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Introduction to Innovation Weekend

Let’s face it, SAP TechEd is always too short. Even if they made it a two-weeks event, I would go home with the nagging feeling of having missed plenty of people and sessions and chances to lay my fingers upon new technologies. However, this year, thanks to the initiative of Marilyn Pratt (@marilynpratt) and Craig Cmehil (@ccmehil), two people who have done so much for the community that appropriate titles can not be found or coined, they prolonged the fun by adding a 30-hour event called Innovation Weekend.

 

Fig. 1: Captivating flipchart speech by Kaj van de Loo

Innovation Weekend is the result of merging the long-standing tradition of SDN Hacker Night and BPX Process Design Slam. With so much creative potential and expertise on both the SDN and the BPX side available, why not do something together? This is what they did at Innovation Weekend – so for every participant of this pre-event, SAP TechEd started two days earlier on Sunday at noon.

The event was organized basically as follows.

Day 1:

  • Introduction
  • presentations
  • presentations in smaller groups
  • working on the business cases in one team per case

Day 2:

  • More working on the business cases
  • presentations of all the resulting solutions to the business cases
  • announcing the winning team
  • The winning team was allowed to present their solution at Demo Jam.

Fig. 2: Community spirit in action

Feedback Pro’s and Con’s

Pro

  • combining Hackers Night and Process Slam
  • adding geeky days to TechEd
  • getting hands on new technology
  • technology strategy presentation by Kaj van de Loo (@kajvandeloo)
  • working on actual prototype
  • great preparation of the business cases via wiki led by Marilyn Pratt (who always knows how to get the best people to contribute)
  • chance to hit the stage at Demo Jam
  • vibrant community event and networking opportunity

Con

  • potato chips and small pretzels served as lunch – excuse me???
  • dinner and other food sent the message: “We don’t love you.”
  • “You can’t innovate on an empty stomach.” – said, overheard and tweeted by Vijay Vijaysankar (@vijayasankarv) and Jon Reed (@jonerp)
  • 6+ hours of presentations while we all wanted to go create
  • would have preferred being on a NetWeaver or otherwise more tool-focused team than to decide for one business case – give the BPXer a business case and the SDNer a tooling team
  • no AS ABAP in the tool chest, made it unrealistic
  • much of the technology that was put forward to us wasn’t exactly cutting-edge (Business Objects Explorer), many participants felt pitched to
  • Kaj van de Loo forgot to acknowledge Marilyn Pratt’s great contribution in the event in his thank-you speech, which felt awkward as a consequence

Suggestions for next time

My own suggestions would be to

  • order food that sends the message: “We love you!”
  • keep the presentation part much shorter, allow us to go create quicker
  • allow the speakers to pitch their presentations for five minutes, then let the audience decide which sessions to attend – no time to hear it all
  • allow a wider set of tools, including NetWeaver ABAP and IDES systems of all the Business Suite applications
  • restart SCN when we bring it down 😉
  • don’t structure teams strictly along the business cases, allow technically-minded participants to form technology-centered service teams for the other groups (or be roaming experts)
  • allow a process step for the merging of business cases, there seemed to be some reduncancy when business cases were very closely related or had huge overlap
  • only Craig and Marilyn can do it

Conclusion

Like anything new, Innovation Weekend will need one iteration or two for fine-tuning, but it was vibrantly alive and will become a flawless event. It was already a great experience and very well worth attending this time but I’m sure they’ll listen and act on the suggestions made by the community to get it beyond the experimental stage. See you next time! And to those of you who are still looking forward to the next instance of the event in Bangalore, enjoy – it will already be a next generation Innovation Weekend!

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6 Comments

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  1. Tammy Powlas
    I had a fantastic time, sitting next to you.

    I popped up my coffee reading your note – potato chips and pretzels for lunch.

    I am sorry I couldn’t be there the full 2 days, but I was glad to be there day 1.

    I am so glad you were in Vegas – I would add that to my “pro”.
    Tammy

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  2. Marilyn Pratt
    1) from the food perspective for sure! (although in Berlin I must say it was quite good and very continuous during our 2 days of innovation weekend there) During the Las Vegas TechEd conference many of us enjoyed solid eating opportunities throughout the full conference days but I also admit I was nervously worried about my guests feeling satisfied during the Innovation Weekend Las Vegas pre-con event with food that was (to say it delicately): a bit disappointing.  So point taken about innovating while hungry.  I know our event coordinator felt your pain and accepts those comments graciously. (and felt that we didn’t receive what he had hoped for from the catering services).  I’m sure he will amend for next time.
    2) from the pitches – I think that in Bangalore the folks will have an opportunity to dive headfirst into technology tire kicking with less sales pitch, thanks for your comments and expressing eagerness to “do stuff” more quickly, again lesson learned.
    3) adoption of roaming experts concept – will try my hardest to find and encourage this great idea.  In fact if any such roaming experts are signing up on the wiki for Bangalore now, I encourage to detail your skills and availablity to help. Bangalore Innovation Weekend Wiki signup
    4) Merging business cases.  This was a fail on our part as we started to see such a movement and consolidation during our weekly calls and we didn’t move aggressively enough to consolidate.  I’m sure Steve Williams, who was incredibly helpful as domain expert and business case owner, will help us to drive these better.  Others (such as Matt Harding) also suggested the concept of sharing business cases that more closely represent their own business environment.  Hope there are some suggestions of these types of cases for Bangalore.

    To conclude response to your feedback a HUGE thanks to you Thorsten for your candor and willingness to share.
    The best way to create and evolve successful events is to get genuine response and helpful critique(such as Vijay delivered to me last year and blogged on SCN about last year’s Design Slam and you are posting here).

    I hope you and others will be active on our upcoming calls to help drive these improvements in Bangalore and in the events that Kaj and team have promised to engage in in the future.

    I’d be worried if there were only kudos 🙂

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  3. James Oswald
    Your blogger photo makes you look so professional and presentable.

    I agree the roaming technology team is a great position. Mico Yuk and I did it this year for Xcelsius and we think we were pretty useful and that we got a lot of exposure to new ideas. The downside is obviously answering things out of context, not being fully vested in a topic, etc, but for some folks it is worthwhile. We’ll need to be careful that most people still work on teams, however, as a group of roaving bands of technicians can’t solve anything unless someone can offer them a nail to hammer!

    Great meeting you, looking forward to next year.

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    1. Thorsten Franz Post author
      Jamie,
      I just get that disappointed look all the time when people who know my SCN photo see me in real life. But what really breaks their hearts is when they hear me talking for the first time.
      Anyway, I will forward your compliments to the photographer. 🙂
      Cheers,
      Thorsten
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  4. Matthias Steiner
    Hi Thorsten,

    as always a great recap. While I have been late to the event your summary pretty much matched by observations.

    And I’m glad to hear I wasn’t the only one feeling the injustice of giving all the credit for the event to Craig. In fact, in all the prep calls I participated in Marilyn was the main driving force?!? I told her so right afterwards, but humble as she is she played it down… and said “forget about it!” – we don’t! Give credit where is due, I say.

    Best regards, Matthias

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  5. Mark Yolton
    Hi Thorsten:

    Thank you for this thoughtful recap. These are good suggestions for improvements we can make for 2011 … and maybe already for Bangalore in a couple of weeks.  We are actively thinking improvements, just as Innovation Weekend was an improvement over previous Hacker Nights and Process Slams of years past.  Much appreciated.

    Mark Yolton

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