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I had spent last week at SAP TechEd in Las Vegas. It was my first TechEd and these are my recaps and feedbacks.

This year we had about 5,500 attendees…more than last year’s TechEd and more than what I expected. The first noticeable difference as compared to other conferences like the SAP BusinessObjects User Conference (i.e. SBOUC) was that most attendees were wearing blue jeans. This was a sign that the conference was primarily for developers. 🙂

This year at TechEd, a new concept was implemented. It was called Innovation Weekend. It was a fantastic idea of developing solutions for non-profit organizations, using team work and SAP technologies (some are brand new, e.g. River Project). There were 6 Business Cases in total for 6 different non-profit organizations. The participants were divided up into 6 teams to work on specific Business Cases. The team members spent about 30 hours from Sunday to Monday to come up with the prototype of their respective solution. It was great for networking and great for checking out the latest software from SAP.

There were about 100 attendees at Innovation Weekend, but the actual number of participants on the Business Cases was less. We definitely can use more people, especially those with dashboarding skill as it was the predominate choice on the presentation layer. We also need to have better distribution of team members based on their skill set. The lack of participants was due to the lack of promotion of this event. We should have more people signed up next year when we have broader awareness of this wonderful program.

At the Keynote on Tuesday, Dr. Vishal Sikka, the CTO of SAP, had emphasized that analytics is the future. That is in line with my last blog on 52% of SAP’s licensing revenue came from SAP BusinessObjects portfolio. SAP has realized that ERP is a declining business. The future of the company relies on analytics and mobility.

On Thursday, I was interviewed live on stage by Gail Moody-Byrd, the Senior Director of Global Ecosystem Partner Marketing at SAP AG. We had a great conversation on the SAP Community Network. Since the broadcasting booth was near to the vendor fair and the networking lounge, there were a lot of background noises. There were a couple times that I was not sure if I heard Gail’s question correctly. It will be nice if we can have headsets or wireless ear pieces to listen to our own conversation…something to consider next year.

TechEd had many (not just 3 or 4, but many) Hands-On sessions where you can spend two hours on a specific tool. But unfortunately, two persons had to share a laptop. Because of the sharing, it encouraged talking…naturally. Very often, there were so much noises on the floor that you couldn’t hear the instruction from the speakers. It could get chaotic very quickly. Having one laptop per participant can alleviate such problem.

The software and data at the Hands-On sessions were not installed locally. The attendees had to log on to a Citrix server to launch the software and practice the exercises. There were connectivity issues at many of the Hands-On sessions. We had also encountered “reached maximum connection” to SAP BW. It will probably be less problematic if everything is installed locally, including SQL Server. You can simply set up one laptop, then clone it and deploy to the rest of the laptops. At the end of the day, you can run a scheduled job to reset the image of each laptop. It will be much easier to manage that way in my humble opinion. Stephane Perdigeon, the Product Manager of Semantic Layer, walked through all the exercises step-by-step on the big screen and it provided tremendous help to the attendees. I think all the Hands-On session speakers should do the same.

Most of the Hands-On sessions were merely focusing on how to navigate around the tool. The exercises were quite elementary. I believe the purpose of the Hands-On session is to let the attendees be familiar with a product that they have not seen before. It might not work for advanced users. I completed all the exercises in one of the Hands-On sessions in less than 30 minutes, even though I had not used that tool before.

I am not sure if evaluation sheets had been distributed to the Hands-On session attendees because I went to 3 Hands-On sessions myself and I did not receive any evaluation sheet like I did on the regular sessions. This might be a major oversight.

The Conference Design Team needs to be aware of the fact that, new technologies usually will attract larger crowd and they need to assign larger rooms accordingly. Take the HANA lecture session for example, it was held at a regular size room. The room was full very quickly and other attendees were barred from entering the room.

As a pure SAP BusinessObjects developer myself, I was skeptical if TechEd has enough BOBJ contents for me. My doubt was cleared after last week. SAP was very committed on this and there were plenty of BOBJ contents to keep my agenda full. With that being said, all the sessions that I went to, except the Hands-On sessions, were all PowerPoint presentations. Most of them were conducted by SAP employees which is fine for new products (i.e. BI 4.0). But next year when there is no major new release, it might not work. The PowerPoint presentation model might work for the traditional SAP ERP users, but it won’t work for the pure SAP BusinessObjects users.

There is a huge potential to merge SAP BusinessObjects User Conference (i.e. SBOUC) into TechEd. And no doubt merging the two conferences will benefit the customers and the community as a whole. But we MUST expand the BOBJ track and we MUST redesign the presentation to target the different audience. The traditional SAP BusinessObjects conference attendees like to see “how-to” & “tips & tricks” type of presentation. Instead of telling them what Web Intelligence can do on a bunch of PowerPoint slides, they want you to demonstrate to them how to create variables. Instead of telling them how great Crystal Report is, they want you to show them how to build sub-report. And instead of telling them what is a Universe Designer tool, they want you to show them how to resolve contexts and loops. That is what the traditional SAP BusinessObjects conference attendees want to see in a user conference…not high level overview in bullet points but “roll-up your sleeves, get down and dirty” type of hands-on live demo presentation.

Furthermore, the traditional SAP BusinessObjects conference attendees are associating with the speakers they know and trust. Some speakers will draw a big crowd no matter what they are talking about. Therefore, in order to make the BOBJ track at TechEd successful, we need to invite the long time BOBJ conference speakers, e.g. Alan Mayers, Michael Welter, just to name a couple.

Someone asked Jon Reed, a long time top notch best-of-the-best SAP Mentor, the difference between a blogger and an SAP Mentor. Jon explained that a blogger identifies and talks about problem; a Mentor also talks about problem but in addition, he/she will do something about it. Therefore, I would like to suggest an action item to all the SAP Mentors with BOBJ focus: go out and solicit the long time BOBJ conference speakers to submit their abstracts to TechEd. Once you have the contents in place, the users will come.

The food at the conference was exceptionally good. They served fish at lunch which was fantastic! But I did not go to TechEd for the food. 🙂

On Thursday night, we were treated with the Lifehouse concert. I wasn’t planning to attend initially. But since I had received the premium seat ticket, I decided to give it a try. It was better than I expected with good music and good fun. But their songs are more on the mellow side. 😉

At the SAP Mentors Wolfpack gathering on Monday evening, we had received a print that said: “Quality isn’t Job One. Being totally frickin’ amazing is Job One.” It pretty much sums up what our roles and responsibilities in the user community should be.

p.s. You can find the TechEd Las Vegas photos taken by a professional photographer at http://sap.eventserver.ch/gallery/main.php?g2_itemId=57204
I will upload some of mine (non-professional, ha ha) when I have a chance later.

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These are some of the pictures that I took. And I “borrowed” a couple pictures from the SAP TechEd web site…

 

Mark Yolton on stage…

All SAP Mentors on stage…

needs no introduction…. Jon Reed, the best-of-the-best  🙂

at Demo Jam…

cheering for the Demo Jam participants…

Stephane Perdigeon and me at Semantic Layer Hands-On Session…

Semantic Layer Hands-On Session — Second Session. It was completely full at both sessions!

the SAP Mentors Wolfpack gathering place…

The SAP Mentors with SAP BusinessObjects focus…

fun picture…

another one…

at Lifehouse concert…

photo with Singh Mecker…

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4 Comments

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  1. Gretchen Lindquist
    Simon,

    That is a shame that the computer sharing resulted in such distractions at your sessions. At the hands-on sessions I attended, I saw some partners assisting and learning from one another, reducing the burden on the presenters. I was glad to be able to mentor the TechEd first timer who was my computer partner at one of my sessions, so perhaps some additional attention to noise management from the session leader would have helped overcome the downside.

    Thanks for sharing your observations!
    Cheers,
    Gretchen

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    1. Simon To Post author
      Thanks for the comment. Helping out the newbies and easing the burden on the speakers are supposed to be our responsibilities as Mentors. That’s why SAP had asked us to sign up as assistants at the Hands-On sessions. 🙂
      I still believe that the participants can learn better by having their own laptops. The participants can always collaborate with their neighbors and the speaker’s assistants if they choose to do so. But it won’t be continuous talking…hopefully. 😀
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  2. Tammy Powlas
    From the ASUG side at TechED, we did not pursue SBOUC content at TechED – we made a clear separation on content and we were not going to pursue the same speakers.

    If the events (SBOUC and TechED) were co-located, then I would envision the ASUG volunteers would pro-actively seek and select SBOUC speakers/content.

    As for the hands-on sessions, from Monday-Wednesday things were great – but something happened Thursday to the systems.

    Tammy

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    1. Simon To Post author
      Hi Tammy, good to see you again at TechEd and thanks for the comment.
      As you know, we had a very engaged discussion in the Mentors meeting with the leadership on merging the two conferences together. I can see the possibility after attending TechEd and I believe the merge will benefit the customers and the community…just like our merge at the local user group level. But first thing first, the conference organizers and the leadership MUST understand that the SBOUC attendees are different audience. The merge cannot become a reality until they understand this crucial part. Please correct me if I am wrong, but based on my observation, I don’t believe the leadership has grasped this.
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