Jonathan Becher’s SAPPHIRE 09 Blog

Jonathan_Becher_Headshot Jonathan Becher, SVP Marketing for SAP (and my boss), wrote a series of blog postings about the recent SAPPHIRE event. Since these were part of the “Insights at SAPPHIRE” event on the inXpo platform, and the event is now closed, they are no longer accessible. This didn’t strike me a very Web 2.0 result (indeed, I believe this is one big downside of the closed InXpo approach), and we are in the process of figuring out what it would take to get them onto the SAP community site at sdn.sap.com. In the meantime, this is my attempt to preserve his insights for posterity.

You can now watch many of the archived keynotes that Jonathan is referring to online, and don’t hesitate to visit Jonathan’s personal blog “Manage by Walking Around” at http://alignment.wordpress.com.

SAPPHIRE Reflections

By Jonathan Becher At May 11 2009 7:29PM

At last count, more than 8000 of you – customers, partners, employees and other influencers – have registered for INSIGHTS from SAPPHIRE to learn more about what’s happening this week at SAPPHIRE in Orlando.

As you know, the virtual platform provides highlights from SAPPHIRE focused on how organizations have updated the notion of what it means to be a best-run business. In today’s “new reality”, organizations can no longer afford to have a gap between what they say they want to do (strategy) and what they actually end up doing (execution).

Towards that end, you don’t want to miss Léo Apotheker’s opening keynote during which he’ll provide us all with clear guidance on how we can help close the gap between strategy and execution.

Like the virtual platform itself, this blog will not attempt to cover everything that’s happening at SAPPHIRE. I will try to close the gap between those of you who could not attend and those that are attending by writing not just about the obvious highlights (i.e., keynotes and press conferences), but by also giving you a behind-the-scenes look at events you may not have noticed even if you had attended.

Feel free to add your comments about what you’d like to hear about most from SAPPHIRE. While I can’t be everywhere at the same time, I do have a couple of volunteers that have offered to help me scout other venues. And, of course, if you’re here in Orlando, feel free to add your own color commentary.

Although this event can help you experience SAPPHIRE remotely, not everything translates into the virtual environment. As it’s 90 degrees with 90 percent humidity this week in Orlando, many of us are quite uncomfortable in our business suits. I’ll be sure to spare you that detail of realism.

Explore Your Business

By Jonathan Becher At May 12 2009 1:49PM

While there were a number of press releases this week at SAPPHIRE, today’s press conference was dominated by the announcement of SAP BusinessObjects Explorer.

SAP BusinessObjects Explorer is a “self-service, search-driven, and discovery-friendly solution” that allows business users (yes, even a CEO) to interact with enterprise data.

When combined with the in-memory technologies of SAP NetWeaver BW Accelerator (BWA), business users can explore very large volumes of data at the “speed of thought”.

Perhaps the most powerful part of the press conference was the testimonials from Sara Lee and Molson Coors who have been using a Beta version of product.

Both reported incredible response times; sub-second on 300 million records at Sara Lee and 2.3 seconds on 900 million records at Molson Coors. End-users love the application, pleading with the executive sponsor not to take it away.

Not surprisingly, return on investment (ROI) came up, as well. Here, too, the praise was overwhelming.

Molson Coors suggested that it had “changed their lives” by eliminating performance tuning of their Business Warehouse. Both companies cited weeks or small numbers of months to show the value.

For many things, seeing is believing, but I don’t think watching a demo coveys the power of SAP BusinessObjects Explorer. I think you need to experience it for yourself.

One way to do so is to try out the microfinance demo at http://microfinance.sap.com. You can learn more about the product and how microfinance is helping reduce global poverty.

Fire and Brimstone

By Jonathan Becher At May 12 2009 3:55PM

I was in the middle of a discussion with some bloggers about the collision between traditional enterprise software and social media tools. I had just remarked that Web 2.0 applications have as much to learn from SAP as SAP has to learn from them when there was a sudden explosion!

Luckily, no one had shot me for my heresy, but rather, it was a bolt of lightning. If I use the popular guide of ‘number of seconds until the thunder clap’ divided by 5, the lightning struck less than half a mile away.

While I don’t want to invoke biblical memories of a flood, the heavens have seemingly opened up here in Orlando. It’s raining harder than I’ve seen in 10 years. In fact, the national weather service has issued a severe thunderstorm warning for the next 30 mins.

This is going to be a tough act for Jim and Bill to follow. I can’t wait to see how they work it into their keynote.

 

Product Innovation Meets Value Delivery

By Jonathan Becher At May 12 2009 7:08PM

While I’m not sure if it was entirely intended, I found the joint presentation between Jim, as head of products, and Bill, as head of sales, a nice parallel for closing the gap between strategy and execution.

In many organizations, there is a disconnect between what the organization builds and what customers want. Because this is largely a communication problem, the antidote to this disconnect is to be more clear.

Jim and Bill used a value-based cycle of discovery, realization, and optimization to show how an organization can extract true benefits from their SAP solutions. In the process, they were not only clear, they also demonstrated that development and sales are aligned at SAP.

Ian popped in to show how SAP’s offerings supported the cycle, demoing a benchmarking offering for value discovery, enhancement packs and the ecoHub for value realization, as well as business process management for value optimization.

One concept that I found particularly interesting was the distinction between best practices and own practices. Best practices represent the collective experience of SAP’s vast customer base on how to design end-to-end processes.

While organizations should adopt these best practices for non-differentiating processes, they need to create so-called own practices by tailoring and extending best practices in areas where they require the most differentiation. Own practices can unlock growth opportunities and increase business agility.

Bill and Jim provided a clear call to action for everyone attending SAPPHIRE, both in person and on the virtual platform:

  • Give SAP BusinessObjects Explorer a test drive on your own data (no charge!)
  • Check out the Best Run Now packages to see how you can return high value quickly
  • Leverage SAP’s service offerings to help with system landscape optimization
  • Use the EcoHub and Solution Manager to find other solutions that can be leveraged
  • Take advantage of the value management discipline

The keynote was a good reminder of the breadth, depth, and value of the SAP portfolio. It was quite impressive and even managed to outshine the thunderstorm that raged on outside!

Can In Memory Analytics Change All?

By Jonathan Becher At May 13 2009 10:26AM

Hasso used his now-familiar blackboard style to educate the audience on the revolutionary promise of in memory analytics. As an interesting contrast, he pointed out that the much hyped-advances of cloud computing and virtualization are valuable, but are just fundamentally delivering existing solutions in a new way.

Hasso laid out a simple vision, even if the math makes it a bit complicated. He believes that an individual computing blade will soon have 8 CPUs with 16 cores each. Each of these blades will be able to hold up to 500GB of memory. With 10 blades, you would have 5 TBs and 1280 computing elements.

Using column store compression such as in BWA, raw transactions can be compressed by a fact of 10. This means that this 10 blade system can hold the equivalent of 50 TB of data. To put this in context, this is approximately the size of the printed collection of the U.S. Library of Congress. Or, if I followed Hasso’s math, large enough to run the combined financials of 70 companies.

The column store compression makes querying the data fast, as well. Hasso again demonstrated SAP BusinessObjects Explorer, reinforcing the fact that it can access 1B records in less than a second. In a twist, he showed the analogous demo from within Microsoft Excel, pointing out the limitation to the current non-accelerated version of Excel.

Will everything change? Only time will tell.

Going Beyond “Seeing Is Believing”

By Jonathan Becher At May 13 2009 1:43PM
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The traditional product demonstration takes advantage of the old adage “seeing is believing” by not just telling someone about a product with PowerPoint, but also showing them directly.

Demos can be powerful but they also can be difficult to get right; many times demos devolve into showing a series of features rather than solving business problems.

This year at SAPPHIRE I noticed that some people were moving from demos to test drives. In a test drive, the potential customer uses the product themselves, potentially even without training or introduction.

While a test drive may not allow an individual to experience the breadth of the product, it does reinforce intuitiveness and is an emotional way to overcome barriers of adoption.

The microfinance demo is one such example which teaches users about microfinance and about SAP BusinessObjects Explorer. This demo embeds a quiz with hints on how to use the product.

Over at the Small Businesses and Midsize Companies Village, attendees can go to the “SAP Business ByDesign Test-Drive and Networking Corner” within the village, watch a quick intro video, and then try out ByDesign running off of live systems physically located in Walldorf.

Several analysts commented they were impressed which may help alleviate any current skepticism about the state of SAP Business ByDesign.

Maybe we need to update the adage to “using is believing”.

Don Henley and Some Closing Thoughts

By Jonathan Becher At May 14 2009 4:57PM

For me, the closing SAPPHIRE event was the Don Henley concert which took place on the same main stage as the keynotes. Given that Don is in his early 60’s, I wondered if he could pull off the vocal range that he displayed early in his career. I was hesitant as to whether the touring band would have the proficiency of the Eagles.

I had no reason to worry. Don’s range was amazing and the band was tremendous. Closing my eyes, I could almost imagine that this was the Eagles of 20 years ago.

I was particularly impressed by the rendition of one of my favorite Don Henley songs, “The Boys of Summer”. For those that don’t know this 1984 song, it became famous for the lyric “I saw a Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac.”

The dichotomy between counter-cultural Deadheads driving symbols of the establishment was supposedly inspired by Henley seeing fellow ex-Eagle Joe Walsh driving a Cadillac Hearse with aGrateful Dead sticker on it.

I know the analogy is a stretch, but I couldn’t help thinking about how counter-cultural Web 2.0 is now becoming mainstream, too. From SAP BusinessObjects Explorer, to the SAP Social Network Analyzer Prototype, to the new user interface of SAP CRM, Web 2.0 concepts are popping up all over SAP. Web 2.0 is the Deadhead sticker on SAP ERP.

Perhaps that is my most vivid memory from this SAPPHIRE. The world of making decisions and the world of executing them really do seem to have collided.

People are working very hard to help organizations ensure that what they say they want to do matches what they end up doing. And they are pursuing these opportunities in more sustainable ways.

In a difficult economy, the message was focused on delivering value. Nothing could be more clear.

Two final notes: The Insights from SAPPHIRE platform closes on Friday, but you can still access this content at SAPPHIRE Online. (If you return to the event link on Friday after 8 PM EDT you will be automatically redirected the the new destination.) And for those that want to follow my normal blog, you can find it at http://alignment.wordpress.com.