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Let’s start this one with a question: How do you get about 100 students into a room and make them work real hard for 33 hours?

It’s quite easy. Promise them the experience of a lifetime, free accommodation and free entry to CeBIT (one of the biggest tech fairs in the world), and you easily overbook your event. That is exactly what SAP University Alliance with the help of TIP Developer Experience, SAP Corporate Social Responsibility (part of Global Communications) and SAP Ecosystem & Channels (running TalentNet for SAP Partners) did — including the overbooking 😀 .

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We are now well past this year’s International Women’s Day (big shout to all our female participants) and SAP InnoJam @ CeBIT 2013 is over. I have to admit that I am absolutely surprised and still struggle to find the right words for what has happened. We didn’t just complete the event without any major issues and all contestants very happy (my impression 🙂 ). We probably made it one of the best InnoJams ever in terms of results produced. I’m saying this because this is the first all-student InnoJam and we weren’t quite sure how these young professionals would cope with the heavy workload and amount of new information thrown at them. Then again, they are students, so they are probably more used to this than us professionals. Still. Almost all of the final demos were of such high quality that I cannot stop with my praise. In my humble opinion, I think that the top teams would have been serious contenders for winning a pre-TechEd InnoJam.

Let’s go back to the beginning. It’s Wednesday, March 6, 9:00 am. We are welcoming 99 participating students (I counted) and also a few observers, i.e. professors, PhD students and other staff. We set them up in a (big enough) room at the Multi-Media Berufsbildende Schule Hannover and let them loose. Well, maybe not exactly loose. At first we give them some context why we are doing this and why they are here. Aiaz Kazi, SVP and Head of TIP Marketing and Developer Relations, talks about SAP HANA and SAP’s take on developers, and Ann Rosenberg, Global Head University Alliances, shares her thoughts on big dreams and what students can do to make them come true.

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After setting the stage we tell the participants how to do Design Thinking (DT) and guide them through the various phases of running wild and then reigning it back in. Supported by our excellent team of Design Thinking coaches, 11 teams, which we pre-grouped and pre-assigned to one of four challenges, are given the opportunity to make a change for good and dream big for the future of our digital society. In particular, we have the pleasure to welcome representatives from charitable organizations who brought with them a diverse set of problem statements concerning the improvement of their work.

Here are the 4 challenges:

  1. Volunteering Feedback Loop via Mobile Device – by betterplace.org, Mr. Bjoern Grindberg
    Redesign the volunteer matching experience for betterplace.org, organizations and the volunteers in order to be able to track successful matches with special emphasis on mobile technology.
  2. Conscious Consumption of Meat – by Mein kleine Farm, Mr. Dennis Buchmann
    Redesign the meat consumption experience for MeinekleineFarm.org customers in order to foster conscious consumption of meat.
  3. Communication Experience for Young Leaders – by BMW Stiftung Herbert Quandt, Mr. Sven Stegemann
    Redesign the network experience for members of our company-wide “Young Leaders Network” during and after our non-profit forums in order to maximize the value they get out of the conferences and their network.
  4. Visibility of IT Donations – by Stifter Helfen, Mr. Clemens Frede
    Redesign the visibility of IT donations and their impact within non-profit organizations.

For the research phase, each team is able to do a live interview with the representative that defined the challenge, as they are all on site. BIG THANKs to Gabriele Hartmann from SAP’s Corporate Social Responsibility group for connecting these people to the event and organizing their participation. I think it is a superb set of challenges for this diverse set of participants. I cannot say for sure, but I believe the mixture of technical and business students, male and female, coming from 14 countries, contributes a great deal to the excellent outcomes produced by each team.

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Now that I mentioned it, I should probably tell you which 14 countries we host. First of all, there is a strong delegation from Poland (about 20) – the focus country of this year’s CeBIT. We also have 6 students from Russia, who are winners of a previous student competition held in Moscow last December. Other East European countries comprise Serbia, Slovenia, Romania and Hungary. Two countries we are very pleased to welcome: Egypt and Iraq. We do not usually see participants from these countries at our InnoJams, so I want to extend my gratitude to SAP University Alliances and the local SAP groups for making this possible.We then have a few more “individual flag bearers” from Pakistan, Namibia and Peru (in addition to Romania and Hungary), who are the sole participants from their countries. Our Peru representative made the long way from the other end of the world on her own expenses just to attend. Incredible! Last but not least, we are happy to also count numerous participants from our local DACH region: Germany, Austria, Switzerland. –
OK. Let me do the math. That’s 14 countries. Although, I should add that actual travel only occurred out of 10 countries, because some of the students are studying abroad. That’s why you will find “10” in the official press announcements (Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Poland, Russia, Serbia, Slovenia, Egypt, Iraq, Peru).

Now, back to our event. It’s getting late and the sun sets. At around 5:00 pm we are done with Design Thinking and teams present their DT prototypes. Receiving some last valuable feedback before the coding part, teams explain their targeted solution with paper mockups and stage plays. Our teams and DT coaches have given their absolute best, and our own Hester Hilbrecht did a tremendous job (again) leading through this “DT sprint”. Check out presentations of DT prototypes on YouTube. With the smell of dinner in the air, we decide to move “TechFire”, our next agenda point, to afterwards.

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Refreshed and with a full belly, we all reconvene and now watch our tech experts introducing the various SAP technologies available to participants. We get 6-to-12-minute pitches (hint to tech experts: no elevator ride is 10 mins long – although I’ve never been up Burj Kalifa) for NetWeaver Cloud, HANA, NetWeaver Gateway, Business ByDesign, and Workforce Performance Builder. The last one is an InnoJam newbie. With this rough understanding teams go about implementing their solution. The busy season for our tech experts begins. It is 8:20 pm. I see some experts distributing sample code and giving mini breakouts in a corner. Other experts are hijacked and taken right into the more advanced topics of technical support. Let me just give one example here (and every HANA guru knows what I’m talking about): GRANT rights on _SYS_REPO . The night has started.

Those of you, who attended an InnoJam before, know that during “the night” there is a specific atmosphere in the room. While normally people wind down from a hard day at work (e.g. a Design Thinking sprint), InnoJam participants basically commence a double-shift at 8:00 pm – filled with all kinds of challenges, disappointments, moments of euphoria, and the ever-present feeling that the countdown timer is going to hit zero before the demo runs. People are trying to forget about the pressure and stay awake, so (modest!) consummation of beer and Red Bull occurs. Then people start to leave for their beds. First the tech experts (at around midnight / 1:00am) and then participants. Some are just crashing on makeshift beds, e.g. fatboys or sets of chairs. At this InnoJam I also see a few sleeping bag, although I don’t remember whether they were used.

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Come 3:30/4:00 am we are boiling down to the hard core of “hardcore” participants. This is usually the magic mark. Who makes it past 4:00 am, usually makes it through the night. I count about 40-50 people still in the room, of which I believe 20-25 did not sleep at all, apart from maybe 10 minutes of resting their head on the table. Respect! I think back to my hay days of hacking as a student. And yes, there were one or two times with minimal sleep of 1-2 hours. Good old times. (P.S.: It looks like I’m aging. I myself only had just under 2 hours of sleep and I needed two days to recharge after this event.)

Life returns with the sunrise and the morning. Thursday, March 7, the second day. Teams are pulling back together after having breakfast. You can see full tables of young people in front of laptops. You have to observe this carefully, in order to realize that things are happening. Demos are coming together. If you only pay attention to the despair of some teams, and yes, we unfortunately had that as well, you will miss these magic hours. For me it is the best part. You cannot be quite sure yet, but bustling activity and occasional joyful outcries give you confidence. The countdown continues. At lunchtime there are 2:30 hrs left on the clock.

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I am also scrambling to get ready for the finale. The winner’s ceremony is taking place at the SAP booth in Hall 4 at CeBIT. So, in-between toilet paper running out in the restrooms, collecting bottles and bits of thrash, printing CeBIT tickets and briefing judges, there is a presentation to prepare. We whip up a few pictures we took during the previous 30 hours and I ask every team to send me a few screenshots of their demo (a live demo with no prep time was deemed too risky).

In the morning, Prof. Peter Mirski (MCI, PDA Grpup) and Jürgen Gieger (SAP Ecosystems & Channels) tell the students a bit about the job opportunities in SAP’s partner ecosystem. Career opportunities are of course very important when you are heading towards graduation and I hear that a few students sign up for the SAP HANA Summer School taking place in Austria in July. More possibilities to get educated and network with potential employers are available on TalentNet for SAP Partners.

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On the floor, teams are preparing their presentations for the jury. Not to scare students too much, we are placing three slightly familiar faces in front of the stage. They are Aiaz and Ann from SAP, and Clemens from Stifter Helfen. 2:30 pm on the dot it’s hands off the laptops and we are starting our demo presentations. The idea is to make this somewhat fair and not create the illusion that teams with higher numbers are safe for some time. We create a draw. Each time a team gets on stage we draw a number and tell that team to prepare to present next. Number 8 and 9 are drawn first and off we go with team 8.

What happens in the next 90 minutes I can only describe as a bombardment. We are all holding our breath while watching one excellent demo after the other. Yes, they are not all perfect when it comes to business case or the actual presentation. However, it is amazing to just look at how well teams used some of the SAP technologies and how well they implemented solutions that are truly centered around the user. This is what I referred to in the beginning. All of the results showed exceptional quality and made this event worth every cent we spent. You can watch all presentations on YouTube. The final presentation sequence is: 8 – 9 – 3 – 2 – 11 – 6 – 4 – 1 – 10 – 5 – 7

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Now it is time for the judges to decide and I can tell you it is not easy. Markings are rather close, but after some minutes they boil it down to a top-3. After a few minutes more, they made up their mind. Meanwhile, participants relax a bit with cake, coffee and tea. The respite is not too long though, as we all need to get ready to move to CeBIT. I’m one of the first ones to leave, packed with winner shirts and my PowerPoint presentation. It’s starting to rain. What a shame for this fine moment. Oh well, it does not matter. We will be inside among the bright lights of the SAP booth and stage.

I arrive in hall 4 and they immediately guide me behind the stage to get ready. 30 minutes until we are scheduled to start. Fortunately, Aiaz is having a short keynote before our ceremony and running late. This should give all participants time to get here, and me time to finish the presentation. I do of course know who won and select the right team picture. Thanks to Thomas Grassl and Anne Hardy we got a logo wall that provided a nice backdrop for these pictures – taken by the ever-active Phil Loewen (DT coach, contributor of spirit and amateur photographer). We sort the winner shirts and I get my head-mounted microphone. It’s real. This is happening. I have no speech prepared. Everything’s going to be improvised. No time to freak out.

(P.S.: I’m not usually the type going on stage in front of 100s of people.)

The intro jingle comes on and I hop on stage. I can see the rows of white shirts, which I know are InnoJam participants. Phew. At least I’m not talking to an empty room. I ask the crowd for support. They clap and shout. Great. Time to start my presentation. I estimate there are at least 100 people in the audience who do not belong to the InnoJam crowd. This is not to bad. I tell them about InnoJam, that SAP University Alliances is behind this particular one, what we did, the great spirit and massive amount of Red Bull consumed. I think it’s going good. Now, transition to the man that gives this ceremony the flavor or prominence: Mr. Harry Thomsen, Managing Director SAP Germany. Harry comes on stage and shares a few words of amazement and gratitude with the students. They are the “next generation” of our society and also SAP. We, as a company, do care about them very much. It is 5:45 pm. The jury comes on stage. They have a small surprise in store. First off, they announce first place.

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And the winner is … Team “#FOURTYONE1/2” (no.11). Congratulations. You are winning

  • the prestigious SAP InnoJam winner shirt
  • an iPod Shuffle – courtesy of SAP Ecosystems & Channels
  • and – here we go – a trip to SAP TechEd Las Vegas to participate in the pre-TechEd InnoJaM

I think people do not fully understand yet that they just won a trip to Las Vegas. They come to me after the ceremony and ask “Are we really going to Las Vegas?”. I tell them: “Yes, and we will send you that in writing”. Welcome to your next InnoJam!

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After team 11 got on stage and had their pictures taken, I ask them to give a short presentation of their prototype, just so people see what they did. They make it in under 2-3 minutes, which keeps the stage director and me happy. The jury, on the other hand, take their time :). Not a problem. We are the last agenda item for this day. We now announce the runner-ups. First team “IT Pandas” (no. 6) and then team “Meat My Pig” (no. 4) come on stage. Congratulations as well!. Their members are going to receive an invitation to an SAP Start-up Forum near their place of residence and 90 days of free access to SAP HANA Developer Edition. Not too bad either. I’m chipping in a pair of our latest gadget: SAP Developer Center sticky scree wipes. A few more hand shakes and photos and we are done. The booth is transformed for the after-business-drinks-and-snacks party. We are all cracking some beers and celebrate this great event.

THANK YOU everybody!

Thank you participants and guests!

Thank you sponsors!

Thank you judges!

Thank you DT Coaches!

Thank you Tech Experts!

Thank you IT/network support, caterers, venue management!

Thank you organizers!

Thank you SAP!

Thank you CeBIT!

Read On

Credits (in no particular order): Ann Rosenberg, Aiaz Kazi, Anne Hardy, Thomas Grassl, Gabriele Hartmann, Jürgen Gieger, Niraj Singh, Marouan Boukli, Fawad Shah, Waltraud Grimm, Juliane Krampe, Inga Reich, Maximilan Barth, Latha Selvanadurajan, Andrea Tvarusko, Gerhard Oettinger, Hester Hilbrecht, Witalij Rudnicki, Alexander Graebe, Phil Loewen, Tobias Hildenbrand, Jochen Guertler, Anja Wipfler, Inga Wiele, Sascha Scholz, Carsten Becker, Dieter Breuer, Ralf Sievers, Horst Kuebler, Frank Bannert, Alexander Koerwer, Carsten Boennen, Tobias Griebe, Stephan Klevenz, Christoph Scheiber, Rui Nogueira, Matthias Vach, Xu Xiang, Thomas Gross-Boelting, Thomas Bollmeier, Chris Bernhardt, Benjamin Wegener, Eike Wittkowski, Nadine Langrzik, Mathias Kochrian, Philip von Campe, und viele mehr

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12 Comments

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  1. Chip Rodgers

    Excellent blog Uwe!  You make me feel like I was there to enjoy the energy, innovation, and fun of a great #InnoJam like that.  Well done!

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    1. Uwe Kylau Post author

      Thank you Chip. It was really a tremendous experience. I think one of the best InnoJams we had. I hope we can keep the momentum and turn all of these students into “SAP developer ambassadors”. The use case partners are also interested to explore follow-ups. Maybe UA and us turn this into a regular event just like our pre-TechEd InnoJams. Well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. First we make 2013 a success, especially TechEds 😉

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  2. Adrian Matys

    From a student’s and participant’s perspective It was a real experience of a lifetime. i guess i found a new hobby and purpose in life 😎 Thank you very much!

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  3. Brian Bernard

    Uwe, excellent recap! Great attention to detail, with all the profile links, recommendations, and images. I especially appreciate the time you took to write this after all the work you must have put into the event itself.

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    1. Uwe Kylau Post author

      Thanks Brian. Participants put so much effort in. This deserves our effort as well, capturing their great work.

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