Evaluation Form: SAP Sapphire, Atlanta, April 23-25

What were the most important things you learned from this conference?

SAP has established its enterprise SOA for business network transformation and it’s mapped out the next five years of its SOA strategy.

Next year SAP will roll out SAP Business Suite, where its entire product portfolio (with the exception of BusinessOne) will integrate onto this platform. So will non-SAP applications, like PeopleSoft and Siebel. “It’s the only platform which brings .NET and Java together, and it’s a platform that’s conforming to all the standards,” said CEO Henning Kagermann in a keynote to 15,000 attendees

What questions or subject areas did the conference fail to address?

There was no lack of information at Sapphire. That, perhaps, was the toughest challenge for attendees – putting myriad product and partner announcements into context.

No vendor has done a particularly good job of explaining SOA since it’s a difficult concept to put into words. Up until now, SAP wasn’t even referring to its SOA plans as SOA, but rather calling it BPP (Business Process Platform).

Now SAP is getting the SOA message out. But in Canada, there still aren’t a lot of takers for SOA, said Joel Martin, vice-president of enterprise software with IDC Canada. At this point, a lot of the uptake we’re seeing is departmental.

SAP and Cisco also announced a global market “innovation” agreement to develop a “new breed of business solutions to transform how applications and networks interact.” More details on what these innovations will look like, however, will have to wait until next year’s conference.

How would you rate the quality of the tracks and presenters?

Several Canadians were on hand, from Sobeys to CN to the CBC, to talk about their SAP implementations. And a hot topic this year was change management.

“People by nature – especially at the CBC – tend to stay away from change,” said Stephane Rivest, director of financial systems, processing and training with CBC Radio-Canada. “A technical upgrade does not exist – there’s always a user impact. Don’t underestimate it, but don’t overdo it.” The CBC upgraded to MySAP ERP in February, which involved geographic, departmental and operational collaboration.

How might the organizers improve the conference experience for attendees?

Atlanta provided ample space for 15,000 people in its convention centre, but there was a strange energy in this city. Attendees were warned not to walk anywhere alone – even from the hotels to the convention centre.

It will be hard to improve upon this year’s entertainment, however. John Mayer, performing at Philips Stadium, acknowledged that many people in the audience may not have heard his album, but he hoped they could “find something in the energy.”

The crowd did just that, and by the time Mayer concluded the concert, they had managed to connect thousands of glow sticks stretching from one end of the stadium to the other.

Even Mayer seemed impressed, commenting on the “synergy” in the stadium – and then on the fact he managed to use the word “synergy” at a rock concert.

Next year, SAP’s biggest challenge may be finding a way to top those glow sticks.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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