When Michael Koch wrote his blog last year entitled "What is wrong with SAP TechEd Demo Jam 2009", I wondered if it was a useful conversation to be had. At that time, I was pumped full of adrenaline, preparing to go on stage for Demo Jam 2009 Vienna, which can be found on YouTube for posterity.
For those of you unfamiliar with Demo Jam, it is a sort of X-Factor for geeks. Hundreds of video submissions are made with the coolest SAP integrated technologies, and the best 6 are chosen to appear live on stage. And when I say live on stage, I mean live in front of thousands of baying bearded cynical SAP professionals. Simon Cowell is nothing.
Submissions are made by people internal to SAP, and from SAP partners and customers. As you might imagine, the quality of technology on show is deeply impressive and the finalists are all top notch.
The rules are really simple: no slides, no sales, original live content only, no smoke and mirrors - and most importantly dress to impress. Sometimes it goes wrong and the crowd loves that: especially if it's then recovered by desperate hacking at a computer screen, live.
Now the thing that Michael Koch had a problem with was that the internal SAP people often have a full time job running a skunkworks style project which then forms their Demo Jam submission. On the other hand, without these projects and without Demo Jam, we would be missing things like the SAP BusinessObjects Explorer iPhone app which won in Vienna last year. I went out for dinner with Alexis Naibo who was the brainchild of this and it's no doubt a great thing that his team got recognition. He had the best demo and he won fair and square.
So what's the downside? Well this year, out of the 6 finalists in Berlin, 5 of them are SAP contestants. I am told that when the (top secret) panel meets, it considers the submissions on merit alone, and that the identities of the entries are kept secret. So we can suppose that out of the top 6, 5 of the best were SAP. Should the panel mark down SAP entries so that more customers and partners can have a chance to appear on stage?
I'm not sure that's the answer because we want the best entries! We want to see SAP No Hands with Sebastian Steinhauer and Tobias Queck pouring beer using SAP technologies. To say - "Sorry Sebastian, but you're being held back because you work for SAP" isn't good for the competition.
Fast forward year and Steffen Schwark is the brainchild of this year's Bluefin Solutions submission. We are the first non-SAP organization (I think, but no one knows for sure!) to be finalists two years running, and whilst we are running with a similar topic: Enterprise Mobility, Steffen has come up with something new and different to what you will have seen before.
In 2009, SAP entries won in Vienna, Phoenix and Bangalore. OK it might have been from 3 different teams within SAP, and actually 3 different organizations (SAP Labs USA, SAP Labs India and SAP BusinessObjects). But it's all SAP to me (is there a bad cover song to be made here?).
So what did we do this year to get a better chance of winning? Well first of all, Steffen has come up with a far more sophisticated demo than I did last year, and to add to that we are not (hurray, you say) going to be demoing the iPhone. He has upped the game and brought with him our erstwhile COO, Pip Holland, who plays a role.
And this is the answer to it. We need more excellent submissions for Demo Jam 2011 and beyond and this has to be fuelled by a great quality of entry. They don't need to have man years of development effort (trust me, our entry does not!) and they don't need to have Cheryl Cole on stage singing - not that it would count against you. And with this, we can just maybe beat the SAP teams.