Have you heard of Innovation Weekend? Have you even attended one of the Innovation Weekends in Berlin or Las Vegas? Innovation Weekend was a 30 hour event that took place on Sunday/Monday before TechEd in Berlin and Las Vegas. Participants were introduced to existing and upcoming SAP technologies and were invited to explore these technologies by solving real world business cases.
Together with my colleague Gigi Read, I had the pleasure to show a preview of SAP’s new on-demand platform (as a service), codenamed “Project River” at Innovation Weekend Las Vegas. We were hoping we could encourage some of the participants to give River a try – and what happened was both amazing and exhausting.
The amazing part
After Gigi and I gave an eight minute introduction into River, several teams chose to use River for their development efforts. Within only a few hours, participants built River applications, iPad UI’s on top of these applications and even got integration scenarios with BI OnDemand and Streamwork working. The innovative spirit of the event was amazing – instead of asking for frameworks or built-in integration, folks just went ahead and built something cool. And the result of what has been built was impressive, as you can see e.g. in the recording of the winning team “Optimizing fundraising processes” that was invited on stage to present their application at Demo Jam – here’s the recording of what they built (others were as cool, but I don’t have any recordings – if you happen to find one, please comment with a link).
Remember, within just 30 hours (minus 5 hours of presentations upfront)…
What struck me most, though, was the spirit of “coopetition”. Teams that were supposed to compete against each other, spent a significant amount of time with helping each other out. Whenever somebody got stuck with a tough technical problem, others had already solved it and were happy to share their findings. Even I myself – supposed to be helping the teams with technical difficulties as a “technology expert” for River – learned a lot from the participants. Writing these lines nearly two weeks after the event makes me want to go back in time; I just can’t get enough of this atmosphere… Thanks to all of you for a fantastic innovation weekend!
The exhausting part
Being a “technology expert”, I did not work on one business case only, I was helping teams out as a shared resource. Demand for River expertise was fairly high and neither of the developers had seen River before. Gigi had a good sense for success and spent most of her time with the team that won the challenge in the end ;-), so there were a lot of questions to answer for me. Sometimes, I did not even know which team I was currently working with. I had a hard time remembering all the new names and faces (hope to spend more time with you in future!), and I finally realized why I am clearly no “executive management material”: it seems I have trouble with too frequent context switches. Talking to an analyst, two escalating customers, a team of developers and in between getting phone calls from Hasso, all of that within just one hour, is not for me. Getting a new River problem thrown at me every other minute was more than enough.
Lesson learned: in upcoming Innovation Events (both Kaj van de Loo and Vishal Sikka let us know that there is going to be more of this in the future), I would rather host some kind of expert pod and walk interested participants through application authoring, the REST API, OAuth authentication into Streamwork, LinkedIn and alike than jumping from team to team and being a limited resource.
The only reason it all worked out, was the skills and the attitude of the attendees. Most of the time, it needed just a little pointer to some information or a few lines of sample code to get them going. I may have mentioned that before, but to see working applications emerge out of nothing in so little time was just pure joy. I may have mentioned this too, but thanks to all of you – it was a weekend to remember. Special thanks to Marilyn Pratt and Craig Cmehil for making it happen, to Kaj van de Loo for setting the tone and then staying with us the entire weekend and to Vishal Sikka for an inspiring ad-hoc speech when he walked in at the end of the event. Next time you don’t have to bite your tongue when you are about to refer to me as “the baldheaded guy” – everyone can see it’s true 😉
I look forward to the next Innovation Weekend!