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SAP TechEd '02 to Play Hot in New Orleans

by Keith Elliott | SAPinsider

July 1, 2002

by Keith Elliott, SAP SAPinsider - 2002 (Volume 3), July (Issue 3)

Keith Elliott, Director of Content for TechEd

This coming November 12-15, New Orleans’ Morial Convention Center will host SAP’s largest technical education event for system managers, programmers, and the like: SAP TechEd ’02. In keeping with the city’s jazz-flavored heritage, the theme is “Because You Can’t Improvise” — the idea being that when it comes to implementing and managing SAP system solutions, you really can’t wing it, fake it, or just make it up as you go along; you need solid, substantial knowledge, and SAP TechEd ’02 will be the best place to get it.

An annual event since 1996, the conference was brought to life at SAP Labs in Palo Alto. Though in the beginning lots of people thought that no one would be interested in TechEd, it has continued as an annual conference, and with the exception of last year, SAP has sold out every one. In fact, TechEd is now an international affair — there’s a European version, an Australian TechEd, and there have even been talks of doing one in India. But with an anticipated 4,000 attendees, the U.S. event is by far the largest.

When examining and comparing attendance figures, Keith Elliott, Director of Content for TechEd, reports that last year’s conference in Los Angeles was not an outstanding year: attendance totals fell about one-third to around 3,000. “Of course,” says Elliott, “that was because SAP TechEd ’01 in November came quite soon after the upheaval of September 11. It didn’t help that the economy had been listless all year, either; a lot of people cancelled because of travel budget restrictions. Actually we felt gratified that 3,000 people did show up under those difficult circumstances.”

In comparison, this year Elliott expects a strong turnout in the 4,000 range, partially because some time has passed since September 11, and partially because New Orleans is an attractive destination in its own right.

Four-Day Information Exchange

The conference itself is a mammoth four-day information exchange between top SAP developers, consultants, customers, and partners, offering over 300 technical sessions. TechEd is not a mere trade show!

“When we look at potential TechEd venues,” says Elliott, “they typically show us huge exhibit halls as big as eight football fields. And we reply, ‘Thanks, but what we really need is about 30-40 breakout rooms.’ And not all facilities can handle that — so we’re restricted as to where we can go.”

According to Elliott, the conference typically runs about 35 sessions in parallel from 8 AM to 7 PM. Half of those are “hands-on” workshops, where SAP sets up a data center at the conference facility with about 1,000 client machines (laptops), all networked with dozens of servers and terabytes of disk space. Any given hands-on room will have up to 50 PCs, and sessions in those rooms last from two to four hours, depending on the content.

“We start at 8:00 in the morning, running four-hour hands-on workshops until noon, then after a break for lunch, we go from 2 to 6 PM with another set of four-hour hands-on workshops in the room,” says Elliott. “That’s a real value for the content — the attendees can’t get enough of the hands-on stuff, and in fact it’s so popular that we have to restrict the hands-on sessions by ticketing them! We don’t want 1,000 people waiting outside the door with only 50 able to get in. So to keep Mr. Fire Marshal as our friend, we pre-register all our hands-on sessions. Of course, the most popular ones are filled in a flash. That’s a big feature of the show.”

Timely Topics

What really sets TechEd apart is the variety of timely, practical topics that attendees can look forward to. Of course, this year’s conference will focus on all the new mySAP Technology that provides the infrastructure for the complete range of e-business solutions. Sessions will cover the technical aspects of mySAP Enterprise Portals, mySAP Exchanges, the SAP Web Application Server, mySAP CRM, and other hot new technologies in the SAP pipeline.

As in previous years, one of the big content areas that will be covered is SAP system management, including performance tuning. Sessions from this area are particularly attractive to customers with installed SAP systems looking for ways to improve performance, implement new e-business components in a system landscape, or manage users.

Another very popular content area has to do with programming in SAP’s native application programming language, ABAP. You can expect to find sessions on the latest ABAP tools and functionalities, and on optimizing ABAP code. In addition, Java-based programming and SAP’s Java-based e-business offerings are becoming increasingly important to programmers, and there will be a host of sessions around that theme.

SAP Speakers:
The Technology Source

Another unique aspect of the conference is that the speakers are not professional lecturers, but experts from SAP’s own development organization — the actual developers, managers, and product managers who know the material inside and out because they’re the ones developing it. That makes TechEd just about the only SAP event that allows customers to get that close to the source of the technologies they use. “That’s why we say this is not a marketing show; it’s the real stuff,” Elliott proudly claims.

TechEd also features a modest exhibit area that is unlike the SAPPHIRE exhibit area or, for that matter, any typical huge trade show. At TechEd, exhibitors are given generic booths — the organizers don’t allow them to bring in their own booths — and they are simply arranged alphabetically. “Surprisingly enough, the exhibitors really like our egalitarian approach,” Elliott reports. “It’s very cost-effective for them because they don’t have to haul in their expensive ’trade show castles.’ The smaller partners benefit, too; it levels the playing field for all the exhibitors, and in the end it makes it far easier for them, for us, and, we believe, for the attendees as well.”

“It’s likely that the exhibitors are actually talking face-to-face with the troops. They know if you want to sell a technical product for technologies, it’s important to have technical allies in a company. Sooner or later the top management is going to go ask these guys: ’What do you think of this?’ Thanks to their exposure at TechEd, they are more likely to have the answer.”

High Marks for TechEd

In the landscape of SAP technical events, TechEd is undoubtedly the premier of its kind. Attendee satisfaction surveys register extremely high: according to Elliott, at the past two U.S. shows, over 95 percent of the attendees said they would recommend the conference to a colleague.

“When we ask for an overall conference rating on a scale of 1 to 5, we always get somewhere between 4 and 5 average. It has a very high satisfaction rate,” claims Elliott. “We get quotes from attendees like ’This is the best educational value in SAP’ and other comments like that. (See sidebar.) That’s primarily because we stick to the technical content and we deliver what our attendees want. It may be intense and even tiring from an attendee point of view, but everyone gets a lot to bring back to their workplaces afterward. And that makes it all worthwhile.”

Sometimes it’s best to let the attendees speak for themselves. Here are some actual quotes drawn from the SAP TechEd 2001 Los Angeles conference evaluations:

“Very informational ... most sessions gave me a way to test-drive functionality with an expert there to answer any questions.”

“It’s my first and I’m coming back for [the] next one.”

“I think it’s a great conference. It not only gives you the info on new products of development, it also gives the solution to my daily job and problems. It helps me to do [a] better job in admin.”

“I think it is an excellent opportunity to see the new technology and is a great way to get as much education as you can in one week.”

“Excellent conference — I appreciate the access to so many SAP resources.”

“Good intro to new SAP initiatives.”

“An excellent place to acquire knowledge on new technology, as well as to learn about the existing technology.”

“Very good to learn about solutions for business issues.”

“Great place to see what’s upcoming. Good place to network with people in the same field.”

“Great learning experience.”

“I wanted to learn new technologies and actually I did. Very well organized, I will be there at SAP TechEd ’02.”

“Excellent lectures, informative and a friendly atmosphere.”

“Awesome!! Can’t wait for New Orleans!!”

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