Running the Race

What I learned from my first 5k race.

On May 12, 2012, on the eve of SAP SAPPHIRE, I ran my first 5k race with my 11-year-old daughter Emily. Emily participated in Girls On the Run, a 12-week program that combines “training for a 3.1 mile running event with self-esteem enhancing, uplifting workouts. The goals of the programs are to encourage positive emotional, social, mental, spiritual and physical development.” I’m really proud of my daughter and her accomplishments.

Girls on the Run with Emily

We envision a world where every girl knows and activates her limitless potential and is free to boldly pursue her dreams.

If you can’t tell from the above photograph, I’m not a natural athlete. Last year, I couldn’t run from my house down to the first stop sign without being out of breath. But in September, I downloaded Active Network’s Couch-to-5k app and started running. The goal of the app is to take you from walking to running a 5k in just 9 weeks.

I’d like to tell you that I charged through the workout plan in 9 weeks.  But I didn’t.

I’d like to tell you that I ran faithfully during the cold winter months. But I didn’t.

I’d like to tell you that I figured out how to work a long day at the office then bee-line to the hotel treadmill.  But I didn’t.

I’d like to tell you that I ran a flawless 5k with my daughter. But I didn’t.

But here is what I can tell you.

I no longer stop at the stop sign.  I keep running. Much farther and faster than I could last September. And even though my first 5k race is now a memory, I am still running. I’ve put away the Couch to 5k app and started using RunKeeper. I bought a FitBit, just like Greg Myers. And some bright red Nike running shoes. I’m determined to enter another 5k this summer.

What does this story have to do with business intelligence? Everything.

Real life is messy. Maybe you meant to retire your Desktop Intelligence reports months ago, but they’re still lurking around. Maybe your dreams of creating a Business Intelligence Competency Center were shattered by management. Maybe that big career move… wasn’t that big after all.

You ran out of breath at the first stop sign.

We can’t obtain perfection. We can only strive towards it.

Keep running.

Don’t give up.

Learn More

What I learned about being an SAP rock star from Van Halen

What I learned from David Lee Roth and Eddie Van Halen at ASUG/SAP SAPPHIRE 2012.

Last week, I was one of the 16,000 attendees dancing the night away at the Van Halen concert that concluded the combined ASUG  and SAP SAPPHIRE 2012 events in Orlando, Florida. While the lifestyle of an SAP professional is quite different than that of a rock star, there are five things that aspiring SAP rock stars can learn from real ones like Eddie Van Halen, Alex Van Halen, and David Lee Roth. Here’s my thoughts, which I also shared on the SAP Community blog.

Van Halen performs at SAP SAPPHIRE 2012

1. Deliver Your Best Performance With a Smile

The first thing we can learn from a real rock star like Eddie Van Halen is to always deliver your best performance with a smile. Prior to the concert, I was highly skeptical that a fifty seven year old artist could perform with the same virtuosity he had shown 30 years earlier. But not only did Eddie create a fantastic guitar performance, he did it with a smile.  He seemed to be fully engaged, catching the magic moment.  An SAP rock star should always maintain a positive and even temperament, even when dealing with loud-mouthed annoying co-workers like David Lee Roth.

2. Keep Your Skills Up to Date

During the concert, vintage album covers and photographs scrolled across the large video screen behind the band. They were a reminder of past rock-and-roll glories and made even this blogger reminisce fondly back to the year 1984. A real rock star can continue to have a successful career reliving past glories, performing 30-year-old hits, and recreating their guitar solos note for note. But sadly, an SAP rock star cannot rely on his or her past technology skills. Instead of dreaming about yesterday, an SAP rock star makes future plans, leaving older products and product names behind with an emotional detachment. SAP professionals that cling to the past and refuse to adapt will look as out of place as a fifty seven year old David Lee Roth in sparkly party pants.

And they’ll sound out of place, too. Thirty years ago, DLR’s on-stage banter shaped his bad boy image and no doubt helped him score backstage with groupies. But today, the same comments reveal a different kind of truth – a creepy, dirty old man that no good father would want around his daughter. Can you see what I mean?

3. Acknowledge Positive Contributions Regardless of Their Source

Sammy Who? Although you couldn’t tell by their omission from the set list, songs from the Sammy Hagar era of Van Halen actually sold more albums and yielded more #1 hits than those from David Lee Roth. But band members and many fans alike consider the original DLR days as “the good stuff”. So although a real rock star can ignore some of their biggest hits to placate the ego of their current lead singer, an SAP rock star always acknowledges positive contributions regardless of their source.

4. Create Clear and Detailed Project Plans and Deliverables

Van Halen’s “no brown M&M’s” requirement in their concert rider is an oft-quoted legend that is actually true (see Snopes or even Wikipedia). Trashed dressing rooms aside, the brown M&M requirement was placed in the concert rider as a simple test of whether the concert venue had read and followed the more important safety requirements of the rider (although Xcelsius Guru Mico Yuk would argue that David Lee Roth should have paid more attention to the red M&M’s). Detailed project plans and well-written documentation is a must for any SAP rock star. Real rock stars can get away with trashing their dressing rooms. But SAP rock stars never trash their cubicles over unmet project requirements or less than stellar implementations.

SAP supply chain fanatics will also enjoy the article Alice in Supply Chains that I found while researching Van Halen’s M&M tale.

5. Mentor the Next Generation

As somebody who hasn’t closely followed the personnel changes in the band, it was very obvious to me that the bass player was much younger than anyone else on stage.  Indeed, Van Halen’s current bassist is twenty-one year old Wolfgang Van Halen, son of Eddie Van Halen and Valerie Bertinelli (yes, I was checking Wikipedia during the concert). I have no doubt that both father and son take great pride in performing together. Hopefully Wolfgang will improve on his father’s career and avoid the substance abuse pitfall that beset his dad and so many others in the music industry. Both real rock stars and SAP rock stars can (and should) pass along wisdom and skills to the next generation.

What did you think of Van Halen’s SAP SAPPHIRE performance? And what tips do you have for aspiring SAP rock stars?

My StrengthsFinder 2.0 Results

Do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?

Generated with Wordle http://www.wordle.net/

At my organization’s last annual company meeting, the human resources manager gave each employee a copy of StrenghtsFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath, whose inside cover asks “Do you have the opportunity to do what you do best every day?” [emphasis theirs].  As I took the 30-minute assessment, I found myself thinking “How the heck does my answer to this question explain anything?”  Yet here are my top five talent themes identified by the Clifton StrengthFinder 2.0 assessment test: Input, Learner, Ideation, Communication, and Significance.

  • Input – People who are especially talented in the Input theme have a craving to know more. Often they like to collect and archive all kinds of information.
  • Learner – People who are especially talented in the Learner theme have a great desire to learn and want to continuously improve. In particular, the process of learning, rather than the outcome, excites them.
  • Ideation – People who are especially talented in the Ideation theme are fascinated by ideas. They are able to find connections between seemingly disparate phenomena.
  • Communication – People who are especially talented in the Communication theme generally find it easy to put their thoughts into words. They are good conversationalists and presenters.
  • Significance – People who are especially talented in the Significance theme want to be very important in the eyes of others. They are independent and want to be recognized.

Those descriptions are standard, meaning that anyone else who takes the assessment sees the same descriptions that I did.  However, the assessment also offers personalized recommendations based on analyzing the responses of thousands of other people who have taken the assessment.  There are also 10-step action plans for each theme.  Here are some highlights from my action plans – emphasis is mine.

From Input:

Look for jobs in which you are charged with acquiring new information each day, such as teaching, research, or journalism.

From Learner

As far as possible, shift your career toward a field with constantly changing technologies or regulations. You will be energized by the challenge of keeping up.

From Ideation

Seek a career in which you will be given credit for and paid for your ideas, such as marketing, advertising, journalism, design, or new product development.

From Communication

You will always do well in roles that require you to capture people’s attention. Think about a career in teaching, sales, marketing, ministry, or the media. Your Communication talents are likely to flourish in these areas… If you enjoy writing, consider publishing your work. If you enjoy public speaking, make a presentation at a professional meeting or convention. In either case, your Communication talents will serve to assist you in finding just the right way to frame your ideas and state your purpose. You delight in sharing your thoughts with others, so find the medium that best fits your voice and message… Volunteer for opportunities to present. You can become known as someone who helps people express their thoughts and ambitions in a captivating way.

From Significance

Choose jobs or positions in which you can determine your own tasks and actions. You will enjoy the exposure that comes with independence.

I’ve never taken the Myers-Briggs assessment but did take the DISC assessment many years ago.  Honestly, I did not expect this much alignment between my career and the five talent themes identified by StrengthsFinder 2.0.

I’m grateful for how my career has developed, thankful for the friends I’ve made on the journey, and am looking forward to the future, focusing even more intensely on these strengths.

Achiever, Activator, Adaptability, Analytical, Arranger, Belief, Command, Communication, Competition, Connectedness, Consistency, Context, Deliberative, Developer, Discipline, Empathy, Focus, Futuristic, Harmony, Ideation, Includer, Individualization, Input, Intellection, Learner, Maximizer, Positivity, Relator, Responsibility, Restorative, Self-Assurance, Significance, Strategic, and Woo.  Which five talent themes best describe you?  I hope the StrenthsFinder 2.0 book gives clarity to your career path.

StrengthsFinder 2.0

Do you have the opportunity to do what you do best every day?

At my organization’s last annual company meeting, the human resources manager gave each employee a copy of StrenghtsFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath, whose inside cover asks “Do you have the opportunity to do what you do best every day?” [emphasis theirs].  This thin, 183-page career book includes an access code for the online Clifton StrengthFinder 2.0 assessment test.  The first 31 pages articulate the central thesis of the book – that “you cannot be anything you want to be – but you can be a lot more of who you already are.”  Instead of focusing a majority of personal self-improvement time on weakness, the book asserts that we should instead focus on developing strength.  The remainder of the book describes 34 talent themes.  The online assessment, which takes only about 30 minutes to complete, generates a personalized profile of your top five talents in Adobe PDF format (I keep mine on Dropbox).  Not only does the assessment describe your talents, but it provides a customized action plan based on the results thousands of other people who have taken the assessment (statistical analysis, anyone?).  Once you have your test results, you can finish the book quickly by only reading about your five talents.  Or if you’re like me, you’ll read about the other 29 talents to see if the assessment “got it all wrong”.

I’ll share the results of my assessment in a future post so you can decide.

 

 

Used copies can be found cheaply at bookstores like Half Price Books. But beware – the access code in the back of the book can only be used once.  If the seal is broken, the book isn’t worth purchasing. Thankfully, the book is relatively inexpensive from online booksellers like Amazon.

Highly Recommended.

Have you taken the Clifton StrengthsFinder 2.0 assessment?  What did you think of the results?

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

SAP BusinessObjects Resume Tips

Five tips that can improve your SAP BusinessObjects resume/CV.

Earlier this year, I shared my opinions on SAP BusinessObjects branding and said that there were steps that “BusinessObjects professionals [should] take to update their resume (known as a Curriculum Vitae or CV in other parts of the world) and their own personal brands” (see related article, Whistling Past the Brand Graveyard with BusinessObjects). I shared these steps recently for an internal company seminar on resume building and interviewing. Much resume advice is subjective, but here are five tips that I believe can improve your resume.

1. SAP-ify your resume

Prior to SAP’s acquisition of Business Objects in 2008, “Business Objects” with a space was the name of the company and “BusinessObjects” (no space) was the name of the (then) flagship reporting tool. After SAP’s acquisition, the brand became “SAP BusinessObjects”. The proper way (circa 2011) to refer to the business intelligence platform is:

SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI R2
SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.0
SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.1
SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0
SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.1
SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.2

A similar change has taken place with Crystal Reports, which is now called SAP Crystal Reports.

Making this change has the added benefit of increasing the SAPS rating of your resume. You’ll benefit from having the “SAP” keyword on your resume even if you’ve never touched an SAP ERP application. See Dave Rathbun’s related article entitled SAP + Business Objects Skills – Do They Exist?

2. Avoid abbreviations

In a resume (or even a presentation), avoid the use of abbreviations. A pet peeve of mine is the usage of “Deski” and “Webi”. An insider knows what these terms are, but in my opinion it is better to spell them out as “Desktop Intelligence” and “Web Intelligence”. If you’re not comfortable going cold turkey on abbreviations, feel free to use the abbreviation in parenthesis the first time you use the full product name. For example:

John Doe has over twelve years of experience creating reports with Desktop Intelligence (Deski).

Used the Central Management Console (CMC) and Central Configuration Manager (CCM) to do super neato administrator stuff.

A benefit to using both the full product name and its abbreviation is that many resumes are electronically scanned and screened for keywords. Using both terms increases your resume’s chances of making the first cut.

3. Use new product names when possible

This year, several products or components were renamed as part of the SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0 release. Similar to my approach with abbreviations, I like to use the new name first then add the old name in parenthesis. Here are some examples:

For the Illudium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator project, Marvin created three universes using the Universe Design Tool (Designer) and 32 reports using Web Intelligence (Webi).

Created six dashboards using SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards 4.0 (Xcelsius)

Created three dashboards using SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards 4.0 (formerly Xcelsius)

4. Consider dropping unsupported or obsolete products

As time goes on, products are pruned from the SAP BusinessObjects product suite. You might want to consider editing your resume to remove obsolete product references from your job descriptions.  For example:

Configured Broadcast Agent 5.5 for nightly and monthly report scheduling.

might become

Configured nightly and monthly report schedules using administrator tool.

Some obsolete products that you might want to consider eliminating are Broadcast Agent, Crystal Reports Explorer, Desktop Intelligence, Performance Manager, and Supervisor.

5. Stress the business value of your business intelligence

Whenever possible, mention the value of your contributions to the business. Sometimes the value is elusive, but if your universe increased self-service reporting, say so. Perhaps your efforts automate what used to take several hours or days of tedious manual activity. Be realistic and honest – not everybody can quantify that they saved the company billions of dollars. But some of you can. And should. Check out this helpful blog article by Patrick McKenzie, Don’t Call Yourself A Programmer, for inspiration.

For Additional Reading

What resume/curriculum vitae (CV) guidelines have you found helpful?  Please share your thoughts below.

Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish – R.I.P. Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs, February 24, 1955 – October 5, 2011

He wasn’t perfect. Nobody is. But he epitomized what we all hope to be in our better moments – somebody using their brief existence to reach their highest potential.

You can read the full transcript of his 2005 Stanford University commencement address from their web site.  Here’s a quote that’s sure to be all over cable news this week.

When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

 

Stay hungry. Stay foolish.

Steve Jobs, February 24, 1955 – October 5, 2011

You Can’t Get There Alone – The Power of Partners

Before there was an SAP Mentor program, Jeff was a true BusinessObjects mentor.

It happened yesterday without warning. I was coming out of the ASUG/SAPPHIRE lunch area at the Orange County Convention Center and ran into a familiar face. It was Jeff. Over eight years ago, Jeff was my manager and mentor at a midwest IT consulting firm who introduced me to BusinessObjects (version 5.1). Today he is a sales rep for SAP and I am a senior consultant and trainer at an SAP partner. I was surprised by the emotions that get stirred up when I see Jeff. Neither he or I realized it at the time, but Jeff (and another coworker Tom) would start me on a journey that totally changed my professional career. And I’m profoundly grateful for the patient help he gave me during my first BusinessObjects consulting engagements.

In his SAPPHIRE keynote on Monday afternoon, Michael Eisner spoke passionately about the partnerships that helped propel his career.  In his life, and in the examples from his book Working Together: Why Great Partnerships Succeed, the “number 2” in the partnership often doesn’t get the attention of the “number 1”.  But the “number 1” would have never reached the same level of success without them.

I’ve been really lucky with my partnerships. First with Jeff and Tom. Then later at Integra Solutions (now Quorum Business Solutions) with Alan Mayer and Dave Rathbun. And now friends like Eric, Jamie and Greg from the Diversified Semantic Layer. Just to name the more visible ones. There are many more.

We’ve all learned a lot this week at the ASUG Annual Conference and SAP SAPPHIRE NOW. Many times, only a select few on a project team get to attend these events. And many times, our coworkers return from these events and never really bring much knowledge back into the organization. But I’m challenging this year’s conference attendees – go back to your organization and make a deliberate effort to share what you’ve learned. Call a quick team meeting. Plan a team lunch. Find a way to share what you’ve learned. Ask your team members what is needed to bring positive change. Then listen. Jim Hagemann Snabe spoke yesterday of “people-centric collaboration”. It takes more than software to achieve this – we have to be willing to share. Just like Jeff unknowingly did eight years ago, you may be making a profound impact in the lives of your coworkers.

WordPress for Business Bloggers

WordPress for Business Bloggers, from Packt Publishing, is a single, comprehensive resource for writers like me who want to create their own business-focused blog.

Editor’s Note: An updated edition of WordPress for Business Bloggers was released after this review was published.

I recently relocated my blog from Google Blogger to WordPress hosted on my own domain. As an IT consultant, I’m used to getting under the hood and mastering new concepts. However, when it comes to blogging, I really just want to focus on writing content, not endless tweaking and maintenance. I was intrigued by the title of Paul Thewlis’ book. WordPress for Business Bloggers (Packt Publishing, 2008, ISBN 978-1847195326) is a single, comprehensive resource for writers like me who want to create their own business-focused blog.

Not limited to just WordPress, Paul additionally delves into related topics such as search engine optimization, social media marketing, and monetizing your blog. I’m usually very skeptical of books that choose to go down rabbit trails that are best left to separate titles, but Paul covers these topics well. Paul uses a fictional blog to illustrate the concepts throughout the book. Curiously, his own personal blog isn’t updated very frequently. Paul must be a busy man.

The biggest benefit I personally obtained from the book was the author’s usage and endorsement of various WordPress plugins. There are frequently many plugins for the same task, such as blog rolls, Twitter feeds, etc. The book helped me narrow down some options and also helped me see the value in adding plugins that I had not considered, such as a Google sitemap plugin.

The book uses WordPress 2.6 and I’m currently using WordPress 2.9, but the minor differences do not take away from the usefulness of this guide. WordPress for Business Bloggers is still the only WordPress book on my shelf.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs

If your career involves communicating and connecting with an audience, large or small, this book is an excellent addition to your bookshelf.

My father-in-law gave me a great Christmas gift- a copy of The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to Be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience (McGraw-Hill, 2009, ISBN 978-0071636087). I spend about half of my career using presentation skills, either as a business intelligence instructor, conference speaker, or technical sales consultant.  So I was really pumped that he got something I really wanted but forgot to put on my Christmas wish list.


The book is a nicely structured analysis of one of the technology world’s most fascinating personalities, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.  The author, Carmine Gallo, is a professional communication skills coach.  He takes readers through the entire lifecycle of a Steve Jobs presentation, starting from planning (“Create the Story”), delivery (“Deliver the Experience”) and preparation (“Refine and Rehearse”).  There are other books that focus on creating slides or giving demos – this book is comprehensive and covers the entire experience.

Steve Jobs speaks to a general audience and Mr. Gallo writes frequently about how Steve communicates about technical features in a non-technical way.  For example, the original iPod was “1,000 songs that fit into your pocket“, not “a digital audio player with a 5 GB hard drive”.  In contrast, I’m usually speaking to a technical audience that wants a deep understanding of technology – they’re not looking to buy anything.  So not all of the material translates to what I do.  But regardless of what kind of presenter you are, holding the audience’s attention is the first order of business.  The book has already influenced how I communicate to non-technical audiences, especially when I train business users how to use SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence.  And I’m looking forward to giving the book a second reading.  I’ll also be checking out the hours of Steve Jobs presentations on YouTube.  And editing my recent GBN 2009 presentations for a second go-around with other audiences.

If your career involves communicating and connecting with an audience, large or small, this book is an excellent addition to your bookshelf.

Have you read The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs? Share your thoughts below.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book as a gift, not from the publisher. It was not a free review copy. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

2009 Year in Review

A personal reflection on the past year.

2009 has been another interesting year as a business intelligence consultant. The year was fairly balanced between XI R2 and XI 3.0/3.1. Definitely more XI R2 than I would prefer, but I also got to work on a really interesting Xcelsius 2008 dashboard project. I was also able to help several customers with installation, configuration, sizing and security issues, gained some Edge Series and Linux experience, and dusted off my XI R2 migration knowledge.

Regarding certifications, SAP rolled out their new Web Intelligence certification, 2 exams that I passed in March 2009.  In October, I selected to give three breakouts at the SAP BusinessObjects User Conference in Dallas, Texas.  This is the time of year to reflect backwards and set goals forwards for the coming year. The next release of SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise won’t arrive until Q4-2010 at the earliest, so I expect 2010 to be mostly about BOE 3.x.

This year, I achieved Gold Medallion status with Delta, Silver with Marriott, Platinum with Priority Club (mostly Holiday Inn Express) and Diamond with Hilton (mostly Hampton Inn).

Here are the exotic destinations I visited this year.

  • Baton Rouge, Louisiana
  • Columbia, Maryland
  • Dallas, Texas
  • Houston, Texas
  • Lufkin, Texas
  • Memphis, Tennessee
  • Milwaukee, Wisconsin
  • Moline, Illinois
  • Montgomery, Alabama
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • San Antonio, Texas
  • Valdosta, Georgia
  • Waterloo, Iowa
  • Westminster, Maryland
  • Wilmington, North Carolina

Thanks to all of the customers that I met for the first time in 2009.  Here’s to a great 2010!