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Thorsten at DKOM and InnoJam 2011: A Mentor’s Glimpse at SAP’s innermost Secrets

Last summer, chief Mentor herder Mark Finnern surprised theSAP Mentors with the amazing news that we might get invited to DKOM, SAP’s annual top-secret, internal Developer Kick-Off Meeting, in which developers and architects from all areas look beyond the rim of their plates, exchange knowledge, and bring each other up to date.

A few weeks later, I had a meeting at SAP’s Walldorf headquarters, and, as I was walking down a corridor, chanced upon CTOVishal Sikka. Being a fanboy beyond all hope, I approached him and identified myself as an SAP Mentor, to which he replied: “You must come to DKOM!” Whew, it was true, now I had a personal invitation from Vishal! (Despite the rumors, this chance encounter did not take place in the restroom. The restroom story happened on the same day, but involves one of Vishal’s bosses.)

I understand that Sinead Kaiya, organizer of the event, was one of the first people to believe in the idea of bringing guests from customers and partners to DKOM in order to take the ongoing community dialogue (“SAP listens”) to a new level, and worked very hard to make it actually happen. Thanks a lot, Sinead! It was magic.

Yes, last week and this week, the event took place, and I was privileged to participate along with  thousands of SAP’s developers and about 30 Mentor colleagues, most of whom do not work at SAP. Because SAP has developers all over the world, the event took place in several locations more or less simultaneously, including Mannheim, Bangalore, Santa Clara, Shanghai, Paris, Budapest, Sofia, Montreal, Vancouver, and Ra’anana.

Non-Disclosure Agreement

Because of the sensitive nature of the information that is shared at this normally strictly internal event, every non-SAP participant had to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA). This means that I’m not allowed to share anything that is not publicly known. I hope you understand!

I asked myself what use attending the event might be to the SAP Mentors and the SAP community if we can’t share anything directly. My answer is that while I am not allowed to discuss any details I learned at the event until they become publicly known, the sum of these details may help me see the “Big Picture” a bit better, and serve as a general background from which to understand future, publicly known details.

It’s important to understand that SAP may be temporarily secretive, but very strong and exactly on the right track in one area, while they may have a huge blind spot or be completely off-track in another area. Knowing which is which can help focus my energies on areas where SAP really needs a corrective and constructive feedback, instead of dwelling on subjects that are solved very well but not publicly released yet.

Fig. 1: Getting to the essence

(This just in: Tobias Trapp reminds me that the free food and beverages and the free t-shirt are of course also weighty arguments to attend any conference:!/ttrapp/status/48491486391705600. Thank you, Tobias.)

DKOM InnoJam

Thursday and Friday last week were dedicated to DKOM InnoJam (also known as HANA Olympics). This is the successor of Innovation Weekend (from SAP TechEd 2010) and Hacker’s Night/Process Design Slam (previous TechEds).

In the Walldorf event (hosted by Rui Nogueira of Code Exchange fame and Karin Schattka), about ten teams were let loose to each develop a HANA-based application in 1.5 days. Fellow SAP Mentor Tobias Trapp and I decided spontaneously to participate with our own idea just for the heck of it (not competing with the regular entries who had gone through an SAP-internal selection process), and were thankful when SAP Mentor Matthias Steiner joined us and got his HANA-savvy colleague Mirco Stern to join the event and support all teams with his expertise and energy.

The NDA forbids me to speak about the details of HANA, but I can say that the event was a blast. Developing on top of HANA was great fun and I wish we could have more time to bring our very humble attempt past the initial stages. I can’t wait for the next time I will have an opportunity to play with HANA and learn about this amazing piece of technology.

The hospitality and organization were just fabulous, and the results of the other teams were awe-inspiring.

DKOM Mannheim

DKOM Mannheim lasted two days: The first day took place in the SAP Arena and was spent almost entirely in the huge arena with presentations for everyone. We heard the inspiring keynote session by co-CEOs Jim Snabe and Bill McDermott and several very impressive presentations about ongoing developments and the current state of affairs in the main areas of SAP’s technology strategy: mobile (On Device), cloud computing (On Demand), NetWeaver and Business Suite (On Premise). It was really impressive but also quite top-down.

The second day was more bottom up. It took place in the Rosengarten, a small but excellent conference venue in the city center of Mannheim. The day was composed of back-to-back 45-minutes sessions, with short breaks for changing rooms. There were also numerous demo pads and whiteboard sessions of varying length.

It was a wealth of high-quality, condensed content delivered by highly knowledgeable and passionate speakers. I felt truly privileged to attend, and enjoyed the sessions so much that I didn’t even cut out the time for a decent breakfast or lunch break.

Being a long-time TechEd regular, I would estimate that the content at DKOM was at least one, perhaps even two years ahead of what we see at SAP TechEd and provided valuable insight into the road ahead.

Networking and social aspects

My impression was that the degree of interactivity and the emphasis on networking were lower than at recent TechEds. Personally, I missed networking opportunities such as the SCN club house, the Expert Networking Sessions, and the occasional evening reception. The attendees were very open and approachable, but due to the tight schedule everybody was always in a rush to get to the next session. I understand that the trade-off between the value of networking and consuming great content isn’t easy, especially if you have only two days, but knowing SAP, I am positive that DKOM will evolve and a stronger emphasis on networking will be included in the future.

Community dialogue

Apart from many interesting personal encounters, it was good to experience SAP employees picking up the dialogue from the SCN platform. I received feedback on my Kiss of Death for Web Dynpro Java – The Follow-Up Questionsand Kiss of Life for ABAP Dynpro – It’s going to stay, so let’s improve the integrationSCNblogs, among others in the form of a great meeting with SAP’s legend Dr. Wolfgang Weiss. It was an honor to exchange ideas with the lightning-quick creator of SFLIGHT & Co., co-author of the first ABAP book ever, father of SmartForms and many other frameworks and now in charge of all things UI, among other topics. Another speaker used a quote from the “Kiss of Life” blog in his closing slide: It’s good to know that raising issues in blogs can actually spark a constructive dialogue with SAP.

Fig. 2: Community dialogue – photo by Martin Lang

Encounter with Hasso Plattner

The incredible Martin Gillet took the cake when he caught SAP’s demi-god Hasso Plattner for a group foto with some SAP Mentors (missed that – argh!) and marked him with his stickers (“I stop at every user-exit”, “I’m following @sapmentors”), which are known never ever to go off, so be prepared to see Hasso bearing Martin’s stickers at the upcoming SAPphire:

Hasso Plattner is stopping at every user exit and most important following the SAP Mentors!

Fig. 3: Hasso Plattner stops at every user exit and most importantly follows the SAP Mentors!

Pulse check

I found DKOM a valuable occasion for a pulse check: It gave me a pretty good impression of the state of the company, the clarity of their strategy, the leadership, and the quality and speed of its execution.


Fantastic. Inviting members of the SAP community who are not SAP employees to a normally internal event is another powerful indicator of the “new SAP”. Allowing us a peek at the future of SAP technology will benefit everyone, as it will improve the quality of the community feedback and other impulses channeled through or originated by the Mentors. This is indeed a chance to take the dialogue to the next level and even beyond “SAP listens”.


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  • “SAP’s annual top-secret, internal Developer Kick-Off Meeting, in which developers and architects from all areas look beyond the rim of their plates, exchange knowledge, and bring each other up to date.”

    It scares me that this event is only happening once a year and that SAP needs an official event to “look beyond the rim their plates” and (to my understanding from reading the twitter posts) this was the 1st time ever that external feedback was allowed. Should be part of the corporate culture.

    br, Tobias

    • Hi Tobias,
      I wouldn’t see it that way. Just because tens of thousands of SAP’s developers get together once per year to share knowledge doesn’t mean that each individual or group doesn’t constantly or frequently do that on a peer-to-peer or team-to-team basis, or use the tools and platforms available between conferences. Also, they seem to have many smaller and internal, topic-centered events throughout the year and generally a healthy internal knowledge economy. Bottom line, I think you’re reading too much into the text. 🙂
      I agree with you that opening up and listening to external feedback is good for SAP. My impression is that there is a strong movement inside SAP towards opening up more and more, and that this is a part of a fundamental transformation of the corporate culture. Therefore, I am not scared but delighted to see that SAP is moving in the right direction.
      • First, @Thorstener, it was great to see you in person and have an opportunity to explain a bit about our sustainability efforts to the assembled mentors –

        Second, Tobias I think that you would be amazed at how social and collaborative the environement is inside of SAP on an ongoing basis. DKOM is a great chance to spread *far* beyond the daily work, but the coffee-corner and lunch culture is rich at SAP as is the virtual collaborative space with a Jive platform, an internal Confluence wiki, a microblogging service, Streamwork, and more (a very rich an powerful NNTP undergound also exists!).

        So, just because this is the formal internal cross-education event, it doesn’t mean that we aren’t trying to preseve the “big room” of the great, early startup days of the company even as we push to more unimaginable Sagans of employees…

        • Tobias,
          How embarrassing! In this new light, I hope you appreciated how much effort I put into a diplomatic reply. 😉
          • ;-)Now a real question: did Idea Place get mentioned anywhere? Is SAP using some ideas posted there? Did it got mentioned as one of the ways to interact with the community (SAP is listening) ?

  • Thorsten,
    My experiences were great in Santa Clara and congratulations on being quoted in KOD Life/Death.

    Yes, I expected to see you in the Hasso Plattner picture 🙂

    From the Santa Clara side I want to thank Anne Hardy, Marilyn Pratt, Matt Kangas, Murray Spork, Jeff Word…the list goes on to all who made it happen.

    I enjoyed every minute and I am glad you personally urged me at the last TechED to attend this.


    • Tammy, thanks for the feedback – I’m glad you enjoyed the event as much as I did. Surely, being on the voting panel in Santa Clara must have been great fun!
      • The next day several SAP employees came up to me and said “I was no Paula Abdul” re: voting panel.  It was fun.

        It was a fantastic time, getting to know Dagfinn Parnas and Leo and Harald more, and Daniel Graverson is a genius!  It was great seeing Karin Tillotson and Marilyn Pratt was very generous with her time (and car).

        It’s always good to see Mark F and Aslan too.  We had a great time.

        I learned something new at every single session…it was great to be there!!


  • Thorsten, excellent blog as always.

    I am curious on the NDA. Putting yourself in SAP’s shoes – how much of the content did you think really warranted an NDA? Very high or only a few parts of it?

    • Vijay,
      Thank you for the feedback! Regarding your question – hard to say. On a high level of abstraction, many things are well-known because SAP is practicing what they preach at the recent Influencer Summit, Run Better, etc. The detail level, however, takes much longer until it is released to the public: seeing it live on screen, learning about concrete features that are included or aren’t included in which particular release, etc. – this would be material that they don’t like to leak out a year or so before they start discussing it in confidential meetings with customers and partners.
      Does that answer your question?
      • I know there was a lot of concern and light-hearted ribbing of the NDA, but I think that largely it makes sense. Letting us behind the curtain (with or without an NDA) showed a considerable amount of trust on SAP’s part, and I completely understand why SAP wouldn’t want much of what I heard over the weekend to be public knowledge. I for one had no problem keeping quiet about it, as nothing was said that should adversely impact any customers or partners (of course I stopped listening as soon as they showed us the food and handed out t-shirts).
        • Jamie,
          That’s exactly the spirit! The Mentors were easily recognizable because they were always all over the buffet, their formerly blue shirts and faces and trousers smeared with a thick amalgam of chicken kun pao, gravy, and mashed potatoes. I’m sure Mark Finnern would have been proud of us!
    • I understand why SAP wants NDA for DKOM. Many things discussed there should go through marketing/PR filter before presented to the public, including “forward-looking” statements.
  • Having seen the hashtags for DKOM on twitter throughout the conference and wondering “what are they all talking about?”
    Thank you, for clarifying what DKOM is and what all those tweets were in reference to.
    And to attend a content focused event that you feel is 2 years ahead of SAP TechEd, well that does sound cool.
  • This is just a refreshing blog to be read first thing in the morning.Made my day!!!
    However,as am following HANA blogs,curious to know what lies ahead?
    One thing that struck me however is, non-SAP employees too were involved, how was this meeting news communicated,I never got a hint of this event? Have I to be more proactive somewhere?

    With Regards,

    • Hi Kumud,
      Thanks for your feedback! Don’t worry about not being proactive enough – the event is not publicly announced because it is SAP-internal. The SAP Mentors heard from it when we were invited (and of course those who are SAP employees knew about it and were able to suggest that we could be invited, see Mark Finnern’s blog).
  • Hello Thorsten

    I enjoyed reading this blog and I have a quote that suits the occasion:

    “Knowledge per se is worthless, you are not not what you know, you are what you do” – Wolfgang Grulke

    You handle what you do with knowledge very well and it shows. Thanks for the information about DKOM and InnoJam.

    It makes sense to include SAP Mentors in those events and like you already mentioned it can provide a better view on what is already being handled and going on at SAP.

    Keep on rocking SCN 🙂

    Kind regards