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What a great week it has been. So many interesting sessions, so many great people, such inspiring talks…

It’s hard to make a pick. I just can’t decide which sessions inspired me most, which Ideas got me thinking most. So I’ll just try to pour as many of my experiences and thoughts into a comprehensive story. Initially, this blog spanned 7 pages in my MS word Editor, so I decided to split it up in smaller blogs per topic, and linking through from here.

First things first though. Let’s have a small overview of what this hectic week was packing.

Just like last year, the focus was on HANA, Mobile and Cloud, with a touch of social, a sniff of administration and a good seasoning on software engineering. New, for me, this year, was the whole User Experience movement. More on that later…

HANA

As usual, HANA was very prominently available. Vishal seemed so fond of his little girl, that even the bet on the amount of HANA mentions did not stop him. The main message about HANA that I will be taking away from this edition is: “HANA is not just about speed, it’s about simplification, but you’d better do a code review before moving your applications to HANA.”

Read more details in my impressions on HANA

Mobile

Having invested a lot of time and effort in the past years on the mobile area, I was keen to see the direction SAP is taking. Sybase Unwired Platform was the mobile flagship of SAP, but I have the impression that SAPUI5 and NetWeaver gateway are quickly cannibalizing on SUP.

Read on about Mobile

Cloud

There is a lot going on in the skies over SAP. The entire cloud offering is continuously expanding like a huge hurricane of Magnitude 5. I just hope it doesn’t wreak havoc in our organizations and floods our datacenters.

It’s no surprise that the major part of the cloud offering uses SAPUI5 for the front-end. It looks like this is quickly becoming the preferred UI for decoupled applications. (UI on the client decoupled from the services in the backend, contrary to WebDynpro for ABAP, where there is still a very tight coupling between front and backend.) Anyway, a lot is moving in the cloud. The latest addition was the NetWeaver Cloud Portal. It looks cool, it’s pretty easy to use, but I’m still questioning the use case.

That is, untill I stumbled across this great Blog ) from Ohad Yassin. Thank goodness for Social Media!

Social

We love our social media, and so does SAP. No wonder with a CIO like Oliver Busmann. There was a very short session with Jon Reed on how companies were applying social media. A bit of a weird session as well actually. I was expecting Jon to blow us away with brilliant slides and insights, but instead, he just jumped in the crowd and started asking people for their opinion.

He made us think. Damn you Jon, my head still hurts!

But he did trigger something. Details in my brainwaves on social.

Next to the brain jogging from Jon, there was also ye’ole social media pub ehrr… Hub. For a social place, I was kinda missing the fun factor.

That goes for the entire clubhouse btw.

Where in Las Vegas, there was a race track, in Madrid, we had a coffee counter.

I even asked the information desk where the clubhouse was. (“the What?” -“clubhouse, you know, with the race track and the lounge area…”)

No race track, no fat-boys, no lounge bar, no flipcharts and whiteboards!

Feedback for Next year

So feedback for next year: Give Jeanne Carboni and her team the freedom to create a REAL clubhouse! I want to see a lounge corner where people can relax and rest their tired feet; where networking is encouraged by creating a relaxed and open atmosphere; where you can share knowledge by creating impromptu meetings with whiteboards and round tables.

Also, I don’t know about how others experienced it, but the WIFI was horrible.

The Q&A sessions didn’t quite work in the current setup either. You have a sessions on both sides of a cardboard wall. If one speaker is loud, and the other is quiet, it’s a waste of effort to attend the session on the quiet side. On the other hand, the expert sessions work brilliantly, so loose the Q&A approach, and foresee more expert lounges. We ask questions there as well, and we have seating.

Mixed messages

I noticed too that, depending on who you ask, you can get very mixed messages on the same topic. I talked to Yariv Zur on the “Visual composer & SAPUI5” initiative and was very thrilled by it. 2 hours later though, during the UI Roadmap sessions, Visual composer was disadviced as it was, and I quote “still in maintenance, so tolerated, but don’t expect anything new”.

I’m worried now. I had actually been actively helping in the promotion of visual composer in our company as a means to quickly create screens for BPM flows. Can we get a clear direction here?

Conclusion

All in all, I had a great experience. My feet are still hurting ,my head is still buzzing, but I sure am a happy camper, and I’m so glad that I could meet up with old friends, former colleagues, people from SAP who helped me out and Mentors I look up to.

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16 Comments

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  1. Frank Koehntopp

    +1 on the Clubhouse – for me, TechEd is much more about meeting and collaborating than it is about sessions. The added value that you get from discussing technology with like minded peers can not be considered high enough.

    Also agree on the mixed messages around mobile, specifically. The Mobile Platform was not present enough, and all the different sessions (UI5, Gateway, Mobile Portal, Afaria, Syclo) didn’t really offer a path that would help customers chose the best way for them (IMHO).

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  2. Fred Verheul

    Hi Tom,

    I’ll dive into the detail blogs later, but congrats on a very good general overview. I totally agree wrt to the horrible wifi. As far as I can remember it was much better last year. I can’t understand how in 2012 these things can still go wrong. Possible solution, used at the Dutch user congres last year: use multiple networks, each for a specific audience (no idea whether it would really work for SAPTechEd/SAPPHIRE).

    Not so sure about the Q&A, though if there are more then say 15 people around a Q&A-pod, it becomes too hard to do a real Q&A. The expert lounges were much further away from each other, which made it easier to follow the sessions. So if the Q&A’s would be replaced by expert lounges, either these will have the same problem, or there will be less of them, which might also prove difficult.

    And the clubhouse… I remembered looking for it together with DJ Adams . We couldn’t find it. And then, looking at the map, we found out we were in the Clubhouse already. Need I say more?

    Thanks for writing it all down!

    Cheers, Fred

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      1. Fred Verheul

        Hi Frank,

        As an end-user, I couldn’t care less 🙂 .

        But seriously: the wifi is getting more important every year, and this is just not acceptable. So either SAP takes charge of the wifi, or they’d better find another conference center.

        But thanks for the info, it does somehow comfort me (a little bit).

        Cheers, Fred

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        1. Matthias Steiner

          Now I have to jump in to defend the IT team! WiFi was never meant to be a technology to support thousands of devices in such a small setting. The technology is simply limited!

          That’s why the WiFi struggles at all bigger events (and I mean regardless of whether these are SAP Events or not!)

          So, hopefully this will change for better once LTE (4G) will see adoption…

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          1. Tobias Hofmann

            You can always throw in more hardware like http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xirrus, personally I think that is a race the Wifi organizer is doomed to lose. Why? 2 or 3 years ago people came to a conference with their laptop, smartphone users were BB (with roaming, as they were managers) or some iPhones. Today, the same person comes with smartphone, tablet and occasionally with a laptop. And of course all have Wifi activated. Not a problem for the laptop, as in most cases it is put to sleep, but tablet and smartphone are active. Really active: mail (of course not only 1 mail account, 2 or 3 at least), twitter, FB, G+, foto posting / viewing, chat, youtube, etc, etc, etc.

            Won’t be surprised if the average conference attendee is now producing the same traffic per hour 5 users created 3 years ago per day, or even week.

            The best way to increase Wifi quality is to … turn off as many devices as possible. A one-device-online-per-user voucher could help, but … are we willing to accept this?

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            1. Matthias Steiner

              Agree and I like your pragmatic idea of: “1 device per user” too.

              Another problem that adds to the mess is that the 2.5 GHz spectrum is pretty polluted. From what I heard the 5 GHz network worked brilliantly, yet only those fortunate to have newer devices benefited from that…

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  3. Yariv Zur

    Hi Tom,

    Great summary. Just to answer the point about Visual Composer – I’ll try to clarify as much as possible.

    1. Visual Composer is NOT SAP’s strategic RAD tool for the future. That would be AppDesigner.
    2. As mentioned – it is in ‘maintenance mode’ and fully supported by SAP.
    3. That being said – We are adding capabilities from time to time, based on *customer feedback*. This is an important distinction – we do not have an official roadmap for VC, but we do cater to customer requests based on the “Customer Connection” program and through the user groups (Which can be seen as an evolution of the DRQ process).
    4. One of the capabilities is the planned capability for generating HTML5 apps from Visual Composer, based on SAPUI5. This is something which we started working on based on feedback from several customers responding also to an idea mentioned in IdeaPlace.
    5. We are targeting this capability to customers already using or considering using Visual Composer – i.e. helping the install base customer with pain points which they raised. I’m assuming AppDesigner, when it reaches the market, will be able to answer many more use-cases.
    6. I hope to post a blog in the upcoming days clarifying the positioning between the two to help alleviate the confusion. But the bottom line should be as before – Visual Composer is fully supported by SAP, customer can use it (BPM flows is great use-case for this) without any concerns.
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    1. Tom Van Doorslaer Post author

      Hi Yariv,

      Thank you for the clarification!

      Currently we are pushing VC in a BPM context, so that’s still aligned with the purpose. (good)

      The fact that VC may be able generate SAPUI5 for BPM (in the future, maybe) is also very good. It fits in with the strategy that I have in mind on SAPUI5.

      Will the generated screens from Appbuilder also be compatible for use with BPM? Maybe you already mentioned this at TechEd, but there was too much information to remember.

      Cheers!

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      1. Yariv Zur

        Hi Tom,

        Not sure yet about the AppDesigner integration into BPM. At the end of the day, it generates SAPUI5 web apps, so its not a question of compatability on the UI level. The main issues are integration and connectivity. Sorry if this is getting too tedious 🙂

        1. Integration – With Web Dynpro Java and Visual Composer, You can generate UI’s automatic from the BPM design time, where the UI created already has the relevant data fields according to the business process step in/out required fields. So the integration here is pretty cool. Of course – you can create an SAPUI5 (or any HTML5) UI on your own which does the same, but it takes more work.

        2. Connectivity – Web Dynpro Java and Visual Composer – know how to work on top of varying backend services which you might use in your business process (BAPIs/RFCs, Web Services, JDCB, BI Queries and even HANA SQL Statements). AppDesigner (at least in the initial version) will work on top of Gateway based oData services (which is the strategic direction we are taking our UIs, BTW). So this might also be a consideration to you, depending on if you already use Gateway or not.

        (Word of caution – i’m not the expert on AppDesigner, so this is just based on what i’ve read/heard during TechEd).

        Hope this helps clarifying the differences.

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  4. Jon Reed

    Tom, sorry for the delay commenting on this – was great to see you in Madrid. I lingered in Spain at Dennis Howlett’s and came home to pure chaos.

    I totally agree with this: “So feedback for next year: Give Jeanne Carboni and her team the freedom to create a REAL clubhouse! I want to see a lounge corner where people can relax and rest their tired feet; where networking is encouraged by creating a relaxed and open atmosphere; where you can share knowledge by creating impromptu meetings with whiteboards and round tables.”

    But then I am a huge fan of incorporating anarchic and unconference aspects into almost any event.

    You could probably tell that from my session, you are right, that was a bit of an odd session though I had a lot of fun with it. My thinking is when someone takes out 30 minutes of their time for an expert lounge session make sure it’s interactive and meets their needs. It’s fun to go up there without any notes and see what happens. In this case I was planning to talk about the impact of social for SAP professionals but the attendees mostly wanted to talk about Enterprise Social. I’m much more skeptical of enterprise social than I am of social for individuals for several reasons, but at any rate it’s a good topic and it was fun to shift gears and see what the group can come up with.

    For individuals there are some best practices of sorts I recommend (which go against the grain to what most “gurus” suggest but that’s fine by me, makes things interesting). For companies as we saw in that discussion there aren’t best practices as every company is dabbling in social differently based on a number of factors including their own corporate culture.

    I won’t say that was the best lounge session I’ve ever done but it was fun and I’m glad you were there. I did tape both the back to back sessions I did in Madrid and I need to listen to them, the sound quality wasn’t great but it was way better than Vegas as I had a chance to see what the limitations were and grab a much better recording by wrapping the Gorilla tripod around the speaker tripod. Downside is that the crowd noise from the background is still intense. Anyhow I’ll listen to that recording in the next couple of weeks and come to a decision.

    Thanks again for this good Madrid summary…..

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    1. Tom Van Doorslaer Post author

      Hi Jon,

      True, it seemed a bit of an odd session, but I didn’t experience it that way. I expect to be able to interact in expert sessions. Otherwise I would simply attend a lecture.

      That’s also one of the reason why I would love to see a real clubhouse. Right now, TechEd is still very much one direction. Approved speaker to audience. The public however also has something to say. So having break-out tables with whiteboards would be a great way to interact.

      On the topic of social:

      Individual social is way too often also considered as business social. I deliberately try to avoid any reference to my company in my social presence, and even then it is still considered as an opinion of someone working for….

      So you can ask yourself, is there still an “individual social”?

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      1. Jon Reed

        Tom, good stuff. Yeah, I am looking forward to re-listening to the social session recording and see if there is some value in sharing the recording. We covered a lot of different topics but I think that reflects your point – folks are in the middle of upheavals/transitions around their personal social world and also the rising trend in corporate social participation, inside and outside the enterprise.

        I’d agree there is significant overlap between the two now and you can’t really divide them into separate conversations – my session was proof of that. 🙂 I think it was more than I was thinking about the question on how social can advance your career from a reputation standpoint but the audience interest was more in advancing an employer’s social projects – which of course could help your career also but less in terms of brand and more in terms of solving real business problems using social technologies.

        Both are fruitful conversations and probably cannot be separated anymore….

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      2. Michael Ling

        Hi Tom, the aspect of an “individual social” is an interesting point. Let’s take one example.  Many organizations have asked their employees to put a disclaimer upfront when they blog or tweet. The disclaimer is phrased in a way that it conveys the message that the views expressed are the employee’s own views.  From the enterprise’s perspective, it occurs to me that, to a certain extent, there is “individual social”.  Again, like you said, “even then it is still considered as an opinion of someone working for….”

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  5. Jeanne Carboni

    Hi Tom,

    It was great to get to spend some time getting to know you better at TechEd this year!

    As to your blog, nicely written!  Good idea to break up the 7 pages into an overview and series of related blogs. I also intend to dive into those later.

    As to giving me more freedom, I’ll take it!  But it’s not really about giving me freedom.  Both Philippe Rosset and Chip Rodgers were very supportive for us to be able to do more with the clubhouse in Madrid. But as you can imagine, lots of people/programs from both the SAPPHIRE NOW and the SAP TechEd teams wanted to be included in the show floor space. We  shared space, audience, budget, etc. 

    However, I love the ideas shared here and take them to heart.  I’ll work with Maria Squicciarini and Chip Rodgers to incorporate as many of your ideas as possible, and will publish a blog of my own soliciting for additional input.  (By the way, Philippe has gotten a promotion! Maria is our new events lead.)

    Thanks again for all that you do in the Community and for sharing your insights into the TechEds you attended. I appreciate your feedback and will keep it in mind when planning for 2013. (Wow, it’s almost here!)

    Jeanne

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