When I was asked to blog about my impressions at SAP’s developer kick-off meeting (DKOM), my initial reaction was “why me? I'm a marketing suit at a coding fest.” Maybe even more importantly, I wondered why anyone outside of SAP would care about an internal meeting.
It was a vexing enough question that I started asking people: SAP employees, existing partners, and people who barely knew what SAP does. It wasn't long before an interesting answer emerged.
Most software developers code in the dark. Of course, I don't mean that literally; electricity isn't that expensive yet. But they do their job in relative isolation without much interaction with the rest of the business. As an ex-developer myself, I remember that I rarely understood how the things I did helped the business or impacted the company strategy.
DKOM is a chance for developers to understand SAP’s strategy and how the software they work on helps the company achieve its business goals. I know that sounds highfalutin but it’s really the goal of the event. SAP is focused on five technology market categories: applications, analytics, mobile, cloud, and database&technology. Of course, the keynotes had frequent mentions of the categories but the entire event was organized around them.
This wasn't lip service to strategy. Sessions went into detail on what developers could do to help SAP reach its objectives. For example, Raj Nathan led a session of what it would take for SAP to become the #2 vendor in the database market which described how to combine the best of Sybase ASE, Sybase IQ and SAP HANA. It focused on what we want to do but not how. After the talk, I saw several developers in animated discussions with Raj. They had ideas for the how.
That’s when I had my (suddenly obvious) epiphany. DKOM was a great way to get everyone on the same page. To create an alignment focused organization. It was management by walking around.
Why doesn't every software company have a similar event?