SAPPHIRENOW 2012, Madrid – Keynote Expectations

This year, I am not going to Madrid to attend SAPPHIRENOW  and SAPTECHED 2012, due to some scheduling conflicts on work front. I will be following the event online as much as I can. My JD-OD friends will surely do their excellent wrap up videos, and I can’t wait to watch them. Also, a shameless plug for my IBM team at Madrid . Please go visit them at the IBM booth, and ask for Gagan Reen, and watch the retail application we built on HANA, specifically on XS engine.

I am not sure if there is a lot of new news that SAP has to share with the world this time. Not a lot of time has passed after SAPTECHED 2012 in Vegas. I am a big fan of keeping SAPPHIRENOW and SAPTECHED together as one event.  And having events so close to each other serves very little purpose to SAP and its ecosystem. I hope SAP does it in US too – and a change of venue from Orlando and Vegas couldn’t hurt.

I am sure the keynotes from Bill McDermott, Jim Snabe and Vishal Sikka will be awesome, as they usually are. What do I expect from each ?

From Bill McDermott, I expect to hear some color on why an amazing innovation like HANA only has about 650 (probably some more now, since 650 was what we heard in Vegas at Teched) customers. More importantly – what are his plans for 2013 .  APAC is where the action is for a lot of enterprise software. I would love to hear what Bill has to say about unique solutions for APAC companies. Of particular interest to me is what he plans to do to capitalize the mobility market there. It is ripe for the plucking . Checkout what I wrote last week on my way back from India. 

Maybe Bill will let Sanjay Poonen to do a short section of his keynote to explain the mobility strategy in more detail.  Another thing I expect Bill to go into is the convergence of mobility, hana , analytics and cloud . In past keynotes, he has articulated what each bring to the table. But the business value for customers clearly is in the intersection of all (or some) of it.

From Jim Snabe, I expect to hear the business side of SAP’s cloud story – with emphasis on the Ariba acquisition and Collaboration. I am sure several SAP customers will be excited to hear about how SAP is planning to give them extra value on Ariba’s vast business network. And collaboration plays a key role – since none of SAP’s competitors in collaboration space has the advantage of tight integration to the context of business processes.  An interesting side question to SAP cloud strategy is how SAP’s investment in HANA as the DB for ERP, CRM etc ties with the fact that new innovation in business processes from most of their competitors like SFDC, WorkDay etc are on cloud.  So why is SAP choosing to invest in On-premises HANA enablement, when the world is generally moving to cloud?  I hope Jim addresses that question. If I was in Madrid, I would have asked this in person to Jim.

There is no denying that my favorite part of any SAP event is Vishal’s keynote.  From Vishal, I expect to hear the next level of detail on SAP’s platform story. Platform is the future, and SAP’s platform is evolving rapidly. Maybe he will finally announce the sunset of the beloved Netweaver brand for cloud. What would be a really good thing for Vishal to explain is what is the next thing that the millions of ABAP programmers in the ecosystem to do in near future to keep themselves relevant.  It is a captive audience that is extremely loyal to SAP. It would be a crying shame if they are not shown a clear path forward on skills they need for the new-SAP.

Alright then – I am ready to kick back, and watch the virtual event. Good luck SAP .


SAP Teched 2012, Las Vegas – It’s All Good In The Hood

I reached back home few hours ago from SAP Teched Vegas. As always, it was a terrific event that magically gets better every year. Huge congratulations to SAP, and especially to Chip Rodgers for excellent execution. SAP paid for my flights and hotel (thank you very much) since I went there as a blogger . A big thanks to Mike Prosceno (herder for bloggers) and Mark Finnern (herder for mentors) for being such great hosts. Surprisingly, the food at lunch time was quite good this time unlike many previous events.

Unfortunately, I did not get to spend much time at innojam this time due to conflicts in schedule. Its probably the first time I have not competed or judged. I hope it is the last time – it is a terrific event, and I am looking forward to Madrid. I am always amazed at how much effort goes into it from Anne Hardy and gang. SAP is lucky to have them.

Congratulations to my colleague and friend Tomas Krozjl for being named Hana Distinguished Engineer , and to fellow mentor Martin Gillet for taking this photo of us

The blogger and mentor meetings were more manageable this time compared to prior events. So I used most of that time to network – and caught up with several fellow SAP tribe members (and chiefs). And since the information is now more continuous in its flow to influencer community, I did not have to worry about running from session to session trying to find latest information . Admittedly, the excitement part of Teched was low for me – but satisfaction level was higher. It was a lot of fun doing the daily wraps with Dennis, John, Jon and Harald for JD-OD. And we even tried live streaming.

Of course HANA was the big theme of Vishal Sikka’s keynote. It was probably Vishal’s best key note till date. If there is one thing SAP needs to get better at – it is the length of the key notes . It is now a common thing for these sessions to go over time. While the content was quite good – I would have loved to see some customers, developers and the new batch of Hana Distinguished Engineers on the stage. In my opinion, it would have made the event 3 times more effective and enjoyable. Hopefully this will change by Madrid. I loved it that Vishal got several members of his senior leadership team on stage to share the spot light.

I was not sure how Oracle would respond after the infamous #OOW hash tag hijack by SAP when Openworld was going on. I give full credit to Oracle for not responding in kind at teched. They took the high road , and I hope ORACLE and SAP don’t resort to doing anything silly on social media during Madrid SAPPHIRE, and dare I say “ever after” .

The messaging on HANA is getting better. I was happy to see less emphasis on speed, and more on transformation, and a move towards HANA as a platform. A few announcements got my attention.

1. Netweaver Cloud (despite the Netweaver tag, which I wish SAP loses quickly) is now GA. . Go here to get dev licenses –  – and they are free and indefinite, As Anne Hardy tweeted.

2. HANA One is available for productive use (AWS version of HANA). . It is about 64GB in size, which in effect can only hold about 30 GB data, making it near impossible to use it for a real production use case. Once bigger images are a reality, this should become a great model for using Hana . There is no SAP support you can expect for this deployment now. You need to depend on “community” support. Actually not too bad, since community support for HANA has in general been terrific in my experience.

3. MRP on HANA is now available, which should speed up MRP runs quite a bit in ECC, and at least some customers should find that relieving . I am waiting to see the business benefits pilot customers got.

4. Ariba and SFSF will run on HANA in future. This will give serious street cred to Hana when it happens. Replatforming is never easy – and I know this from running a huge replatforming program for a customer for a mission critical non-SAP business application. SAP has a lot of great talent – I am sure they won’t replatform, just for the sake of replatforming.

By Madrid, I expect this to get even better, with a lot of customer stories available. There are only 603 HANA customers now – so SAP has some ways to go. SAP also should weave all these into “we have only one platform” story in Madrid.

I also wanted to point out that I was rather confused that SAP chose to hold a SAP HANA Council at New York, the same week as Teched was happening. Why would they do that at all? This is one week where all the SAP technology executives should be at Teched and addressing customers, developers and partners at their largest technology conference. From the outside, it did look to me like two parts of SAP went in their parallel ways with holding two events the same week, with more or less similar agenda.

I was thrilled to see SAP Co-CEO Bill McDermott at Teched, and had a chance to engage him in conversation. This is very important for SAP to do at Techeds. Bill was of course on his A game as always, and gave an excellent and lively Q&A session. When he said “Not everything is about making money”, I could totally visualize him debating someone in a future presidential election 🙂

Mobility and Cloud did not get as much attention in keynotes as they deserve, but I will give SAP a pass till Madrid.

There were a half dozen  things that stood out for me this time, and let me spend a couple of sentences on each

1. Hana Startup Program

By far, this was the best meeting at a Teched that I have attended, and SAP should be shouting these start up stories from rooftops. What was very greatifying to hear was some start ups clearly saying they could not have done this in any other technology. Kaustav is definitely doing a bang up job running this program.

2. Usability

I was quite impressed with Sam Yen’s vision of how he intends to make usability discussions go away when talking about SAP. It is a tall order given the history of hundreds of thousands of ugly screens (by today’s standards). Persona’s – which lets a non-technical user to make their screens look better very quickly – are a great idea. No points for guessing Dennis Browne and team made this possible. They are rock stars. What I liked the most about the hour spent with Sam is the idea of getting better usability without boiling the ocean. It is a targeted approach of identifying the right screens for each customer. It is fairly easy technically, since Kernel upgrades are all it needs . No enhancement packs are needed. Now – not all is well. It is built using Silverlight technology, and it will take time to move it to HTML5. And it costs money to buy the repeatable custom solution . The big competition is from good old GUIXT. But all things said, this is a great move by SAP. And good luck to SAP for taking this role.

3. SAP Store

Dan Maloney explained his vision of how all the SAP stores – things like ecohub that SAP built, and things like eShops that came to SAP via acquisitions – will all merge into one store. I was skeptical that SAP AEs will not like it, but was pleasantly surprised to hear AEs will be compensated even if customers buy from stores. This will take a couple of years to see light of day in full fledged form, but is definitely the right thing to do. Dennis Howlett would be happy to hear that the store will also list prices in public. I am looking forward to seeing more in Madrid

4. Juniors @ SAP

If there is only one video that you watch about Teched , watch this . Very few things make me emotional at tech conferences. Seeing these kids in action definitely made me very emotional . A big shout out to my friend John Astill.

5. Business Intelligence

I also had an opportunity to chat with Michael Reh a couple of times . He manages engineering for BI clients. I was genuinely impressed by the hanalytics product he showed us mentors. I also appreciated how candid he was of the bumpy road that BI 4.0 had to take, and steps he is taking to make it less bumpy going forward. And I loved his Jaein ( Ja and Nein) answers . I asked Michael if he felt bad about BI products being discounted heavily to aid non discounted Hana sales . His answer was upbeat – he did not see any issue as SAP will get paid either way, and it doesn’t matter to him whether it is Hana or BI that brings in the money . I admire that answer – I would have felt terrible if I was in his shoes . If Vishal ever need a good solid use case for his “timeless software”, “non disruptive innovation” and “kill the layers” principles, BI is a perfect candidate.

6. Dogfooding @ SAP

I swung by the “SAP runs SAP” booth to catchup with my pal Nathan Oyler . It was exciting to hear SAP’s own adventures with BW , CRM and ECC on Hana. I hope Nathan will blog about it soon . I will be honored to host his post as a guest blog any day . He is a great addition to Oliver Bussman’s team – along with Martin Lang et al.

I will close out this post with mentioning something that was greatly gratifying for me this week. I have not been a blogger for long. And many of you know that I have conflicts in my mind on how my readers, especially those who work for SAP, will interpret what I say on my blogs. I was put at ease considerably after discussing this topic with several people at Teched. A lot of SAP employees expressed their thanks for expressing my opinion in public domain, and some of them showed me long email threads discussing questions I raised in blogs at great length. A couple of people did point out that some of my criticism of SAP was off base, and unfair . But all things considered, I am a lot more at peace now about blogging than ever before.

SAP SAPPHIRE and Teched 2011 Madrid, Tuesday – HANA, BI 4.x, Netweaver et al

My day started with informal discussions on future of BI products. Mobile BI is of course a no brainer next big thing.  Question is how is SAP going to tackle this? Webi is by far the most commonly touted mobile BI client. Xcelsius has the flash limitation on iOS, and even on Android – not all controls of Xcelsius work that well. Some time next year, when an Analysis client for mobile goes into ramp – there is an option to generate HTML5 layouts. If SAP does a good job on this, I would bet that this will start Xcelsius on its death march. Xcelsius is a great tool – but popular opinion is that it is not scalable for thousands of users. I have seen few hundreds use it, but not thousands. So I personally don’t know, and am willing to stand corrected. I will ask around more while I am here.

Next up is a question of how to best make dashboards etc out of ECC.  The big limiting factor in my opinion is that universes do not work on top of ABAP data dictionary. And if you go directly against the tables at SQL table – you will lose out on security, semantics and most probably will violate licensing agreements with SAP and the DB vendor.  The smart thing for SAP to do will be to allow universes to be built on ABAP data dictionary. This could single-handedly give an explosion to licenses sales for BOBJ. Any one listening  at SAP from sales side? To check out – I spoke with Adam Binnie, the GVP for BI. Many thanks to Andrea Kaufmann for finding some time for me with Adam.

There is no solution now or on roadmap to solve the flash compatibility issue. Adam said SAP team is checking on this in a research mode. It is not an easy problem to solve – there is a huge userbase for whom a disruptive solution might be painful to the extreme. Plus SAP has a limited option on a problem between Adobe and Apple. Nevertheless, SAP owes the world a solution for this somehow.

Although I feel SAP has not given Xcelsius the love it needs in near past, Adam thought otherwise. I think the disconnect essentially is that whatever is driving the product roadmap, probably is not very well integrated with the ecosystem. Adam said he will look into it, and that by end of the year he plans to put some concrete actions in place.

On the universe on top of ABAP data dictionary issue, it did not look like a priority for SAP. Adam thought this might be because multiple semantic layers (as in ABAP DDIC, and Common Semantic Layer from BOBJ both) might be against SAP’s design principles. Again, he agreed to check with his team and give me an update.

Of course no day passes in SAP land for me sans a thought on HANA.  if we fast forward to future – the big big thing is ECC running on HANA.  Is this the final frontier?  I am not too sure .  Over the last decade or two, SAP has made a lot of DML optimization already. Standard Business Suite behavior is to select once from database, hold it in memory – and then do all kinds of business logic in ABAP. So you could select a million records, filter it to hundred thousand with logic – then take it through Authorization checks to find what will pass, and end up with 10 records. If this logic is not rewritten completely – how much of benefit will SAP get by simply putting the tables in memory?  And think of the re-write – can you replace the ABAP logic with a bunch of database stored procedures ? Can you find a clever way of passing authorizations to hana at database level and not let ABAP do it? Will this mean HANA gets an ABAP interpreter? Too many complex issues to be solved to make it work efficiently.  So I raised this with SAP’s Deputy CTO Sethu Meenakshisundaram and a member of his team, Frank Samuel. Here is what they had to say.

SAP has a vision on how this would work going forward. The key to that is building a good foundational meta model in HANA that can represent the business objects in ABAP. Once DDIC, Security etc are modelled, then a standard API set can be used by ABAP and non-ABAP systems to do complex processing with HANA. But given the sheer amount of work, this will take some time to complete.  A consistent set of user friendly APIs is a tall ask for SAP in my opinion, based on what I have seen in past. Maybe they will do better this time.

Jon Reed brought up the question on multi-tenancy in the meeting. And I had posted this question on my blog earlier. I was quite pleased that Sethu had read my blog before hand. So according to Sethu, HANA is built as a multitenant model, except it is not used as such. Apparently, this is a simple thing for SAP to flip the switch. This is very different from what I have heard before, and I mentioned it to Sethu. He agrees that communication on HANA needs to improve from SAP’s side to minimize confusion. In any case, SAP not only needs to flip that switch, it should also build apps on HANA that are multi-tenant. And Vishal should mention it in his keynote to make sure the world is not confused, unlike what happened with ORACLE. BI OnDemand is a good start in this direction, and I expect more such things to come up in next few years

SAP has a grand vision on how the in-memory platform will help business. And i truly like what I heard. Sethu thinks Supply Chain is an area where SAP can do wonders with this, and I agree.  S&OP for example is an area where I have heard many customers request more of SAP. However, vision and execution needs to match.  SAP’s execution on HANA is not exactly stellar so far in my opinion, but I guess they will get there soon enough.

Next up was a meeting with Bjoern Goerke who is the Corporate Officer in charge of Technology and Innovation Platform at SAP. As always – a terrific meeting. I asked the same question on HANA multi-tenancy to him. His answer was more tentative than the one I got from Sethu – “not now, but we are working on it, and will get there soon”. While he agreed on the need for a good meta model on HANA and a framework for all the aspects like security, user provisioning etc – he could not give out any time frame for it. “One step at a time” was his answer. I respect that, although I think these are all things SAP should get out to the ecosystem as soon as they can. Technology should not be a huge limiting factor here – ABAP DDIC itself is stored in tables, and parts of this concept is already in use by other parts of SAP like BW replication etc.  SAP should do all they can to improve speed to get these things out of labs to the ecosystem. I asked Bjoern if BOBJ universes will be built on top of ABAP DDIC, and did not get a clear answer.

I did provide some feedback that HANA studio is not exactly a fine artwork, and got some assurance that it will improve constantly. SAP is moving all the developer studios to eclipse, which is the right thing to do. ABAP on eclipse is already available to see in the booth here. Apparently 7.3 Netweaver is doing great, and has 300+ live customers.  A lot more info on neo and ByD etc were discussed, and between Jon Reed and Dick Hirsch – I bet they will post their views after the meeting.

I would be terribly remiss if I did not mention this – Stacey Fish and Andrea Kaufmann from Mike Prosceno’s team deserve big time kudos. They are not only super helpful, they also try their best to give us as much information as possible so that we can form a more educated opinion before we blog. If they worked in my team, I would be writing performance bonus recommendations for them now. I cannot thank them enough

SAP Teched and SAPPHIRE 2011, Madrid – Monday

Fellow SAP mentor, Harald Reiter and I flew into Madrid on Monday morning from Phoenix on the same flight. Uneventful flight, and I managed to read about 400 pages of Steve Jobs biography. It is an impressive book, and I recommend it readily. We were a bit surprised at how long we have to walk from the flight to passport control counter. And we got a cab to go to  Hotel Silken Puerta América Madrid


A bit of an unusual hotel, I must say – looks very modern, unlike the regular Hilton and Marriott ones I get to stay during my work weeks in USA. Took me a few minutes to figure out how to make everything work – including curtains, lights and stuff.  Like many European hotels – the breakfast spread was awesome. We had a nice time catching up with the ever helpful Stacey Fish and Jon Reed at breakfast.


Another cab ride brought us to the convention center where innojam was in full swing. It was a lot of fun watching people do this, especially since I was spared the stress of another 30 hours of insomnia trying to get new technologies to work myself 🙂


While contestants were busy making final touches, Jon Reed and I got into a good discussion on HANA. I showed him some use cases on HANA that my Advanced Analytics team at IBM did.  Harald joined in too – and it was a fun discussion. Before coming to Madrid, I had put up my questions for SAP on HANA.  After discussing with folks here at innojam – both SAP and non-SAP folks – my impression is that I am not the only one with these questions.


Rui Nougueira asked if I can stand in for a judge who could not make it to Madrid. It was quite an honor, and I readily agreed. My fellow judges were both senior SAP executives, and I was quite amazed with the content presented to us. It was webcasted live globally, and I believe a replay link will be provided in Teched site soon. First prize went to Carbon TNT – and that team did an amazing job with both technology and presentation.The prizes were given away by my colleague, since IBM loaned the HANA server to SAP for the event.


Post innojam – Harald and I caught up with Juergen Schmerder of SAP who is the man who runs all the systems for innojam. There isn’t a problem this man is not aware of, and he has been in SAP since 1999. Total straight shooter guy – and he gave us a lot of good information on HANA. I also spoke at length to Ruks Omar who is in the HANA marketing team.  Without going into all the details – I can just say this – some of the smartest people at SAP are trying to make HANA work perfectly on technical side. Where SAP absolutely needs to shore up is on talent to relate it to business problems, and a consistent methodology for HANA implementations.


Last event of the night was a mentor gathering organized by our chief herder Mark Finnern, and deputy herder Aslann.  It was great to catchup with all the mentors from Europe whom I don’t get to see often.


Dennis Howlett gave me a ride back to the hotel and I got a first hand taste of how Madrid traffic. I am glad I did not rent a car here. Tuesday is an action packed day with many nice meetings on the schedule. Looking forward to it





Gamification Of The Enterprise – post SAP Teched 2011 thoughts and actions

I am a big fan of innojam – despite the pain of sitting through hours of mandatory speeches (after all the sponsors need air time in return for their money and time).  Once we got through the speeches, I had an idea for an enterprise game which I jotted down , and deposited in my pocket. And since I was pretty bored and hungry (ok..and thirsty)  by that time – I looked around, and readily found a bunch of mentors who were ready to go get some dinner. It was the best dinner I ever had at a Teched – and when dinner was over, we were all pretty much psyched enough to go make gamification work.

Actual software part took very little time – between the group we knew HANA, BI 4.0, ECC and so on. And we had some very creative minds who mocked up data, created facebook pages and so on. And then we went around the room,  giving a hard time to other teams. Despite my thick Indian accent, my team “gamely” put me up to go present in front of the judges. We did ok but did not win. I don’t think any one felt bad – we just had more beer, cheered for the winners and went on to the next fun Teched activity.

Once Teched was offer, I started thinking about the possibility of making gamification work in a real business scenario. Since we had more than 10 applications to choose from the innojam – and since we had it on video, and since the memory is still fresh in my mind – I thought why not use these as examples. So I actively checked with people who had an hour to talk to me. I let them watch the video,  explained in more detail – and asked them if this was in real life, will they do it.  Out of 6 people – 1 consultant, 2 power users, 1 IT manager, 1 Solution Architect  and 1 VP level executive –  I got 4 NO and 2 MAYBE as answer.  I tried to give them all the talking points that the gamification keynote speaker used – but still could not convince them that this is useful.  I will try to do this exercise for another week, and see if I can get 4 or 5 more people to sit down and talk to me .

In short – here are the general themes that came out. I am sure I missed a few since this was not a structured survey or anything.

1. I have real games that I like. Why won’t I just play those like I do today?

2.  I don’t want my employer using this to game me. Is this another way to exploit me?

3. Will this lead my team to have unhealthy competition? or will they get carried away and use it to skew real business results ?

4. What happens when they get bored with this game? will productivity drop? What will it cost to keep building new games etc? Can I measure ROI? Even if it works – is there a big upfront change management investment?

5. How can I define a game? I have colleagues in 4 continents and what appears like a game to me might end up as an insult to one of them. Is it worth the trouble to deal with it?

6. With economy not doing well, aren’t people motivated enough to do a good job now? Why bother tinkering with regular business models now and take a chance? Contrary to what consultants tell me – my business has not actually changed fundamentally. is this a way for you guys to skim more money off my company?


There are three possibilities I can think of here

1. I did a poor job explaining gamification to these people – since I only know what was conveyed to me a week ago at Teched.

2. The examples at innojam were not enough to resonate with these people

3. Gamification is just another buzzword, and even if I explained better with nicer examples, people will not buy in.

Till I talk to a few more people, I am not going to make any final judgment for my own case. But the questions that came up are all good ones in my opinion.  As always – I am all ears to hear what you folks think.

Some difficulties of making inclusion work

Yesterday, there was a terrific event at SAP Teched on inclusion, and design thinking. I was invited to be on the panel, but unfortunately could not make it in the last minute. This is just a short post to share my thoughts on that, since I could not discuss it live and learn from the panel and the audience.


When I started in SAP in the 90’s , Indians were a minority in this space.  I also remember the joy when I was included in teams where I felt excluded from. I have several accomplished women in my family (including my mother)  who did well in life, despite all the challenges life threw their way. As a result, inclusion naturally is very close to my heart. Even though I do believe inclusion is the right thing to do for many reasons, I see a few challenges to make it work effectively in an organization.


1. It is all about priorities


There is usually something else that is more important than inclusion for a given team. An example is the inclusion event yesterday – it could only be done with a small percentage of Teched attendees, due to budget, timelines etc.  Oranizations, teams and projects all have such constraints, and they might trump inclusion. This may be somewhat countered by mandatory inclusion by policy or law.  But laws might apply only to macro scenarios – a company might want something like number of women to increase by two times in next year. But does that mean HR, Finance and IT will all have twice as many women as they have today? Usually not. If not, then does it really help the whole organization despite championing inclusion?


2. Can you have ground rules? and who sets them?


Rules are the opposite of inclusion. Rules by definition, exist to exclude something or someone. But without rules – there will be chaos. So who decides which rules are inclusion friendly and which do not? Just by choosing someone to decide this – you are excluding some one else.


3. Inclusion for who?


Proponents of inclusion can have a bias depending on their own background. Women might think they are the ones that need to be included, racial or social or economic minorities might decide it is them that needs to be included and so on. It does not always end in a win-win situation for all parties.  And obviously, it is pretty darn hard to have every combination of inclusion work in a situation. So someone loses out and will feel they are not included.


4. What about the majority?


I have only seen opinion articles on inclusion – and not real conclusive research. I will continue to look for it. But there seems to be a thought out there that just by doing inclusion – will you decrease the effectiveness of a team?  Hypothetically – a team of people from one country that have worked together for a while, might not necessarily like a person from another country to be suddenly put in the team , even if he/she can do the job just as well. Over the long term, this will probably be ok – but there is a big risk that short time productivity will get a downward trend. How many managers and teams with short term deadlines will take this chance of decrease in productivity?


5. What is the link to design thinking?


Will inclusion help design thinking? I have some reservations. In general – if you have more ideas to choose from, you might get a better solution. But then again – what kind of inclusion will work?  Say you want a product that is designed primarily for men. Will a team of women be able to design it well? may be they could use a few men in the design process? That is inclusion – I agree. But inclusion can also be adding more Chinese and Japanese team members to the team. Would that inclusion make the design any better? I doubt it.  So it can be argued that inclusion as a general principle has limitations, and you need more filters. And once you filter like this – can it be called inclusion at all?


I am sure there are solutions to all of these – and I am speaking to a few people today to find out their perspective on this topic, and solutions they have seen to these problems.  It is way too important an issue to leave open for long.

SAP Teched 2011 – Monday and Tuesday. Hana, Hana and MORE HANA

Sunday was all about innojam. Theme : gamification (is that a word???) of the enterprise. And No – it was not based on “The games people play”. There were 13 teams…well, 12 serious teams and then us – the #PUKR team. PUKR stands for Puppies, Kittens, Unicorns and Rainbows.  To follow us . Our idea was to gamify the framework – so that you can gamify any business process. What can we say – we were ahead of our times, and the world did not see our vision. Especially the judges .


Jokes apart – it was a blast. 10 SAP mentors came together to put a solution together that had everything from a spec ( 1 page of backlog, half page datamodel), facebook page, twitter comments..and other assorted things like ECC, Webservices, HANA and BI 4.0.


The team that won did an awesome app on gamifying the expense reporting process.  And it had HANA and 2 IBMers and an SAP guy in the team. How much more do you need for sheer awesomeness? These guys went up to compete in demojam, but lost to an even more awesome team.


Monday night – we had the SAP Mentor reception. Which was the first time I got to eat something in 24 hours or so.  Aslann and Mark Finnern put up a great event for Mentors as always. And we had a surprise visitor – Vishal Sikka. He gave us some thoughts on the keynote that he was planning to deliver the next day. He also acknowledged that I had given him some grief on twitter for not responding to blog comments 🙂


I do think that it is a wasted opportunity for Vishal in particular and for SAP in general. SCN is the place where there is an even bigger brain trust than within the SAP labs.  Blog posts are just the start of a conversation. If you do not respond to the questions and observations made there – the blog just becomes something like a press release, but with a dab of lipstick. Of course Vishal is a busy guy – so maybe some one in his team can collect these questions, and Vishal can post a blog with replies.  Or find some other solution – but leaving these comments open does not seem like a good idea to me.  Knowing the guy – I will not be surprised to see him start responding to those questions.


Onwards to Monday – starting with the big keynote from Vishal Sikka. I was happy with the keynote.SAP did well.


1. SAP did the right thing by showcasing the two Asian customers who went live on HANA.  BRILLIANT !

2. Vishal reconfirmed the 9/16/11 date for GA for BI 4.0 .  Not sure why it could not have been 9/13 right at the Keynote, but I assume there is a good reason

3. HANA goes under BW as DB 53 days from now. This is probably the most exciting news for me personally.

4. Vishal clearly articulated his vision for ongoing intellectual renewal, and I got a feeling it resonated well with the crowd.


There were a few things about HANA that need attention too.


1.  It is all about HANA for sure. Mobility and cloud got some minor mentions, but guess what – customers have real budgets for those things. Mobility today is not a hard sell – I think SAP needs to focus messaging more on these two.


2. During the innojam – there were 4 tables created in HANA I think. Two were from my team and one from the team that won the innojam. Someone else must have created one more. We had Vitaliy, Harald and me in the room, and 3 SAP HANA experts. There was no visible traction for HANA there. People crowded around River and Gateway, but did not seem to want to deal with HANA.  When asked in keynote to raise hands for those planning to use HANA – a very small number of people obliged. I urge the HANA team at SAP to start actively engaging on SDN and other channels to get this fixed.


3. HANA needs serious datamodelling. Hand written DDL has limitations to scale. SAP needs to actively enhance the Sybase power designer (which I think is the name) and teach the ecosystem how to use it.


4.  Not sure if I heard this correctly, but the Asian customer who implemented HANA seemed to have done it all inhouse. If this is true, it is mighty impressive. But having worked with HANA myself, I cannot visualize how they managed to do this without active participation of SAP (maybe an SI too). I need to find out more.


5. How far does HANA scale ?  So far I have seen the several TB of data examples. But that is not big data in 2011. Can it work with Petabytes?


Just as I mentioned in my SAPPHIRE blog, I fail to understand why SAP is not promoting Gateway actively. I walked around asking people on their opinion on gateway. Very very few know what it is. It is a shame – and SAP should fix it.


I had an opportunity to catch up more with Vishal Sikka over lunch.  Many thanks to Mike Prosceno and Stacy Fish for making that happen.  That conversation was off the record, but I can say one thing for sure. SAP will make HANA work – and SAP could not have got a more passionate guy than Vishal to lead the charge. He knows the problems along the way – and he is fixing them as efficiently as he can.


After lunch meeting with Vishal, we had a blogger meeting with Nicholas Brown – from the mobility side of the house. He is a terrific guy – and an absolute straight shooter. It is a high potential area for SAP and I heard they have been doing well. Nic does not think HTML 5 is the magic bullet every one thinks it will be. He articulated well that there is a class of apps that will do well – like leave requests and time sheets, that BYOD folks will use en-masse. But there will always be a set of users who need native functionality of devices to do more complex things. Plus – the key question is “what is in it for the device makers?”.


There are 50 plus apps in various phases of development – so I believe SAP field sales now have enough ammunition to sell mobility well. They will not have to do a multitude of POCs to get customers to buy the SUP platform probably. But here is the deal – what is the model for the sale? Will you sell the 50K or 100K deals for one app development? or will you sell a whole mobility strategy and make a few millions of sale? I guess they will do both. But each requires a different partnership with ecosystem to make it work. For the large SIs – the strategy route might be more palatable, and for smaller boutiques – the one or two apps might be the better business. But in general – I think mobility has a bright future. I just hope SAP gives it sufficient attention, given the major focus on HANA.


One last point – to make mobility and HANA and cloud a success – SAP cannot do it alone. SAP probably cannot do it with existing partners alone either.  For the type of scale that will move SAP from a 15B company to something bigger and more profitable, and less reliant on maintenance $$ – they need some variation of the AAPL model to get a large pool of developers into the ecosystem.  This does not go well with current way of functioning SAP is used to. But all the leaders know it, and I hope they will figure out a solution. But a problem SAP can solve in near future is to make sure existing partners and customers have access to latest greatest documentation and training on all the new stuff they are coming up with. They cannot have education lag behind innovation by a big margin.


Demojam was the last event of the night.  I am quite amazed by the quality of the demos – very very cool. You should watch them all, and if possible talk to the finalists.  The winning demo was the best I have seen in a few years. Watch the videos and you will like it too.


On that note, I am off to the Wednesday sessions. See you tomorrow.