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A tweet by Capgemini’s solution architect Lee Provoost today got me thinking about the future and potential of SAP TechEd conferences:

how is SAP going to deal with the fact that lots of companies have now “no travel” policies for cost cutting?

 

Very aptly Lee pointed to the current economic climate which forced a lot of SAP customers to put a ban on traveling and expenses for conventions such as TechEd. This will be a problem that SAP will have to address when planning and organising the next wave of TechEd conferences taking place later this year and beyond. A while ago Chip Rodgers tweetedabout the complications of figuring out the number of potential participants for TechEd given the current economic circumstances (”in this economy, how do we estimate attendance?“). TechEd attendances have been going from strength to strength in recent years, and quite rightly so. On my recent visit to TechEd Berlin in October 2008I was very impressed with the level of organisation that goes into these events. However (and I sincerely hope otherwise)  2009 and maybe 2010 could be tough years for SAP’s main developer conference. Essentially, this got me thinking of ways out of this and thereby also making a move towards a greener way to cope with traveling as well as a smarter usage of energy.

“The biggest virtual developer convention in the world”

OK, brace yourselves! What if SAP would create an entirely Virtual SAP TechEd conference? Similar to the recent PKOM (Partner Kick-Off Meeting) and also the Business Suite 7 launch, would it not be a fantastic and mindblowing idea to entirely hold a big conference such as SAP TechEd in the virtual space? A combined use of video and microblogging could give an event such as this the feel of true collaboration. Granted, the devil is in the detail here, but there are only a few software companies on the planet that could pull this one off. In my view, SAP is one of them. The benefits and opportunities for such an idea:

  • real savings for customers
  • a truly green event
  • bigger reach to even more developers and BPXers
  • great extension to the current Virtual TechEd format
  • real online collaboration
  • target group for this already used to the web format

Now I can hear some people shouting “Bah Humbug” already, argueing that for example the organisational effort for an event such as this would be phenomenal. Another one: “What about face-to-face meetings, networking and collaboration ?”. Well, maybe, but would not tools such as Twitter (to some degree) prove these critics wrong? There could potentially be small compromises. For example, similar to the break up of SAPphire EMEA into smaller, more regional events, TechEd could go an analogous route by hosting one small main event with speakers/mentors and several satellite venues which would provide web video links to the main event, yet still giving participants a face-to-face option to network and collaborate locally.

Now, I can imagine that clever TechEd people such as Chip Rodgers, Amir Blich, Marylin Pratt or Craig Cmehil (Second Life?) have already been hatching a “Virtual TechEd Masterplan” such as this… or at least I hope they have.

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  1. Ignacio Hernández
    I think for regular lecture sessions it could be fine but that’s more boring part of Teched ­čÖé
    In my opinion best of Teched are handsons and human interaction. Maybe we could set an environment for virtual handsons (in onsite handsons access to SAP systems are controled, we should keep that security also covered in virtual handson) but for human interacion ( I mean Community Day, Hacker Night, Demo Jam, Community Clubhouse, bar, colleagues walking around… ) nothing can replace it.
    Regards,
    Ignacio.
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    1. Harald Reiter
      …with Ignacio but maybe it is possible to shorten the conference and have a separate virtual event that covers the lectures.
      I also don’t care much about the Thursday night event that in the past were a little bit off the mark for me (not the concerts but I remember San Diego and the one at MGR Grand Gardens) – I imagine that these events are quite expensive.
      I am more then happy with one evening reception and the rest of the nights people get together anyway.

      Looking forward to this years event though as it is right in my neighbourhood and Phoenix should also be cheaper in regards to eating out and going to bars/clubs.

      Overall I am glad we have events such as TechEd that does allow face to face time and networking – plus I also can’t imagine having SDN day as a virtual event – would only be half the fun.

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      1. Matthew Harding
        Coming from Australia, the decision to come to Tech Ed is a little more difficult.  Shortening the event when it takes you over 24 hours to get there is not ideal from here, and the extended timeframe of the US Tech Ed is why I go there rather than the Europe Tech Ed.

        Definitely, face to face with people cannot be beaten in any environment, and can you imagine asking your boss whether you can sit in front of your computer watching videos for a week (although that seems to be the way I need to learn Flex!).

        BTW – A few of us from here are already booked for Phoenix. It’s the highlight of my professional year each year to attend, the one training course I need per year and mandatory as an SAP freelancer.

        Cheers,
        Matt

        ps. For reference, I carbon offset my flights and would offset the conference if that is made as an option this year.

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  2. Chip Rodgers
    We will definitely continue to grow our virtual components of SAP TechEd this year.  As you mentioned, SAP conducted a completely virtual Field Kickoff meeting and Partner Kickoff meeting in January.  In addition, we ran a large internal event virtually earlier in 2008.  We’ve learned some valuable lessons from those experiences and will continue to explore and refine these virtual delivery approaches for events.

    Specific to TechEd, while we will continue to add virtual components, we feel strongly that the deep level of content with 2hr and 4hr hands-on sessions delivered by SAP product managers and other product experts are best delivered in a live format.  Combining that with the strong collaboration experience of the Clubhouse, Demo Jam, Community Day, Hacker’s night, and Press and Blogger programs – not to mention the frequent “hallway conversations” and social interaction with peers and other experts add up to continuing to have a very strong physical event piece of TechEd.  These are experiences that (so far) we have not seen replicated in a virtual environment.

    To your point about the Business Suite 7 launch last week – absolutely!  We were equally excited about the splash and the role that Twitter and other social networking tools played in making that event so exciting.  Believe me that we will continue to explore and invest in new ways to leverage these tools even more this year and in the future!

    We’re happy to continue the conversation and always open to input and discussion.  In fact, let’s talk about it in Vienna in the Fall!  :-))

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  3. John Astill
    Having some of the sessions would be excellent for those that could not attend. It also opens the potential for purely virtual sessions, which in itself could increase the amount of available content, especially as the sessions can be prerecorded.
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  4. Muthu Ranganathan
    This is a wonderful idea. Teched should be virtual, and the most important thing would be to get these to more people at less cost.
    On the networking, we could probably make the event live with chats happening like what you do in a webex. We can also think of using cisco’s telepresence to do it- http://www.cisco.com/en/US/netsol/ns669/networking_solutions_solution_segment_home.html

    Making this virtual means we do not have to have 4 techeds but only one teched. the sessions can go over a period of time and need not be during one particular time. Participants can view more sessions than one session.
    Wow there are a bunch of benefits and it would be awesome, we should do it

    Regards
    Muthu Ranganathan

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  5. Jo-anne Salzmann
    I have not been able to attend TechEd for a few years now due to company budget restrictions and personal commitments. It would be wonderful if virtual hands-on sessions could be made available for up-coming conferences as these are great learning opportunities.
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