For the first time in a few years, I’m at Software AG’s Innovation World conference in San Francisco (I think that the last time I was here, it was still the webMethods Integration World), and the focus is on the Digital Enterprise. At the press panel that I attended just prior to this evening’s opening keynote, one journalist made the point that “digital enterprise” is kind of a dumb term (I paraphrase here) because everything is digital now: we need a more specific term to mean what Software AG is getting at with this. Clay Richardson of Forrester, who I dragged along to the press session, said that his colleagues are talking about the post-digital age, which I take to mean is based on the assumption that all business is digital so that term is a bit meaningless, although “post-digital” isn’t exactly descriptive either.
Terminology aside, Software AG’s heart is in the right place: CEO Karl-Heinz Streibich took the stage at the opening keynote to talk about how enterprises need to leverage this digital footprint by integrating systems in ways that enable transformation through alignment and agility. You can still detect the schisms in the Software AG product portfolio, however: many of the customer case studies were single-product (e.g., ARIS or webMethods), although we did hear about the growing synergy between Apama (CEP and analytics) and webMethods for operational visibility, as well as Apama and Terracotta (in-memory big data number crunching). As with many of the other large vendors that grow through acquisitions,
We heard briefly from Ivo Totev, Software AG’s CMO; saw presentations of two of their customer innovation awards; then had a lengthier talk on the power of mobile and social from Erik Qualman, author of Socialnomics and Digital Leader. Unlike the usual pop culture keynote speaker, Qualman’s stuff is right on for this audience: looking at how successful companies are leveraging online social relationships, data and influence to further their success through engagement: listening, interacting and reacting (and then selling). He points out that trying to sell first before engaging doesn’t work online because it doesn’t work offline; the methods of engagement are different online and offline, but the principles from a sales lead standpoint are the same. You can’t start the conversation by saying “hey, I’m great, buy this thing that I’m selling” (something that a lot of people/companies just starting with Twitter and/or blogging haven’t learned yet).
Qualman took the popular Dave Carroll’s “United Breaks Guitars” example from a couple of years ago, and talked about not just how United changed their policies on damage as a result of this, but the other people who leveraged the situation into increased sales: Taylor Guitars; a company that created a “Dave Carroll” travelling guitar case; and Carroll himself through sales of the song and his subsequent book on the power of one voice in the age of social media. He looked at companies that have transformed their customer experience through mobile (e.g., Starbucks mobile app, which has personally changed my café loyalty) by giving the customer a way to do what they want to do – which hopefully involves buying your product – in the easiest possible way; and how a fast and slightly cheeky social media presence can give you an incredible boost for very little investment (e.g., Oreo’s “dunk in the dark” tweet when the lights went out during the Superbowl). I gave a presentation last year on creating your own process revolution that talked about some of these issues and the new business models that are emerging because of it.
Great to see John Bates here, who I know from his tenure at Progress Software and came on at Software AG with the Apama acquisition, as well as finally meet Theo Priestley face to face after years of tweeting at each other.
Disclosure: Software AG is a customer (I’m in the middle of creating some white papers and webinars for them), and they paid my travel expenses to be at this conference. However, what I write here is my own opinion and I have not been financially compensated for it.