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Author's profile photo Marilyn Pratt

Avoiding CRASHES (of the human communication kind) – an SAP TechEd Las Vegas Summary

A Quick Summary of My SAP TechED Experience in Vegas

Last week I had the honor of delivering a small presentation about “Speaking Tech to Non-Tech Types” at SAP TechEd 2018 Las Vegas.

Luckily for me, there was opportunity to chat briefly and directly with my onsite audience and incorporate some of their insights before and after the slot (also a shout out to those who virtually enhanced my thinking before the event in the community space: Colleen Hebbert, Nigel James, Matthew Billingham, Jelena Perfiljeva Michelle Crapo, for example),

Using an acronym: CRASHES, the session looked at some of the important ways to enhance the bi-lateral communication between techies and non-techies, business and development, geeks and suits and analysts.

The basic premises also built on techniques such as “easing an audience’s understanding of technical content by avoiding buzzwords and jargon”

We walked through the following:

Common Ground – Touch them where they live- handshake between 2 systems

Resonance – two-way communication, no buzzwords, jargon

Adaptive Agility-  example: Failfaire – repercussion-less analysis – not married to opinions

Story-telling– positions problems and tell relatable stories of how you overcame them

Example: Steve Jobs introducing the iPhone: “We’ve designed something wonderful for your hand, just wonderful. And this is what it looks like.”

Humility – Sharing vulnerability – All’s Well That Ends Well by Shakespeare says: “and it shall come to pass that every braggart shall be known an $ss” – level the playing field, but don’t talk down or dumb down –remember where you were so that you can teach not judge

Empathy – respecting what THEY do and who THEY are (stakeholders, users, business owners) Understanding their need to know, putting yourself in THEIR shoes

Simplicity– KISS – If you can’t explain it simply you don’t understand it well enough

Design Thinking Workshops Embedded into Show Floor

Participated in a two-hour workshop in the user experience space that was an excellent introduction to Design Thinking methodology- the theme: “prototyping ways to enhance the SAP TechEd experience for the participants”.  It was instructive, concise and engaging.  A few developers at my table confided that it was one of their favorite activities during SAP TechEd. Kudos to Sally Lawler Kennedy, Sr. Director Innovation and Design Research, SAP and Kursat Ozenc Senior UX Design Specialist SAP Labs, LLC .  Please Sally, share more here!

Understanding the Value of Your Brand and Your Influence

Grabbed a bit of the Lightening Talk with Ian Thain  who I hope can share tips from his excellent content here.  It wasn’t so much about branding as an extension of good communication practices, really good, clear stuff.

On the topics of Influence…..

Also attended:
Community, Diversity, and You, delivered by Jason Cao  – again, I’m hoping the content will be shared here. There were good insights about the difference between diversity and inclusion.

A favorite community member of  mine from many moons ago, Mrinal Wadhwa gave an engaging talk about leveraging blockchain technologies.

I managed to hear at least one  Influencer Fireside Chat hosted by Malin Liden .  And was happy to see and hear Raquel Seville and Karin Tillotson participating.

I did struggle a bit with the title: “Female Influencer Fireside Chat” and wonder if it didn’t discourage “Males” from participating. Still, ’twas good to see and hear women in technology speaking about their impressions of the event.

And lastly, but surely not leastly, Craig Cmehil provided a look at “How to Engage in Community” which was and still is (especially to newbies) an important introduction to knowledge exchange and peer learning.  That should be something that never gets old: “welcoming newcomers”.

HANA Spatial

I was given the privilege of an intro to geo-mapping by Ina Felsheim and Tripp Morson.

I can see many applications for this kind of bleeding edge technology ranging from agriculture to medical aid. Here’s looking at you Chris Rae !

My Favorite Part

The opportunity to network with and learn from peers, (and luminaries) remains one of the overarching values in attending a live event such as SAP Teched.  The magic and serendipity that happens in corridor conversations and sometimes random dialogues continues to be a priceless part of the experience.  I wish those attending Barcelona and Bangalore much of those moments!

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      Author's profile photo Michelle Crapo
      Michelle Crapo

      I wish I could have been there.  It sounds like a lot of fun.  Thank you for the recap!

      Author's profile photo Jason Cao
      Jason Cao

      That's a lovely summary Marilyn! Your presence brought so much warmth and light to TechEd, and I was very honoured you attended my diversity and inclusion session.

      I've attached the replay of my session below:

      Author's profile photo Marilyn Pratt
      Marilyn Pratt
      Blog Post Author

      Thanks on all counts Jason Cao !

      Author's profile photo Matthew Billingham
      Matthew Billingham

      Communication problem? Why did nobody tell me? 😉

      Author's profile photo Matthew Billingham
      Matthew Billingham

      KISS: If you can’t explain it simply you don’t understand it well enough.

      Definitely often the case. Some people find it difficult to explain clearly, simply because they don’t really have a grasp of the subject – that leads to an inclination to waffle. When I was a hiring manager, I’d ask obscure questions precisely to test this. If the candidate answered succintly, I’d be impressed. If they said they didn’t know, that would be fine too. But trying to waffle through it… nah. That’s not going to wash.

      On the other hand, being able to explain something simply doesn’t mean you understand it well. I remember giving an explanation of blockchain to a CIO a few years ago. I thought I understood it, but I later found that I’d got it wrong. It’s ok, I understand it now, and the explanation I did give was probably good enough.

      But aside from not understanding well enough, I think there are two more possibilities:

      2. I really do understand it, but I’m terrible at explaining things.

      3. It is something inherently complex. I think Richard Feynman understood quantum electrodynamics – QED (at, least he was adept at doing the maths, which is a reasonable approximation to understanding), He was also a great teacher. But QED is a very complicated and hard to understand field of human endeavour. It is however not unimportant; together with Einstein’s two theories (Special and General Relativity, which unlike QED I do understand), it’s what makes your SatNav work. It has many other serious and useful applications.

      However… in my experience we can reject 3 as the reason behind a non-simple explanation. I’ve oftens said to my colleagues – it’s SAP. It can’t be that difficult. So if you ask about some new technology and the answer given isn’t simple, the chances really are that the “expert” doesn’t know… or is terrible teacher!


      Oh, and just to be clear. Shakespeare was talking about a donkey. Not the nether regions of human anatomy. It's down to the difference between American and British English. 

      Let him fear this, for it will come to pass that every braggart shall be found (to be) a donkey. 

      Author's profile photo Marilyn Pratt
      Marilyn Pratt
      Blog Post Author

      thanks again Matthew Billingham for expanding my thinking pre and post live delivery.

      some comments to yours: Einstein probably was paraphrased and more correctly said: "Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler".  That doesn't mean, as you point out, that everything NEEDS to be explained simply.  Occam's razor states that if there exist two explanations for an occurrence, the simple one is usually better....or the more assumptions you have to make, the more unlikely an explanation.  But even philosophically, simplistic doesn't necessarily = best explanation.  I erred on the side of simple...or worse simplistic.

      As to Feynman, my partner told me he met Feynman while doing his graduate work, and observed that Feynman was NOT being arrogant in claiming that only a small handful of people understood QED.   I think you keep good company. LOL

      I'll try to insert the slideshare of the presentation.  Each of the 7 themes could be enhanced and expanded.

      Author's profile photo Ina Felsheim
      Ina Felsheim

      It was great to catch up again, Marilyn. We, too, see so many uses for spatial solutions--I'm glad Tripp got to highlight a few.