The Art of the Possible 2017
The Art of the Possible 2017
This SAP event was all about “digital transformation” and highlighted various new cutting edge technologies developed by SAP and how real companies in Australia were actually using them. In Australia we are lucky to have so many SAP conferences. This one was free as well!
The presentations are a mixture of SAP staff and “Customer Success Stories”. Last year this event had a very HANA centric theme, this year there was a much broader scope and HANA hardy ever got a specific mention; it was just always there in the background, enabling all the other new toys.
I was really looking forward to this, and was not disappointed. Before I start – I imagine if you have ever been to an SAP event you are familiar with the exhibition zone” outside the lecture theatres, where 3rd party vendors give you pens and stuffed toys and try and sell you SAP add-on products. This was no different, except that I was puzzled that the printed “Exhibition Zone” sign had been crudely crossed out, and the words “Death Zone” drawn over the top in crayon. All would become clear shortly when after the delegates were registered they were served breakfast in the “zone”.
For breakfast, it was bacon and eggs. Nothing unusual about that, but almost straight away the delegates got a glimpse of the new sense of humour SAP has developed. This conference turned out to be a sort of trial run to see if practical jokes being played on the delegates in the “Death Zone” was funny or not. If the response was positive, this will be rolled out to SAPPHIRE and TECHED.
The first joke was that sensors were hidden under one in twenty of the plates of bacon and eggs. If you picked up one the unlucky plates the sensor was triggered and a colony of Bullet Ants dropped onto your head. These ants are named after their painful sting. After the bite the victim feels like they have just been shot. In fact, the sting by a bullet ant is 30 times more painful than of a wasp or a honey bee.
The one inch sized bullet ant is also called as ’24-hour ant’ by locals, because you suffer one full day of pain once you have been stung. Moreover, these were not normal Bullet Ants. These were bionic Bullet Ants, with jet packs, and lasers firing out of their eyes.
No breakfast would be complete without raisin toast. The toast had sensors also, and once again picking up one of the unlucky 5% of the slices of toasts meant a panel slid down in the wall and a hoard of Bot Flies were blown into your face. The larvae of botflies are internal parasites of mammals. Unfortunately, the dangerous larvae can also live beneath a human’s skin and cause horrible effects. The young female bot flies lay eggs within the skin of conference delegates. The larvae penetrate through the skin and live in subdermal zones of human skin for more than 60 days. The victim can feel the movement of larvae beneath their skin. Once larvae development is complete it eats its way out of the body.
A serious problem at SAP conference is people falling asleep during the talks, so in order to wake up the delegates, we were old served the finest Coffee, one in fifteen laced with Cyanide. Cyanide is a deadly poison that affects the central nervous system (CNS) as well as the heart. Even if a small dose of cyanide enters the body, the poison will attack the blood stream and bind to the iron in the blood, thus prohibiting oxygen to flow through the body, resulting in death in minutes.
Not everyone drinks coffee, so to maximise the potential victims Orange Juice was also on offer. This time there were grills in the ground by some of the orange juice dispensers which shot out Anthrax spores when you pressed the button to fill up your glass. Essentially a disease caused by bacteria, Anthrax must be inhaled to infect someone as it spreads by spores released into the air. After becoming infected, a minor cold will quickly turn into massive respiratory failure as the Anthrax shuts down a person’s breathing. The mortality rate from Anthrax is nearly 90% within a week of infection.
Off We Go!
By this point casualties were surprisingly low, and so the conference proper began. The first thing I noticed was the big picture on the wall. It showed all the acquired SAP companies – Ariba, Hybris, Success Factors, Fieldglass and Concur. All the logos had been turned yellow and stylised so they all look the same. For the very first time this had been applied to Concur as well (in some pictures and slides). There were also two new “companies” given equal billing with the others. They also had yellow logos in the same style. These are not acquired companies though (well they might have been built out of bits of bolt on acquisitions, like a Frankenstein’s Monster but they were not existing companies that SAP acquired and kept the old name).
These are “SAP Leonardo” for the Internet of Things and “SAP Clea” for Machine Learning. I asked Kenneth Williams and Sid James what they thought of the latter companies name and they said “Carry On Clea”. I hope that makes things Clea.
This event comprises some keynote presentations where everybody attends, and some section where you split into one of three “streams of golden liquid”. To start off with the three streams to choose from were “Finance and Accounting”, “Human Resources Management” and “Extreme Sports involving Abseiling into the Interior of a Volcano with explosives strapped to you whilst being attacked by Giant Golden Eagles and being shot at by Top Models with Machine Guns”.
I decided the most exciting sounding of the three was the Finance and Accounting stream, so that is the one I attended.
The Mirvac group has many divisions, all involved with property of one sort or another. The most famous in Australia is Mirvac Homes. They don’t use SAP but they have recently chosen SAP Ariba for their procurement.
They have had two attempts at this, the first one was abandoned, but on the second attempt all worked well. The first attempt was marred by many things including the “user interface” and “technical problems” but mainly the ever popular change management issues within their own organisation.
In any event the second time round none of that was a problem and they even noted how good Ariba support was. I was very happy to hear that, many years ago after Ariba had first been bought by SAP I found the support was not everything I could have hoped for. Clearly it has improved immeasurably.
Lots of CFOs sit on Chairs
Many people feel that panel discussions at IT conferences are the end of the world as we know it. My CIO says “when the chairs come out, I leave the room”. At some events the organisers try to liven things up by having one of the chairs be an electric chair and killing the guest if they get an answer wrong, or having on the chairs be an ejector seat and hurling the occupant into the ceiling if they use any buzzwords like UBER or “Hyper-Connected”.
In this case the CFO’s from various Australian companies – Fairfax Media, Stockland, Jetstar and Sensis – all sat on chairs and were asked questions. Most of them spoke with English or Irish accents I noted.
Stockland are going through a big transformation moving from 144 different IT systems down to 4 – presumably four SAP related systems. The CFO made much of the so called “Digital Boardroom” whereby he could present to the rest of the board the financial figures in real time, as opposed to 60 or 90 days after the event. He described this as dragging the company kicking and screaming out of the 19th century and into the present day.
The Jetstar CFO said that they have up to 172 planes in the air all constantly streaming data like nobody’s business. Taken with the vast amount of activity on their web site that means they have more “big data” to analyse than they can shake a stick at.
He noted that one change that has happened is that typically finance and accounting jobs stayed exactly the same for years on end. You do the same task at the same time every month. Now things have altered so much that the job is never the same two months in a row, and – shock horror – finance has moved from being a cost centre, a needed evil, to actually help get more revenue. Just like IT.
The lady who was CFO of Sensis also had implemented a – to me – fairly radical idea. When I worked in accounts it seemed that management accounts spent half the year preparing the budget, and the other half of the year explaining why the actual figures bore no relation to the budget at all. It made one wonder about what benefit the whole exercise gave the world. Anyway, she is apply the same sort of “Agile” principles we use in Software development now to the budgeting process i.e. having “Sprints” for each piece of the whole process.
SAP Cloud Company Bigwigs sit on Chairs
The next group of people to sit on the chairs were from the various Cloud companies SAP has acquired in recent years – Ariba, Fieldglass and Success Factors. Once again many UK accents were in play.
Many people have said “this is not your father’s SAP” because things have changed so much. Certainly the cloud people – who were first made famous in “James and the Giant Peach” – are not like the German executives I have become used to. One of them even wore jeans and red socks! That is a bit like individuality!
The guy from Ariba continued the theme of former “cost centres” now actually trying to generate more revenue – in this case Procurement.
Another point that was raised – and this cropped up several times later on in the conference. Is that the current wave of teenagers never use email because it is so old-fashioned and cannot fathom why us old dinosaurs have become attached to such an obsolete asynchronous form of communication. They will be coming into the workforce in the near future.
I was really hungry by this time, so was delighted to find some ham and cheese Croissants at morning tea. I had forgotten about the jokes being played, and so was surprised when I was unlucky enough to pick one of the booby trapped croissant dispensers, and was sprayed from head to toe with fleas. here are 2000 known species of fleas in the world. Young fleas can consume a volume of blood that is over 15 times their own body weight. Flea bites on the human body result in red bumps. These bumps are commonly found around the waist, knees and elbows. The bites of fleas are very itchy and may also lead to infection. Moreover these were not normal fleas, but bionic fleas with jet packs and lasers firing out of their eyes.
Apart from the croissant there were some nice “Hazelnut Sable” biscuits. Once again, every so often the plate of biscuits had a hidden trigger so when you took a biscuit a hidden panel beneath your feet opened and you were dropped into a nest of Fire Ants. Once disturbed, Fire Ants sting the intruder repeatedly. The fire ant sting is very painful. A white pustule caused by a fire ant sting lasts for weeks. Their venom also causes several skin problems. Fire ants usually attack in the group that contain ten to hundreds of ants. The venom of fire ants also results in an allergic reaction. Moreover these were not normal Fire Ants, but bionic Fire Ants with jet packs and lasers firing out of their eyes.
It is not yet twelve o’clock, so the sun is not yet over the yardarm. That means alcohol cannot be served yet. The delegates had to be cheered up some other way, so we had a game where everyone had to run round the exhibition hall being chased by SAP staff dressed as Giant Mice trying to spray us with Sarin. Considered a weapon of mass destruction, and rightfully so, the nerve gas Sarin will kill you in an agonizing way. From a tight chest to complete suffocation before your body shuts down, Sarin does its handiwork on the human body in an interminably long 60 seconds. That is all it can take; a meagre minute, a single, torturous minute to die. Some people claim half of the presentations by SAP staff have a similar effect on the audience.
Last on the menu were slices of ham and mushroom pizza. By this point the delegates were quite wary, which was just as well, because what was notable about the mushrooms was that they were the genus Amatoxin. This poison is extremely volatile; if ingested the Amatoxin enters the blood stream and makes a beeline for the liver or the kidney, resulting in extreme illness as the poison attacks the cells of the organ, shutting them down over a matter of days. Amatoxins can attack the heart as well; a sure bet that without proper treatment, usually consisting of high amounts of Penicillin, those who have ingested the poison will fall into a coma within days, and ultimately die of heart or liver failure. So most people threw their Pizza slices into the dustbin, of which there were many (see below picture).
Conference Dustbin 001
The streams were now over, and time for the core presentations. The head of SAP Australia, Dr. Seuss, appeared to MC the remaining part of the event. He started off with “News you Can Use, If you so Choose, Don’t Look at Your Shoes”, and informed us, in rhyme, of the recent announcements made by SAP at the recent World Mobile Congress. He then introduced the first speaker, from SAP, who naturally would not be speaking in rhyme.
Sanjay K from APJ
Sanjay was talking about the macroeconomic situation that companies find themselves in, with all the myriad changes going on around us. As a small example TV viewing seems to be declining by 10% a year, though people probably watch the same amount, just on different devices.
He noted lots of people now socialise in the office, and work at home. I can 100% agree with that. He also talked about some of the perceived wisdom of the ages having to stand aside in the face of the modern world.
One example was “core competency” – your company is not supposed to get involved in anything it is not good at. He used the example of Asian Paints, who found that in addition to their core competency of making paint, they had to start selling painting as a service, otherwise rubbish painters would stuff things up, and the paint got the blame.
He noted that in 1995, creating a sales order was a very manual or “high touch” process. Then in 2005 we had ERP systems, and so it was a “light touch” process. Nowadays customers can place the orders themselves so we have a failry near to “zero touch” process, only dealing with exceptions In the future Artificial Intelligence will be able to handle some, or even most of the exceptions. Once again this exactly matches my experience at work.
You may have heard that SAP are having another crack at their mantra in the 1995-2000 period, when they were trying to get businesses to change their business process to match what the SAP software was capable of. The term for this lunacy was “following best practises”.
That exercise was a dismal failure, but nonetheless they are trying again as the scope for modifying a cloud based system is a lot less than for an on-premise one. The bonus is you can implement SAP in four weeks, and upgrades are easy! The downside is you cannot run your business the way you want to, but what does that matter?
Digital Sociologist Kylie Watson
The time had come to have a look at what SAP – and indeed Australia as a whole – was doing to try and convince companies to undertake the digital transformation needed to survive in the 21st century.
It transpires that German Chancellor Angela Merkel and former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbot signed an agreement to have an ongoing Australian/German project to drag companies from both countries into the modern world. This was called “Innovation 4.0” or some such buzz word.
They thought that German companies were much more willing to embrace change than their Australian counterparts. Having lived in both companies I am not 100% sure I agree with their conclusions.
Anyway one example is that in Canberra the “Hospital of the Future” has been built, crawling with innovative technology. One example is a wearable thingy which guides you through the hospital. I have wandered around enough hospitals in my time to see the utility in such a thing.
Anyway, SAP want companies to (pay to) have workshops about how to digitally transform. Apparently up until now all the experts in the world agreed that there were only 55 different ways of doing business. After ten minutes deep investigation SAP discovered seven more. They are so clever.
SAP Innovation with Glenn Neuber
You have probably seen the graph that looks like a roller coaster with areas like “inflated expectations” and “trough of disillusionment” which al new technologies go through. Glenn from SAP showed us a slide which had a list of such technologies and where SAP was up to with each one. Still right at the start are “Quantum Computing” and “Neuromorphic Hardware” whatever that is, more advanced are things like blockchain, more advanced still machine learning, and right at the go-live stage is personalised medicine. That is not a comprehensive list, just all I could remember.
The two “conversational applications” discussed where, firstly the “SAP HANA Haus Bot” and then “Co-Pilot”. The Hana Haus is a café in Paolo Ato where you can book tables and pay for them. I prefer cafes where I don’t pay for the table, but there you go. Anyway you can text messages to the “Bot” and it responds like a human, and arranges your bookings and takes the payments, but it does not actually learn.
The “Co-Pilot” invented by Joan Armatrading, does learn from what happens. It is supposed to be a Cortana like thing that lives inside your SAP system and so has access to all the ERP data, and so can create work orders and the like, and you talk to it via instant messaging as if it were a human.
In Q2 2016 SAP, via its new company CLEA is going to release five artificial intelligent machine learning applications, one for customer open item clearing (I wrote one like that once, and wondered if I could make it learn from past behaviour), one for detecting when your customers are going to leave you, and so on. There is even one to help the IT service (help) desk.
Moreover there is going to be a platform for developers to create their own Machine Learning applications, based on an AP delivered framework.
The main course for lunch was Lobster with Caviar, with exotic truffles, and roast potatoes. As can be imagined a certain percentage of the potatoes were crammed with a big surprise, this time Kissing Bugs. Kissing bugs grow up by sucking the blood of vertebrates. Kissing bugs are named after their habit of biting the lip of a human whist they sleep, which is a common occurrence at IT conferences. They (the bugs not the delegates) also transmit a parasite called trypanosoma cruzi. The kissing bug disease or ‘changas’ kills 12000 people every year. The changa disease spreads to animals and pets in the same way. The kissing bug bite results in instant changes within victim’s body such as welts and rashes. Moreover these were not normal Kissing Bugs, but bionic Kissing Bugs with jet packs and lasers firing out of their eyes.
There were also some sandwiches containing Giant Japanese Hornets. These grow up to a size of 2 inches. Every year up to 40 deaths are recorded as being caused by the stings of Japanese hornets. The venom of Japanese hornets causes an allergic reaction and dissolves all your bodily tissues within a short time.
Japanese hornets are very aggressive and fearless in nature, especially bionic ones with jet packs and lasers firing out of their eyes.
Now that it is after midday we can have some alcohol. First we are served a glass of sparkling Champagne, one in twenty glasses of which are laced with Strychnine. Used as a pesticide meant to kill small animals, Strychnine is one of the deadliest poisons on earth. Though found naturally in certain trees in Asia, Strychnine is also created synthetically in labs (ironically winning a Nobel Prize for the first successful attempt). Upon entering the body, within a few minutes the muscles begin contracting, while nausea and vomiting overwhelm the victim. As more and more muscles in the body begin to convulse and spasm, they lead to asphyxiation. The entire lethal process from ingestion to death takes roughly a half an hour.
If champagne is not to your test, how about some locally brewed ale, with only one in a hundred of these pints of beer being mixed with Mercury? A heavy metal, Mercury is incredibly toxic to the human body when touched or inhaled. Do not spill the beer on yourself; your skin will start itching, burning and even peel off within minutes. If ingested or inhaled, Mercury is even more unpleasant, causing memory loss, loss of vision, kidney failure and brain damage. Eventually Mercury poisoning will shut down the central nervous system and result in death.
If you suspect your beer is one of the unlucky ones, then maybe it is best to pour it in a dustbin, of which there are lots about (see picture below).
Conference Dustbins 002
The guy from Hydro Tasmania said that since lunch is so boring he was going to really excite everybody with a story about a document management system.
Now some people might think that a dull topic, but he was a very good speaker. He was upgrading his OPENTEXT document management system from version 10 to a version called SUITE 16. That has to be a joke, surely, did Neil Sedaka write the software?
The serious point he did make is that in industries were injuries are possible, not being able to find the correct document that says what the procedure is can be literally fatal.
What was good about this was that they did a demo. One of the two presenters stayed in the audience with a VR thing on his head, and on the main screen you could see what he saw. S when I looked on the screen I could see myself, with one of those motorbike like things that travel over the water on jet-skis, full size, right in front of me. It is very disconcerting. I know in these days of POKEMON GO this is nothing new.
Anyway the demonstrations were about customising the virtual machine before it actually got built, and the repairing existing machines by inspecting the actually machines in your factory by making them seem to appear in your office. The actual state of the machine will be accurate because of all the sensors inside it feeding data to your S/4 HANA system. So if a component is going to break down soon it glows red.
They also talked about interactive user manuals, which deal with the exact configuration of your machine. This gets around the problem of one user manual for each of the 54 thousand makes of printer, with the waste toner tank in a different pale on each make, and you can never find the one for the make you bought. SAP are looking for volunteer companies who could benefit from turning traditional user manuals into useful aids
UX Led Digital Transformation
This was in two parts. First of all a chappy from SAP talked about their view on UX Led Digital Transformation, then a guy from Frog Technology talked about how his company solves this problem for their clients.
The SAP part went as follows:-
“Blockchain Big Data Cloud Mobility Internet of Things Design Thinking Hyper-Connectivity BUILD Web IDE SAP UI5 Open UI5 Sheep Cows”
The Frog Technology part was more interesting. That company has been around since the 1960’s, used to be in effect the in-house design department for Steve Jobs – both at Apple and when he started his own company – and had the dubious honour of redesigning SAP R/3 in 1998.
They also created the “SAP Design Guild” in the year 2000 to try and standardise the look and feel of SAP GUI applications. They did a good a job as was humanly possible, but it was an uphill battle as there are some things in this world which just cannot be polished.
For afternoon tea we were served little tiny cupcakes, with pink frosting. As the day wore on the odds of something terrible happening if you ate some food in the exhibition zone were getting higher. This time 20% chance of the cupcakes exploded when you picked them up releasing a huge cloud of Tsetse Flies. These mainly feed on the blood of vertebrates. The extremely dangerous insects inject powerful toxins with each string. It is estimated that about half a million people lose their life by the attack of tsetse flies in Africa every year, at IT conferences like this one. You would think the organisers would stop serving booby trapped cupcakes at afternoon tea. Anyway, at the primary stage, the venom of tsetse flies induces sleeping sickness on the victim which may lead to fatality without proper treatment. Sleeping sickness is difficult to spot at conferences as so many of the talks tend to send people to sleep anyway.
The organisers played a little joke on the delegates now. We were all given a gift wrapped parcel with “BW 4 HANA” written on the front. Naturally we were eager to see what advances had been made lately regarding in-memory ETL technology, so gleefully ripped open the box.
We were most surprised to find it stuffed bull of Killer Bees! (Bee W, you see!). This type of bee is one of the most aggressive and dominant insects in the world. The group of killer bees follows the victim for more than 1 mile, so running down George Street to the train station would not work as a means of escape. In normal cases, a swarm of killer bees consists of hundreds or thousands of members. They attack in the group and mainly target the face and eyes of humans. In fact, their toxin is not so dangerous but an attack by group of killer bees could cause even death. Luckily most of the delegates survived, but a few died laughing, the whole thing was so funny. Moreover these were not normal Killer Bees, but bionic Killer Bees with jet packs, and lasers firing out of their eyes.
To try and make it up to the survivors, we were served fillet of puffer fish, containing Tetrodotoxin, which is lethal. Symptoms, of which there are multitudes, usually occur 30 minutes after consuming the poison. First, your mouth will become paralysed; next swallowing will become a chore. Soon, your coordination and speech will become disabled. Following that, seizures and convulsions may set in, eventually leading to coma and death. Death most commonly occurs after about 6 hours, but Tetrodotoxin has been known to kill within 17 minutes, clearly making it one of the deadliest poisons on earth.
Staggering back to the lecture hall, we delegates open our conference guides to see what presentations are occurring next. Little do we realise that, as a joke, the guides have been sprinkled with Ricin. Found in the bean of the Castor Oil Plant, Ricin is incredibly lethal, as it attacks protein production in the body, ultimately shutting it down completely. Most deadly when inhaled, hence the powdered form mail in letters (and conference guides), a quantity no larger than a sprinkle of table salt can kill.
We all desperately try and dump our conference guides in the nearest dustbin, luckily there are loads about (see picture below).
Conference Dustbin 003
Stream and Stream Again
For the final three sessions of the event, once again we have three streams to choose from. This time they are “Information Technology”, “Sales and Marketing” or a live performance of the highlights from “Fifty Shades of Gray” at the end of which you would be given a sack full of fifty dollar notes. I thought long and hard and decided to attend the IT stream.
Stork Technical Services
Stork Technical Services do not deliver babies, they repair and maintain machinery, such as that found on oil rigs and the like.
What they do have is SAP Business by Design, a product I know nothing about. As it turned out neither had the presenter before he started dealing with it, he had already worked with the SAP R3/ECC product.
His company only has three IT staff – including the manager – and so they wanted to implement an ERP system that was as easy as rolling out a browser. Apparently Business by Design is just like that, though you must have to configure it somewhat, no matter how cloudy it is.
However despite what I said earlier, maybe some companies can live with a 100% standardised business process….
SAP CIO APJ
This was an interesting approach – here we heard about how SAP is changing its own internal IT systems in response to all the new technology.
First off the CIO gave a bit of global background, but he foolishly said the word UBER at which point every delegate in the audience shouted out “YES MICHAEL!” as if they were talking car KITT and then did a Mexican Wave for the next twenty minutes.
Eventually the audience calmed down, and the CIO noted that the average lifespan of a company before it died or got acquired had declined from 75 years to 15 years.
Now, it is very difficult to be moved to tears by the internal problems faced by SAP when changing their IT systems, but naturally they have such problems, just as we “customers” do. The most office is acquiring all those companies, all of whom ran Oracle databases, and then having Larry Ellison taunt them every year, saying if HANA was so great, why did all those SAP companies still use Oracle? So they all had to do a database migration, but that is not as easy as some might think.
SAP prefer to use the phrase “Drink our own Champagne” when discussing the usage of their own products, but I think they miss the point of the original phrase “Eat our own Dog Food”. What was meant was that although the food was meant for dogs it is SO GOOD that a human can eat it, and would love it, so we do.
Drinking Champagne is supposed to be nice, and everyone thinks so, so I say again, SAP has missed the point.
Anyway, SAP has to use all its own products internally, or once again Larry Ellison would be at them. I have always thought it is funny that SAP use a third party language translation tool, for descriptions of data elements and the like, as the one they give us customers is not fit for purpose, but let us not go there.
So SAP naturally have to use S/4 HANA, despite the current scope not being quite up there with what ECC 6.0 has. They turn out to have two S/4 HANA systems a “2015”one for Finance and a
“2016” one for everything else. The CIO outlined the long term plant to move to just one system. I think both systems are on-premise at the moment, but I presume eventually they will move to the cloud version
I notice that when it comes to HR/Payroll SAP are using (according to the slide) both the traditional HCM as well as Success Factors, and also something called CALLIOUS. That is a pretty bad name for any system relating to HR/Payroll, it is like calling such a system NASTIE or EVILLL or UNKARING.
Australian SAP Guy with Beard and American Apple Guy with Beard
You may have heard that SAP and Apple have recently signed a binding agreement in which all the staff at both companies are now required to grow beards.
In a parallel move, SAP and Apple have also signed an agreement whereby they have jointly created a SDK where developers can create applications that access an SAP system, and have the code converted into IOS format, so the resulting application can run on an IPAD or other Apple device. This comes out at the end of March 2017.
There was a bit of a disaster trying to do the live demo. I got the feeling the equipment at the hotel could not handle Apple devices. Still, they got there in the end and it was very impressive. The guy from Apple said he had been listening to the various presentations throughout the day and was quite surprised, as he felt that now SAP is finally thinking in the same way as Apple when it comes to end users.
If you have been to SAPPHIRE or SAP TECHED you will be used to the lavish “cocktail parties” they have, a strange name as no actual cocktails are served, just a very large amount of free beer and wine.
All this pales into insignificance compared to the party that was thrown for us delegates after the event proper finished, probably as a reward for having made it through the day alive. We were helped onto the back of ceremonial elephants, on which we rode into a banqueting chamber the size of the Royal Albert Hall, filled with statues and works of art chosen from the finest museums in the world.
To carry on the theme of artificial intelligence, upon disembarking from our elephants we were all allocated our personal robot servitor for the evening, who would fetch for us, at our merest whim, a selection of the fine food and beverage on offer. These – of course – work via telepathy rather than any old fashioned voice command type of affair.
The quality and size of the banquet would have made Henry VIII green with envy.
It would take me far too long to describe each of the twenty six courses we were served (it is lucky they had set up a full scale Roman Empire style vomitarium) so I will just mention three of the highlights.
There was a giant roasted pig on a spit, stuffed full of Driver Ants. Even elephants would run away from the group attack of driver ants. They try to finish off any animal that comes across their path.
Driver ants normally kill thousands of different animals within a single raid. They make repetitive wounds on animals and humans using their strong mandibles. Driver ants also raid nests of other insects for food and kill them. Moreover these were not normal Driver Ants, but bionic Driver Ants with Jet Packs, and laser beams firing out of their eyes.
Then there was a swan, inside which was a chicken, inside of which was a duck, the whole thing stuffed with mosquitoes. This is known as a Swachickenuckito. Mosquitoes are the most dangerous insect species on Earth. This deadly insect causes 1 million deaths every year by transmitting the dangerous malaria disease. Bionic ones are even worse.
As this is Australia, there were ice creams with a Golf Ball Octopus stuck on the top of each one. This charming creature is lovely to look at, and is indeed the size of a Golf Ball. When you pick it up, it injects poison into you, but you do not notice. Then a few hours later, you become totally paralysed, including your lungs, at which point you suffocate and die.
Breaking with tradition some actual cocktails were served. Most were harmless, but one interesting such cocktail was “Death on the Beach” containing orange juice, rum, vodka, black Sambuca and VX. So toxic is VX that one drop of the poison coming into contact with exposed skin will kill a human. Inhalation being the most common form of exposure, symptoms from VX poisoning will range from flu-like symptoms with mild exposure to paralysis and full respiratory failure leading to death when exposed to a lethal dose.
If that cocktail is not to your liking then also on offer was “Life Sucking Cowboy” which contains whipped cream, gin, vodka, whiskey, rum, sulphuric acid, and Botulinum Toxin. The deadliest poison on earth, a single cap full of Botulinum Toxin could potentially kill hundreds of thousands of people if let loose on the world by causing botulism, a disease that can shut down the central nervous system. Mortality rates in poisoning from Botulinum Toxin hover around 50% in untreated patients, while the remainder of those treated may suffer debilitating complications from their illness for years after treatment. Due to its volatile and readily available nature, Botulinum Toxin is the deadliest poison in the world.
At this point a good 10% of us were still alive, and had all managed to see the funny side. However, the event was not over yet.
Going back to talking about SAPPHIRE and TECHED, at those events, as well as all the free drink and food in addition there is a big pop concert with a big name like Bon Jovi, usually someone still well done who was really famous when the 40+ age group were teenagers.
For this event SAP really pushed the boat out. Even though the Art of the Possible was in quite a small venue they still managed to score Elton John, supported by Adele, Don Henley and local star Jessica Mauboy. The latter lives here, the others all happened to be touring Australia at this time.
After the main concert, one of the senior members of the SAP Australia Management team performed a black magic ceremony in which he sacrificed the CEO of one of the platinum event sponsors on a stone altar, and raised from the dead assorted pop stars who had died in 2016. These comprised Prince, George Michael, David Bowie and Bobby Vee (who sang “I am a Rubber Ball and I will come Bouncing Back to you”), to form a supergroup which topped even Elton Johns’ performance.
To end the evening out came the entire managing board of SAP AG to perform the world famous “Balloon Dance” which came to prominence via the UK show “OTT” hosted by disc jockey and TV personality Chris Tarrant, who was also notable as the original host of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” a UK show then copied by the USA and many other countries, although of course the UK show was copied from the USA show “The 64 Million Dollar Question” from the nineteen sixties. Dwelling on this complex history kept our minds of the horrific Balloon Dance spectacle taking place in front of us.
Last year’s event was very good, this one is even better. A free event, with the same quality of presentations you get at a conference you have to pay for, and all that free food and drink as well. The funny practical jokes in the “zone” during the breaks might not have been to everyone’s taste, some people have no sense of humour.
This gets a big thumbs up, and I cannot wait for next years.