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Author's profile photo Jim Spath

An amBITIous Agenda [UPDATED 11-May-2010]

[ Updated 11-May-2010; scroll to near the end ]


By this time during last year’s ASUG Annual Conference cycle, I had all of my speakers and topics set for my track, and had published my tentative personal agenda.  Even though it might get tossed after, or even during, the first session, at least I had a good idea of the majority of places I needed or wanted to be at the conference.  I don’t think having “Sapphire Now” running at the same time and the same place, plus at the same time in another place, led to the quickest and simplest track and paths for me to attend.


Let’s look at the “Agenda Builder”.  While I have the advantage of having scheduled my (short) Mobile Technologies track, and know my community (“Business Integration Technology and Infrastructure” – “BITI”) tracks fairly well, someone not on the volunteer program team would not.  So they’d be searching the Agenda Builder for possible speakers, key words, etc.  


As of this morning (06-May-2010), my agenda has 54 meetings on it.  That’s going to be tough to fit into 3 days. Two of them showed overnight, like a baby left on the door step, unasked for, and unable to be removed from my sight.


Why can’t I choose to ignore the keynote?

I’m sure the party line will be, “oh, everyone will attend the keynote.  It will be wonderful.”



So, how  did I get here?  Mostly using the search function,  which works most of the time.  


It looks so simple and easy, just one entry field, like Google search.  Right.


I picked “Mobile Technologies” as my first demo here.  Will two tokens work?  Well, sometimes.



You can see I have several sessions already selected, and several not yet picked.  Today’s search even picked up a late-minute session time switch that may or may not be in the printed onsite program guide.




Now let’s search for one of the speakers above.  Perhaps he is also speaking in another session in another track?


Currently, no activities match the selected criteria.


Wrong.  Jeff is speaking, as seen above.




In fact, Jeff is speaker in two sessions, which I found by using only his last name.


Search is unreliable.





How about searching for my community name?  As multiple keywords are unreliable, I will just pick our acronym, BITI, as the search field.  And, I only want to see ASUG sessions, so I’ll go to the Advanced Search, pick Sessions, then un-select  all of the Sapphire material, leaving only ASUG content.






I’ll let you run this demo yourself, to prove what comes back.  One session, not in ASUG, and none of the 45 or so BITI community sessions.  No Mobile. no Archiving, no Security, no Workflow, etc.







One hit for BITI?  No way!







The advanced selection criteria  are undependable.


Thanks to Tammy for helping me spot these ambiguities.  


There’s a predecessor to this blog on the ASUG side, called Grappling with the Agenda Builder (link for registered ASUG members only).  In the past, we could select ASUG SIGs and tracks to highlight.  This year, that seems to be completely gone, replaced with sample agendas that are useful but not all encompassing.





Giles Farrow of SAP asked for my suggestions and recommendations for improvement.  I’m very sorry this is so late that it will likely be impossible to repair for this year, but maybe next time the application lifecycle will be better managed.


Must haves



  • The search must work correctly.  If I enter “Jeff Duly”, the search must return his sessions.  No ifs, and or buts.  Same with “Coca Cola”, even if the correct trademarked spelling is “Coca-Cola”.
  • Saving your agenda must work flawlessly.  I’ve seen several reports of people unable to return to work they did the day before.  There is no excuse for losing data.
  • ASUG tracks must be selectable.  We had this feature in the past, but I cannot get it to work now.  The sample agendas returned by the “wizard” are no substitute.
  • Do usability testing, not to mention regression testing.
  • Have some change control.
  • Links to the slides must work; as of yesterday they were still unavailable.

Should haves


  • There should be a way to export content in spreadsheet format.  I spent way too much time rearranging the tabular output of the agenda tool so I can parse it correctly.  Not everyone is willing and able to import to a calendar tool.
  • There should be an indicator of “double-parking”, where I’ve tried to be in more than 1 session at the same time.  A long time ago, a non-SAP event would not let me book 2 sessions at one time, even though I was attending with a colleague and was attempting “what-if” scenarios.
  • Straighten out the nomenclature way early – there’s confusion with ASUG “Community Meetings” versus “Community Sessions”.  This isn’t really the tools fault, but the operators.
  • Ability to search on the speaker or other fields.  This latest version has only one search field.  Great for Google, not so great for an event with defined parameters such as “Abstract”, etc.
  • Boolean logic?  It would be awesome if “AND” “OR” and “NOT” worked.  But maybe that is too optimistic for a search tool.



  • Don’t return a session with the word “ambitious” when I search for “BITI”.  Let me choose case sensitivity, please, as well as full or partial tokens.
  • Don’t forget to communicate to track leaders, ASUG volunteers, etc. what is new and different.
  • Don’t leave out a clear problem escalation process.  Having a link to email the webmaster with “questions or comments” does not cut it. ( webmaster @ )
  • Don’t forget to test.  I know I said it before.  Just testing if you are paying attention.

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      Author's profile photo Tammy Powlas
      Tammy Powlas
      I would've never figured it out, if it weren't for you Jim.  I do miss the presentation category search.  It seems gone now.

      Thank goodness (for me personally) that I have access to the Event Wizard, or I would never know where I am going or what is out there.  But I know that is not true for everyone.

      Thanks for posting!

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      I wish I could say that my session search experience was better than yours, but unfortunately not. The first time I used the Agenda Builder I noticed that there was no functionality to query by ASUG's SIGs or presentation categories, which we used to have in the Agenda Builder, back when the ASUG Conference was a standalone event. I contacted SAP's developers to inquire when this functionality would be reinstated, but I have yet to receive a response.

      As you know I, too, have access to ASUG's conference planning database, so I was able to query it for sessions in the "security" presentation category and also in the cross-reference cateogry. I found 13 unique sessions between the two. Then I ran a query in the Agenda Builder using "security" in the keyword search. It returned 27 sessions, some of which appeared to have somewhat tenuous connections to security topics, but not all of the 13 I had found in the other search. If I have trouble with this tool, and I am relatively well informed on the events, I'd hate to think of how the average attendee does with it. It may suffice for SAPPHIRE attendees seeking sessions on specific SAP solutions, but for others there is definitely room for improvement.


      Author's profile photo Tammy Powlas
      Tammy Powlas
      I did a search on Coca Cola, as I heard they were doing a presentation on workflow.  Here's what I got:

      Currently, no activities match the selected criteria.

      Fortunately I knew Ginger Gatling was also presenting, so I found it by searching Gatling.

      I don't think it should be this hard, should it?  I, too, like Gretchen struggle searching without the presentation/SIG category.

      Author's profile photo Jim Spath
      Jim Spath
      Blog Post Author
      Tammy - I found Ginger's (and Greg Capp's) presentations by searching on Cola, Coca, Coca-Cola, but not "Coca Cola".  Apparently spaces confuse the search engine.  I'm curious to find out who developed this application.


      Author's profile photo Tammy Powlas
      Tammy Powlas
      Maybe next year they will do a usability study on the agenda builder?  Just a thought (or "opportunity for improvement"
      Author's profile photo Tammy Powlas
      Tammy Powlas
      I clicked on the link provided
      it points me to and I receive the following message:

      "The page cannot be found"