Impressions from SAPPHIRE NOW + SAP TechEd – Madrid 2011
In more than one way events like SAP TechEd or SAPPHIRE NOW remind me of weddings. I mean, hey, you spend months preparing for the big moment and then – bang – the event is over before you even realize it. What remains is that happy fatigue mixed with lots of memories about special moments, conversations and discussions.
With soo much happening during the show it’s hard to analyze it all in real-time (well, except for you-know-who of course!) So here – with some delay – my humble attempt to recap and reflect on SAPPHIRE NOW + SAP TechEd in Madrid.
For this year’s episode of my annual “Impressions from SAP TechEd” series I wanted to stick to the tradition, but with a spin – for mainly two reasons:
First, Madrid has been special as it was the first time that the “suits and the geeks” were brought together, which definitely resulted in a unique atmosphere (more on that later!) And second, having been trusted with the role of a Social Ambassador I feel it’s appropriate to tackle the challenge of summing up the event(s) from a social angle: by using (parts of) my twitter stream as sort of a “red thread”, capturing just one voice in the crowd. I’m not even going to try to provide you an unbiased or even objective summary, but instead just share with you my personal experience as an example of how it was to be in Madrid. And yes, it has been … amazing – again!
It seems already like a tradition to kick-off SAP TechEd with an accompanying SAP InnoJam and Madrid was no exception. Unfortunately, I could not participate myself this time, yet based on my past experiences and what I saw on Monday afternoon, I can clearly say that they just keep getting better and bigger all the time. Karin Schattka, Jürgen Schmerder and Rui Nogueira were running the show around the theme ‘Sustainable Business just started!‘ this time and they did a great job (as always!) The results presented on Monday afternoon clearly underline that a team of dedicated people can build impressive prototypes based on SAP’s latest technologies in no more than 30 hours. If you want to know more – please let me recommend the following blogs or you may head straight to the WIKI page to get the full scoop:
There was another event going on in parallel that shared similar objectives with the SAP InnoJam: namely, to push co-innovation by leveraging some of the latest technologies released by SAP. During the SAP TrainRace 50 developers spend roughly 72 hours developing enterprise apps with SAP Gateway while travelling from Paris to Madrid!
I think that Tuesday morning was probably the moment most attendees realized that this is not going to be the usual SAP TechEd experience as there was no key-note to kick it off. Consequently it was a rather quiet and easy start into the first day for most people (well, except for those standing in line for their tickets that is!)
One of my personal highlights at Day 1 was the “What would @MarilynPratt do?” flash-mob organized by the community (special shout-out to Martin English and Luis Lanz!). For those who have not had the fortune to get to know Marilyn, she’s a community advocate for the SAP Community Network (SCN) and a role-model (and good friend) for many in the community. Yet, the flash-mob was not only intended to show our appreciation for her as an amazing individual, but also to acknowledge her unique and positive style of herding the community, building networks and bringing people together. Oh, we sure caught her by surprise… 🙂
SAP Mentors Moments
Given their reputation of being the top community influencers of the SAP Ecosystem the SAP Mentors do get a lot of face-time from executives and other key players in order to share and discuss both the big picture as well as the little details of strategic initiatives. And it’s not only what is discussed there, but more about how it is discussed – in a very open and honest way, based on trust! SAP is certainly listening to the mentors and involves them early on to get quality feedback and suggestions. Seeing this is still shocking (in a good way!) and probably the best indicator that the old point of view of SAP as this “good ol’ German software vendor” is long outdated. (For more on that storyline please refer to Not your Grandfather’s SAP by Thorsten Franz.)
The first meeting of the day was with Oliver Bussmann and Martin Heisig and besides #SAPRunsSAP we obviously touched upon the role of social media in the enterprise again. As the Twitterverse knows – Oliver is an avid networker and information multiplier. Matter of fact, when talking to him it gets obvious that he has incorporated social interaction via Twitter in his daily schedule and that he uses apps such as Pulse to stay up-to-date with what is happening in the enterprise software (#ensw) and IT world. As such he’d be one of the first examples that come to mind when somebody asks “But why should I invest time in social media and how to find the time for it?” I believe (and I try to back up that statement with this blog post!) that these day you simply cannot afford NOT do invest the time as – bluntly speaking – you’re missing!
See, throughout this recap I refer you to the Twitter handles of the people I mention. All of these people interact on social networks on a regular basis: they share information, discuss, socialize and engage. As such, the time investment (if you want to call it that) certainly pays off rather quickly and eventually it will make you change your mind on the value it brings to be present in such networks. (More on that front by Jon Reed: “The Power of Pull, SAP Style.”)
Our CIO is not the only one from the board who has embraced social networks; matter of fact our new CMO Jonathan Becher is very active on that front too! As a regular blogger and tweep he’s been known within the SAP Mentor program for quite a while and – despite our natural reluctance against marketing in general and being seen as part of the SAP marketing machine in particular – we have lots of respect for him and his understanding of what marketing really is!
In fact, hearing him speak about exactly this topic was one of my highlights this time! For Jonathan (and I’m paraphrasing here), it’s not about getting that OneVoice-compliant, legally approved, superficial mouth-byte out there repeating it until everybody is fed up with it. It’s more of a million authentic voices that market to each other about their experiences. He used the metaphor of turning the megaphone around and instead of broadcasting; marketing is much more about listening to what the people have to say about your products. Of course it sounded so much more eloquently hearing it from him, but I hope you get why I was very positively surprised. So, if that is our understanding of marketing now (and as it’s his call – it really is!) then, hey… I’m in marketing then! 😉
Now, those were just two examples among a long list of topics discussed, which I explicitly mention to underpin the statement that there’s a culture change taking place at SAP – and one that leads in the right direction! And if that is not enough to convince you about the power of social marketing, then take this tweet by Vishal Sikka as further evidence! Yes, we got to see him and one topic that was discussed (among many others) was SAP Gateway licensing. (See Thoughts on NetWeaver Gateway by Graham Robinson.)
What better way to round off the first day then a good old DemoJam session? Guess I wasn’t the only one thinking along these lines and as such found myself in a packed theater on Tuesday night. Lots have been said about the event and how it has evolved recently and I have little to add to that. Ian Kimbell certainly has a unique style, a great sense of humor and puts up a great show for the audience. So, I guess the only thing some of us are lacking is the community spirit of the former days… yet, on the other hand one could argue that this aspect has moved over to InnoJam and personally I’m looking forward to the day when an InnoJam project will win the DemoJam trophy. It was close already this time! However, I am totally happy with seeing John Astill winning this one with his Save the Planet application. And that’s not because he’s a good buddy, a great guy, a SAP Mentor or any other reason, but simply because I know he’s been putting a lot of his personal time and energy in this and it’s indeed an idea worth pursuing. Well deserved, John!
- On Genuine Demo Jam Awesomeness by Thorsten Franz
The only other thing I want to high-light before we flip the page to talk about Day 2 is that unknowingly Ian did set stage for another meme by saying “”if you are setting next to someone wearing a suit, please be nice to them!” (Tweet by Thomas Jung), which resulted in the #suithugger movement (more on that in a bit!)
So, Wednesday was the day when the SAPPHIRE NOW attendees joined the crowd gathering for the keynote resulting in a total of around ~ 10k. Gabriel_Byrne was first on stage giving a strong and very visionary introduction to the theme The Future of Business – Imagining the World in 2015 and Beyond. Personally, I liked it – for one, because it was refreshingly different and unexpected and second, because it was simply a great show! Brian Wasson summarizes it well in his blog ‘The Present is Past: SAPPHIRE NOW Keynote Predicts the Future.’
Then it was on Co-CEO Jim Hagemann Snabe to take over the stage and set the tone for the days to come. Jim held a well-balanced key note covering on a lot of topics. The people I talked to about it afterwards were mostly pointing out the EMR (Electronic Mobile Record) mobile app as the thing they liked the most – and I tend to agree. The other topic I found most interesting was the SAP Store announcement, yet I wish it would have been covered in more detail. (For a full coverage of the keynote, please let me point you to ‘SAP: Apple simple, Google fast‘ by Heather McIlvaine at sap.info.)
Next major stop for me was my very own preview session CD111 about “Community-Centric Development” talking about how-to develop applications on the upcoming Java OnDemand PaaS offering (announced the next day by the name Project River.) I already blogged about it prior to Las Vegas, so let me just refer you to the SAP NetWeaver OnDemand at TechEd, which contains all the info you’d need to dig deeper. I’m just mentioning it here to stay in chronological order with the twitter timeline. We’ll cover Project River in more detail when speaking about Day 3.
The end of the day was reserved for two special events: the SCNotties show and the “Embracing Inclusion to Drive Innovation” (#eidi) design-thinking workshop.
Being a community addict that considers SCN his home-court the SCNotties are a tradition I have supported from the first moment I heard about it. Wish I could claim to have been there from day one, yet as a grass root initiative it took its time to spread – and as such I will not stop mentioning it. To quote from the SCN WIKI page:
This is a voluntary effort where people can introduce themselves via a video clip to the rest of the SAP Community Network. The idea was started by Craig Cmehil, and then became a somewhat silly game to see who could make the funniest video. But it’s still a serious idea, where your name may be known to the community, but maybe not your face, or your voice. The target of 30 seconds has several benefits – it forces you to be succinct, it preserves bandwidth, and it allows a larger number of people to be introduced to SCN in a short time.
I’m really happy to see how the Madrid one developed and I salute Gali Kling Schneider and Tom Cenens as the MCs and Sylvia on and behind the scenes for a great show all around. It takes courage to go crazy in public and perform a live rap. Yet it just shows the level of comfort some of us feel when hanging out with our fellow SCN folks! It felt like club-house atmosphere among friends, which is great, yet I think we would be better off to aim for a public theater next time around to draw new people and have more visibility.
Embracing Inclusion to Drive Innovation
As those who follow more closely know there’s a background story to that one. Having been at the first #EIDI design-thinking workshop run by Marilyn Pratt, Patti Fletcher and Heike van Geel [I omit titles as by the guidelines for the event!] and About ‘Embracing Inclusion to Drive Innovation’ resulted in feeling closely attached to this series of events. It has been a very humbling and valuable learning experience for me to having been pulled into the organisation team as an adviser for the Madrid event. On that note… I feel like it wouldn’t be appropriate to pitch an event I’ve helped organizing, but instead opt for letting others do the talking. (In fact, one of the guidelines I’ve set for myself while being a Social Ambassador was to aim for a good mix of tweets and retweets to mimic the dialogue-style conversation on-site. Kind of aiming to capture the moment if you will.) So, here without further ado, the must-reads about EIDI:
At the time we all gathered for the more technical keynote lead by our CTO Vishal Sikka it dawned to several that the event was almost over, others opted for the positive side of things: the glass was still half-full.
Vishal’s keynote was all about “Empowerment and Renewal” and logically SAP HANA is the core of it. He started giving some customer examples of how much faster the processing times of in-memory computing are in comparison to the solution they had replaced. He did this in the style of frequent-flier miles by grouping them in brackets: 1k Club, 10k Club, 100k Club. While this certainly helps in showing how magnificent and dramatic the capabilities of SAP HANA are, yet I heard people say they were interested more in the use-cases and scenarios presented as they were convinced about the speed factor already. Similar topics were discussed between Jon Reed and Aiaz Kazi in their JD-OD.com video interview towards the end.
Talking about speed… being from Austria and a big Formula 1 fan I was very happy to see Red Bull as the SAP HANA customer showcase on stage. As always, fellow SAP Mentor Vijay Vijaysankar was upon the first to blog about that one: Redbull migrates BW to HANA – I am suitably impressed.
Project River fka SAP NetWeaver Neo*
Vishal then asked Björn Görke on stage, who elaborated on the renewal of the business suite (the core.) Yet, for me the most interesting topic of his agenda was the last bullet point: Announcing Project River – Private Beta. Now, as we heard executives talking about the same thing by the name of “SAP NetWeaver Neo*” just a few days back, that may caused some confusion. Especially among those who have used the name to refer to the formbuilder capabilities based on the Coghead acquisition, which was called ‘River’ internally. So, in a nutshell… (for the time being?!?) … the simplest explanation would be to say the term was expanded to not only include the original capability, but to also include the newly added Java PaaS solution plus some common services like Identity-Management-as-a-Service (IDMaaS) all based on in-memory computing technologies and having our common IaaS layer underneath. Here’s the blog I wrote about the topic the night before…
As I mentioned earlier the Java PaaS has been one of the topics I personally have been focusing on in the last couple of months. Having been a strong promoter and advocate for Java @SAP for years I have to say that this is about one of the most interesting things I’ve seen and “messed with” in quite some time. In fact, building an OnDemand platform based on OpenSource standards leveraging Java’s strongest asset – its community – … now that just sounds like my cup of tea!
For this reason I have been presenting on the topic at SAP TechEd this year. To prove the architecture blueprints presented in our session, we have developed a demo application “SAP xPolliNation” to demonstrate the technical capabilities of the platform. If all goes well, we’ll soon be able to give the whole SCN community access to it (as it uses the IDMaaS connected to the SCN user store). Keep your fingers crossed if you will – but I’ll sure blog more about the topic in the days to come!
- Apply for the private beta program: https://beta.netweaver.ondemand.com/
As I pointed out earlier there was a playful theme evolving around the “suits meet geeks” situation in Madrid. Based on Ian Kimbell’s statement to be nice to the suits next to us, my buddies Oliver Kohl and Chris Kernaghan invented the #suithugger hashtag and started taking pictures spontaneously hugging people wearing suits, which picked up momentum. So during the whole event and especially Vishal’s keynote (with all the execs sitting in the front row) there were jokes going around about “potential targets.” So, as the show was over … having Chris sitting next to me I dared him (“I got my camera right here!”)… and he accepted the challenge going for: Jim! Don’t believe me – here’s proof! And while he was at it… he tackled Björn Görke right afterwards!
- The official #suithugger gallery at Facebook
I spend the rest of the day either demoing our Java PaaS application or in more meetings with the SAP Mentors group. So, before we close it up with the Night event (when my battery died on me, which is why it isn’t covered in my tweetstream!) let me talk some more about two other special meetings I was priviledged to take part in.
Those who read my recap from Las Vegas have already heard the good news: we’ll get a completely revamped SAP Community Network on the beginning of December. It will be Jive-based and – all the Tip-in-a-Minute videos floating around tell us – it will be feature-packed; especially on the front of social media integration. So, we had the who-is-who of the SCN team lead by Mark Yolton, Chip Rodgers and Jason Cao presenting the new version and its capabilities. We also touched on the idea of opening up the Jive APIs for SCN in order to allow the community to build their own apps for and on the platform. Seems like in general everybody is up for it and likes the idea – so if you want to support us in pushing that issue – please vote for it here!
Conclusions and the Night Events
At the end of the day, before everybody was rushing out to see Cirque du Soleil and Anastacia, we had a special meeting: with Jim. While it may lead to jokes along the lines of “How many SAP Mentors can you squeeze in one room…” it sure was an extraordinary moment for all of us to discuss and conclude the event with him.
The evening event? Well, yes it was a good show, though I have to say that having watched Cirque du Soleil in Cologne once – their show is soo much more tangible in a big top.
And about Anastacia? Well, she sure still knows how-to sing and personally I had good fun during the concert. The most memorable moment will probably be the one she asked a young girl from the audience to join her on stage and sing “One Day in Your Life” together with her. I think most people enjoyed the show, yet she earned her new nickname “HANAstacia” for a reason 😉
Now, that’s been my time in Madrid. As you can tell, I had a blast and I’m coming back with a positive outlook into the future. In a nutshell: we will continue to embrace social networks and to speak openly and pro-actively with our ecosystem, we’ll listen carefully to our trusted advisors, open up our platform and reach out for mass adoption, we declare developers as the new kingmakers (shout-out to DJ Adams)… hey, if this is the outcome when we bring the suits and the geeks together, then – YES – we should do this more often! 😉
- Official SAP TechEd Photo Album Madrid 2011
- Flickr Photo Sets: by Martin Gillet | Gregor Wolf | Twan van den Broek | Marilyn Pratt | Thomas Jung
Wouldn’t feel ok to wrap this one up w/o a final shout-out to my fellow social ambassadors: Schalk Viljoen, Timo Eliott, Clemens Suter-Crazzolara and Tim Clark. And there were so many more people from the team working behind the scenes, so special thanks for all the guidance, support and amplification to: Sarah Goodall (all the best!), Angela Dunn, Bonnie Richards, “TechKnotty“, Christoph Zeidler, Brian Ellefritz, Frank Buchner and – last, but not least – Coleen Raftery for the polishing! And for all those who I didn’t mention explicitly this time around – you know who you are! #unsungheros #nexttime