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.
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: http://twitter.com/#!/ttrapp/status/48491486391705600. Thank you, Tobias.)
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 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.
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: http://yfrog.com/f/h7axlclj/. 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 Gillethttp://twitter.com/mgillet 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: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mgillet/5530058651/
Fig. 3: Hasso Plattner stops at every user exit and most importantly follows the SAP Mentors!
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”.
- Mark Finnern’s blog: “Oh the places we go: SAP Mentors at DKOM” Oh the places we go: SAP Mentors at DKOM
- Martin Gillet: Hasso Plattner is following the SAP Mentors http://www.flickr.com/photos/mgillet/5530058651/
- “Kiss of Death for Web Dynpro Java – The follow-up questions” – Kiss of Death for Web Dynpro Java – The Follow-Up Questions
- “Kiss of Life for ABAP Dynpro – It’s going to stay, so let’s improve the integration” – Kiss of Life for ABAP Dynpro – It’s going to stay, so let’s improve the integration