SAP TechEd Vienna ‘09 Opening Keynote: Change, Integration and Innovation

I’m in Vienna this week for SAP TechEd. This morning’s keynote featured Mark Yolton, Jim Snabe, and Marge Breya of SAP BusinessObjects.

markyolten

The show opened with the obligatory high-production-value-video that faded out to a oh-so-sustainable image of a man walking his dog in a field of wind turbines.

Then Mark Yolton, the head of SAP’s Community Network, opened the show with a reminder that the success of SAP is due to the extended SAP community, and thanked Zia Yusuf for his work as head of the Global Ecosystem and Partner group over the last ten years.

jim_snabe

Jim thanked the audience for turning up in such large numbers to celebrate his birthday, and took a photo “to show my friends on Facebook what a real birthday party looks like”.

His presentation covered the accelerating change of the modern technology world, mentioning in passing that the phenomenal success of Apple’s iTunes relies on SAP systems to look after the amazing 10,5 million downloaded apps per day.

Jim talked about the need to innovate at different time-scales, with the ability to combine the best of new techniques with a stable, efficient core — what SAP CTO Vishal Sikka calls “timeless software”.

He went over innovations in the core SAP applications, included a clear swipe at Oracle’s CA-like collection of purchased applications, noting that his infant son had proved that popular toys like Lego and Playmobile can indeed fit together – if you have enough glue.

He talked about SAP’s on-demand strategy and introduced Marge Breya of SAP BusinessObjects as somebody passionate about “software for people”. Marge kicked off with contrasting the personal world – where anybody with an internet connection can access pretty much all the information they need – with the corporate world, where the majority of executives struggle to access the data they need for effective decisions.

marge_breya

Marge invited on stage Nayaki Nayyar, enterprise architect of Valero Energy Corporation, a $120bn+ refining company. Nayaki explained that their IT costs were a miniscule 0.11% of revenue, approximately 10 times less than the industry standard, thanks to their approach to reusable information services and self-service access to information.

nayaki_nayyar

As an example, she talked about Valero’s real-time refinery operations dashboard, which resulted in projected savings $5-15m per refinery, or$200 million dollars across the company, simply through better energy information. As Nayaki put it:

“Simply bringing the right information to the right decision makers made all the difference”

Nayaki then demonstrated Valero’s collaborative internal portal, using SAP NetWeaver technology, which allows employees to easily drag and drop information modules into their personal workspaces, combining both structured and unstructured information. She explained:

“When the collaborative portal was first showed to the CEO, without mentioning the underlying technology, his reaction was ‘I wish SAP was this good looking and easy to use!’”

The demo included the creation of a collaborative discussion around a refinery operations dashboard that brought together information from sixteen different refineries.

Marge came back on stage to talk about integration and innovation across the SAP BusinessObjects suite of products, and demonstrated a typical information workflow, including:

Collaborative decisions, using a new product from the labs

collaboration

Information sharing, with a sneak peek of the company’s next-generation on-demand business intelligence

kona

Information integration, using Data Services

dataservices

Information analysis, using some new features of the Explorer product

explorer

Explorer as an iphone application from the labs (featuring Joe King and a huge mug of beer)

iphone_beer

Xcelsius dashboards built directly on Business Warehouse BEx cubes, using BI Consumer Services

xcelsius

BPM and master data management

bpm

The final demo of the keynote came from the infamous Ian Kimbell, who had some fun with power tools, showing an aviation maintenance application using automatic sensors – as he took tools around the factory workspace, they were automatically tracked by the SAP system.

ian_kimbell

Jim closed the keynote with a discussion of column databases and in-memory processing, how it can change systems in the future, and the progress SAP has made in this area.

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