Each year, thousands of IT, portal, and business intelligence professionals converge for the annual SAP NetWeaver BI and Portals and Administration and Infrastructure conferences. This year, these SAP Insider conferences were hosted March 26–28 at the Walt Disney World Dolphin hotel in Orlando, Florida. The event drew a record crowd and offered a record 330 educational sessions. These conferences also provided SAP customers with their first, in-depth look at Business Objects — what the acquisition of this company by SAP means to the SAP install base, what options it offers them, and criteria to decide what makes sense within the context of their current SAP environments.
Peter Graf, SAP Executive Vice President for Global Marketing, addressed the Business Objects acquisition in his keynote. “You need to have a way to really fuel collaboration across the boundaries of businesses,” Graf says. “SAP has formed a separate business unit called Business Objects to actually take care of all these things and to work in concert with the very strong execution that we have at SAP.”
He recommends that SAP customers continue on their individual business intelligence roadmaps. “If you have BW or BI with SAP, if you have deployed BIA, if you do MDM — fantastic. Keep doing it,” says Graf.
“What we have with Business Objects is absolutely complementary to the BI capabilities we have produced. We want you to continue to invest and continue to drive your investments around SAP NetWeaver when it comes to information management.”
A New Trend in Business Networks
Another hot topic Graf addressed was business network transformation (BNT). Fueled by new technologies such as service-oriented architecture, businesses are shifting their focus from servicing the customer’s every need toward a world where businesses collaborate to create superior value for the customer.
To highlight an example of how rapid consolidation and increased collaboration are changing the business world, Graf cited Nike’s shifting approach to satisfying an expanding consumer market. “Nike went from selling shoes and shirts to selling equipment for basketball players and golfers,” he says. “They have worked together with the contract manufacturers to actually co-invent.”
Graf spoke of the need for businesses to close the loop between strategy and execution. To be strategic as an IT organization, companies must design and consolidate IT for efficiency as well as create insight and flexibility to keep pace with the business.
“Thousands of people who live all over the world are coming together, taking their competitive edge, and putting it together in new ways. You see very dynamic movements, and the boundaries between industries are blurring,” says Graf. “That’s a new trend and it’s very exciting because it means from an IT perspective there are many things to do.”
The Future of SAP NetWeaver
Also in the keynote address, Klaus Kreplin, General Manager and Corporate Officer in charge of SAP NetWeaver, offered a close look at the technology platform and how future versions and enhancements will address BNT. He discussed the details of the upcoming SAP NetWeaver 7.1 releases as well as the enhancement package releases (the first SAP NetWeaver enhancement package arrives in September 2008).
Kreplin laid out the release strategy clearly so that attendees would know exactly what to expect. “Because we deliver significantly new functionality in the enhancement package, we stay with the applications on SAP NetWeaver 7.0 for the next couple of years,” Kreplin says. “If you then go into more flexible solutions at the edge of the standard processes, then you also go to SAP NetWeaver 7.1 on instances around the suite that are sitting side by side.”
5 Session Snapshots
Across both conference tracks, the sessions on SAP NetWeaver technology news and updates were heavily attended.
According to Diane Vacarra, conference producer for SAP NetWeaver BI and Portals, sessions that focused on the areas of Business Objects and SAP NetWeaver integration were very popular.
A session that covered SAP solutions for managing corporate performance actually had an overflow crowd. “The room was filled to capacity and we had to add seating,” Vacarra says.
Carilyn Daniel, conference producer for Administration and Infrastructure 2008, says the Java sessions and SAP Solution Manager sessions especially were jam-packed. “The Java sessions that I visited had well over 300 people in them,” reports Daniel.
A snapshot of the most heavily attended conference sessions includes:
- Speed up your next SAP implementation or upgrade project using SAP Solution Manager
Attendees gained insight into the SAP-provided content for best practices within SAP Solution Manager to create overall blueprint, security, or specific business processes. They took away tips on building, storing, and providing important project documentation that details critical business process procedures, gap analyses, and security information. They also learned how SAP Solution Manager can build on and integrate with other core project management tools.
- An introduction to SAP NetWeaver Business Intelligence 7.0 tools and methodologies for migration and deployment
Those who attended this session found out how to exploit the new SAP NetWeaver BI 7.0 tools to meet their reporting needs. They learned a step-by-step approach for rolling out the new tool sets in their organizations. They also learned how to successfully migrate to the new SAP NetWeaver BI tools and how to provide users with access to the tools that will give them the right information they need when they need it.
- A detailed look at how SAP Analytics supports performance management and planning
This session introduced the planning, budgeting, and forecasting capabilities available with SAP NetWeaver 7.0 and with the new SAP Corporate Performance Management (CPM) solution. Attendees learned to identify the key factors involved in choosing the application that best suits their strategic planning needs. They also saw how features, such as context-sensitive action panes, business process flows, and financial statements, could provide an easy way for end users to work with SAP Business Planning and Consolidation (BPC) with very little training required.
- Best practices for Java performance analysis
This session taught attendees how to better analyze performance problems and predict future resource needs by identifying the vital key performance indicators (KPIs) for measuring and analyzing performance in the Java environment. Attendees learned how to identify some of the components that cause contention, such as deadlocks. After seeing a demo of the SAP Java Memory Analysis tool “Digger,” attendees learned ways to measure and analyze the performance of database access, and discovered how to do CPU sizing and prediction.
- Best (and worst!) practices for portal design and branding
Attendees learned expert tips and techniques for creating and maintaining a compelling, consistent portal design that reflects their company, business, or department branding. They saw how to personalize their branding efforts, including the log-on page, menus, graphics, navigation, and Web Dynpro elements, to cater to different users, groups, customers, and partners with SAP Rule Set. The session also showed how to avoid the most common branding pitfalls, such as over-branding and inconsistency of content and color schemes.
Access to Experts
Attendees took advantage of the easy access to experts in the field, either attending the Ask-the-Experts and networking opportunities or simply connecting with fellow attendees. “We had a good crowd during Ask-the-Experts both nights, as well as an enthusiastic response to informal networking tables at breakfast,” Vacarra says.
For example, one attendee, Steve Christiansen of Deloitte Services LP, succeeded in solving an issue that had been troubling him by speaking with an attendee at an open forum discussion. “At one of the Interactive Idea Exchange sessions, I finally found an answer to a problem I had been having by listening to someone who had experience dealing with a similar problem,” says Christiansen.
Having knowledgeable speakers at their disposal also was a great benefit to attendees.“My primary reason for coming to the conference is because I had an issue with employee security for sensitive salary plan reporting,” says William Ladd, Systems Analyst of Proctor & Gamble.
Ladd attended the session “An A-to-Z guide on how to develop a flexible, position-based security model for SAP NetWeaver Business Intelligence,” and afterward approached the speaker, Tracey Brookes, to discuss the issue he had been having. “She was able to tell me a way to get around that problem and resolve it for me,” says Ladd. “And the best part is that I didn’t even have to hire a consultant to do it.”
A new seminar on Business Objects is now available to SAP customers who want to better understand strategies, options, and guidelines for reporting, BI, and performance management with SAP and Business Objects tools. This seminar offers important updates, education, and strategies for report and query design, Web reporting, formatting, dashboards, cockpits, planning, and performance management.
- See demos of new SAP and Business Objects tools, compare their functionality, and get guidelines to pick the right tools for your requirements
- Understand which SAP NetWeaver BI functionalities will be supported, phased out, or replaced by Business Objects
- Step through the requirements for adding new Business Objects solutions to your reporting landscape
- Find out which of your existing queries and reports to preserve and which to rebuild if you choose to adopt Business Objects functionality
- Learn how SAP’s acquisition of Business Objects affects recent or planned upgrades to SAP NetWeaver BI 7.x
For more information on the new seminar, please visit www.sap-businessobjects.com
As another avenue for finding solutions to their problems, attendees had the benefit of the Solutions Showcase, which housed over 50 vendor booths full of software solution providers and consultants available to answer questions and offer demos. Some of these vendors were returning exhibitors, while others attended the event for the first time.
ProMorphics is a consulting company that specializes in BI planning. As a first-time exhibitor at the conference, ProMorphics consultants sought to reach out to new customers who are looking for guidance selecting from the different SAP solutions available.
“We wanted to connect with the folks in the BI space who have questions because they’re looking to make changes to their current BI solutions or looking to upgrade,” says Kasia Szewczyk, Director Business Development of ProMorphics. “We’ve talked to a lot of potential customers and saw how important it is for us to spend time clarifying the options for people and show them the advantages of each one.”
She considers the show a success for ProMorphics. “It’s great to have a meeting of the minds, people coming together, educating each other, and sharing ideas in a hands on kind of way,” says Szewczyk. “Being able to show demos is always great because there’s nothing quite like seeing it live.”
More seasoned exhibitors reported similar successes. Ross Ritterman, sales executive at CA Wily Technology, says his company exhibited at last year’s event. “We were very busy last year, and I knew we’d be very busy this year,” he says. “The leads have been pretty stellar, which makes sense because these are the end users of our products for the most part.” One of CA Wily’s products is their Introscope solution, which SAP uses as part of SAP Solution Manager specifically for Java root cause analysis.
Ritterman says the best part of exhibiting on the Solutions Showcase floor is the in-person interaction. “I enjoy the reaction I get when somebody comes by the booth and I explain what we do, and you can see the epiphany in their eyes and the realization of what it is we offer and why it would be useful to them,” says Ritterman. “I think it also reflects positively on our company that we have something useful and a product that works. It’s a good opportunity to put a good face on the company and show people that we are just as good in person as we are over the phone.”
REALTECH, Inc. is a vendor that has exhibited at the event three years in row because the conference specifically fits their key value areas. “You don’t often get the opportunity to collect thousands of SAP customers together in one place,” says Dan McGrann, account executive. “The best for us is when we we’re able to match up an existing satisfied customer with a new prospect at the same time.” REALTECH offers SAP consulting services that focus on migration and upgrades, as well as packaged software that primarily helps with Basis administration tasks.
McGrann praises the conference for the efficiency of networking with multiple potential customers without the hassle of extensive travel or phone meetings. “Having them all here in one spot is perfect for us,” says McGrann.
SAP NetWeaver BI and Portals 2009 and SAP Administration and Infrastructure 2009 will be hosted in Orlando, Florida, March 25–27. For more information, visit www.sapnetweaver2009.com and www.sapadmin2009.com.
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Exhibitors in the Solutions Showcase
Adobe Systems, Inc.
America’s SAP Users’Group
CA Wily Technology
CENIT North America Inc.
CONET Solutions GmbH
ecenta America, Inc.
Gamma Enterprise Technologies
Hayes Technology Group, Inc.
Levi, Ray & Shoup, Inc.
Logical Design Solutions
ProSoft CyberWorld Group, Inc.
RedDot — The Open Text
Web Solutions Group
SEAL Consulting Inc.
Sigma Business Solutions Inc.
The Principal Consulting (TPC)