SAP TechEd 2015 - the wrap

Den Howlett Profile picture for user gonzodaddy October 22, 2015
SAP's transition from on premise to cloud and subscriptions is much more than a business model. It is about an ecosystem of developers that SAP needs to nurture. TechEd 2015 gave us a glimpse of what's happening.

SAP Melon
In my event preview, I posited that SAP TechEd 2015 would be important. It was. While there were no blockbuster news announcements, the quality, depth and breadth of conversation and video shoots were well above par.

One thing that stands out above anything else --- SAP knows it has to build a much larger and active developer ecosystem than it has so far achieved. In a conversation with Craig Cmehil (video), he noted that more than 900 apps were developed in the CodeJam area in less than 48 hours. My estimate is that by the end, there will be 2,000-2,500 apps. Sound impressive? Kind of. SAP has 290,000 customers and assuming the Barcelona an India TechEds follow a similar pattern plus lumping in what happens in the ongoing xJam program, then developers that go through those programs build some 10,000 apps a year. That leaves open many questions:

  • Where is the resource that sees developer relations and evangelism as an investment resource rather than as an extension of marketing?
  • To what extent does the work done via the 2.400 universities in the Alliance program, beyond the Hasso Plattner Institute and D School, contribute innovation to the SAP ecosystem?
  • How will the developer relations etc teams grow to meet the needs of the many developers SAP itself needs?
  • How can SAP capture the innovations that come out of these events so that good solutions can be productized and taken to market?
  • How will SAP nurture and help small shops bring solutions to market? Small shops are where innovation happens most frequently
  • How will SAP partner with the bricks and clicks businesses that themselves are transforming to become developer shops?

We've been around this block before but these questions are more pertinent today than ever before. Why?

The whole theme of this year's event has been about extensions to the SAP core and into industries that are often relatively new to the company. Subject matter experts are hard to find but the developer network can serve as the hunting ground for the people who can make a serious dent in industries SAP wishes to attack. I am thinking healthcare, agriculture, medicine, sports and so on. SAP will say the groundwork is in place but it will have to accelerate those efforts.

On the flip side, I was especially impressed to hear Bernd Leukert talk to me in animated terms about how he was able to show a local restaurant how they can turn manual work into automated, revenue generating business. I was also impressed to hear how SAP is solving for the numerous, complex data types coming from sensors, telematics and so on, that they are in turn mixing and remixing with other data sources to help solve problems in oil and gas industries.

Coder crowd at Roadmap Q&A

Then there was the fresh way in which SAP approached DemoJam, providing a completely level playing field for 14 teams to compete at an InnoJam over 32 hours during which they had to create something from scratch. The six best then demonstrated in front of the whole developer community. Congratulations to Keytree for coming up with a hardware and software solution that helps people stay healthy in the workplace.

Jon met with Geoff Scott, CEO ASUG and extracted a frank discussion about the role of ASUG, what's happening among customers and how ASUG is collaborating with DSAG. That is interesting. In the past, the two user groups have tended to plow their own furrows. I suggest common interests around the role of HANA and its business value figure large in those discussions.

On the partner front there is something of a mixed bag. Infosys said it is working with SAP to co-innovate around improvements on Business Suite on HANA upgrades. At the individual level, Graham Robinson isn't so sure (video) that SAP fully understands how to bring on those small shops where he believes a lot of the fun stuff happens. My view is that SAP needs to segment its approach to developers such that the small, medium and large shops each get appropriate attention while fostering a sharing ecosystem.

What about customers? We saw some extraordinary examples of new things being done in education and local government that take HANA and the new analytics capabilities for solving problems like infant mortality. (video) The big surprise though was the customer that replaced Salesforce with SAP for Customer. (video) You have to watch the video but it came down to a desire to modernize and reduce customizations.

SAP ladies

One major personal disappointment: I didn't see too many new faces among the development leaders. Of course it is nice to see many long term friends but ecosystems grow when they are bringing in fresh faces and showcasing their achievements. Perhaps I didn't get out enough, although I met some VERY impressive development ladies (can we call them geekesses?), some of whom I'd never met before, who could teach a few men I know a trick or two!!

I get the sense that SAP is working hard to break out of the old back office mold. It has solutions, it has customers, but it doesn't tell its story as well as it could. It is early days and I guess that today, many of the new things it talks about might only touch 5-10 percent of the whole SAP customer portfolio. But keeping that momentum going, and continuing to demonstrate forward motion in thinking as well as technology, are vital to keeping SAP relevant. The good news from my call with Bill McDermott at the beginning of the week is that there is a very clear commitment to youth. They are the real future.

Until the next's Jon and Den's digital dump.

Disclosure: SAP, Infosys and Salesforce are premier partners at time of writing. Infosys is also a consulting client of the author. SAP funded the bulk of my travel expenses to SAP TechEd Las Vegas. They also funded the costs of shipping video equipment, and some filming expenses.

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