SAP Australia User Group Conference 2014 – Hilton Hotel, Sydney
One thing that Australia has in abundance, apart from deserts and deadly wildlife, is SAP conferences. I was lucky enough to be presenting at the Australian SAP User Group conference in Sydney the other week, and I thought I would share some of the content from this event with you. In the past I have moaned and groaned and waffled on for ages about my dislike for blogs which purport to talk about SAP conference but which in reality talk about the food, and show pictures of dustbins, and list all the exciting cool people that the author met. Naturally this blog is going to be nothing like that.
Monday 8th of September
Upon arrival at the conference the first thing one’s eyes are drawn to is the exceptional quality of the dustbins. Set in a stunning silver style, with a crisp black bin bag, these beauties are capable of going from zero to sixty miles an hour in four seconds, if you were to throw one off a cliff.
To kick off the day we are served pigeon with warm foie gras, foie gras sorbet, beetroot, cocoa beans with a protruding pigeon leg immersed in Banyuls sauce. The unique pigeon taste and flavor blends well with the silken foie gras. For after’s we have a doughnut. This lavish fried treat is filled with Dom Perignon champagne jelly, and is topped with a 24-carat gold leaf, white chocolate flowers dusted in gold and edible diamonds.
International SAP Executive Update – Paul Young, GVP Customer Strategy, SAP AG
After having assorted top ten singles in the eighties such as “Love of the Common People” Paul Young then went on to become a high ranking member of software company SAP and became Scottish also. In this talk he brought to our attention that SAP have a product called HANA. To be serious for a second the main message here, which was to be repeated throughout the conference was that just doing the same thing as before really fast, whilst good, is not what HANA is all about. The point is to try and do things that you could not do before because they were in the “too hard” basket.
One interesting – and horrifying – theme that kept coming up throughout this conference is about how big companies want to get as much information about you as possible. The example given here was Disney theme parks where you buy some sort of wrist bracelet and if you wear it you get assorted benefits but in return the Disney corporation track you in real time and analyse everywhere you go and everything you buy, how long you stand in queues for certain rides etc.. A full scale 1984 type of thing and people are willing to pay to have this done to them.
The aim of the so called “big data” then seems to be to (a) predict what someone is going to do next with an aim to making money out of them and the next stage would be (b) to influence/control what someone is going to do next with the aim of making money out of them.
Next cab off the rank was Ray Wang, founder of Constellation Research. The previous keynote was naturally SAP focused, Ray talked in much broader terms about where technology is taking the world.
To calm us down after the keynote speeches out comes an eel dish that reflects the so-called evolution technique, where the fish is cooked in two ways: as a slow-cooked technique requiring six and a half hours at 65 degrees, and the convention grilling. The dish is served with herbs, garlic and reduction sauce of eel juices and citrus, with potatoes coated with pepper powder on the side, and pan fried kangaroo loins.
There were a large number of SAP mentors in attendance at this conference, such as Graham Robinson, Jocelyn Dart, Professor Paul Hawking, Tony de Thomasis, and Greedy Smith from the pop group “Mentor as Anything”. Morning tea is a good opportunity to swap business cards with them and talk about HANA and UI5.
Next was a forty minute advert for IBM disguised as a keynote speech. The good thing about SAP conferences these days is that there is very little of this now, it used to be almost every speech was an advert at SAPPHIRE type events.
Then it was breakout time where you decide what you want to see. There were no less than five tracks, so you were spoilt for choice – you can always tell when a conference is going to be good when it is difficult to decide which presentation you want to see. I plumped for solution manager to start off with, and David Noack from SAP talked about how to best manage two major releases a year. I cannot talk for other companies, but where I work we put changes into production every week, so change management is more of an ongoing process than managing two great big big bangs each year.
The first day’s lunch consists of a sensational beef dish that comes from a 7-year-old dairy cow, which is slaughtered in front of our eyes and then cooked right on a table in the middle of the exhibitor hall on a hot stone. Once done, it is served with potato crisps, mushrooms and buttery bone marrow, with an accompaniment of tandoori crocodile, all washed down with port which has been guarded by eunuchs on top of a mountain in deepest Transylvania for 100 years.
I am a big fan of BRF+ so next I went to see Jocelyn Dart talk about why SAP has felt the need to have no less than three different business rules engines, and which one should you use. SAP is always doing this sort of thing, offering you multiple ways to achieve the same thing. In this case we have the ABAP based BRF+ which started life in Business One and is now part of the ECC 6.0 system, we have a Java based equivalent which uses technology acquired by SAP and naturally there is a HANA rules engine as well.
To complement the bowls of sweets we have chocolate made from Venezuela’s rare Porcelana Criollo bean, topped with Tahitian Gold Vanilla Caviar and edible gold flakes together with vegemite on toast. Also we have Louis XIII de Remy Martin Cognac which comes in a hand blown sugar Fleur-de-Lis.
There were a large number of fictional characters from eth middle ages in attendance at this conference, such as Bill Brewer, Jan Stewer, Peter Gurney, Peter Davy, Dan’l Whiddon, Harry Hawke, Old Uncle Tom Cobley and all. Afternoon tea is a good opportunity to swap business cards with them and talk about HANA and UI5.
Then it was my turn to wow the audience with a talk on “secret” things you never knew were inside your SAP system. SAP used to have a split between new functionality delivered via enhancement packs, and bug fixes delivered via support stacks. Recently this has changed such that enhancements packs only come out every two years instead of annually, but in the meantime new functionality gets sneaked in via support stacks. Two examples are the ABAP Test Cockpit which came along as part of a support stack, and every support pack adds more tests to the code inspector, and the BOPF (Business Object Processing Framework) which is a major chunk of functionality which arrived via support stacks are opposed to being part of an enhancement pack.
To end the day we have another keynote, this time by David Roberts who is a top dog accountant at USA Company “Under Armour”. They have all former sports stars working for them, and so they do not have meetings they have “huddles”. How they work is to start of someone shouts out “Will you protect this house?” and everyone has to shout “I Will!” at the top of their voice. Then someone else shouts out “How much do you want it?” and the correct response is “I want it so much, I want t more than I want to breathe”. And this is the accountants. I shudder to think what sales and marketing do in their meeting equivalents.
To wash down the glasses of Henri Jayer Richebourg Grand Cru wine from Cote de Nuits in France are some fresh lobsters with select shellfish in summer vegetables, heads of fresh bulbs mixed with herbs in bubbly, light vinaigrette and a meat pie. This meat pie contains Wagyu beef fillet, Chinese matsutake mushrooms, winter black truffles, and French bluefoot mushrooms. Two bottles of vintage 1982 Chateau Mouton Rothschild wine are used in the gravy and the crust is covered in edible gold leaf.
Todays breakfast includes bacon from rare pig breeds, truffle, watercress, saffron and an egg all cooked in truffle oil, sprinkled with real gold dust and served between a bun, along with caviar and a selection Louis Roderer Cristal Brut 2000 champagne sherbet and Madagascar chocolate cake with Moët très fine Champagne No. 7. The breakfast included a croissant covered in edible gold and jewels, Bar le Duc hand-seeded redcurrant jam, Kopi Luwak coffee, and a champagne and Chambord cocktail. All this was served from a bottle covered in gold and encrusted with real pearls and diamonds.
After that we staggered into the auditorium to hear the first of two keynotes, starting off with Alan Capes from the Canadian National Railways. That organisation is a gigantic success story, moving from almost going down the gurgler to becoming one of the most profitable railways companies in the world, and a large part of this is attributed to use of IT systems i.e. SAP.
Then we had a non SAP related keynote, Professor Hugh Durrant-Whyte from the Australian ICTA Research Centre of Excellence talked about how to use the nebulous concept of “big data” to actually make a difference in the real world – one example was the mapping that was ben done (somehow) of the entire layout of Australia many kilometers under the surface. What is being looked for are rocks that glow naturally hot, so a hole can be drilled and the heat transformed into renewable power. The same principle is naturally even more important to mining companies
Fresh langoustines served on the SAP booth table alive, and “seared’ with a knife 15 minutes before the delegate devours it, which is a style that’s beyond a guarantee of freshness.
There were a large number of Hollywood movie stars in attendance at this conference, such as Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Julia Roberts, George Clooney, Harrison Ford and Betty Boop. Morning tea is a good opportunity to swap business cards with them and talk about HANA and UI5.
Then there was one of the best attended sessions of the conference, in which Simon Kemp talked about and demonstrated the “Fiori Launchpad” which is new and shiny and everyone liked the look of it. I might be burnt at the stake for saying this, but this is an evolution of the “user menu” concept which has been around a long time in SAP, this time you customize lots of boxes all over the initial screen, each of which launches a fancy UI5 transaction (or something else). I feel sorry for anyone demonstrating this, as they keep getting asked the “is this the end of the SAP portal?” question, along with “is this the end of ESS/MSS?”. No-one wants to answer that question, but if I were a life assurance salesman the the SAP Portal came to me as a customer I would think twice.
A crunchy-tender-juicy-heady suckling pig served with tomato balls or “bolao” and pools of tomato jelly, with confit garlic to decorate the plate, and a crunchy funnel web spider sauce.
The former Prime Minister of Australia, said last year the Australian mining boom is over, but if it is no-one has told mining company Fortescue Metals. The CIO of that company, Vito Forte, gave a keynote speech, starting off with the growth figures for the company over the last few years, which is quite startling. Some of my colleagues went to Western Australia last year and showed me photographs of the sea being filled with ships, all waiting for the tide to change so they could take that days output to China or India or wherever. Fortescue metals is clearly a company which takes advantage of the latest SAP innovations, and the CIO talked about making sure the IT department is not the “department of no”.
The next keynote was from the CIO of Fairfax Media, a company which is being forced to reinvent itself for the digital age, as traditional media sectors like printed newspapers go into terminal decline. He showed a chart of some recent research which suggested that just 4% of people looked at adverts in printed newspapers, and yet companies still spend 18% pf their advertising budget on such things. He is all too horribly aware that this is just because “we have always done it this way” and one day companies will wake up.
The final meal of the day is Duck Consommé served with what they call corn silk, with chocolate, vanilla purée, rice and apple, and deep fried emu in a beer batter.
There were a large number of rock starts in attendance at this conference such as Jimmi Hendrix, Freddie Mercury, Michael Jackson, John Lennon and Buddy Holly. Afternoon tea is a good opportunity to swap business cards with them and talk about HANA and UI5.
SAP Mentor Tony de Thomasis talked about the various tools available to you when preparing for an SAP upgrade. He is not a big fan of “technical” upgrades, and subscribes to the view that you should take advantage of new features as soon as they become available, a message that was repeated by the various CIOs of forward looking companies who spoke at this conference.
This was a very hands on type of presentation, with live demonstrations as opposed to power point slides. I noticed when an error message popped up it referred to SAP GUI version 740, which I did not think was out yet, and he considered showing us the version 5 of the NWBC but decided against it as it is still too flaky. As it turns out these will be released on 8th of October 2015.
The final talk of the day was from Katrin Pietsch from SAP talking about the “customer connection program”. SAP provide many free services to their customers, the general idea is that if there is a piece of functionality that is not present in standard SAP then if you band together in a group (like a user group) then chances are you can get SAP to add it to the standard product. As an example think of all the “repairs” you make to the standard system – if a large number of companies are making the exact same change then why not tell SAP. An example I can think of is the ERS transaction MRRL. The transaction date defaults to todays date, which is crazy, so I have seen a large number of companies make a “repair” to the standard transaction so you can specify the transaction date. Instead of five hundred companies making the same modification and then having to go through the SPAU pain at upgrade time, why not tell SAP and see if they can’t add that field as standard?
To end the conference we had a foot long bratwurst infused with hundred-year-old Louis XIII cognac and topped with fresh lobster, picante sauce and Kobe beef seared in olive and truffle oil, washed down with the world’s oldest cocktail, created with 1788 Clos de Griffier Vieux Cognac, 1770 Kummel Liqueur, 1860 Dubb Orange Curacao and early 20th century Angostura Bitters.
All in all a wonderful conference, packed with fascinating SAP demonstrations, good food, and excellent dustbins.