I attended the UK & Ireland SAP User Group (UKISUG) annual conference this week, at the ICC in Birmingham, UK.
After workshops and other special events on Sunday, the main conference was kicked off on Monday morning by User Group chairman Philip Adams. 2013 sees the organization’s 25th anniversary, making it one of the oldest SAP user groups (along with VNSG in the Netherlands).
Adams talked about the history and goals of the organization, emphasized the user group’s role in the difficult discussions with SAP about license flexibility and simplicity – for example, during the introduction of new enterprise license pricing for SAP (a show of hands seemed to show that most attendees were not taking full advantage of the support they were paying for).
While vowing to continue the User Group’s work in this area, he praised SAP for its openness: “I don’t know of any other company that has engaged this much with users on licensing.” Adams pointed to SAP’s more flexible cloud licensing options as a sign of progress.
He then invited SAP UK COO Guy Armstrong on stage to discuss the tricky relationship between the organizations. Armstrong thanked the user group for its help in getting candid feedback from users.
UKISUG CEO Craig Dale emphasized the three pillars of the User Group: networking, education and influence. He calculates that members can receive the equivalent of more than 8,000 hours of free consultancy a year through their membership.
SAP UK Managing Director Tim Noble gave an overview of SAP directions, with customer examples such as Kingfisher, McLaren Group, and Plan International, and emphasized the importance of “user experience” to SAP in the future.
After a short break, it was time for the Demo Jam session, which was won by DJ Adams of Bluefin Consulting, who demonstrated the creation of a Fiori application from scratch in less than five minutes.
A narrow second (in my mind, at least), was the team from Keytree UK, who demonstrated an amazing 3D, immersive analytics environment integrated with SAP HANA.
The “HANADeck” demo won the Las Vegas DemoJam and while the technology may seem to be more a demonstration of technical prowess than a useful product, it turns out that there are indeed interested customers.
I presented the keynote of the analytics track, with an overview of what’s going on in analytics, some quick customer case studies, and an overview of SAP analytics product directions and positioning.
The afternoon saw a steady stream of great sessions including a demonstration by the UK Financial Ombudsman Service of the SAP Dashboards the organization uses to provide performance dashboards to internal teams.
Large UK pharmacy retailer Boots explained the rollout of mobile dashboards to its executives, using SAP BW and SAP BI Mobile.
At the end of the afternoon, SAP co-CEO Jim Hagemann Snabe gave the main keynote, outlining SAP’s growth strategy.
He explained that while in the past there was a tendency to offer more value at more cost, the next wave of in-memory computing is giving SAP the opportunity to offer organizations more value at lower cost. In other words, organizations moving to the SAP HANA platform could benefits from lower costs of operation through greater simplification, while also benefiting from the new opportunities afforded by HANA’s exceptional performance.
The presentation also gave an overview of SAP’s cloud strategy, calling the SAP platform “the most comprehensive cloud infrastructure available in the market”. Snabe also reassured the audience that his pending departure from his role would not affect either company innovation or its relationship with Europe: “I feel strongly about not just where we are but also the future opportunities together, so I’ll give you my mobile number and hope that you will never need it”.
Highlights of the last day included Stuart Miller and Daneel de Villiers of SABMiller explaining the company’s SAP HANA strategy: “We have found SAP BW on HANA to be a game-changing technology”.
They explained that BW on HANA is now the standard approach for the company, and that this was justified by the lower total cost of ownership, rather than any performance gains: “We calculate that it is four times cheaper to maintain BW on HANA than on the current platform”.
In an afternoon session, Simon Griffiths, BI Manager for BBC Finance, explained that “you can’t transform management information without transforming the user experience” and outlined the techniques his team has used to create and deploy a variety of dashboards throughout the organization:
Overall, it was a great conference, a great opportunity to catch up with old friends (many of them sporting the results of Movember) and I look forward to next year. There’s another nice overview of the conference by SAP.Info here: Eager to Invent the Future Together.