Orlando is a long way away from Australia – I mean a long way – So for a TechEd regular like myself, was Sapphire Now (or what many call ASUG) worth attending in person?
Well it will really depend on your circumstances, but for my circumstances – most definitely. But let’s explain my impressions and learnings so you can get an idea.
How big is it?
One thing you realise very early on is the sheer size of Sapphire Now – While there are plenty of bigger conferences out there, compared to SAP TechEd’s which have between 5k-10k people at the various venues – this is at least twice the size of TechEd, and I would guess the budget is possibly 4 times as much since Marketing has a large part to play in this conference.
And while wearables are now a common thing (thanks to Apple and SAP seemingly buying everyone in the company an iWatch) – my own Moto360 informed me I was walking around 20,000 steps a day, though a good portion was getting to and from one of the conference hotels.
But if you want to get an idea of the size and also want to leverage your 3d capable tv or monitor that you seem to rarely use – here’s a world 1st – 3d footage of Sapphire on YouTube (Warning – Mostly pre-conference content)…
And for reference, the concert was a huge affair also:
So what were the Highlights (in my opinion)
User Experience and Empathy Matter
For me, all the excitement and possibilities behind HCP, HANA and S4 (or S/4HANA as SAP like to label it but we all know if it was 3 years ago, it would have been S/4NetWeaver) doesn’t beat the exciting area of the vision for UX for SAP and how that vision will be achieved (I care more about solving real problems and the end-users more than the tech alone).
And one of the reasons I was keen to attend Sapphire this year is my focus more recently on moving away from solution governance to tackling end to end problems/opportunities with a Design Thinking methodology, leveraging and developing with the new UX focused SAP toolkits, and optimising the entire user experience for end users appropriately (yeah – that’s a message from my sponsor –so let’s move on now that’s out of the way).
Hence, one great highlight for me was being fortunate to have the opportunity to meet with Sam Yen through an SAP Mentor meeting and hear how the future of UX is not just about helping developers. I think TechEd will be a great time to see what he’s been up to, though I believe quite a few people got to see the future he’s leading. Oh, plus it looks like he’s keen to take part in the annual TechEd Jam Band again this year!
S/4 in the Cloud, HEC and on Premise
I finally started to understand the difference between S/4 in the cloud versus S/4 on HEC. In short, my understanding is that S/4 in the cloud is the public cloud version of S/4 (e.g. lots more restrictions around use and less capability to control upgrades and the like, while the HEC version is the same as an on premise version but in SAP’s data centre hosted as more of a private cloud.
And with the release of S/4 for 25 industries; well let’s just simplify that statement as I believe it is more implying that this on-premise release of S/4 is the HANA dependent version of ERP with simple parts to be progressively rolled out in the future. E.g. If you were wondering about whether the solution is now fully Fiori compliant? Hell no. Has much been simplified yet beyond simple finance – no, but it will continue to be simplified with another release of simplification due imminently.
HANA Cloud Platform (HCP) – The (not so) New (but definitely) Innovation Platform
There will be much more to HCP that this, but HCP appears to be the platform for innovation going forwards, similar to how NetWeaver JAVA was this previously (to illustrate – Adobe Document Services will be available on HCP soon). E.g. I’m thinking this means that PO/BPM better get their act together and get on HCP quick smart. Plus if you’re concerned about a cloud based middleware for all your real-time Internet of Things style manufacturing equipment systems, then there was talk of the possibility of HCP on premise so definitely lots of possibilities there.
Another conversation I had about HCP, S/4 and how HCP is the enhancement platform going forward. Well it seems there’s more to talk about here that hasn’t been discussed (too technical) and there is the possibility to extend the S/4 data model to support your own related objects. This was a concern I had and I’m glad that this has already been thought through by SAP (e.g. Even at my current customer, they need a custom object that would not make sense to store in a completely separate data store).
I could talk about the Internet of Things (IoT) announcement for HCP, but it’s a bit too early to see how that will pan out and what SAP mean by IoT) so not really a highlighted area for me yet.
An Oldie but a Goodie – Well an Oldie where I come from…
I had put a hard question to the mobile guys at SAP around getting a simple architectural explanation of how best to deploy Fiori apps to non-Windows devices and achieve a simple application password, internally authenticating using SAML, to regularly access the app (something a number of customers are struggling to understand) and another SAP Mentor came up to me afterwards, told me what their SAP based architecture was which was really obvious (in hindsight), simple and good for the end-user experience, but since they are about to go-live, I won’t call him or her out just yet, and maybe just patiently wait for them to blog about this approach for the world to hear. Hint – It involves something like HCP Mobile Services, HANA Cloud Connector and KAPSEL.
If I get a usable local trial HCP in Australia (which I pushed for quite frequently when meeting with SAP people with budget to make this happen), I’ll definitely test this out and let you know.
There’s the Fiori Trial, and then there’s the Fiori Trial
Check out https://www.sapfioritrial.com/ if you haven’t before, but this time, do the following:
1. On the home page, look at the very top and you’ll see a different link: “Coming soon! New app versions and a wide variety of new apps. Click HERE to try them out now!”
2. Secondly, now start the original demo, and press on the Cloud button in the top right corner. If you do things right, you’ll actually get a new account where you can customise and extend a Fiori app, all on HCP! Eg. The cloud button actually works and brings up WebIDE.
The whole HCP hosting the Fiori UI5 content is still early days I believe, but with the new architecture of Fiori apps since Wave 7, sounds like it might be a very viable model which gets rid of the issue of how to stay current with UI5 with the on premise solutions plus potentially scales globally.
Fiori My Inbox
I attended a session all about this Wave 7 Fiori app and was pleasantly surprised how well thought out it was. A generic everything inbox, assign very specific inboxes to a single tile if required, the ability to do bulk actions (which some might say is not the point of Workflow approvals), group items, sort, filter, forward, add stuff to, collaborate on, join to any type of inbox with an appropriate API, handle push, pull, batch, etc.
After this session I was thinking that this might be the perfect app for a company to embark on to get some real value, set-up their Gateway, and if they really want to get things moving (at least by the time they get moving), the HANA Cloud Connector and hopefully available HCP Fiori content.
Real Customers doing Real Things with SAP
While it is known to SAP as mostly Sapphire Now, some of the great content and discussions are to be had at the ASUG sessions. I was interested to hear about real-world Personas and Sapphire didn’t disappoint, as there were many ASUG sessions around people investing in Fiori and Personas. Actually a little too many for this specific topic for my liking but still – great to listen to their learnings.
OpenSAP and Conferences like Sapphire
One warning for you. Watching an OpenSAP course can lead you to feel you know someone in person when you meet them for the first time. Peter Spielvogel sat next to me during one of the Personas sessions and it was a few seconds later after I started to chat with him that I realised – that I knew them solely because of the OpenSAP course they presented. But nice guy in person too if you’re wondering…
The New SAP Store
Imagine an alternative world where SAP products could be bought cheaply, transparently, efficiently, by anyone with no behind door super specials that you are missing out on. Obviously this doesn’t replace all SAP sales in the future but it’s a nice ideal being set-up on www.sapstore.com. Not sure it will ever be something that I can use as an independent but you never know. Check it out, if not just to see how it works, the price of products, the partner products out there, etc. Definitely interesting if you have an idea you think you may want to monetise (also check-out the SAP Start-Up Program).
The SAP Mentors, the New SAP Mentors, the ever growing SAP Mentor alumni, the SAP Student Mentors and the Awesome SAP Community
Being Sapphire and not TechEd, there was definitely more time to take it easy and hang out with people more. While my usual Australian road-tripping posse wasn’t there, I still took my awkward introverted self out there and – like Michael Strahan’s talk inspired me to do – tried to engage fully and passionately. And this is probably the number 1 reason to attend in person at these types of events. All the normal reasons everyone states, but you do get exposed to a slightly different community than you ever would at a TechEd.
So what were the Lowlights (in my opinion)
For completeness, here’s a summary of lowlights:
- The distance and Timezone (from Australia)
- The distance (from the hotel to the venue, to the concert, to the Hilton for meetings and back again)
- The show floor where people look at your badge and ignore you (even if you are an influencer in companies)
- Seated concert with designated seats (though it was a very impressive concert albeit not quite my cup of tea)
The Main Takeaways (According to Matt)
- The vision is not yet a completed reality, but it is a very clear vision, unwavering, very HANA and HCP centric. It’s time to plan for this thing. Does this mean go and move to S/4HANA right away? No – But there are options and strategic roadmaps you can take and set respectively that will put you in good stead with the SAP of the future. Also, send your architects/developers/business analysts to things like TechEd so they can start learning the right tools, technologies, approaches, etc.
- Fiori/UI5 & focus on UX is here to stay – as long as you can keep up with the interim level of change happening to support it. So much to be done but SAP are trying to do it. They will be working on tooling, automation, cloud, etc to tie this all together but for the interim, we need to work with what we’ve got and hope SAP release enough details so we don’t build throwaway solutions in the meantime.
- There are still a lot of questions and devil in the detail, hence TechEd should be another good year this year.
- Will I be back next year – Possibly – though it’s a very long way!