SAPPHIRE NOW and ASUG Annual Conference 2011: Recap and Highlights

Contributor Jim Brogden reviews his experience at the recent SAPPHIRE NOW event in Orlando. Find out which sessions might be worth a replay.

After a record-setting attendance that included nearly 15,000 on-site attendees and over 85,000 virtual attendees streaming live from www.sapphirenow.com, the SAPPHIRE NOW and ASUG Annual Conference ended with a clear and memorable message driven home on the final keynote by Dr. Vishal Sikka and Prof. Dr. Hasso Plattner – HANA has arrived and SAP is bringing in-memory computing to the forefront of data retrieval processes around the world. Companies will soon see the capabilities of this “game changing” product as they move from proof-of-concept instances into production as early as mid-summer 2011.

Beyond HANA, there was significant buzz surrounding a couple other major SAP initiatives such as BI Mobile and data delivery “on device” with services like Exploration Views and Augmented Reality provided through the SBO Explorer iPad app, potential of the Sybase Unwired Platform, SAP Crystal Reports 2011, and the highly anticipated new version of BusinessObjects – SAP BusinessObjects business intelligence 4.0 or “BI4.”

It was also very exciting to see Xcelsius 2008 (or SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards) making a significant impact at the conference with several sessions delivered by leading industry and product experts. After several name changes over the past few years, Xcelsius (or SBOD) has finally taken center stage at SAPPHIRE NOW – literally. 

One such case was with Fresh Direct, a NYC-based SAP customer. SAP co-CEO Jim Haggeman Snabe spent several minutes in his keynote highlighting the innovative – and mission critical – use of SAP BusinessObjects XI 3.1 and Xcelsius 2008 by the #2 grocer in New York City. Fresh Direct has experienced a tremendous improvement in on-time deliveries by using Xcelsius (SBOD) and SAP BusinessObjects reporting software. This customer story was one of several that showcased how businesses are thriving by using SAP software in becoming more productive and profitable.

Day one keynotes

The conference opened with a dramatic talk from Gabriel Byrne where he described the world today as a time of “profound, seismic change” because of technology and encouraged the audience to “look to the future” and “imagine the world in 2015.”

What followed was an on-stage panel discussion with four deeply credentialed and pioneering thought leaders from around the world. The panel seemed to be led by American physicist and scientist Dr. Michio Kaku who helped wake up the crowd with passionate words supporting the H1B and theories of the likely emergence of a global market. Global energy and cloud virtualization were popular topics with the panel and discussions of the extraordinary potential of “Generation Y” in the coming years with seemingly limitless opportunities expected to originate in China, India, Russia and Brazil.

Dr. Kaku listed three industries that he expects will drive significant technological innovation in the coming years. His thoughts on these three areas are outlined below:

  • Biotech – Bio-informatics and medicine will transform humanity and will emerge as an information science
  • Entertainment – Human creativity and intellectual capital will always exist in society
  • Robotics – This is more of a long-term industry that he estimates is still 20-30 years away from breakthrough innovation

A time to celebrate for ASUG

The ASUG Community experienced a unique milestone for a volunteer organization by celebrating its 20th anniversary at the conference. ASUG CEO Bridgette Chambers’ words were both inspiring and motivational as she addressed the masses. “We’re here today because four people dared to dream big 20 years ago.” Those four people were the founders of ASUG – Reid Andrews, Greg Horne, Rick Lloyd, and Shelley Hart.

It was during this presentation Chambers announced that the ASUG organization had surpassed the 100,000 member mark and had grown to over 3,200 corporate customers. To convey the type of influence that ASUG is capable of, Chamber’s remarked – “Imagine 100,000 customers working together to inspire and drive change.”  Perhaps the reason for ASUG’s success is because of their ongoing focus on content, quality and consistency in all of their programs and services.

Chambers described the world-class volunteer organization’s five tenants as being built on:

  • Volunteers
  • Community
  • Content
  • Influence
  • Communication

Eisner at the afternoon keynote

Michael Eisner’s afternoon keynote on the first day was also one of the many highlights at the event. Eisner’s presentation delivered several powerful messages that can be applied universally in numerous areas of life. His ideas are listed below, many of which are direct quotes.

  • The value of partnership
    • Partnership math: 1+1=3
    • Two minds are better than one
    • Partnerships make you more:
      • Daring
      • Creative
      • Happy
      • Successful
  • Creativity is essential in every endeavor – Creativity must be applied within parameters and with discipline. Creativity in a box.
    • Be creative but stay in budget
    • NEVER substitute greater capital expenditures for creativity
    • Think INSIDE the box, then stuff the box completely full with creativity
  • Micromanagement is a good thing
    • Mind the details
  • Meticulous brand building
    • You must continuously cultivate and protect your brand
  • Fearful people settle for mediocrity
    • Tolerance for failure is important
    • Don’t be afraid to take risks

The Learning Sessions

The real meat and potatoes of any conference are the learning sessions and this conference was no exception. With the highly anticipated release of SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.0 in the final stages before being released into general availability (GA), attendees consistently packed sessions that discussed BI4 architecture, steps for migrating to BI4, planning your upgrade strategy to BI 4.0 etc.

There were so many excellent sessions to choose from that it was impossible to attend everything you were interested in learning more about. Thankfully, the presentations and video replays are available at www.sapphirenow.com or www.ASUG.com.

The number of excellent sessions was quite significant and not practical to list here in its entirety. Here is a small sample of excellent presentations from the business analytics campus worthy of a replay.

  • Meet Growing Information Demands with New BI Solutions
    • SAP, Jason Rose
    • Major League Baseball, Shelley Hanna
  • Turn “Big Data” into Business Value with Real-Time BI
    • SAP, George Mathew
    • Lenova Group, Xiaoyu Liu
    • Lenova Group, Sven Eddicks
  • Dow Corning Moves from SAP Business Explorer to SAP BusinessObjects
    • SAP, Frank Kochendoerfer
    • Dow Corning, Jeff Duly

It’s worth mentioning that possibly one of the most impressive presentations at the conference (outside of HANA) is the first presentation listed, “Meet Growing Information Demands with New BI Solutions” presented by Major League Baseball. This presentation showcased the strengths of integrating SAP software products such as BusinessObjects Web Intelligence, Xcelsius 2008, and Live Office, and showed the jaw-dropping capabilities when the products are seamlessly integrated and designed with precision.

Countless learning opportunities were available at the conference with presentations given by top SAP product experts. All presenters are worthy of mention and deserve to be recognized for their efforts. Below are 11 sessions that piqued my interest at the conference.  These presenters did a great job of “paying it forward” to attendees by sharing some of their product knowledge.

  • Xcelsius Gurus Dashboard Methodology 101 – 7 Proven Steps
    • Mico Yuk
    • Ryan Goodman
  • Crystal Subreports: The How and Why to Get You Started
    • Brian Durning
  • Influence Council: Enterprise Reporting; SAP Crystal Reports
    • Brian Durning
    • Coy Yonce
  • What’s New with SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards 4.0
    • Brandon Arbiter
    • Scott Leaver
  • SAP BusinessObjects Analysis, Edition for Microsoft Office
    • Ian Mayor
    • Tammy Powlas
  • ASUG Influence: Semantic Layer Influence Council
    • Derek Loranca
    • Pierpaolo Vezzosi
  • SAP BusinessObjects BI Solution Architecture 4.0
    • Ingo Hilgefort
  • What’s New with SAP Crystal Reports in SAP BusinessObjects 4.0 Solutions
    • Henry Kam
  • Planning Your Upgrade to SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.0 – Strategy and Best Practices
    • Martha Levi
  • Overview of Mobile BI Solutions
    • Andrew Murray
    • Viswanathan Ramakrishnan
  • SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards and Walt Disney Theme Parks Warehousing
    • Kenneth Hierman
    • Cory Lasseter

A Week of Networking

One of the immeasurable perks from attending conferences like SAPPHIRE NOW and ASUG Annual Conference is the opportunity to network with other professionals with similar specialties. Because of the power of LinkedIn, Twitter and the SAP Community Network I’ve been able to connect with SAP professionals from all over the world. And at SAPPHIRE NOW, I was able to meet many of these connections face to face that I had previously only known from online professional communities.

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