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Before Lucent and IBM refocussed Bell Labs and Watson to help their bottom-lines, both places were hotbeds of creativity, and equally importantly, interaction with academia. Good stuff came out of Bell Labs and Watson because really good people were given a chance to do exactly what they wanted to do. Since SAP uses the term “Labs” to describe various SAP development sites across the world, I’m curious as to whether any of these sites allow any of their personnel to do what folks at Bell Labs and Watson used to do – mainly think. Also, I’m curious as to whether any of these sites have visiting “fellows” from academia (senior or junior types) who are also asked merely to interact with SAP “thinkers” and not necessarily to help developers on specific tasks Finally, if the answers to these questions are “no”, I’m curious as to why not.

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  1. Alvaro Tejada Galindo
    Hi David:

    Interesting thoughts…That’s something I ask myself many times…I think that the SDN is a great place to think, create and show…But as you state…What they do in SAP Labs? They test applications in order to fix bugs? They create new functionalities? They sit, drink coffee and eat donuts for a brainstorming session?

    In my own personal case…I would love to the a free developer…I mean, I’m getting tired of doing programs that clients ask me to do…What I want and need to do, it’s the freedom to create the programs that crosses my mind…I mean…No one asks me for PHP/SAP applications, because here on Perú…Companies doesn’t want to make investments on open source app’s…But still, I do them and still working on them…

    I would like to know if SAP Labs gives this opportunity to all the great thinkers out there…That would be great -:)

    Greetings,

    Blag.

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    1. Luis Felipe Lanz
      Hola Alvaro,

      In fact in the Labs they create and develop new features, product and versions

      But it depend of the expertise area; i.e. for newest solution (Portal, Business One, Etc) they also have a team to fix the bugs, but for the rest of product (almost all of them) there exist a team called internally “IMS”, they are the ones doing the fix for the bugs (former knows as Development Support)

      However others labs like SAP LinuxLabs works testing how the SAP products runs over 3rd party areas ( in this case over Linux OS) and certify the ones that work fine! , another example is the Labs in  D.C. they are working hard to make available solutions for Goverment and Public Sector….

      So we cannot tell you that there exist a generic role for SAP Labs because each of one (Montreal, Ra’anana, Palo Alto, Sofia, Bangalore, Nice, Gurgaon, Walldorf, St.Leon – Rot, etc., etc., etc.) have very different roles and functions…

      However, in each subsidiary you have an expert called Development Link, this one is the contact with the Labs and make a very good communication between the User Group association and the Labs… in Perú this person should work for SAP Andina y del Caribe… have a talk with them… you will not be disappointed at all!

      Saludos, Luis

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      1. Alvaro Tejada Galindo
        Hi Luis:

        Thanx for the answer, now I can say that my questions were satisfied -:)

        Gonna move my contacts to be able to talk with the Development Link…But I don’t think he’s here…I think that the headquarters of SAP Andina is on Colombia…Still, thanx for the great tip -:)

        Saludos,

        Blag.

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  2. Mario Herger
    Working at SAP Labs in Palo Alto, and having worked also in SAP’s HQ in Walldorf, I can tell you that we are not just doing testing 😉
    That actually would be very expensive to do in a high cost location as Palo Alto.

    In fact Palo Alto has multiple innovation & research teams, and just next weekend (on the 8th) we have a multi-day “hackathon” event (we call it SAP Developer Challenge), where ~42 developers from all SAP Labs locations worldwide are flying in and participating, coding over the weekend solutions to self-picked topics around a general theme.
    There are even some success stories behind that. A spinoff from last year’s dev challenge was the Scripting languages initiative within SAP (find more on SDN); another idea that came and was implemented by an innovation team from Palo Alto led to a change in the SAP’s UI strategy: now we support Adobe Flex/Flash and left the selection of UI technologies as a choice for the modelers.
    The Business Process Expert Community came out of the work from Palo Alto based teams.

    We also interact with academia (having Stanford, Berkeley, UCSF, UCSJ…) around us.

    Can we do more? Yes, definitely. And we must. And we must do better. And we must find more incentives and offer more tools and more supportive environment within our company to generate, create more ideas and innovation.
    And we must also find a way to balance the high-flying think work with the down-to-earth-perspective.

    Especially Palo Alto has the reputation inside SAP of idea-generating engine (although some people don’t always mean that in a posivite way 😉

    Any suggestions are welcome…

    Mario

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    1. Community User
      Don’t forget the group driving the Enterprise Widgets here on SDN is called the “Emerging Solutions Imagineering” department – think tanks yep got them but not so much in a convential sense for most parts of the year these groups are totaly virtual, some cool stuff that I am of course not allowed to talk about are going on 😉
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    2. Alvaro Tejada Galindo
      Thanx for your reply Mario…Now I got a bigger picture of the work of SAP Labs.

      A Hackaton??? Awesome -:O

      Thinking to myself…Don’t pay much attention to this -:P Is there ever going to be a SAP Labs Perú? -:'( If so…Don’t forget to call me -:D

      I really love to see all the innovative ideas here on SDN…Widgets, Scripting Tool, Project Muse…All the stuff that Craig can’t talk about -:D

      Greetings,

      Blag.

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  3. David Halitsky
    Seriously:

    Craig –

    I had a feeling lots of “virtual” stuff was going on.  How else would folks keep from getting bored with “same old/same old”?

    Mario –

    Glad to know SAP knows its responsibilities to its “best and brightest”.  Two ideas (which SAP has probably already considered and either implemented or rejected):

    1) sabbaticals: every seven years, a year off with half-pay or six months off with full pay to do a selected project; these would be granted competitively, with the merits of the projects deciding who gets the sabbaticals.

    2) internships/fellowship stipends (jr and sr): in return for a college/university (or even “highschool/gymnasium”) teaching something about SAP in its curriculum, SAP would provide a certain number of internship/fellowship stipends.  The more courses offered, the more stipends offered.

    BTW, I’m still curious about one point – the academic interaction.  I know, for example, that when Gates was trying to make SQLServer a good database (as well a relational database), he actually called in professors to do contract work.  Does this go on with SAP, or is it more informal ??

    Thanks again to you both (and AT – you also for taking the time to offer your perspective.)

    Regards
    djh

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    1. Mario Herger
      1) I know several people who took sabbaticals (unpaid six months off), but I am not sure if they were pursuing research or just building houses 😉
      But I agree, that’s a compelling idea.

      2) We work together with a couple of universities. E.g. Hasso Plattner Institue in Potsdam, where Hasso Plattner basically founded the whole institute, funded it with >100Mio Euro(?), and SAP provides software, manpower by supporting the curriculum and offering internships.
      Equally Hasso donated ~30Mio US$ to Stanford for a Design Institute. And in reciproke we get some seats for SAP nominated students
      And then all the internship programs, with so called Berufsakademie students in Germany, which is a programm where the students have to spend 1/2 of their time at the university and the other half at SAP in projects.
      Not to forget the different internships that we do, I e.g. had the last two years interns from Technion (Haifa/Israel) here in Palo Alto, Stanford, Berkeley and New Jersey etc. And that’s only my view.

      As far as I know from HR we also collaborate with +10 universities/colleges throughout the US.

      And about professors: most prominent ones: Norton & Kaplan and their balances scorecard. They worked with us on the software implementation in SEM>

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  4. Andre Truong
    As opposed to business application company? While technology matters in SAP ecosystem as witnessed with initiatives like Netweaver, I don’t see how this technology friendly trend will anytime soon overtake the business side of SAP. At the end of the day everybody within SAP and its ecosystem knows where the paycheck comes from (R3/ERP/mySAP based solutions) for the last 30 years.
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    1. David Halitsky
      Andre –

      If SAP had not acquired ADABAS, I might be inclined to agree with you (a little more, anyway.)

      But with the acquisition of ADABAS, SAP is already in a position to offer an end-to-end solution that is more robust than the only other end-to-end solution in town (Oracle’s “E-Not-So-Sweet” plus its DB plus its security, etc.)

      So to me, it’s just a matter of time.

      Of course, I’m prejudiced here because I know something about ADABAS that probably very few youngsters know (or would care about even if they knew it …)

      Also, the only thing that’s missing in SAP’s endtoend solution now is a security system which is based on roles and privileges relative to the structure of a project as defined in Visio or whatever PM software a client uses.  I will be blogging on this topic shortly – in particular, how easy it would be for:

      a) SAP to do this kind of new project-based security systyem because of the project/WBS/network/activity structure already in SAP;

      b) SAP to sell such a new project-based security system using an appeal to the guilt, paranoia, and fear which all CIO’s and CEO’s secretely harbor.

      Best regards
      djh

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      1. Andre Truong
        Although SAP still maintain the main code base for SAP DB (formely Adabas), they gave the code to open source and MySQL back in 2003. You could actually do it yourself instead of selling the idea to SAP. If from a business standpoint it’d make sense for SAP to develop application leveraging specific DB feature, I’m pretty sure they’ll listen to your idea. With such small DB market share, it looks like a tough case though but why not.
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        1. David Halitsky
          But I wasn’t suggesting that a project-based security system needed any particular database feature of any particular database.  What I meant is that any end-to-end solution needs a security system that answers security needs which can’t be defined inside a role based model.

          Also, just for the record – I’m not interested in selling anything to anybody – I got over all that a long time ago. 

          What I am interested in is watching good IT get built – there’s precious little of that around between the bells and whistles of modern user interfaces and the work-arounds for databases that aren’t.

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  5. Sascha Kuhlmann
    Hi David,

    as mentioned in previous posts, SAP Labs are not on development Sites – Emerging Solutions is only one example where SAP tries to pilot, prototype or think about new solutions.

    In addition we have a whole Company called SAP Research, which is really focussing on Topics which are way ahead (5 – 10 years down the road)

    Last but not least, a lot of stuff in SAP is developed by the “thinkging” & “creativity” of single employees or teams: Abap, Condition Technique, SAPCa just to name a few of them….

    Cheers
    Sascha

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    1. David Halitsky
      It sounds like “SAP Research” is the real equivalent of the old Bell Labs, IBM SRI, or IBM Watson, or XEROX PARC (the grandparent of them all.)

      Good to know that some of the profits are being plowed into the future!

      Regards
      djh

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