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Predictive Analytics Marketplaces

leverage_man_world_fulcrumEverybody knows that data velocity, volume and variety are exploding, that business expectations of transformative results for this data are incredibly high and largely unfulfilled and that the skill sets needed to leverage this data are expensive and in short supply.  It’s easy to be overwhelmed by these facts and come to the conclusion that this explosion in data is not going to deliver on its promise.

An alternative approach is to find the levers or multipliers that overcome these challenges and make these available to businesses everywhere.  This concept is central to SAP’s strategy for predictive analytics.

 Archimedes described the lever in AD 340 by saying “Give me the place to stand, and I shall move the earth.” 

We do this in a number of ways:

  1. The discipline of advanced analytics itself is the best way to extract useful information from low information density data because it mathematically identifies the valuable attributes and their relationship to the business question.
  2. We use automated techniques throughout the predictive lifecycle so that the skills and expertise of data scientists and analysts are used to maximum effect.
  3. We seek to simplify the deployment of predictive models in applications and business processes so that predictive analytics projects generate ongoing ROI.
  4. We are building predictive marketplaces to enable partners and enthusiasts to share their work in a way that makes it easy to sell and consume.

Why a Predictive Marketplace?

One of the major drivers of internet growth and success has been the growth of online marketplaces that connect buyers and sellers in an environment that allows them to do business with confidence.  From consumer giants such as eBay, Amazon, Uber and Airbnb to business marketplaces such as Ariba, online marketplaces are driving the connection economy.

We believe that predictive analytics can benefit from the same types of economies of scale that drive other online markets.  Predictive analytics is skill intensive and use-case specific.  We allow partners to build predictive extensions to solve specific use cases using their data science and industry expertise and then resell these predictive extensions to customers.  We’re investing in features which enable them to protect their intellectual property so they can monetize this investment successfully.

Our focus on making predictive analytics consumable in end-user business applications and business intelligence clients will provide them with robust deployment paths to end users.  Customers can then acquire these predictive extensions at a lower cost and risk than building the predictive models themselves.  Their data scientists can then focus on using the predictive extensions to their maximum potential and working on other problems that deliver differentiated value to their employers rather than rebuilding the wheel.

Maximize ROI with the SAP Analytics Extension Directory

The SAP Analytics Extension Directory is one of the levers that will enable enterprises to maximize the ROI from predictive analytics and Big Data.  The market is at an early stage in terms of available extensions, but we’re seeing huge interest and momentum from the partner community.  We also had eight partners who presented solutions at Sapphire 2016 based on SAP BusinessObjects Predictive Analytics.  (They were Dell, Delloitte, EY, Accenture, PWC, Qualex Consulting, d-wise and IBM).

Finally, HCP predictive services and OEM edition provide other levers for partners to take advantage of, enabling them to directly embed predictive analytics technology into their products.

If you’re interested in building predictive analytics extensions or using predictive analytics technology within your application or service, please contact Eric Fenollosa from our partner product management team.

Why SAP HANA and Spark for Big Data Predictive Analytics


By David Jonker,

Sr Director SAP Big Data Product Marketing, Technology & Innovation Platform

Big Data offers analysts and data scientists the opportunity to build more sophisticated and more accurate predictive models than before, but without the right data environment, it’s not easy. It requires an in-memory architecture that supports thousands of columns and billions of rows and a predictive analytics tool that can harness that architecture, such as SAP BusinessObjects Predictive Analytics.

Twentieth century technology is insufficient. Blame it on the disk. Back in the 1980s, database engineers saw a world where memory was extremely expensive. Just one terabyte of RAM cost over $100 million US dollars. Today, we can get it for less than $5,000 US dollars. So, vendors built database architectures centered on the disk.

In a Big Data world, the disk is simply too slow. Consider this: reading 1 petabyte of data off a disk sequentially – i.e. no seeking, just end-to-end straight off the disk – takes 58 days using the fastest hard disk available today (according to the Tom’s Hardware website). SSD definitely speeds things up: two days with the fastest SSD RAID. It’ll cost millions to buy, though.

In many ways, Big Data is a real-time data access problem. That’s precisely why innovators are developing new ways to store and process data, all in an effort to get around the hard disk bottleneck. All of the approaches, in essence, minimize the bottleneck in order to improve response time.

Distributed Computing

Distributed computing spreads a lot of data across many disks that can all be read simultaneously. Hadoop builds on the concept of distributed computing, but opens up the platform to handle any data set with any arbitrarily designed algorithm. To overcome the disk, the Hadoop community built Apache Spark, which provides a distributed data processing architecture, like Hadoop HDFS, that operates in-memory across commodity hardware.

Columnar Databases

Like distributed databases and Hadoop, columnar databases optimize data storage architecture in order to reduce the amount of data read off any one disk. It does this by grouping related attributes, or columns, together. The assumption is that most analytical queries only use a subset of columns, so you should only access data related to those specific columns. They also highly compress the data, further reducing the number of bits read off disk.

In-Memory Databases

In-memory databases take it to a whole new level by removing the disk from the equation altogether. It leverages the power of today’s processors to read and analyze data at a raw speed that’s 1,000 to 10,000 times faster than reading data off the disk. In some cases, customers have experienced performance gains of 100,000 times faster. How?

–   Compress the data with in-memory columnar data stores

–   Move the data accessed most often into L1 caches on the chip

That’s why we are so bullish about in-memory and the SAP HANA platform for Big Data. That’s not to say disk solutions don’t have a role to play. But…at the core you want an in-memory system that can run algorithms where your data is. No moving the data to the algorithms, that doesn’t work in a Big Data world. Instead, move the core algorithms into the data system.

SAP BusinessObjects Predictive Analytics

SAP BusinessObjects Predictive Analytics is the right tool for business analysts and data scientists to build predictive models from Big Data. First and foremost, it can analyze data inside SAP HANA and Apache Spark. There’s no need to transfer data out of these environments for processing. Rather, the SAP BusinessObjects Predictive Analytics processing engine can run inside these tools –  dramatically improving performance.

SAP BusinessObjects Predictive Analytics is also able to analyze exceptionally wide datasets. In fact, you can have up 15,000 columns in a dataset, while other tools support only a few hundred to 1,000 columns at most. This ensures that your predictive models provide the greatest level of accuracy possible.

Big Data is radically altering our world. It’s a game changer. For those who grab hold of it, you have an opportunity to propel your business forward – and the surest way forward is with SAP BusinessObjects Predictive Analytics running on SAP HANA or Apache Spark. It’s is the best combination for building predictive models on Big Data, whether you’re a business analyst or data scientist.

Read Unleash the Power of Predictive Analytics with the SAP HANA Platform to learn more.  for Data,  HANA,  Analytics, and Reporting

Detailed Cost Planning in SAP and Excel

Contributed by Gunnar Steindorrson ,   Kern Americas

In our previous Blog , Get a Reporting and Analytics Planning Edge with Allevo  , we gave a short overview of our powerful product that give significant value when working with SAP and Excel for planning.

As you know, effective cost planning in SAP can present some challenges.

For one, standard SAP does not support driver-based costing, nor does the system provide an easy way to include non-SAP data (production or sales plan forecasts, for instance) into planning. Do you have side calculations – things like travel, consulting expenses, training costs, etc. – that you would like to include in your planning? Good luck with that.

Unless you’re using Allevo that is.  Our solution tackles all of these challenges – and much more – with ease.

Allevo comp chart

Better yet, with Allevo you work in your familiar, easy-to-use Excel environment, using your own templates, but are fully integrated with SAP.

So, if you’re tired of not having real-time access to your vital planning data, frustrated by cumbersome workarounds, and annoyed with working in a system that doesn’t support the way you want to work,  give us a call.  You’ll be glad you did.   – click to Contact Us

AmickBrown/ – click to Read more on Allevo

Where DOES the Time Go? Manage it and Feel Good, once and for all

By Jenna Rosdahl, HR Manager, Amick Brown

Do you ever feel like there are not enough hours in the day to get everything done? Well you’re not the only one. Many of us find ourselves wishing for a few extra hours at the end of the day to finish our work, run errands, spend quality time with friends or family, or just relax. Twenty-four hours never seems like enough time to get it all done. Don’t agonize over what has not been finished – make sure you have time for the fun things in your life too with these good tips!

  1. Get a Good Night’s Sleep

Let’s be real – there is now an entire industry and field of medicine dedicated to sleep studies and overcoming sleep deprivation. Getting a full seven to nine hours of sleep per night will improve your mood and help you conquer your day. When you feel well rested you have more energy to tackle everything you need to get done and stay focused throughout the day, THEN have motivation to add activities that feel like a bonus. Consider sleep a noncaffienated remedy for better performance of memory and energy.  Throughout your day, you will be able to spend less time thinking of what you should be doing and more time completing tasks efficiently and effectively.

  1. The Early Bird gets the Worm

You know that saying, “the early bird gets the worm”. If you wake up two hours earlier than normal, you have two extra hours in your day to put towards doing what you think is most important to you. This extra time is YOURS. Do what makes you happy! If you are a night owl, you may find out it is better for you to stay up two hours later than normal, and accomplish a few tasks in the evening. If that is the case, take advantage of those few hours. All people are different. Some prefer waking up early and some prefer staying up later. Regardless, either will give you a few extra hours in the day to focus on what you want to get done – make it count for you on a personal level.

  1. Learn to say “No”

You are not Superman even though we sometimes wish we were.  It is important to know that you can’t do it all and that is OK.  You can try to do your best at accomplishing everything you are set out to do in a day, but cut yourself a little slack and say “no” when needed.  If not, this will lead to you getting frustrated or being stressed. “No”  is categorized as such a negative word, but it is not. It is better to give someone a realistic committment rather than promising something that you can’t get done. Manage your time by taking on tasks that you can complete and saying “no” to the tasks you can’t. Your team will appreciate the honesty.

  1. Love a List

I love lists! I admit it, call me crazy, but there is a real satisfaction in not only seeing what lies ahead but crossing those suckers off.  I suggest that you start your day by creating a task list. Your tasks can be as small as “make the bed” or as big as “develop an app”. Write it all down and prioritize your tasks, that way you can see everything that you want to achieve in the day/week.  This will give you a big picture of what your day will consist of and a roadmap on how to attack your day. Taking thirty minutes to do this at the beginning of your day is extremely helpful in managing your time and frankly, getting more done for work and play.

  1. Take a break when you hit a mental block or “just because”

Recently our office added a mid-day walk break for all that want to go. What a difference it made in productivity. Others in the office walk to lunch instead of driving and sitting. Get moving! The oxygen and blood flow hitting your brain resets the creativity, energy, and motivation for us.  It is not only almost impossible, but it is not good for your health to disregard breaks throughout the day. So, take a ten to fifteen minute break every few hours to help clear your mind, re-focus and complete your task more efficiently. Alternatively, take a mid-day walk or go to the gym at lunch. We all know that our minds can drift to different thoughts and ideas and this can prevent us from staying focused. By taking a break, we are allowing our minds to be free for a short amount of time which helps when going back to completing our tasks.

  1. Limit the amount of time spent on each task.

Do you ever start your day early in the morning and then look down at your clock and it’s almost 5:00pm and realize that you have been working on one single thing all day long? It happens to all of us, and yes, sometimes it is necessary to work on one thing all day long because it is important and needs to get done. But, be sure to not make a habit of spending all of your time on one thing. When you are sitting down to get something done, tell yourself that you are going to work on this for two hours or three hours, whatever works best for you. This will push you to stay focused for those few hours and can also help you be more efficient. Sometimes you won’t get the task completed in the timeframe you thought and that is ok. You can always go back to it, but setting a time limit will help you be more productive, therefore create a better outcome .

  1. Value, without exception, your contribution and personal time

We are not perfect. We lose track of time and our day gets away from us. By trying a few of these tips, you are likely to manage your time a lot better and accomplish everything you need and want to each day!

What you should consider when embarking on an Advanced Analytics journey?

By Paul Pallath, PHD,  Chief Data Scientist & Director Advanced Analytics, SAP

In my previous Predictive blog, I introduced four main considerations that organizations need to keep in mind when they’re beginning that journey. Today, I’ll cover them in more detail.

1. How Do We Measure Business Value and Return on Investment?

An advanced analytics solution must make a measureable impact. If not, the solution doesn’t get noticed, never mind appreciated. This holds even more true, if the return on investment (ROI) can’t be realized as a significant opportunity to drive business growth or new market opportunities.

Take the example of a marketing campaign. The ROI is in having the intelligence to target the customers who are likely (if persuaded) to buy your product rather than finding customers who would have bought the product without any marketing required.

An advanced analytics solution will be short-lived if it creates a “wow” effect, but nothing else.  The solution must generate recurrent value, revenue, and business opportunities.

2. How Do We Use Advanced Analytics Effectively?

For your business, good questions to ask at the start of the journey are:

  • Is the enterprise truly digital?
  • Is there a single source of truth of all the data that is generated/captured by various functions of the enterprise?

These questions are important considerations. Why? Because businesses often approach advanced analytics in an ineffective manner.

Remember, advanced analytics drive value to every business function, be it marketing, finance, human resources, and so on. However, enterprise functions want often to embed advanced analytics into their business workflow and embark on advanced analytics initiatives in silos. Though there is value in doing so, the results can be underwhelming.

This is because they’re using adoptions of various technologies, methodologies, practices to address the use cases that might exists— but without an enterprise-wide vision for advanced analytics. Therefore, walls rather than bridges are built between the various functions.

The problem becomes self-perpetuating. With increasing adoption of advanced analytics solutions in various business units, the business as a whole finds it difficult to consolidate all the activities into a central initiative and have proper discipline and governance.

The solution is to create the vision and execute it across all functions— even if the pilot starts from one or two activities. The functions must agree that advanced analytics is an enterprise-wide mission. Leadership must demonstrate belief in an analytics-driven business that it is going to provide competitive advantage. In this way, advanced analytics becomes a true company asset.

3. Is Advanced Analytics Just Another Technology Project?

Advanced Analytics is not just another technology project. If considered to be a technology project, the business understands only the technical feasibility and not its business impact.

As mentioned, an advanced analytics initiative is the means by which a business gains a competitive advantage. It follows that outcomes provide the data to help make well-informed decisions.

A lesser or confined approach is a step in the wrong direction. There is no ROI associated with technology-only thinking, because no tangible results are expected as an outcome. An initiative to embrace advanced analytics must be inseparable from your business strategy.

4. Is Big Data Equal to High Quality Insight?

Big Data is not equal to high quality insight.  A traditional business approach is to think, “We’ve captured huge amounts of data, but how do we  make sense of it?” This is a wrong start.

The right approach is to start with a business question in mind. That way, you can ask if the data that you have is sufficient enough to provide the answer.

These are several pieces of the puzzle that need to be put together for one to find meaningful, actionable insights from the data. This is, after all,  the quest that we embarked on.

As we now know, advanced analytics is about business change, insight and value.

“The combination of some data and an aching desire for an answer does not ensure that a reasonable answer can be extracted from a given body of data”-Sunset salvo. The American Statistician 40 (1).

Follow Amick Brown on LinkedIn for the best SAP Analytics and Reporting topics.

Context Awareness: Online or Real Time in Digital Transformation?

By Iver van de Zand , Business Analytics Leader, SAP


Excuse me? Online instead of real time; isn’t that the same? Well, have I got news for you: It is not.

Driven by enterprise needs and technological capabilities, enterprises are massively going online. Why do they and how accurate is online? Why do I read about going online in the news sites all the time? Let me explain wearing my analytics glasses.


First, let’s get some things straight: explaining the difference between real time and online starts with a discussion on latency. Latency is a time interval between the stimulation and response, or, from a more general point of view, as a time delay between the cause and the effect of some physical change in the system being observed. Online means that there is some kind of interactivity involved, but doesn’t enforce limits in latency. Real time means that there are limits on latency. Pfff, need to re-read that a few times before it starts clearing for me.

Let me give an example: If you move your computer’s mouse, you expect the pointer to react immediately and precisely follow your actions. That’s real time. Another example is playing on a music keyboard controller and have some synthesizer program generating the sounds. Online, however, is when your actions show some response in some timely manner, but there’s no timely relationship enforced to it. For example, starting a video stream from a (remote controllable) webcam may show you the pictures with less than one second latency, or even up to several minutes, yet be online.

My phrasing “difference” should thus be adjusted—real time and online don’t differ, they relate to each other.

The Market Out There: Context Awareness and New Business Models

According to Gartner’s recent Big Data Trends for Business Intelligence, by 2017 more than 30% of enterprise access to broadly based Big Data will be via intermediary data broker services, context awareness2serving context to business decisions. These are massive amounts and it proofs that digital business require real-time situation awareness. That covers full insight into the things going on inside and outside the organization. Retailers, for example, need to know in real time how weather patterns impact the buying behavior of their customers. The inventory manager requires real-time information when his supplier is in trouble delivering his goods, so he can immediately adjust and use analytics to find alternatives, re-plan and re-adjust for example his forecast.

The issue that occurs is that more and more the enterprises corporate data is insufficient to get the necessary context awareness required to adequately respond to digital business. Think of it; to compete in digital business, a combination of non-corporate data coming from outside the organization is required all the time. This—often unstructured—data could be about social behavior, environmental influences, and government or market trends, to name a few. Some of it is even from premium data brokers preparing data from specific industries or use cases.

We could say that the ability of enterprises to adopt digital transformation and digital business for a big part is influenced by their capabilities of curating, accessing, and interpreting their data to obtain context awareness.

Context awareness is crucial for any enterprise that wants to compete in digital business. Real-time availability of insights is the logical requirement to do so. We already recognized the need forContext Awareness3 real-time insights to corporate data, however we also now recognize the need for real-time insights in contextual information:

  • Curating Insights

Digital business is about the agility to respond to market, customer and environmental influences and actors immediately when required. Digital business requires enterprises to act and respond almost real time to activities not registered in their corporate data.

  • Accessing data and insights

Digital business is about the agility to recognize and access information outside the enterprise that is necessary for curating insights immediately when it occurs.

  • Interpreting and act upon insights

Digital business is about the ability to interpret insights and act upon them instantly. This is not only about interacting with the insights, but especially about applying the closed loop portfolio of analytics: insights often generate follow-up actions that affect business planning, finance budget allocation, or require new predictive models to argument on influencing variables of the contextual information.

An interesting side effect of contextual awareness is the new business models that come with it. A new category of business-centric cloud services enters the market space that delivers data to be used as context in business decisions, whether human or automated. These information services (or data/decision brokers) will become an essential part of intelligent business operations and smart business decisions.

The Case for Online Analytics

Online analytics is primarily about cloud-based analytics. If we narrow down to business intelligence (BI), the cloud BI market will be worth $4 billion by 2017 whereas the current full BI market (software and services) is estimated at $86 billion.

But how important is the aspect of “being online” for context awareness? Well, it’s quite important:

  • Contextual information is very often residing on websites. Your company’s biggest database isn’t your transaction, CRM, ERP or other internal database. Rather it’s the Web itself and the world of exogenous data now available from syndicated and open data sources.
  • Products like SAP Cloud for Analytics connect to various cloud-based solutions like SAP S/4HANA, and others. It is obvious that online analytical tools integrate more easily with other cloud-based applications.
  • Reduced or eliminated capital costs. Because BI systems are managed on the cloud service provider’s hosted architecture, a user company has no up-front capital investments or multi-year equipment leases with depreciating value. It also stands to benefit from improved cash flow. The subscription fees charged by cloud vendors are treated as operational expenses and don’t incur additional interest charges, which can lead to better cash management and debt avoidance.
  • The simplicity of the online, cloud-based analytical applications is key when it comes to user adoption. If we realize that the people creating insights on contextual awareness are business users, you’d agree with me that simplicity makes the difference when it comes to adopting the applications and leverage there power.
  • Streamlined system design and increased elasticity. In the cloud, companies can rely on a provider to architect the BI environment, select the technologies that will power it, assemble systems and manage the hardware and software stacks. That frees them to focus their attention on running BI and analytics applications and interpreting the results.
  • Fully-integrated business analytics components into the so called closed-loop portfolio. Analytical environments hosted in the cloud comprise a complete end-to-end architecture. SAP Cloud for Analytics for example, spans the ETL, data management, analytics, planning, predictive and risk spectrums, simplifying and speeding the deployment process for users. Cloud BI systems should be ready to use out of the box, so to speak, and the standard setups can quickly be augmented with templates that vendors have developed over the course of different customer engagements.

The Case for Real-Time and Online Analytics: Context Awareness

Man, does Digital Transformation bring us interesting times! There so many aspects of it, with contextual awareness being just one of them. For me, it’s crystal clear that real-time contextual awareness is key to any enterprise that wants to be competitive in digital business. Given the flavor and behavior of the contextual information, online analytical applications can make a significant difference.

Follow me on Twitter @ivervandezand.


If the right people do not have the data they need, how can the intelligence be accurate?

By Ashith Bolar ,  Partner and Director AmBr Data Labs

Lack of user-acceptance is considered a failure of any new Information System — a rule that equally applies to a Business Intelligence initiative. And the astounding fact is that this is a very common occurrence. The reasons can be varied, such as the quality of data, the usefulness of the analytics provided by the system, or merely the user-interface being unfriendly.

However, what is not considered in assessing the success or failure of the system is the number of users who did not get access the system — an error of omission (pun intended). Typical IT projects finalize the initial set of end-users right at the inception of the project, and no later than the requirements phase. To manage the scope of the project, it is typical to keep a small and manageable initial user-base. However, I believe that this is a mistake!

I believe it is a mistake, that in trying to ensure the success of the project, the scope of the BI deployment should be restricted to a few. The true value of a BI enterprise is the crowd-sourced intelligence that you derive from it — and by this assertion: the more the merrier! Not only will a wider audience give us a better assessment of the success of our BI initiative, it will also ensure wider and quicker post-deployment enhancements.

Starting with a large audience of users has many challenges, least of which is managing the scope of the BI project. Given that a data warehouse typically contains sensitive data, one of the main concerns of a large user-base is data security — ensuring that only the right users get access to the right data. This concern leads to the usual decision of limiting the initial user-base to just the power-users, ones that require none or minimal data security.

pocker chips and aces

We see your challenge and raise you AccessOne©!

AccessOne is an information security software specifically designed for SAP™ Business Warehouse (SAP-BW). AccessOne allows you to build your access-control security in an easy excel-like matrix, and deploy it with a few clicks.  AccessOne can extract access information from your ECC system (be it role-based, structural authorizations, etc) or a traditional SoD ACL matrix, or even an excel file you created on your desktop. 

So that you can visualize AccessOne more completely–

A BI solution’s data security implementation is quite different from an OLTP system, even though they both try to achieve the same goal by means of a same set of parameters. The OLAP authorization mechanism works in the reverse direction of the procedures employed by an OLTP system.

See schematic below:

Take an example of an OLTP HR system / employee database. Here’s the sequence of events that occur when a user interacts with the system:

A1 1

Now consider its BI counterpart. The typical user request sequence goes something like this:

A1 2

Although, this is a simplified view, it’s easy to visualize the change in the mechanics of how authorization works between an OLTP and an OLAP system.

The power of AccessOne is in its ability to transform security parameters from the data structures that are designed for an OLTP system to the ones that are more suitable for an OLAP system. Moreover, AccessOne applies these authorization checks to any and all users of the SAP BI system. It will replicate your OLTP (ECC) system access parameters (role-based, structural, etc) into OLAP (SAP BW) system access parameters (analysis authorization). 

With this power, and with the guarantee that your BI system access is exactly the same as your ECC, you can now open up your BI system to all the ECC system users, be it power users, domain-specific users, supervisors, or individual-contributors.

Another power of AccessOne is “overriding” or “overloading” authorizations derived from OLTP. With a single access-control entry, you can override or overload (add to) the access of any user or user-group. For instance, if you have an end-user with limited access in the Finance ECC system, however you want to provide this user with extended access to the BW system on the finance cubes, this can be achieved by inserting a single access-control entry in the BI system.

In the following blog posts, we will examine some complicated yet typical case-studies to illustrate the power of AccessOne.

– Watch this Space –



25 years into a career and you are Outsourced – time to Panic or a Gift?

By Karen Gildea, Co-founder and Managing Partner
Amick Brown

Karen Gildea

Like so many of my peers, and by that I mean those that
started their careers years ago with the plan to remain at the same company until retirement, the news that outsourcing will end your career there is shocking to say the least.  When you must leave your company for whatever reason, and you aren’t really ready or old enough for retirement, it is quite distressing.  You look at the many millennials who seem to so comfortably pick up and move to a new company when they see a new opportunity and you think, “what do I know and what skills do I have that would enable me to start again somewhere?”

What felt like the worst thing that could happen to my career…….WASN’T.

I spent more than 25 years working at a company that was so large that there was an endless amount of potential in terms of jobs, career paths and the ability to climb the corporate ladder.  I loved my job as it was constantly changing and enabling me to grow.  I loved the people I worked with and through the years they became a kind of extended family.  This was my world – I never looked beyond it.

As I started to think about the situation at hand, some truths were evident. Through the years, I was afforded some very valuable training and experience.  I managed a team that was responsible for building and supporting 24 x 7 applications for a user base that numbered in the hundreds of thousands.  We learned, sometimes the hard way, that the right people, constant communication, process, documentation, and a strong focus on quality assurance and system performance are required for success.  When you are there not only to implement systems, but to support them, you learn to be very thoughtful about design, testing and user communication and training.  These are sometimes areas that are of little interest to those who implement and move on.  We had a roadmap and a long term view of the solutions we were building and we had a lot of experience that would ensure our success in getting there – but that was over.

Make a Plan, Work the Plan, Be Accountable

Together with some of my colleagues, we decided to start a small consulting business.  We realized that the skills and experience that we had acquired building and supporting SAP and BI solutions for such a large implementation would be of value somewhere.  We believed we could make this work….but at the same time we definitely had moments of concern.  We met and planned in our dining rooms.  We understood from our long-term and collective experience the value of developing a detailed project plan, holding people accountable, and then working the plan.

As Amick Brown became a reality, we knew we had the expertise in SAP and Business Intelligence, but what about running a business?  We had a lot to learn, but it turns out that there is a lot of help out there.

First, we found a mentor. This person had already done what we were trying to do.  Her business was in another state with a different focus so competition was not an issue.  She was a huge asset and we will be forever grateful.  We asked her endless questions, took copious notes and still reach out to her from time to time for advice.

We then took advantage of all of the resources we could identify.  The Small Business Administration provides immeasurable support to small businesses. Through the SBA, we connected with the Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) in the three counties in our area.  The centers are there to provide training, counseling and support to small businesses.  We attended all of the training that we could about starting a business, marketing, payroll, legal issues, accounting, etc.  We also discovered the Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) which is another valuable resource that has a focus on government contracting.  We attended many PTAC training sessions where we learned about doing business with the various government agencies and responding to Requests for Proposals.  Most of the training we attended was free and when there was a cost, it was minimal.

We worked with our bank to obtain an SBA backed loan to support our start-up costs.  I can’t stress enough the value of a good banking relationship.  I have to give a shout out to Wells Fargo for being such a good business partner and providing such terrific support through the years.


We pursued all of the certifications that were appropriate for us. We are a woman-owned business, we are a minority-owned business and we are a small business.  It is a lot of work to complete each application and it may be a bit overwhelming as you begin the process, but it is well worth the time.  Doors will be opened instead of closed because you are a supplier that holds a specific certification.

Conferences and business matchmaking events are one of the best places to learn and make connections.  We connected with people in other companies and government agencies, and identified additional useful resources to call upon when needed.  Each event helped us learn, grow and refine our marketing material and “elevator speech”.

Our first contracts were with companies we connected with through our already extensive network.  Though they were small contracts at first, it provided us the opportunity to build up our support systems that included HR and payroll services, legal support, accounting processes, web support and recruiting systems and processes.  Obviously, we grew very quickly beyond SAP Business Intelligence – a greater reach for our growing customer base.

panic buttongift icon

So, was outsourcing a panic situation or a gift? Here are the lessons learned:

  • Starting a business is completely possible. We found support everywhere we looked and people wanting to see us succeed.  We started with what we knew, and then looked for help and guidance for what we didn’t know.  Help is out there.
  • Relationships are everything – We understand that without good relationships with our clients, our employees, our subcontractors and our other business partners we won’t thrive. We will always do right by each of them.  They can count on us.
  • Continue to think long term – We make sure that we hire seasoned people who understand the long term impact of design, and in the event one of our hires needs additional assistance to ensure success we make sure it is provided. The long term success of our clients and the relationship we have with them is of utmost importance to us.
  • Be frugal – We have always had an eye on cost containment and we don’t spend money on things that don’t bring value. We are fairly modest with business purchases and we would rather offer better compensation and benefits packages to our employees and contractors – this way everybody wins.
  • Being a business owner is a completely rewarding and exciting experience. We have a renewed energy and enthusiasm toward all that we do.  We learn something new every day and life is good.

To date we have made the San Francisco Business Times Fast 100 list which lists the fastest growing privately held companies in the San Francisco Bay Area two years in a row and the Largest Women-Owned Business list three years in a row.  Our US focus is growing markets in the East and Central United States, as well as the West.  Our detailed plans, working them carefully, and staying accountable are making a new business success our reality.

Keep an eye on Amick Brown.  Good things are happening here!

Placing short and long term Resources based on Cultural Match

The Importance of Cultural Due Diligence

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We have all been there. You are a few months in to a new job and something is just not perfect. The work itself is on target, challenging, fulfilling, and not too many surprises. Your colleagues are professional and friendly, but you are floundering around still to find your comfort zone. It is likely that cultural fit is imbalanced between you and your new company.

In the fairly recent past, corporate culture has evolved from the scenario of if you were in business the dark suit went on in the morning, arrived at your cubicle, and preserved the time-honored tradition of being a staunch professional. Now, companies take on all sorts of personalities, expectations, and cultures which range from the still staunch professionals in dark suits and cubicles to bean bags, mandatory relaxation breaks, and shorts/jeans/tshirts as office attire.

The bottom line is that they are all correct! How a company excels in business is driven by their beliefs and success stories. It has become a critical step to not only evaluate skill requirements, but also intimately understand the cultural aspect of a new business.

Organizational culture evolves over time based on attitudes, customs and values that make up a company’s unique social and psychological environment. An organization’s culture touches all aspects of the business and it is expressed in its products, the way it interacts with it employees, customers and the rest of the world. Certainly, it will impact the new employee directly. The subtleties of culture are definitely something that can be sought out and matched to candidates with due diligence.

What is a fit for one candidate may not be suitable for another. You can teach an employee new skills but is hard to train for cultural fit if they don’t fit the mold. When there is a cultural fit, the person will naturally perform consistent with how things are done in an organization. It results in employees being engaged and focused on growth and the organization reaps the benefits. As well, the employee reaps the benefit of loving their job, not only for the skill and professional challenge, but because it is where they thrive psychologically. The opposite is true when there is a cultural mismatch. Studies show that cultural fit positively impacts performance, ability to adopt to changes and retention.

The same principles apply to staff augmentation decisions. It is exceptionally successful to take the culture fit analysis step when hiring contractors. At Amick Brown, we have built our successes on the practice of not only understanding our clients’ cultures, but staying involved after the placement with both the company and the contractor. Ongoing team building puts everyone in a position of positive communication and therefore reduces churn.

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Amick Brown’s IT sourcing strategy in recruiting and staffing projects is to ensure that, apart from technical skills, there is a cultural fit both for the customer and the consultant. Our proprietary methodology incorporates thoroughly understanding the client’s cultural personality. We take into consideration the leadership and the communication style of the client’s team. At times the role that we are staffing might need a heavier emphasis on technical skills vs cultural fit. We are realistic about both the positive and negative aspects of the culture and balance our recruiting strategy for each client. We are aware of the need to strike a balance between technical and cultural fit in IT recruiting. We are proud to say that this has helped us to achieve more than 95% consultant retention with our clients. Cultural due diligence in hiring and staff augmentation makes a big difference!