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SAP Run Better Tour Philadelphia Recap

Thursday March 17th brought the SAP Run Better Tour home to Philadelphia. ‘Home’ being in the backyard of SAP Newtown Square, of course!  Being St. Patrick’s Day, there was an abundance of green, shamrocks and beads on display as well- definitely made for a light atmosphere.   Well, that and a bit of competitiveness with the SAP Run Better Tour stop in Calgary brought a good sense of excitement to the tours stop in the City of Brotherly Love.


The day started early, with a meetup with SAP Mentor Greg Myers to carpool into Philadelphia.  Teleworking most days, it’s rare to get out of the house and driving when it’s still that dark out!   It seems the only time I do that, the reason is generally not as benign- the downside of being a firefighter.  But coffee and the excellent company of Mr. Myers made the traffic bearable.  The roads ended up being a lot better than we thought and we actually made it 30 minutes early. Which gave us an easier shot at the breakfast buffet!


There was a good bit of time for folks to file in and do some good networking.  Since we got in early, I got some great solo time with the new Blackberry Playbook. It was a snappy device and being a Blackberry user, I can see the extension of my handheld to the tablet as a great experience.  It was really nice, but didn’t make me want to cancel my iPad 2 order at all.  I wish RIM the best of luck, because I do see where they’re trying to go with their enterprise positioning.  They really need to hit a home run with this one though- if I hadn’t actually touched it, I would’ve sworn it was still vaporware!  I do like seeing Flash on a portable device, though.  Its seems to be everywhere…


After some more networking with one of my favorite local SAP BusinessObjects Partner- CNE, it was time to head into the ‘Grand Ballroom’ for the keynote address from Diane Fanelli.  Diane is the Regional VP, Industry Solutions North America and a 17 year SAP veteran.  My Twitter buddies for the keynote were Greg Myers (@gpmyers) and the always charming Christine Godek (@cgodek) from SAP. A few key points I jotted down were:

  • Realization and full grasp of social media by SAP.  I haven’t decided if every presenter referring to social media in some way, shape or form means that the discussion is now mainstream or it’s ‘jumped the shark’.  But the number that kept being floated during presentations at this SAPRBT were impressive: 500 million people are members of social networking sites.
  • The line between the consumer and the enterprise is blurring.  Consumers are demanding more, are smarter and want the best.  When it comes to devices and utilization, they want their devices smaller and more capable.  Enterprises need to get their products to the mobile landscape sooner rather than later!

Overall, a nice start to the day.  Here are some shots taken with the infamous ‘Mr.BlurryCam’:




    Diane Fanelli during her keynote:



    After the keynote, it was time for the invitation-only ‘blogger’ session with Diane.  Reminiscent of the pics I saw from the St. Louis RBT session, it was an intimate group of folks.  Greg and I were joined by Michele Kundrack from Penske Truck Leasing and Bhavesh Bhagat from enCrisp.  Bhavesh is also the Program Chair for the Baltimore ASUG Chapter, so its always nice to see fellow ASUG folks in the house.  On the SAP side, you had the guest of honor, Diane Fanelli, as well as Marcus Starke,VP for North American Marketing.  Popping in and out of the room was the coordinator of all things #SAPRBT, Jim Fields.  Jim also tweets as @SAPNorthAmerica and tweeted this picture of Greg Myers and myself during the session:


    (Photo courtesy @SAPNorthAmerica via TwitPic)

    There was some good lively conversation.  I was especially impressed that Vishal Sikka’s ’90 Day Development Cycle’ that has been blogged about from past events has filtered down.  When I asked Diane about it, she said that there was a transformation inside SAP for quicker development cycles and the benefits that can be reaped from them.  Another good point by Diane was that SAP is trying to help their customers ‘take the latency out of their business.  Realtime decision making is a reality’. 

    Bhavesh beat Greg and I to the ASUG questions and asked Diane’s thoughts about working with ASUG.  She stated that 2011 has been a good year in working with ASUG to get the word out to the community.  She talked about the successful chapter roadshows and industry roadmaps, as well as stating that there was some catchup that needed to be done with some roadmaps and these were actively being worked on.  I think a great quote was that SAP ‘has to be customer and market focused and take the feedback that ASUG provides’.

    Originally scheduled for 30 minutes, we ended up using the first sessions time and talking for a full hour.  I am going to make more of the details of this session as a separate blog to follow.


    After the blogger session, it was back to content.  Up Next: Business Analytics.  This session was geared as a general overview of the full BI4 Business Analytics session.  Some of the talking points that interested me were:

    • GRC is considered part of the Business Analytics group at SAP.  This speaks to the importance that risk compliance plays in the day to day world of SAP.  And that more and more regulations ultimately place risk management at the forefront of business analytics.
    • 4 exobytes of unique information will be created in 2011.  That’s a whole LOT of ‘tweets’ to be stored!
    • 70% of internet access in China is via handsets.  That says to me- if you haven’t started thinking about a mobile strategy, you’re already 2 steps behind the curve.
    • Lastly- if you don’t take advantage of your information to overcome your business challenges, you’re not doing it right!


    That brought us to lunch time.  I had the pleasure of sitting with Greg and Christine again in Dell’s partner showcase room.  Lunch was tasty and got a quick lesson on what the ‘cloud’ really means.  And that it’s not the ‘To the cloud’ type of usage that Microsoft portrays in those advertisements.  While the conversation was good, my interest did turn to the presenter when he started talking about using a private cloud infrastructure for development and QA environments.  


    After lunch were the breakout sessions and due to the nature of my job, I got to stay in the Grand Ballroom for all three.  The first session was about Business Analytics, but I have to admit that I tuned out after the presenter made some BusinessObjects gaffes that were probably only obvious to folks like Greg and myself.  I might have tuned out the presenter, but I did see 2 slides that I liked:


    First- one of my favorite things:



    Using unstructured text analytics to search social networking for customer sentiment:



    Next up was a HANA session.  If you caught the Tweet-streams, you may have been able to tell that there was some good buzz being generated in this session.  While I agree with most that HANA still has some ways to go before it’s proven out, the one particular statistic thrown out today was pretty impressive-  HANA achieves compression around 5-20x, giving an example 1TB of data = 100GB stored in memory.  A couple other interesting notes from the presentation:

    • You can use BOBJ against HANA, as well as any other ANSI-92 SQL or MDX tool.
    • Leverage your existing data model, schema and SQL of your database and just mirror it to a HANA blade.
    • HANA ramp-up is still on-going.

    The quote I liked was ‘this is game-changing technology’.  A bold statement, perhaps?  But I do like to hear a company make them, as opposed to ‘wishy-washy’ positioning statements. Here’s a picture from the HANA session:



    Last session of the day was the ‘Business on the Go’ breakout.  Since I am an absolute ‘gadget geek’, I love to hear about mobile and other technologies.  To be honest, since I don’t play in the mobile space in my day-to-day responsibilities, I don’t pretend to be an expert.  I know enough to be dangerous, though! This breakout talked about Afaria and was probably my favorite of the day.  Afaria’s promised functionality on mobile devices is really impressive.  The ability to securely lockdown a personal device on a corporate network was pretty slick.  I agree with the sentiment that people are going to be bringing more and more of their devices into the workplace to help themselves be more productive.  

    If a company can utilize a solution like Afaria to lock the device and sensitive information down, it saves the expense of actually purchasing the device and subsequent maintenance fees.  The employee gets to use the latest technology to help him get the job done faster.  Afaria for security, coupled with a ‘Good’ mail type of solution for accessing corporate email and calendars, seems like a good way to roll out mobile to employees with only the minimum spend on software (and servers).  Hardware is the employee’s cost.  I want to use my new iPad 2 to access mail and calendar on the go?  OK…here are the conditions and what you need to install.  I’m actually going to type up a positioning statement to my Enterprise Architecture team because of this session.  It seems that SAP also sees the real value behind it, as after Greg Myers and I tweeted about Afaria, SAP CIO Oliver Bussman responded to us with a link to a ‘SAP runs SAP’ Afaria blog with overview video.  


    Overall, I thought the SAP Run Better Tour was definitely time well spent.  While a bit on the marketing side of the house for me, I will definitely recommend attending to others on my teams, as well as other tech-savvy business folks. A good mix of networking, sales and technology isn’t a bad thing.  Plus, we beat Calgary in total attendance (by 2 people, I think)!  Go Philly!!

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