Coming from a Crystal Decisions/BusinessObjects perspective, this year’s TechEd conferences are my favorite ones so far due to several factors.
Innovation Weekend at SAP TechEd
SAP TechEd organizers hosted the inaugural 30-hour “Innovation Weekend” in Berlin and Las Vegas, welcoming over 300 developers and 25 SAP Mentors on the preceding Sunday to work on a variety of business cases for the non-profit sector. Participants were challenged to apply their knowledge, skills, and process expertise to selected business cases for non-profit organizations, and to develop their solution idea into a working prototype at the end of the 30-hour event. In addition to the altruistic rewards, participants gained valuable mentorship and hands-on experience with some of SAP’s coolest technologies, including Slipstream, “River”, mobile solutions, StreamWork, and of course, the BusinessObjects solutions (Dashboard Design, BI OnDemand, and Explorer, to name a few).
Being the first time we held this event, I was a bit apprehensive about what to expect. Would this new NPO paradigm that combines Hacker Night, Business Process Design Slam, and Insight Night work? Would there be enough time for the different “camps” to bond and design, develop, and test their prototypes? In Berlin, some of the business cases received a lot of interest, whereas a few others did not. One team almost folded due to low numbers (just three of them) and while they were offered (and almost chose) the opportunity to disband and join other teams, they decided at the last moment to stay together. Knowing that they could not realistically win, they forged ahead anyway to take advantage of the learning opportunity.
After working well into the night, each team demonstrated their prototype the next day onstage. Nearly every team incorporated SAP BusinessObjects technologies. A group of four judges with solid backgrounds in technology and exposure to multiple technologies asked questions and provided feedback. Winners were chosen based on the judges and the audience votes. The winning teams in Berlin and Las Vegas presented their solutions at the following night’s official Demo Jam, to an audience of several thousand.
The winning team in Berlin developed a solution to track the effectiveness of a non-profit organization’s marketing campaign. The team worked on SAP StreamWork to enable team collaboration and they used the on-demand solution from the SAP BusinessObjects portfolio to provide analytics and reporting of the different marketing campaign scenarios. Team number one was ecstatic to win! In Las Vegas the winning team took on the business case for optimizing fundraising processes for Arts Umbrella, Canada’s preeminent arts institute for children aged 2 to 19. The winning team, which consisted of Jesse Barry of Sony Electronics; Rody Harper of NuSkin; Mareck Klocok of Hatch; Divya Mahajan of Phillips Medical Systems; and John Astill, Andreas Muno, and Gigi Reed of SAP Labs, explain how they address these issues with their innovative, winning solution.
Reaction to Innovation Weekend
“My experience was rapid-fire collaboration, community team-work, and fast knowledge transfer from SAP, spanning geographic and tool-set boundaries. We were all “River” dancing (to borrow a term from the new platform) through the experience – it was fast, exhausting, entertaining, tiring, but well worth it at the end.” – Tammy Powlas, SAP Mentor
“Innovation Weekend was a fantastic experience for me in several respects. First, I finally got to meet face-to-face all of the people I’ve been working with virtually for a year or more. Second, I got to see just how complete the on demand offerings from SAP are across the portfolio. Third, I got to see firsthand just how in demand the BusinessObjects tools are within the greater SAP Community.” – Jamie Oswald, SAP Mentor
“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).” – Simon To, SAP Mentor
“As a first time attendee and participant of Innovation Weekend, I was blown away to see such gazelle SAP developers. The energy in the room was amazing! 30 hours strong. I’d never seen anything like this! I was also shocked by the demand for the SAP BusinessObjects solutions and learned a lot about the SAP Netweaver suite and how companies were trying to integrate the software into the BusinessObjects suite. Great experience, I highly recommend it to everyone, and will definitely do it again!” – Mico Yuk, SAP Mentor
There were 4,000+ attendees in Berlin and nearly 6,000 attendees in Las Vegas. After the recession-hit figures from last year, it was amazing to see and be part of such large and energetic groups again.
Vishal Sikka, Member of the SAP Executive Board, Leading Technology and Innovation, kicked things off with an inspiring keynote address, ushering in the era of “AND” which “is about leveraging the Best, making intelligent choices not compromises, and purposeful inclusion to address specific needs.” In other words, it’s possible to build on what you have today to make your business run better, faster, and smarter. He highlighted the importance of the SAP NetWeaver platform, in-memory (HANA) technology that can provide real-time analytics to customers, cloud-based applications and extension applications, and mobility. One highlight from the keynote was when Vishal spoke about how SAP loaded the 460 billion records of a major consumer products company into in-memory, and using SAP BusinessObjects Explorer, accelerated version for SAP NetWeaver BW, enabled the company to search, explore, and analyze ALL the data almost instantly. Very impressive!
SAP BusinessObjects 4.0
With the impending release of the SAP BusinessObjects 4.0 suite there was intense interest in BusinessObjects BI and EIM solutions. At the “What’s New in BusinessObjects 4.0” session in Berlin, it was standing room only. Watch this recorded session in Las Vegas.
Here are some of the key features to look forward to:
- Information Designer Tool – a new single development environment for building BI solutions and data federation jobs for multi-source universe data access
- SAP Crystal Reports – new styling with ribbon bar look and feel; common query design experience; and automated report translation for global deployments.
- SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence – new charting options and toolbar; expanded interactivity for ad hoc and guided analysis workflows; and on-the-fly browsing and query result validation.
- SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards (formerly known as Xcelsius for Enterprise) – Support for new semantic layer and alert consumption via BI platform services.
- BI Launch Pad – replaces InfoView and offers enhanced filtering, navigation, and search options.
- SAP BusinessObjects BI Platform (formerly known as BusinessObjects Enterprise) – enhanced scalability with virtualization and 64-bit support; automatic diagnosis for performance optimization, health dashboard, watches, and alerts for system monitoring; complete auditing tracking for compliance and usage analysis
- SAP BusinessObjects Analysis – this formerly codenamed “Pioneer” and then formerly known as “Advanced Analysis”. I attended a session for the Microsoft Office edition of this product and came away very impressed by the OLAP analytic power it adds to Excel. There is another version called “SAP BusinessObjects Analysis, edition for OLAP” but this name is a bit misleading since both editions work with OLAP data sources; the key difference is that the “edition for OLAP” is a web-based client.
Meeting the SAP Mentors (who come from the BusinessObjects world)
I finally met some of the new SAP Mentors who come from the BusinessObjects world, including Jamie Oswald, Greg Myers, Mico Yuk, Tammy Powlas, Simon To, and Paul Hawking. All of them were impressed with the quality of the TechEd conference in terms of the facilities, organization, layout, and content although they would (naturally) like to see even more BusinessObjects content.
This year’s band was LifeHouse. I’ll confess that I never heard of them prior to the conference and never heard any of their songs (to my knowledge). In Berlin I was invited to a pre-show meet and greet where we took photos with the band. They were very kind and gracious in welcoming us, and yes, the concert was excellent. Each of us even received a signed CD that I listened to afterwards (and liked).
It’s an exhausting yet exhilirating time of the year at SAP TechEd. Learning is much like drinking from a fire house and your days are long and often crazy, but the knowledge that you gain and the new people you meet make it all worthwhile. I’m already looking forward to next year.
In the meantime, view the photos I took at this year’s events.