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Alas, technology meets the user!

After 10 years at SAP, I am still amazed by its technological genius.  Hoping to get a good seat for the keynote by Dr. Vishal Sikka, member of the executive board of SAP, I raced through the never-ending halls of the Venetian Hotel toward the ballroom.  As it turns out, thousands of technology geeks had beat me to the punch, so I grabbed a seat toward the back.  I should have expected this session to be a sell-out – after all, I was at SAP TechEd!

Vishal began his session enlightening us with unimaginable facts such as the ability to manage 1PB of data in split seconds, and server costs dropping 20% in a 5.5 month period recently.  All this leading up to his favorite subject – “his girl” SAP HANA.

If there was any doubt in my mind at the legitimacy of the “big data” revolution, I found validation in the recent Harvard Business Review issue entitled, Big Data.  Inside the October edition, they reflect on the familiar adage often attributed to Deming and Drucker, “You can’t manage what you don’t measure.”  According to authors McAfee and Brynjolfsson, this explains why the explosion of digital data is so important.

To demonstrate the point, a study was conducted to answer the question, “Where’s the evidence that using big data intelligently will improve business performance?”  A fair question to ask, and for SAP, a good one to have answered.   The results?  Companies in the top third of their industry in the use of data-driven decision making were, on average, 5% more productive and 6% more profitable.

It seems SAP’s decision to introduce HANA to the market was right on target.  But to make it more accessible to all sizes of organizations, Vishal had a special announcement for SAP TechEd: HANA on Amazon Web Services for only $0.99 per hour.  What a great way to extend this competitive advantage to all our customers – large and small.

Among the techy bits and bytes of information shared by Vishal and his leadership team emerged an interesting mantra for those of us more interested in people versus technology – the importance of the end users.  In fact, Vishal went so far as to say, “If we, the IT professionals, are not serving end users, we are missing the point.”  He shared his theory that our real-time platforms are all about connecting us to the end users.  Now he was speaking my language!

Design thinking, Vishal explained, is the cornerstone of all SAP current-day development which has a keen focus on user experiences.  Vishal introduced SAP’s new global head of design and user experience, Sam Yen.  Sam wasn’t on stage for long before he pointed out the obvious: SAP is not known for being user friendly.  The comment was met with a good chuckle from the audience.  Sam offered insights into the user experience efforts under way, and demonstrated a new App Designer tool from SAP to help customers build their own user experiences for SAP.  Very cool stuff!

Given my 10-year tenure with SAP Education, my first thought was how all this new UI focus will impact learning.  Can end user training be eliminated in the future?  It is probably a bit early to project, but if using SAP can simulate using any of my iPad apps, we may be looking at a significant learning paradigm shift.  One that moves from transactional end user training to more of a social networking experience where end users engage and share SAP knowledge.

Just as we are now experiencing the data revolution, on the heels of it is what SAP co-CEO Bill McDermott would call the consumer revolution.  Alas, the technology world has collided with the users!  Welcome to my world. 🙂

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