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SAP TechEd 2001: Buzz from the floor

SearchSAP's Matt Danielsson got down and dirty on the floor at SAP TechEd 2001.

Four days is a short time to cram in nearly 300 different educational sessions, ranging from basic lecture-style overviews to intense hands-on ABAP classes.

Add one-on-one Meet-the-Experts sessions and the exhibit floor at the SAP TechEd 2001 conference taking place this week in Los Angeles, and you've got yourself a packed schedule.

Some of the roughly 3,000 people attending the show said SAP's latest move to adopt an open environment towards Web services technology would have a big impact on their jobs. They also talked about what they thought of the TechEd event, from the 15-minute one-on-ones with experts to SAP's splashy exhibits.

As one could expect, hardly anyone is unaffected by SAP's new announcements. Michael Santelli, a technical lead at SAP America's Global Solution Center in Pennsylvania and session speaker on Security issues at the event, expected a drastic impact on his job. While it might take some time to readjust, he was very positive regarding the move.

"The positioning of SAP to an open environment will set the standards for others to follow," he said.

Kevin Dennis, a systems analyst at Conoco Inc. in Oklahoma, agreed that the announcement was a good move by SAP. He praised the increased functionality that would result, but cautioned that SAP has to be vigilant about potential stability issues. He pointed out that a company and its technology must stay in sync for everything to work out, which could become an Achilles' heel for SAP, if it is not careful.

ABAP is king

Overall, the feedback from the first two days of sessions was positive. A few stars shone especially bright, such as ABAP and ITS installation and administration. While anyone could walk in to the lecture-sessions, the hands-on sessions had limited seats and required pre-registration. It was easy to see when an ABAP session was about to start by the big crowd of people elbowing each other to get into the few spare seats.

Minor panic erupted when one of the most popular ABAP courses, "Making ABAP Scream," had some of its sessions canceled.

Another popular session was "Implementing Successful SAP Web Technology Solutions," where the handouts ran out -- twice.

Like many others, Dennis, the Conoco systems analyst, liked the ABAP and ITS sessions. Michael Winkelman, Sr. Application Consultant at Orbis America, Inc. in Washington D.C. generally agreed. He liked the ABAP sessions, but there were a few sessions that didn't meet his standards.

"Some of the hands-on sessions were weak," he said, "There just wasn't any real content."

The exhibition floor

A small but steady stream of visitors gave most exhibitors time to pay good attention to everyone without dozing off in between. As usual, it was the booths with cool giveaways that drew the biggest crowds. The biggest draw was T-shirts that, when worn the following day, would make the wearer eligible for a cute teddy bear in a leather jacket.

SAP dominated the floor with something that looked like the giant landing gear of a campy spaceship from a 1950s movie. Inside, visitors were bombarded with the SAP vision from literally every angle. The presentation room was a three-wall, floor and ceiling projection in which people could get impressed and nauseated from motion-sickness at the same time. The second part of the booth was a calmer product demonstration followed by an opportunity to chat with SAP engineers.

The Meet-the-Expert sessions, where users could sign up for one-on-ones with SAP experts, held high standards. With time slots as short as 15 minutes, many felt that they could have used more time.

Most people said they were happy with the event. Some complained about the organization. Others praised SAP for managing to keep such a big event relatively free of snafus.


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