THANKYOU !


Those who know me well know how much I care for my dogs . For all intents and purposes – Boss, Hobo and Ollie are treated as our kids by my wife and I .

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And today morning all three of them disappeared – on my watch !

My dogs have a tendency to lock me out of the house . They did that today too – while I was in the backyard , Ollie knocked the latch from inside . So I went around to the front of the house and my wife let me in. In the process, I forgot to latch the gate from the yard to the street .

My wife left for her work, and my daughter went to school – and the dogs and I were in the house by ourselves. Then came the handyman to help me with some odd jobs . To let him in – I left the dogs in the backyard. About five minutes later – I went back to get them in, and they had disappeared . All three of them had gone some place – and left no trace.

In sheer panic, the handyman and I started driving around the neighborhood but we couldn’t find them. My wife came home to help me search but no result . I sent her back to office and started systematic scanning of every route we have walked the dogs before – but no luck.

I posted on twitter and Facebook that my dogs are missing – and my friends amplified it quite a bit . I also got a ton of great advice on how to find them. I ran back home and printed flyers to put up on every place I could tape one on in the neighborhood.

I advertised in Craigslist and also reported the incident to the county animal control . A volunteer of an online forum in Facebook for list pets in AZ helped me put an announcement in their page. Still no dice . I came back home dejected fearing the worst and thoroughly angry at myself .

Few minutes later , my pal Mani Sreenivasan pinged me to say he saw an online ad saying a dog was found in my zip code . I checked out the link and was shocked (in a good way) to see Ollie’s photo. He looked like he was having a good time too. I called the number on the ad – and a guy picked up immediately . And after checking details – he confirmed he has all three of the dogs

Apparently he was walking back from the bus stop seeing off his fourth grader daughter when he saw my three guys roaming the street . He took them home and let them play in his backyard and pool with his two Goldens . Apparently from 9 AM to 5 PM – while I was within an inch of having a heart attack , my three fur kids were having “the best Friday ever” playing non stop with new friends 🙂

My daughter and I went to pick up the dogs and after thanking Rich and his family as much as we could – we got the guys home. All three are tired , and Hobo seems sore from all the hard playing he must have done today. But everyone is happy now and tucked in. It will take a lot longer for me to calm down – and even longer for me to forgive myself for not being careful with the gate when I let them out

It is amazing how much social media – or in general, internet – helped me in getting my boys back. Google, Facebook, Fidofinder.com and twitter came together to connect many different people to eventually trace my guys . The irony is that the guy who found my dogs lived about 3 minutes away from our house and his kid and mine go to the same school .

There is only one villain in this story – that is me . But there are two Heros – my buddy Mani, who checked online a thousand times tirelessly till he got the link to the advertisement , and Rich and family who found and took great care of my fur kids all day. They are not just Heros – they are angels in human form. They have my eternal gratitude.

And a huge thanks to my many friends on Facebook and twitter who helped me by spreading the word, keeping me focused and finally celebrated with me when we found the guys . Many of them are physically thousands of miles away from AZ – some stayed awake through midnight to give me support. I can’t thank them all enough.

All is well that ends well – and thankfully, it did end well this time. But I will be a lot more careful in future – I don’t have it in me to face this nightmare a second time .

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SAP to acquire Fieldglass – Integration is key!


As I picked up my phone today morning , the first thing I saw online was
this http://global12.sap.com/news-reader/index.epx?category=ALL&articleID=22589&searchmode=C&page=1&pageSize=10

I think it is a pretty good move for SAP.
Here are my initial thoughts

Managing Contingent Workers – and the vendors that represent them – is a big pain for every client I have had in my career . I have seen SAP, non SAP and 100% custom built solutions used for CW management and never seen a customer that thought they had a firm grip on the matter .

The difficulty I have seen is not in core functionality – it’s always in integration. CW information is needed by a lot of parts of the company – like HR, finance , legal, compliance , procurement ,AP and so on . For every stand alone CE system – we have had to build many interfaces and reports to make it work.

If SAP cracks the code on integration quickly – they have access to a HUGE market . Practically all of its install base will buy if integration pain is taken off the table . The exact opposite will be the result if they suspect this is yet another massive integration project .

Given SAP’s investment in Ariba (power of networks – CW and procurement is a potent combination) , SFSF (one cloud for all HR) , Hana ( conquering world hunger and all that 🙂 ) and BOBJ ( mobile analytics , predictive) – there is plenty of opportunity to take Fieldglass to a higher level and highly differentiated solution .

Jonathan Becher’s challenge as CMO will be to choose which of the hundred possible messages his team will focus on . That is a good problem to have 🙂

Product management and Engineering – that is the side of the house that needs to burn the midnight oil now. Arriving at a comprehensive roadmap is not trivial . But knowing the team – I am sure they will come up with some good stuff .

If SAP wants to bet on cloud – I think HR is the best possible domain to bet on. I would even go on a limb and say SAP should sacrifice CRM in favor of HR in terms of new investments. Workday is a real threat for SAP and such acquisitions will give SAP something to out flank them rather than just try to out run them .

Good luck to Shawn Price and team !

Are we there yet ? Can’t wait to start my new adventure


It is the last week of my sabbatical – and I am ready for work . Having never had a month off work since graduating from B school – I can say without a doubt that it was the best decision I could have made. No work email , no conference calls at ungodly hours , waking up in my own bed every day , spending the whole spring break with my daughter , binge watching “house of cards” – two seasons in three days , binge watching “west wing” – all Seven seasons in a week, and touring the wine country in CA with family …the list goes on and on, and I think I am as ready as I can be for my new job . I am practically a new man 🙂

I am off to NY next weekend to get an early start on my new job the following Monday . The last time I felt this kind of excitement was probably when I got my first job after MBA – in Tata Consultancy Services in Mumbai . I did not know much about what I was getting into . All I knew was a bit of programming and I had the tendency to make new friends wherever I go. I am walking into the new job at MongoDB pretty much with the same “can code and will make friends” attitude . Hopefully it works ok this time too 🙂

My job is to lead the channels organization for MongoDB – making our partners successful, and via that make our customers even more successful . I did not grow up in my career on the traditional channel organization – my background is in services and consulting . But I have been heavily involved in channel activities for many years as part of my job . I firmly believe that no software company can scale successfully without a great partner ecosystem to support it . That was true in IBM and SAP and I am betting on the same being true for MongoDB as well .

MongoDB does not have many of the challenges of a traditional company – it already has seven million downloads of the software .This is an exciting new world for me . There is a vibrant open source ecosystem that pushes MongoDB forward – and it has serious momentum . I come from a world where we partied for 100th and 500th and 1000th customer – I don’t remember talking in 7 million of downloads in IBM or SAP .

If there is one thing that I admire more about MongoDB than the community aspect – it is the recruiting process . It is a much smaller company compared to my prior employers – but the quality of people will not make anyone believe they count employees in early hundreds . My own recruitment process was unlike any I have had in past. I think I talked to 15 folks at MongoDB – and it never felt like an interview at any point . It was friendly, professional and all cards were on the table . No one pressurized me a bit at any point – and every single question I had was answered honestly . I walked away thinking “wow – I would be really lucky to work with a group of people of this calibre” . Turns out I was indeed lucky and the CEO offered me a job (Thanks Max).

As my team grows – I am hoping to keep the hiring standards at the same high level as I found it when I was offered the job . I already had informal conversations with couple of the folks running channel today – an incredible team with fantastic ideas and energy to match . Which reminds me – if you know any awesome channel folks looking for an exciting and challenging job (and who can stand working with me) , please send them my way .

As an engineer, my first instinct was to check out the product itself . It took me maybe half hour to download the software and do a “hello world”. Then I spent two hours worrying maybe I did not install everything – only to be told later that it is actually as simple as it looks . Once I moved past hello world – my next surprise was the sheer number of drivers. There is a driver for every programming environment . Essentially – I don’t need to learn a new language to start serious coding . It truly is “bring your own language”. There is plenty of online training and forums to get going quickly . I am starting to get an appreciation of why seven million downloads have happened . ( I am sure some % of that is people downloading newer versions etc – but still a more impressive version than anything I have seen in prior life). Since I promised my family to not slave in front of a computer all day – I did not continue playing with the software after the initial try out . I plan to do that as soon as I start the job. I am especially keen to checkout the DBA aspects .

Then started checking around how this stuff is priced . It is quite straight forward – and dare I say inexpensive compared to the enterprise software world I know . Purchasing process is a click through as well – very easy, and you can pay with a credit card . I am not sure if there are limitations for this outside US .

What kind of shocked me was that I saw a volume discount schedule for subscription purchases in their website.

https://www.mongodb.com/products/mongodb-subscriptions/pricing

I am used to seeing 50 page pricing briefs – not a half page table on my browser that covers everything . So if I understood this correctly – the sales reps probably do not have the “let me work a deal with my boss to get you some volume discount” thingy in their bag. They have to sell on value and not price ! That is how all software
sales should be – but It is totally against the grain of my experience .

There is extensive online training – something I am sure will come in handy for me as I make friends with our partners . The first “speed dating” appointments I made for my first week in my new job is with my colleague Andrew who leads the education initiatives . On first looks – it seems like the online education is an incredible resource .

As excited as I am about all these things – there is one thing that scares me a lot . No – it is not that I didn’t grow up in the channel side of the house in my career so far . What makes me scared is that I am going to start using a Mac instead of my beloved Lenovo PC

I think we have digitized AND transformed


First, you should read this excellent blog post from my pal Sameer Patel. It definitely got me thinking (which is a surprise given I am thoroughly enjoying a month off work between two jobs ), and I thought I can add a couple of things to this discussion. It also gives me a chance to put my wife’s laptop to test – I spent a whole day improving its performance yesterday 🙂

This is the central theme of Sameer’s post

The crux of my assertion is that for the last 40+ years we have been busy digitizing – an important first step. But it would be a stretch to day that we have digitally transformed, save for a few pockets.

I am rarely positive about the world of enterprise software. Yet, I think it is not too much of a stretch to think we have indeed transformed digitally – actually quite significantly. Are we there yet ? No – and it will be still a No if we ask this question in fifty years. Transformation is not absolute – it is about change between two states, or maybe the rate of change between two states.

So I am going to extend Sameer’s assertion and say something like “We have been busy digitizing for last 40+ years, and also transforming along the way in many pockets. This will be the way life is going to be for next 40+ years and we will  worry about silos pretty much for ever”.

In my school days, occasionally I had the opportunity to sit in a corner of my dad’s office and watch the fascinating corporate world stuff. He would dictate letters to his assistant who would take that down in short hand, type up a draft and have dad review it. It took a few back and forth attempts before the letter , with the real carbon copies, made its way to the dispatch clerk who would then sort them and send them on the way to various corners of the world. When dad got promoted , he had two assistants and both pretty much worked all the time to handle his business correspondence. He could have had two more assistants but decided that it won’t scale given there was only one of him . That was the case of his fellow senior executives too.

I saw two transformations there – one in my school days, and one in my college days. First one was the electronic typewriter – which increased the productivity of communication to the extent that dad briefly considered having three assistants to maximize output. The company expanded significantly in that time frame – in no small part because the executives could deal with more customers and vendors. The second round was the introduction of computers into the office. The growth in that period was explosive to say the least, especially with the introduction of email few years later. Email took the company to heights no one imagined. My dad and many colleagues who had two assistants moved to a one assistant model – with some people even sharing assistants. The extra capacity was moved to other parts of the company that needed additional hands.

That company at some point under invested in digitization and that was one of the reasons it eventually went out of business . There were articles published in management and technical journals of those days on both the early investment in digitization and the later under investment before the company went under under.

That was truly transformational for the times it happened. By today’s terms – people will die of shock if they hear about a company without email. Email is so uncool now – and it was transformational not that long ago. Simple workflows via email improved the efficiency of business processes by orders of magnitude back in the day. Today, a rigid one directional email workflow is looked down with disdain.

I can’t help bringing up my favorite topic – ERP !

ERP never lived up to its promise. I will be the first to admit that, despite making a living off that business for most of my career . But even its worst critics agree that several companies underwent serious transformation , along with plenty of pain and bruises and battle scars. But now the rate of change is not enough to get attention – and hence all the crying out loud that ERP sucks.

Such is the nature of transformation – no one cares about past transformation. You have to constantly evolve and adapt to keep up and hopefully thrive. But that is not the same as saying business has only digitized but not transformed. At various points in time, the rate of change might be high or low – when that tends to zero, business dies.

Sameer goes on to say

At the very least, Digital Transformation will expect that we are able to contextually expose repeatable patterns that:

1. Embrace a true working model that’s powered by real time access to business insights.

2. To the network of experts that dynamically assemble around the problem at hand.

3. The “un-silofication” of todays fragmented work experience that expects me to hop from system to system to get my work done.

4. And the flexibility to have people and data access conform to how I work. It’s a topic I’ve spent a lot of time.

I have a few thoughts on these bullets as well

Repeatable patterns and context : I am not sure if repeatable patterns make a magic bullet – repeatability makes things good candidates to automate/digitize. But it also assumes that world is static – which by now we know is not a safe assumption to make. Yet, it is a compromise we have to make to get things done. Just that we should do so with eyes open that repeatability is temporary and comes with the risk of rework at some arbitrary point in future. However – repeatability aside, I do agree wholeheartedly with the contextually part. Context has not been a big deal in past because it was in the user’s head and with the comparatively lower amount and quantity of data to be processed – that probably was ok. It is not OK now – and context is not negotiable in process design any more.

Real time access to business insights : My beef is only with the “real time” part. My favorite example is knowing right now that I can make a killing by moving inventory from Texas to California for sales this weekend, but not having trucks ready to move the inventory till next week. Not all business processes need real time information. In fact several don’t even need precise information to aid a decision. Humans make decisions on approximations – and trust context more than precision. However, IT systems historically have been built on the concept of precision and now tend to be built on real time. I prefer the term “right time” over real time.

Dynamically assembled network of experts : AMEN ! this is the root cause of most evil in IT systems in today’s organizations . Sameer and team are doing excellent work on making this happen and I am a huge fan and cheer leader.

un-silofication : It is an elusive goal to say the least. There will always be silos and we need to make peace with it. History of IT is littered with lessons like Mainframes did not die , ERP did not consolidate all systems and so on. World fluctuates between fascination for best of breed and suite – which means silos will only increase, not decrease. We can solve some of this problem via collaboration and BI and things of that nature. But I don’t think we will get far enough ever. IT systems will have to play catchup. I don’t like it – but realistically I don’t see a real change coming to save us .

People and data access conform to how I work : Again a big AMEN ! This is totally a worthwhile goal to pursue – although very difficult to get to. Just like un-silofication thing – I don’t envision an all encompassing solution, but this approach of conforming the world around to how a user works might happen in enough pockets to make it worthwhile.

That is it – I am going back to vacation mode !

Are CIO jobs more difficult today ?


No – it is not more difficult or more risky compared to what past CIOs had to do . Every time I see articles and tweets that seem to indicate otherwise , I cringe .

Dealing with business problems has always been on CIO agenda – it is not something that came up yesterday . Good CIOs have always dealt with CXOs – the excellent ones have always dealt with users too . In 90s – when ERP was the “innovation” thing to do , CIOs led the charge . They had to take big risks with unknown software for the benefit of the business . They had to agree to customize off the shelf software knowing that business needed it and hence the price to pay in future is justified . In many cases they convinced colleagues to change business processes to suit what is available off the shelf in ERP systems .
I have sat in several such meetings – it wasn’t pretty , but CIOs of big and small companies did that .

In the 2000s, they had to find ways to reduce cost and figure out working partnerships with outsourcing firms . In most cases they had to deal with a loss of their power and authority and yet they did that . They had to fire people that they knew for decades – and they did that to save their business . They invested in BI systems knowing more or less for sure that it is a journey and not a destination . They jumped into the exciting world of Internet knowing well that there are big risks .

And in 2010s – they have to deal with CMOs with more budget , cloud vendors who bypass them and go to business side directly , in-memory and NOSQL vendors who want to displace incumbent RDBMS vendors and so on . Is that difficult and risky ? Yes . Is it MORE difficult and risky than what previous generation had to deal with ? Hardly ! It’s just different .

The one thing that is becoming more common these days is that executives from business side are now taking on a CIO job for some time to check the box on their way to bigger and better things . This has many advantages for sure – but it has one disadvantage that I have now seen a few times . When a sales leader does well in West – she gets a shot at maybe running all of North America , or go run marketing for a change . But when a Sales VP goes on a CIO tour of duty and does well in that job – he risks getting stuck there for more time than he signed up for . And for some – it becomes a dead end job . That is the part that is riskier and harder for the CIOs these days than the ones in the past – in my experience .

Ok – I am getting back to vacation mode !

The execution challenge – are you a leader or a 3 year old ?


Everyone likes their leaders to take fast decisions and then stick by the decision in the face of diversity . They like leaders to be proactive and everyone else to be reactionary. Guess what – that is also how three year olds generally work ! But you don’t want your leaders to behave like a three year old , do you ?

Sadly, this is rather common and many of us would have had a boss who acted this way . I certainly had – more than once !

There are a few things that can (and should ) differentiate a leader from a three year old .

1. Ability to change course when needed

Despite best of intentions, some times we have to take decisions that are awful . But unlike a three year old who would just throw a tantrum when challenged – a leader should listen patiently , weigh options and change course if needed .

The hallmark of good parents – according to my late grandmother – is that they let the young kids win some battles while they always win the war . I think that applies to managers too 🙂

2. Communicate clearly instead of yelling and screaming

I don’t honestly mind leaders swearing occasionally . But I do not think yelling and screaming are hallmarks of a good leader ( or follower) . Neither is public shaming of their followers for a failed strategy .

3. Identify and fix the flawed strategy behind the failed execution

There is no such thing as a great strategy that just failed in execution . Leaders cannot absolve themselves of execution failures . If you didn’t hire the right people or if you misjudged the macro economy – that is on you and your strategy . Accept it , fix it and move on – don’t just blame execution sitting in an ivory tower . Better yet , let your best execution people provide direct input to strategy before you hold them accountable to results .

A lady who was my team leader several years ago used to say “pick your team with the same due diligence as you would when you pick a nanny for your child”. It took me a long time to appreciate what she meant .

4. Accept responsibility (and share credit )

As a leader , you have to delegate authority every time you delegate responsibility . If you say “go for it” and hang back without providing resources to get stuff done – you are in three year old territory .

When my daughter got into trouble when she was a three year old, she would use “it’s daddy’s fault” as her way out . I always thought it was cute and even enjoyed it while it lasted – but that works with kids because they grow up and you have time to fix it . She stopped saying that pretty quickly . The trouble with adults who blame others is that they don’t always “grow up” – it takes a lot more time and effort and often needs intervention from an authority figure .

All that being said , very few people are honest evaluators of themselves . I know that I am not always critical of my flaws, How much ever hard I try . And so, employees who wait for managers to “grow up” seldom see any fruitful results .

Depending on your job situation, there might not be a lot you can do if your manager chooses to be a three year old instead of a leader . This is is why many choose to ignore such managers and try to do their job with blinders on . But – there are many who successfully help change their managers and help them be better leaders . I will share some stories on those brave hearts in another post.