version of HANA in the cloud available in the HANA developer center. After that, you pay by usage of the Amazon AWS HANA system – the SAP HANA software itself is free to use for test purposes.

In addition, the SAP HANA Distinguished Engineers are building out a collection of fantastic learning videos that take you through each of the SAP HANA concepts and get you up and running fast. This will be called the HANA Academy and is coming soon – I will post details as soon as they are available. In the meantime there is a YouTube video with the content.

What classroom training is available?

SAP offers a good basic training guide called HA300 as a 5-day course. If you learn best in a classroom environment and can afford the €2500 cost (plus expenses) and time out, then this might be a good option.

Be aware that this course is typically out of date: SAP HANA moves very quickly and classroom education struggles to keep up.

Where can I go to ask questions?

There are two great places for this. First there are the SCN SAP HANA and in-Memory forums, where you can ask technical questions about all things SAP HANA. Response times are excellent.

Second, you can go to the Experience SAP HANA Discussion area, where there is a similar focus on assistance.

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The SAP HANA Career Guide – Part 2, SAP HANA Business Consultant

Hopefully you have enjoyed the SAP HANA Career Guide so far, which kicked off with Part 1, Overview. This piece focusses in on the first specialty: the business consultant.

The Business Consultant

Business consultants analyse the needs of the business and create a strategy to transform businesses, or line of businesses. The essence and principle of this doesn’t change with SAP HANA – indeed it is much of the same. They listen to the needs of the business and the ways in which it must change, and then apply technology concepts against that to create a technology strategy.

For instance I have a customer who has a problem with fraud prevention. The business consultants came up with a solution that enables the business to reduce customer fraud.

Why does SAP HANA change this?

That’s just it: SAP HANA doesn’t change the needs of the business consultant. Instead, it changes the envelope. Let me illustrate how the technology changes the envelope.

I have a customer where we used SAP HANA to accelerate sales order reports within ERP. The approach was to read a bunch of sales order headers, get detail from within, cross reference them against various attributes and exclude a bunch of orders, to produce a report. This requires between 10-20 thousand questions, that SAP asks and takes 30-60 minutes to produce a report.

Now, SAP HANA performs the same as any other database to answer 10-20k small questions. But, with some small changes, we changed 10-20k small questions into one huge question. What happens now? SAP HANA responds in a few short seconds.

Why does that matter?

The answer is, in itself, it doesn’t. However, now we can give these repots to sales execs on the road and they can access them on a mobile device in seconds, giving information about past spend, profitability and other key elements. But even that doesn’t pull the real power of SAP HANA.

The real power is when we move this thinking to whats happening in the moment – let’s take automotive as an example. We can collaborate with a customer to create a quotation with them – price that quotation against very complex pricing structures that exist in complex business models. Even calculating margin on the fly against a car with 10,000 parts. Looking at upstream supply chain visibility to see that removing an option for an automatic gearbox changes the delivery date from 4 months to 1 month. Discounting on the fly based on available stock and the desire to sell particular options.

In this case, the customer experience becomes collaborative and communicative and you can close the deal in the moment, rather than having to come back with a quote the next day and an estimate for delivery 3 weeks later. It’s real, and customers will buy it.

SAP HANA Use Cases

The first thing the business consultant needs to do is to read about SAP HANA use cases and consume them for their industry. They are available for public consumption at Experience SAP HANA and this will begin to cultivate a HANA State of Mind.

The HANA State of Mind

I have written about this before and I see this change in consultants who get immersed in SAP HANA. Once you see the capabilities, you will be able to apply “HANA Thinking” to everyday live. You will see the business possibilities where producing a particular report can reduce costs by millions of dollars a month. Only you thought it wasn’t possible.

Education and Training

Here’s the kicker with SAP HANA Business Consultants – I’m not sure that it can be taught. You have to combine existing Line of Business and Industry expertise with the knowledge of how SAP HANA can disrupt businesses. If you’re good at business consulting already, all you have to do is to understand how SAP HANA can help.

Perhaps I’m wrong here and I’d like to be challenged. Perhaps there is a “Power of SAP HANA” set of webinars, videos or instructional content. What do you think? Is it just a question of repeating a few business scenarios where SAP HANA makes a difference, and business consultants will just “get it”? Let me know.

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