No milk today, it wasn’t always so the company was gay, we’d turn night into day
Title taken from the song: “No milk today” - Herman's Hermits (Youtube)
The first ever all virtual SAP TechEd happened from 8 – 10 December and was a 48 hours event. It was a free event, open to everyone and covered a wide range of topics in several sessions and formats like talks, expert sessions or workshops. I’ll focus on the two keynotes from SAP’s CTO Jürgen Müller. He gave two keynotes, the first one on Wednesday and one on Thursday. You can watch them on demand if you want. Actually, the whole TechEd content is available in case you didn’t have the time to join TechEd.
The keynotes were … different. Keynotes for technology conferences are to show to the audience how the challenges of the last year can be created into opportunities thanks to the new tools made available (or announced to come soon). An important goal of every keynote is to make people excited about the time to come; to show how great things can be created, how life is going to be made easier. The last few keynotes from SAP’s old CTO Goerke were show and entertainment. And each keynote of him was used to show how SAP technology can be used in an end-to-end process. A problem was showed and solved, giving a 360 degree overview about possible touch points of SAP tools, how it can be solved or used together with other solutions. Dots were connected. A strategy was shown how SAP sees itself to empower developers to deliver value at customers.
One of the main tasks of a CTO is to give the broader SAP ecosystem the technology and tools to work efficiently for its customers. The content Müller presented did little to show where SAP is going, what it will offer for developers at customers to solve old and new problems with its technology stack. Important information was presented as a singularity: one domain model (ODM), artificial intelligence, Ruum, analytics. The intelligent enterprise was mentioned several times, yet: where was the E2E demo, the proof how you can achieve an intelligent enterprise with SAP? I saw a 5 minutes marketing pitch that SAP is recognized as a leader in AI and that there is a report where this is written down. Short: that was just talk. Where are the 70 ML/AI enabled processes? How many are coming? What is the criteria for enabling a process? ODM: nice talk, where are tangible assets? When Müller says that SAP delivered 90% of the integration, they still missed a self-set target! ODM needs to solve one of the biggest SAP self-made problems: integration of a wide range of products. Where was the presentation showing how this is achieved? ODM, SAP Graph, SaaS, SAP Cloud, etc, playing together to solve a problem?
The target audience was left with little after the keynote. Free tier? Once again: postponed. Yes, this is not an easy topic. Yes, it will take time to have this working. Saying at DSAG Technologietage that new information will be shared at TechEd, and there only saying: more information in 2021: not good enough. Now more insight is scheduled for end January 2021. I fear it won’t be detailed how the free tier will be modeled, architected and how it will help to keep SAP alive at customers outside the very, very core of (boring) ERP processes. Announcement of a working free tier, this is what excites people, this is stuff you can take back at your customer and sell SAP for new projects. Now we go back to work with empty hands.
This year’s TechEd keynotes included numerous information and left the audience back with unanswered questions. If you are searching for news, for information on how to use SAP’s portfolio, what to expect, the only source were the lecture sessions. It was possible to get an idea were individual products are heading. Still: this is then “just” the view from a single product team, not from the overall SAP technology and how it should be used together.
2×40 Minutes to lay out the foundation to show the audience a bright future, to make them motivated and go with a fresh spirit into the individual topic sessions and workshops. The impression (or fact?) that the responsible people at SAP are living in an isolated bubble was prominently shown at the Q&A. Questions were asked about the future of ABAP, what language to pick up, how to efficiently develop with SAP, future of UX, strategy of their Cloud offering, and so many more questions that a good keynote needs to answer. Nowadays, developers have a wide range of tools to pick from when working with SAP. They are confused and guidance is needed. One point that is troublesome is that the SAP Community plays a vital part in creating TechEd. Is the SAP bubble so strong that the call for information regarding the daily life of developers, architects, etc is not heard? Developers are desperately asking for ABAP support in VS Code or BAS, instead we get support for HANA tools (who asked for that?). Currently the mobile solution portfolio is a total mess. Hybrid apps are phased out, the native SDK is with an uncertain future, and MDK is pushed. Was mobile even represented at the keynote besides some lip service (we have apps)? MDK is a low code platform, and what do we see? Ruum. Do we get Fiori PWA with offline? What happened to Leonardo? Is BTP the next Leonardo? What is it besides giving existing components a new umbrella name? What are SAP’s plan with it? The list of examples showing discrepancy between reality and SAP perception can go on and on.
If you cannot show new products, then focus on other important topics. Every single day we have to proof at customers the value of a decision, why we (want to) use SAP. How to position SCP services against or with Azure, AWS? How to position SAC against competition? What is the TCO? It seems the bubble the SAP community and leaders live in got even stronger in 2020. The responsible persons need to get out and sit next to partners and customers to get an understanding of the daily problems these are facing. It seems home office is working for SAP in regard to keep any opinion out that not fits their made-up perfect world. Filtering only for happy messages only works for a short time. The Q&A were read live and answered by SAP leaders. That is really great, and this is something SAP needs to continue to do. My impression was that after the 10th question on the future of SAP they did not know how to answer. Like: why don’t we get questions on how good we are doing? Why don’t they ask about AI or Chatbots? Now we know SAP spends money on making S/4HANA quantum secure.
If a keynote shows what a company was doing the last year, and what you get to excel at work for the next 12 month, this year’s keynote brought an alarming message. Either there is nothing in the pipeline, or nothing SAP wants to commit on. I’d like to say that we get incremental changes to already good technology. Unfortunately, that’s not where we are in reality. Let’s make the best out of it: I hope that this year’s keynote is a turning point when it comes to announcements. From now on, these are done when the technology is ready and not when an event wants to put it on the agenda. That we get in 2021 continuously new great features delivered, independently from SAP’s event agenda.
Past onside TechEd events were different: learning, party, all day, all night. Possible thanks for the fact of not being connected, being off from work. Virtual is the way to go. No travel, lower costs, you can join more events. Fierce competition will arise between online conferences, and we, the participant, will be the ones that benefit from this. Watch parties help to get some of the fun back.
Let me close this with a text a friend wrote after I shared the title of the blog.
I watched the keynote today
To see if I still feel
I focus on the pain
The only thing that’s real