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Introduction to Innovation Weekend

Let’s face it, SAP TechEd is always too short. Even if they made it a two-weeks event, I would go home with the nagging feeling of having missed plenty of people and sessions and chances to lay my fingers upon new technologies. However, this year, thanks to the initiative of Marilyn Pratt (@marilynpratt) and Craig Cmehil (@ccmehil), two people who have done so much for the community that appropriate titles can not be found or coined, they prolonged the fun by adding a 30-hour event called Innovation Weekend.

 

Fig. 1: Captivating flipchart speech by Kaj van de Loo

Innovation Weekend is the result of merging the long-standing tradition of SDN Hacker Night and BPX Process Design Slam. With so much creative potential and expertise on both the SDN and the BPX side available, why not do something together? This is what they did at Innovation Weekend – so for every participant of this pre-event, SAP TechEd started two days earlier on Sunday at noon.

The event was organized basically as follows.

Day 1:

  • Introduction
  • presentations
  • presentations in smaller groups
  • working on the business cases in one team per case

Day 2:

  • More working on the business cases
  • presentations of all the resulting solutions to the business cases
  • announcing the winning team
  • The winning team was allowed to present their solution at Demo Jam.

Fig. 2: Community spirit in action

Feedback Pro’s and Con’s

Pro

  • combining Hackers Night and Process Slam
  • adding geeky days to TechEd
  • getting hands on new technology
  • technology strategy presentation by Kaj van de Loo (@kajvandeloo)
  • working on actual prototype
  • great preparation of the business cases via wiki led by Marilyn Pratt (who always knows how to get the best people to contribute)
  • chance to hit the stage at Demo Jam
  • vibrant community event and networking opportunity

Con

  • potato chips and small pretzels served as lunch – excuse me???
  • dinner and other food sent the message: “We don’t love you.”
  • “You can’t innovate on an empty stomach.” – said, overheard and tweeted by Vijay Vijaysankar (@vijayasankarv) and Jon Reed (@jonerp)
  • 6+ hours of presentations while we all wanted to go create
  • would have preferred being on a NetWeaver or otherwise more tool-focused team than to decide for one business case – give the BPXer a business case and the SDNer a tooling team
  • no AS ABAP in the tool chest, made it unrealistic
  • much of the technology that was put forward to us wasn’t exactly cutting-edge (Business Objects Explorer), many participants felt pitched to
  • Kaj van de Loo forgot to acknowledge Marilyn Pratt’s great contribution in the event in his thank-you speech, which felt awkward as a consequence

Suggestions for next time

My own suggestions would be to

  • order food that sends the message: “We love you!”
  • keep the presentation part much shorter, allow us to go create quicker
  • allow the speakers to pitch their presentations for five minutes, then let the audience decide which sessions to attend – no time to hear it all
  • allow a wider set of tools, including NetWeaver ABAP and IDES systems of all the Business Suite applications
  • restart SCN when we bring it down ;-)
  • don’t structure teams strictly along the business cases, allow technically-minded participants to form technology-centered service teams for the other groups (or be roaming experts)
  • allow a process step for the merging of business cases, there seemed to be some reduncancy when business cases were very closely related or had huge overlap
  • only Craig and Marilyn can do it

Conclusion

Like anything new, Innovation Weekend will need one iteration or two for fine-tuning, but it was vibrantly alive and will become a flawless event. It was already a great experience and very well worth attending this time but I’m sure they’ll listen and act on the suggestions made by the community to get it beyond the experimental stage. See you next time! And to those of you who are still looking forward to the next instance of the event in Bangalore, enjoy - it will already be a next generation Innovation Weekend!

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