I’ve had some fascination with Vinnie Mirchandani’s new book, The New Polymath: Profiles in Compound-Technology Innovations, ever since I first heard about the project (see my review on Amazon). Several reasons come to mind: first, The New Polymath documents “compound technology innovation,” which includes SAP-specific examples around sustainability and in-memory. Eight SAP Mentor Initiative are featured in the book. Even more interesting to me is how the concepts in The New Polymath, focused on corporate innovation, also have an uncanny relevance to individual career paths. This theme isn’t fully fleshed out in the book, and I wanted to dig into it further.
So for this edition of The ERP Lounge podcast series, I had a chance to ask Vinnie about his vision of The New Polymath and how it relates to the career dilemmas of SAP professionals. I wanted clarification on the potential clash I saw between the need for skills specialization versus Vinnie’s emphasis on diverse skill sets across industries. Vinnie had some good answers in this podcast that I think you’ll enjoy – answers that mashup SAP skills into emerging technologies.
Vinnie is well known in our community for his strong takes on SAP’s overall direction, so I worked some of his views on SAP into the podcast flow as well. One topic Vinnie and I both have strong interest in is the SAP services ecosystem. Vinnie doesn’t see enough innovation in this space and I wanted to dig into his views on that as well. With all that ground to cover, it’s a 48 minute podcast, roughly divided into three sections. As usual, I’m including the highlights and timeframe below so you can get to the section you want. Several ways to download or stream are available.
(If for any reason the embedded player doesn’t work, you can download the podcast using the “download media” link on the right hand side).
(Trouble downloading? if for some reason it’s not playing in its entirety for you, check out the version on JonERP.com in the meantime.)
Podcast Timeframe and Highlights
Section 1: The Rise of the Independent Analyst (and some post-SAPPHIRE thoughts)
2:05 Latest on The New Polymath – book is in general release on Amazon, and will be available in Europe soon.
3:00 Blogging on innovation – Vinnie: I’d love to say I had a grand strategy and it was all planned out. Originally, the blog was my way of organizing some of the publications I was quoted in. In six years, 5,000 different posts, and has taken on a life of its own.
4:00 Many of the most influential bloggers in the enterprise space are not attached to a major firm. Are we in the era of the independent firm or analyst?
9:30 SAP has gotten quite a few kudos on sustainability lately, including from Tom Raftery, and yet you come at SAP pretty hard on sustainability. What is the essence of your critique. Vinnie: my book has a whole chapter on sustainability and how different organizations are going after the sustainability market and how sustainability is having a broad reaching impact. There’s another chapter on investing in green tech, from smart grids to electric vehicles. That to me is applicational sustainability. What SAP is helping companies doing is reporting on sustainability. That’s important, but there’s more to do.
12:00 Jon: The New Polymath focuses on big innovation – how does SAP’s in-memory push fit in? At the show, I heard two main views: one is that in-memory has been around for a long time, but others say that in-memory could it be a game changer. So which is true? Vinnie: I see in-memory as a game changer, not just because it can reduce reliance on relational databases but it can also revolutionize the need for expensive storage.
15:00 Looking at The New Polymath: the book focuses on “grand challenges,” – does in-memory qualify as such a worthy challenge or do these grand challenges need to have a “social responsiblity” angle?
Section Two: How The New Polymath Relates to Individual SAP Professionals
17:35 Jon: I was struck by your book title, The New Polymath, because I see it having implications not just for companies but for individuals who want to remain competitive skill wise. What was the meaning behind this title?
22:50 Jon: One aspect of the book that may be your next book if you ever want to go through this again is: how the individual can also aspire to be a “polymath” and use the polymath model as a way of reinventing their own skill set?
28:00 Vinnie: We were taught to do choose a trade and find jobs in that industry. Now, we must be flexible, and retraining and re-inventing ourselves all the time. We’re may not be as gifted as da Vinci, we need to be expanding what we’re capable of.
33:00 Jon: But in the SAP world, if you have a little bit of everything, you aren’t very marketable, you have to specialize. On the other hand, the best specialists in SAP continue to push the envelope and consume information, that’s a common trait. Vinnie: I should clarify: if you’re completely a jack of all trades and a specialist in nothing, that won’t work. You need to be deep in a certain area, but be able to work with others specialists with diverse skill sets.
Section Three: Vinnie’s Views on the SAP Services Ecosystem
39:00 Jon: Why do you think that the SAP services ecosystem needs to innovate?
44:00 Jon: Michael Doane has proposed a gain share model, what do you think of something like that? Vinnie: I like the gain share model but there is a level of suspicion that is tough to get over. Also: some of the biggest costs are not in the SI world, but in hosting and infrastructure. SAP has developed some expertise about this with ByDesign that perhaps they can apply that. SAP has opportunities to innovate and encourage in these areas.
More resources: this podcast builds on some of the themes in Jim Spath’s excellent post-Sapphire/ASUG podcast with Vinnie where they discussed the conference, the role of SAP Mentors in The New Polymath, developing a blogging voice, and the challenge of fairness in blogging – recommended listening! Note also: Vinnie has two separate blogs referred to in this podcast, one on enterprise software and one on innovation. Sample chapters of The New Polymath are available on The New Polymath Facebook Page.
Vinnie is currently doing a European book tour, so you may be able to catch him live there – see tour dates).