MongoDB World 2014 – A quick recap

We just finished our big annual event – MongoDB World in NY. I am in equal parts excited and exhausted. My channels team totally rocked at the show – and I could not be more pleased with my gang.


I have been here at MongoDB for about 3 months now – but I had no idea how awesome an event this would turn out to be . A big thanks should go to the able leadership of Meghan and Dina . And looking at my calendar – I think maybe the first one to thank would be my most efficient  assistant , Kaila Hecht , for getting me through the zillion meetings on schedule . Special thanks to Jen Seelin for a first class job handling AR/PR.


I have had busy schedules at conferences as a leader in IBM and SAP, but this was at a whole different level of intensity.

We had about 2000 people attend – and it was our first multi day conference ever. More than a hundred people told me they could not believe this was our first big conference. I can’t blame them – I could not believe it either. On Tuesday afternoon, I walked out of a meeting with a large SI partner, and I found a really long time along the corridor. I was curious why all these people were lining up and stood on tip toes to see what was up. All I could see from where I was standing was the Men’s room. I was telling myself that we should have had planned better for bio breaks, and started walking towards the head of the line to tell people where the other rest rooms were – only to find that this was a line of people who could not get into the session for time series 🙂

We had a pretty good discussion with the customer CIOs on the first day, moderated by my pal Paul Cross and the most well respected Merv Adrian of Gartner


As the dude running channels – it was gratifying – scratch that – downright THRILLING to see the kind of support our partners are giving us . Many of them had booths at the expo and unlike most tech conferences where people on booth duty out number visitors, here I saw plenty of traffic . For a first conference – how many companies will have representation from partners from North America , EMEA and APAC ? We did ! A huge thank you to all our partners !

I did have one regret – something I plan to fix next year. I could not listen in on most of the customer sessions. I can’t tell you how bummed I am to miss those. Next year, I am going to fix that and block some time for customer sessions. That is the most inspiring part of the whole event, and we had some rock star customer successes. I am used to conferences where majority of the content is produced by the vendor, and a small percentage of customers telling amazing stories. Boy was I thrilled – there was no shortage of amazing use cases. We had a partner from Israel who showed us how a telecom billing system was built on MongoDB. We had Citi and Goldman Sachs telling us about their MongoDB as a Service implementation. We had Parse ( now a part of Facebook) telling us how 275000 apps were enabled by MongoDB. And many many more .

What stood out clearly was the trend for some really big customers to think of MongoDB as a common platform for multiple projects, as opposed to a small little “toy” project. Enterprise software does not typically boast of tens or hundreds of thousands of apps – so this was very interesting for me to watch. There are a few different reasons for this. MongoDB being open source definitely helps in viral adoption. The price point for MongoDB paid subscription is low enough that cost pales into background in front of value. This is the opposite of typical enterprise selling motion – where a vendor tries to maximize every transaction. We don’t do that, and customers like it and use our technology more . And then there is the most amazing part of our story – our community.


We have over 600 partners now in our partner program ! We have technology integration with  a broad range from exciting brand new start ups to household names in enterprise software like IBM, Teradata and SAP . As I have said before – it is not what we make , it is what we make possible . Partners are the ones primarily driving the “what is possible” – and they have been doing a fantastic job at that .

Our partnership philosophy is pretty simple – whether they are systems integrators, resellers, distributors, ISVs or IHVs, we want to enable and support them and get out of their way of scaling customer success. There are many things partners do that we can’t do by ourselves. A database by itself doesn’t have any direct business value – business value is delivered by the variety of apps we enable. Those are written by our partners and customers. So pretty much everywhere a partner can add value to a customer – we try to support them to the fullest extent, and get out of their way. The primary yardstick is to make sure we don’t compromise customer or user experience in the process.  We will succeed together – Our customers, partners and us – and we will do so at scale. If you are a partner reading this and want to know more about our partner program, please visit us at

If you did not get a chance to watch the keynotes – you absolutely should watch the videos. Plenty of tech goodness there – document level locking , pluggable storage engine, MMS automation etc – , as well as a lot of explanation of the big picture vision, customer successes etc. You will love it. I had fingers and toes crossed for the live demos – but Eliot and gang pulled it off in style. For me in particular – I loved the fact that all keynotes were short and to the point. Understated , elegant and yet quite enthusiastic. Hopefully this becomes the trend in tech conferences. Same deal for tech talks – they were concise and had time for Q&A.

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I am going to take a few days off to recover, but I am looking forward to the next MongoDB World already 🙂


Random productivity stuff

I am always looking to find one more way of tuning up my productivity . Off late a lot of people have started asking me of my work habits , and I thought maybe if I jot down mine – maybe it will prompt a few more of you to chime in and we all gain a new trick or two

1. Sleep more

Counter intuitive as it may sound , I am more productive when I sleep well . So if I have to make a trade off between spending an hour prettying up a presentation or sleeping , I choose sleep every single time . I picked up this habit during business school and it works well for me till today

2. Don’t sign up for news letters etc on work email

If I need one issue of some magazine type thing , I use a hotmail id that I don’t monitor . If I am part of an email group that someone else is monitoring , I use an automatic rule to move to a folder in case I need to search later .

3. Delegate aggressively – both responsibility and authority

This needs trust and I have a simple policy on trust . I trust everyone in my team by default . Everyone has exactly one chance to break that trust . The second time it happens – I just stop trusting and won’t delegate to that person . Thankfully I very rarely have had a colleague break my trust . If you can’t trust your team , why should you lead that team any way ?

4. Move people to bcc the soonest you can when an email needs threading

If my colleague introduces me to someone on email and I need to set up time with that person – I move my colleague to bcc on my first reply, with a thanks . He just needs to know I am on it – he doesn’t need to know when I am doing the meeting and whether I need to go back and forth 10 times to set a time . It saves a lot of trouble for all the people who are drowning in email

5. Aggressively stay on top of email and twitter

Once you have the discipline of minimizing email , then be aggressive on making sure you read everything . I do it in stages – flagging as I go anything that needs more attention . Then I get to them throughout the day . No mail stays unread when I go to bed . The one exception is vacation – where I usually schedule a day or two at the end to catchup on mail before I return to work . I can type fast on my phone – so I don’t need a larger device for email .

Same deal with twitter – I respond in real time if I can when I get a notification that needs my attention . It takes a lot less effort than doing so in batches .

6. Keep all conversations as short as they can be

On internal emails , I rarely write more than couple of sentences and sacrifice the salutations etc . And if an email thread starts to bulge – I pick up the phone and call and get it sorted out quickly . Email warfare is the biggest productivity killer – and it is full of misunderstandings . Phone solves that easily .

7. Unless it is a customer related activity , don’t get into a string of back to back meetings

My internal calls are all on Fridays . And on other days , I take time off calendar to let serendipity do its wonder . I will talk to anyone who will talk to me at that time – and more often than not, good things come of it . There is no excuse for not having time – we always make time for things that are important for us .

8. Value agility over elegance

This is an easy trade off for me – if I can do something to solve a problem then and there , like making an email intro for a friend , I just type as I talk . It won’t be polished – but it gets the job done and helps me do more . The exception is with customer facing stuff where I am more careful , especially with prospects who need to be converted to customers . Slip ups can be costly in those cases .

9. Planning is everything , the plan is not everything

The process of planning is useful – we get to think through stuff carefully. But the plan we come up with shouldn’t be set in stone – because circumstances change . So when people say there is no budget for this change or that change – I don’t take it at face value . There is always something else that can be sacrificed . Budgets and plans are for business convenience – they shouldn’t be the tail wagging the dog . There is a limitation that this only works for things under your influence – it’s hard to convince others to view plans the way you do 🙂

10. Spend time with family

I have a crazy work schedule on week days . So on weekends , I try hard to not get pulled into work related stuff . I am not completely successful in turning off from work a 100% , but I am much better than say two years ago . There is no one else to blame – if I don’t set a boundary , work will set a boundary .

I am sure there are more things – but this is a good summary . So what are your tips ?

Rishi Raj Singh and the seat belt law – Please don’t resign !

First off – I am a big fan of Mr Singh . He has always come across as an honest police officer with impeccable integrity , and with tremendous respect for the rule of law .

And then I saw this news today

But in the case of the hurried enforcement of the seat belt law – I think he totally jumped the gun . For a guy who has lived in Kerala for decades , he should have known clearly that a rushed enforcement won’t succeed in increasing passenger safety. I hope he doesn’t resign in haste

1. Kerala has no culture of traffic discipline

Every road has lanes drawn on it – yet you will never see anyone sticking to a lane when they drive . Till that lane discipline , speed limits and respect of signals get ingrained , the fundamental cause of accidents won’t get resolved . Also – for putting a seat belt in rear seat , how many cars have seat belts in back seats to begin with ? Not many ! So what exactly is the enforcement going to accomplish ? Not much more than citizens facing harassment from police .

That needs significant education – at big scale . That hasn’t happened yet . There is no enforcement either given police cars don’t follow traffic discipline either

2. Police needs to demonstrate respect for spirit of law before they implement letter of the law

It is illegal to put dark tinted glass on vehicles in Kerala – it should be possible for passengers to be visible from outside . Police cars used by senior officers don’t use tinted glass either . Instead , they use curtains ! When police officers – colleagues of Mr Singh himself – can circumvent the law , where is the moral ground to enforce another traffic law ?

3. Government of the people

Ultimately , police is part of the executive wing . They need to consult with the government before heavily enforcing a law that affects most of the people . Such a consultation would have resulted in a realistic implementation time frame . Political masters don’t always make it easy for able officers like Mr Singh – I totally get that . But that consultation is a necessary part of doing government business .

I also hold the politicians responsible . They could have handled this better without destroying the confidence of a very good police officer . It’s one team that is elected and/or paid for by common man . The citizens don’t get amused when they point fingers at each other

Bottom line – road safety is paramount and at the moment the scenario is terrible in Kerala . It needs a whole sale solution , not fits and starts and certainly not heroics . Police , Government and people need to do this together .

Vishal Sikka is the new CEO of Infosys – Congratulations Vishal, Infosys and SAP

I did not think Vishal will take the job – but I saw the news now.

First off – Congratulations Vishal ! I wish you the very best in the new job. I hope you get to revive the fortunes of infosys and take them to new heights. 

For Vishal, I think this is a good move . He gets to be CEO of one of the biggest brand names in IT. It is a bit of a surprise for me that a guy with his roots in product and technology chose to take the lead of a big services company. I am suspecting this means infosys is going to focus seriously on products going forward. Knowing Vishal’s big thinking abilities, I assumed he won’t go to start ups. He definitely needs a larger canvas – which I guess explains him joining infosys. But what I really expected to see for next few years is to see him be a partner in a top tier VC firm investing in the technologies of tomorrow. Guess that needs to wait.

For infosys, I think this is definitely a benefit – and surely so in short term from an investor’s point of view. Vishal’s forte is innovation – and infosys needs a new strategy. I think investors will reward infosys in near term for scoring such a big brand hire. Long term – we need to wait and see.

Vishal is not a services sales guy, and he is not an operations guy. But he is terrific with customers and he knows the who is who in technology and is close to many CXOs at customers . So yes, this could work very well for Infy if he builds a team around him that knows the services business well, and has operational excellence. It also helps him that most of the current infosys leadership team is stepping down before he takes over. Vishal gets a clean start – much like Bill McDermott got a clean start at SAP with a new(ish) team . Win or lose – its on him now. No pressure, eh? 🙂

But then leadership team can only do so much – it is on the infoscions rank and file to make the shift to an innovation agenda. Vishal moves at a speed that is hard to keep up with, and he is not exactly a process oriented dude – I know that first hand. So my suggestion to infosys employees is to get some rest while you can, and then be ready for a wild ride 🙂

So what about SAP ? this is an interesting development for SAP. Infosys is an important partner for SAP – and infosys has a lot of services business on SAP technologies and products. I imagine the partnership will grow even stronger now. Although Vishal probably can’t poach talent from SAP legally, he has a cult following in some sections of SAP. It would not surprise me to see some of my former colleagues jump from SAP to Infosys soon. 

Good luck again, V ! 






SAPPHIRENOW 2014 – Impressions

Before leaving for the event , I had posted my wish list here

It was like a family reunion for me – meeting hundreds of friends in 2 days and hanging out with the sap mentor gang. The event was well organized and I enjoyed the design of the break areas .

Now I am on my way back, and thought I will jot down my impressions after the event

1. Simplicity

Bill’s keynote was themed on simplicity . But 90 mins was a lot of time to explain simplicity . I seriously would urge SAP to consider 30 minute keynotes in future events . That will help sharpen the message a lot. Bill is probably the best speaker at SAP today – and it is an injustice to his talent and stature to lose audience attention because of the length of a keynote .

The length issue was even worse on day 2 – with most of the room empty by the time Bernd got into the meat of his presentation . I felt bad that he didn’t get a fair shot at delivering his message on his first keynote as head of development . And for an American audience , Bernd probably was a tad too formal – but I give him kudos for being his own person, and not trying to be Vishal 2.0 .

Despite the time running long – I did enjoy the customers explaining how their business problems got solved using technology . Maybe one day SAP might try a keynote driven by customers for customers

2. Are aggregates and hierarchies evil ?

Plattner/Christensen keynote spent a lot of time talking about the advantages of lowest level data granularity helping companies and aggregates and hierarchies hurting those companies . I tend to disagree a bit on some of that thinking .

No company including SAP can be run on line item level information . Aggregated information is the only way leaders can work day to day . What Is required on top is an exception alerting framework . If something is out of whack in accounts receivable – systems should smartly highlight the cause and not expect the user to drill down extensively searching for data . Otherwise – line item data is counter productive .

Same deal with hierarchies . Absence of hierarchies is chaos . Look at SAP itself – a well run company with 3 different levels of board , 4 levels of VPs and so on . Can some of it be cut ? You bet . Can it be eliminated ? No way . What might be closer to truth is that companies need to become more project oriented for innovation work – but anything that typically needs continuity and/or scale typically needs a defined structure – and that creates hierarchies.

So – in my view – hierarchies and aggregates are not fundamentally bad . What is bad is rigid IT and org systems that can’t deal with aggregates and hierarchies flexibly.

3. Impressive hana customer numbers

It was heartening to see hana momentum continuing . Steve Lucas and team are continuing to rock it . What is needed now seems to be a doubling down on adoption to close the gap between license sales and live implementations so that the business is long term sustainable .

4. PaaS gets much needed attention

I was thrilled to see how much the Hana cloud platform message was pushed this year at sapphirenow , especially by Steve Lucas . This was a topic very close to my heart when I worked there . I know many of my former colleagues are excited too . There are two things I would urge SAP to consider –

1. First , rename HCP to something else to avoid confusion with HEC. If I were king , I would call it Neo again . But I am sure there are other names that could work too

2. Invest in app deployment from marketplace . If customers can’t deploy apps from marketplace – it won’t get adoption . And this needs commitment to change how products are designed to begin with .

5. SAP should have put its key second line of leaders on spotlight

Rob Enslin , Steve Lucas , Michael Reh, Rodolpho etc are exceptionally talented leaders that customers should hear from – at least briefly . Given SAP is betting its business on Hana – at a minimum I expected Steve to get a small spot on keynote . I would urge SAP to consider something along those lines at Dcode if they can.

6. What about BI , mobility and big data ?

Many thanks to SAP for announcing the collaboration with MongoDB . I hope this is the beginning of a long term strategic partnership .

BI, big data and mobility barely got any keynote love . I understand the attention on Hana and cloud – but after a few years of Hana messaging, isn’t it time now to present a balanced portfolio again ?

SAP needs to leap frog it’s BI completion by some category defining move . The BI team under Michael Reh on engineering and Christian Rodatus under PSG are strong and talented . I am betting on them coming out with something that takes SAP back to the height of their glory days

I am sure I missed many topics – they are boarding the plane , so I need to run . Ciao !

An Ex-SAP dude’s wish list for SAPPHIRENOW 2014

Sapphirenow 2014 is kicking off on Monday – and although I don’t work for SAP or an SAP partner now, I care a lot for the company and its ecosystem and thought I will jot down a short note on my thoughts on what I would love to see unfold.

1. Let the new leadership team have its own identity

Bill McDermott is a well known entity – so although he is now sole CEO with Jim Snabe moving to Supervisory board, I don’t think anyone thinks of him as a “new” leader. If anyone can chart a course for the new SAP, it is Bill. 

Then there is Bernd Leukert. He is very well known inside SAP – but probably not as well known outside SAP. With Vishal leaving SAP abruptly and Bernd moving to Executive board – I saw a lot of commentary along the lines of Bernd being the new Vishal. I think this is a rather unfair expectation to set up. Vishal was a good leader but so is Bernd. But they are very different people . I would love to see Bernd explain HIS vision of how he expects SAP to develop over the next few years. 

2. Project the bench strength

One of the few things SAP could have done better was to give visibility of its bench strength to external world. Its not that SAP doesn’t have bench strength. Rob Enslin, Steve Lucas, Michael Reh, Rodolpho Cardenuto, Bjoern Goerke ….and many others are capable leaders waiting in the wings. Its up to Bill and Bernd to shine the light on their leadership team and I am sure we will see more of it – if not at sapphire, then shortly thereafter. 

3. Embrace channel partnerships

SAP can’t do it alone. SAP became an amazing ERP company because of a significant ecosystem of partners around them. Rodolpho is now in charge of the partner organization, and he works for Bill directly. I would love to see SAP double down on channel up and down its stack . How can I not say that ? – I am a channels dude myself now at MongoDB 🙂 

4. Show product direction that matches the simplification message

Investors and analysts need a message – but partners and  customers need clear product direction. When SAP leaders talk about innovation – they should give clear examples of what is actually getting simplified. Simplification is needed not just in products – it is also needed in how developers, partners and customers do business with SAP. Easy ways to download trials, simplified licensing etc are all good things to announce.

5. Stop charging for UI/UX improvements

Hopefully we will hear about Fiori and/or Personas being free. I am not holding my breath on it – and I am generally NOT a fan of making software free indiscriminately. However in the case of UI/UX – the poor reputation historically cannot be attributed to anyone other than SAP itself. So why charge for it to maintenance paying customers? Make it free and hopefully it drives enough Hana and Suite business to compensate on revenue front. Nothing will cheer user groups more than this announcement, if we get to hear it.

6. Explain what “SAP, the cloud company powered by Hana” really means

It is a great message – but now it is time to explain how this vision is going to be realized. SAP has a very heterogeneous cloud portfolio. Personally, I don’t think it is a bright idea to replatform all the acquired solutions to Hana. Customers who buy SaaS are buying a solution with a certain SLA. They don’t care what it runs on as long as the functionality satisfies their need, and SLA is met. Parts of all these solutions could probably have benefits that Hana can give. So a replatforming effort might be worth for carefully chosen parts of the portfolio. HEC, HCP, BI, BW on Hana, Suite on Hana etc are the ones that definitely directly correlate to “powered by Hana”. SAP needs to clearly explain the roadmap on transition to a full cloud company .

That is the technology message – but being a cloud company also needs a business execution part to be nailed. This is really hard for a company that needs to balance between on premises solutions and cloud solutions. So I am very curious to hear how SAP will lay it out.  

That is it . I wish the very best to SAP – have a great SAPPHIRENOW 2014 !