So I was stood in the Influencers reception with good friend Jon Reed and someone from SAP Global Communications was persuading us to try desserts. I’m not a big fan of creamy things but Jon is convinced to neck a very creamy foamy thing in a small glass. He smiles, looks up, and murmurs “I’ve just been influenced”. And so it goes.
The SAP Influencer Summit is an annual event where 100 of the most influential individuals in the SAP community get together and throw rocks at SAP. Or at least that’s how it felt sometimes. And to be honest I sometimes felt like a fraud. Some of the people in this conference have serious reach. I mentioned my concerns of what the word influencer meant to someone and they said something like “well yes I feel like I genuinely am an influencer. I have 7,500 people following me on Twitter and that constitutes serious reach”. Quite so.
SAP Mentors and influence
I suspect however that I am doing myself a disservice. Perhaps individually I don’t have the influence of some of the individuals in the conference, but the SAP Mentors do, as a group. Someone on the Twitter stream evidenced this, citing: “I love it when those guys introduce themselves [to the audience] as SAP Mentors. It redefines the word influencer”.
And the SAP Mentors who were in the conference were very vociferous. Jon Reed, myself, Dick Hirsch and Kevin Benedict asked many questions – difficult, but fair questions. Remember that Mentors aren’t out looking for “copy”, they’re out looking to make the SAP Ecosystem a better place.
Have a good time – all the time
The SAP Mentors are famous for having a good time and keeping things light, and I don’t think we disappointed. For starting a hunger groundswell against the event when we were kept from our lunch by an enthusiastic speaker for 30 minutes, through to causing Aiaz Kazi – Vishal’s right hand man and GM of Product Marketing, Strategy and Management – to join Twitter to join into the fun. As I said, he’s got content for a Marketing stiff.
Anyhow, we were there to have fun as well, not to only have fun, and I’ll be playing back the key messages from the Summit, as I see them, over the next few days. If you remember from my Pre-Summit blogs, I went out to answer questions on 3 major topics.
Enterprise Mobility - This was the big, but quiet news. SAP has been listening to Kevin Benedict, Jon Reed and I on mobility strategy, and fessed up to listening to our mobility podcasts and reading our blogs. They have laid out internal strategy, some of which they shared at the Summit and some they did not, and they are looking for a big bang at Sapphire. I’ll go into this in much more detail but they have put together a very delivery-focused Mobile Business Unit to build a next generation version of the Sybase Unwired Platform which resolves the major problems in the existing version. Exciting times.
onDemand - I love the onDemand discussion because they put a whole day aside for it and then explained it as SME and divisional Large Enterprise play. Was everyone seriously ignoring the elephant in the room, which is that SAP is betting its future on byDesign, including for Large Enterprise? The amount of development they are ploughing into byDesign is monumental and it is seriously impressive both from a Line of Business functionality perspective but also from a usability perspective. And some of the next-generation UI technology they showed us will allow us to build customer-centric business software of the future.
NetWeaver - I’m told that this is the first time that Vishal Sikka (CTO) has ever left work to go home sick, and he looked visibly tired. He made his way through a keynote and his relaxed look of jeans and a polo short make him everything the authentic leader. In any case I don't have my answers yet but I believe Vishal is good to his word and will come back on this when he's had time to get better. We had the answer on support - NetWeaver 7.3 will have support extended past 2015, they just need to get to it.
There are also a few other things I picked up on that I hadn’t gone to the conference to talk about but are worth noting...
Sustainability - I met the awesome Tom Raftery from Greenmonk on Monday night after he tweeted “Is anyone at the conference, I’m downstairs” – so I went down to meet him and we dragged Jon Reed out of his pajamas in the room opposite me to join us. SAP had a track on sustainability but there was a serious lack of intertwining sustainability messaging into the overall picture. This is simple stuff, and SAP should slap itself about with a wet fish for that. Here’s a few facts. NetWeaver 7.3 consumes 60% less energy than NetWeaver 7.0 because it’s faster and therefore more efficient. byDesign could be a green product because it’s built on very efficient blade hardware and its multitenant approach means that not an ounce of power is wasted – but it seems that SAP don’t want to share the metrics.
River - Old friend Tim Kyle from Keytree was out demoing the River platform. River is a neat demo that SAP has thrown together that permits agile process-centric software to be written. That said, it’s a cart without a horse because it really requires RESTful Services to integrate with SAP and until the Gateway platform becomes available, River requires a lot of ABAP code to be written for integration. In addition, SAP haven’t really committed or not committed to River although they are now intoning that River will make it out the labs.
Gateway - Project Gateway is the aforementioned integration software and I’ve always associated it with Enterprise Mobility. At the summit it became obvious to me that Gateway is an integration layer that makes an awful lot of sense if you are implementing Mobile but only because it’s an example of where lightweight integration is required. There are lots of other instances where Gateway would be useful, including integration with lots of other non-SAP software that connects to SAP software online. In addition it is clear that Gateway is already a mature platform and SAP are busy building services out for lots of commonly used business processes, which is what is driving the mid-2011 release date.
Virtualization - Bernhard Schulzki did a talk on virtualization at 5.30pm on Wednesday and I have no clue what he said, but it sounded really important. It was something about the next generation Adaptive Computing platform, which seems to do cloud-style multi-tenant management. But he could just as easily been talking about “The Important of Being Earnest” and I would have been none the wiser because they picked the most technical topic till last and we all sat there like rabbits in headlights.
It’s a wrap
I’m amazed by the amount of information that was force fed into us over 2 days and Jeff Stiles – SVP of onDemand Marketing – said it best “I know you’re all wiped out but we’re going to power on through the break.” (seriously) – and we created the Twitter hashtag #bladderbuster for Jeff, who overran on a 30 minute session by 150 minutes.
Whilst the organization was sometimes (ok mostly) chaotic, I don’t really begrudge them for it because they put the right people into the room and we were able to make those conversations happen. It became very organic and we as an audience were good to run with that.
Hopefully I didn’t offend anyone too much and I added some value in my own way and will therefore be invited back in 2011. Hopefully Jonathan Becher (EVP of Marketing) has forgotten that I was teasing him late on Tuesday. Collectively, the SAP Mentors landed and did their thing, bringing positive community influence to the SAP Executive.