SAP Developer Advisory Board: Launched!

SAP launched its Developer Advisory Board (DAB) on September 12th 2013 in Palo Alto. The DAB was established to provide feedback and recommendations about SAP’s Developer Programs.

The DAB is currently composed of the following members: James Gosling, Jeff Hadfield, Dan Martin, David McLaughlin, John Musser, Tim O’Reilly and Douglas Solomon. Check here for more information about the DAB members.

So… on September 12th a few colleagues joined me for the day to kick-off discussions and work with the DAB: Anand Eswaran, Barbara Dorf, Bernd-Uwe Pagel, Bjoern Goerke, Ingrid Van den Hoogen, Irfan Khan, Richard Pledereder, Shel Finkelstein, Vijay Vijayasankar and Inga Bereza (who made this day happen).

Ingrid, who suggested to me a few months ago to setup such Developer Advisory Board, opened the day by welcoming everyone. Well… almost, because sadly, James Gosling could not join in person this time.

Bjoern had the hard job of giving an overview of SAP and our technologies in 30mns. No slides, just talk! Impressive summary. Irfan followed him with an overview of SAP HANA. Still no slides but Irfan used a whiteboard! One comment from the DAB members is that we “don’t seem to know how to explain SAP HANA”. We need to learn to explain SAP and our technologies in a simpler, clearer and more concise way. “Developers want to get it in 5mins max; they want to build real stuff in less than an hour”.

After the overviews, we went on to work on the first challenge. We split the room into 2 teams that were asked to discuss and report about exciting use cases of our technologies for developers. The team I joined spent a long time discussing about the fact that SAP should stop pushing technologies to developers. “You should rather spend time showing to them and helping them to understand how you can help them to solve their problem”. “For them to understand you need real stories by developers for developers”. “You need stories that will make them dream”. “With all your customers data, developers could do so much! You need to find ways to make this data available to developers…” The other team talked about the importance of nurturing the A developers while catering for the C developers. “You have to lower the barriers to entry”. “Why not make HANA free for developers?” “What improvements can you or HANA bring to the top 20 mobile apps?”

Of course there were plenty of other interesting questions and points!

We then all broke for lunch.

I started the afternoon with a brief overview (with slides) about SAP activities for developers so far. I also shared what we learned during recent developer events that we organized or sponsored, one of them being that we have a reputation and perception problem with net new developers. “We are a no-brand for developers”. One recommendation was that “you should focus most of your efforts and energy on the existing SAP developer ecosystem until you have a compelling and true value proposition for the others”.

Barbara took the stage after me to present the findings of an ongoing project to re-define SAP’s value proposition and messaging to developers. She wanted to get the DAB reaction about the findings and have them help us to choose between three potential directions for building an exciting value proposition for developers. Here are a couple of comments/questions that we received: “Exciting developers requires more than a good value proposition and some marketing. It requires proving that you have already created value for a developer”. “How can you prove to us that you can walk the talk for any of the three directions?”

After my and Barbara’s talks we jumped into a bigger discussion about the Value Proposition directions and about the next steps we should take to activate and deliver on them. There was general consensus that the direction should be around the value of our business platform and customer ecosystem to enable developers to change the world. Not that easy to prove but quite exciting, I think. We had a short discussion about Open Source vs. Open. “Open Source is an artifact from the past”. “The way is development in the Cloud, using open and well documented APIs”. “You want to make sure you use open formats and open interfaces”.

Feedback, questions, ideas flew all day. I can’t say that all were surprising but I appreciated all and I certainly value all. We or I came out of the day with homework, a lot, not easy but quite interesting and exciting. We now need to prioritize and re-plan.

Whether you’re a developer or not you’ll notice shortly!

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One Response to SAP Developer Advisory Board: Launched!

  1. Michael Koch says:

    Anne,

    Thank you for a frank summary of what sounds like a very interesting session.

    As an independent development consultant with 15+ yrs experience, I wanted to highlight a few initial thoughts of mine.

    You are right about the current weakness in being able to explain SAP HANA. I agree that developers should be able to “get it” in 5 mins, but not sure whether they want to create something in under an hour. Going down the route of real world scenarios and examples which will spark a developers imagination is correct, but I would not expect to have a valid proposal created in under an hour. In my view, this target is too ambitious. As an aside, I have noticed that a lot of successful SAP Press books these days use real world scenarios, taking developers on a journey.

    You are also right about the assumption with regards to SAP pushing too much technology to developers. Spot on: Woods & Trees. It also creates fatigue when developers are presented with the “next big thing” a few months after getting their teeth into the technology fad of the last quarter. In comparison, Apple has a big advantage here, as their legacy and ecosystem of devices and software is much smaller.

    One thing that keeps on slightly annoying me is this “change the world” mantra that keeps popping up. With all respect: Everybody who’s ever spend some time in a SAP development team or customer IT department will know that 95% of the time is not about changing the world, but to introduce small, incremental improvements – this will not change. I’d rather call it “making a small dent into the universe” or “change THEIR world”, which -again- keeps it real.

    “Making data available to developers” is one of the cornerstones of all this. Better yet: provide an easy way for developers to play around with a company’s own data, because that’s what presents an internal roadblock to a lot of good ideas. It’s not just trials and sandboxes, but also access to valid, real data. Access to an external, education / IDES system to access ERP data is second to that. The Enterprise Service Marketplace provided this a while ago and I loved it, but it’s gone now.

    “Lowering barriers to entry”. Anne, I was delighted when I read this! But in order to get it to work, I think more needs to be done. One good approach I can think of is to actually plan a developers journey from accessing the tools, linking to real data, then through prototyping and actually going to market with a solution. Right now, the last step will in almost all cases prevent the most determined developer, who has gone through the (potential) pains of installing a trial and developing something, from actually getting something through the door and sold. Show them the real business opportunity that can be in developing an SAP Enterprise application. Show them that they can earn money. Bottom line is this: if you really want to succeed here, you have to substantially change the way how the partner ecosystem is run, because this -in my mind- is the biggest barrier here.

    Overall, I have to say that I was very pleased to hear about the DAB initiative. You all have your work cut out, for sure. Feel free to contact myself or other Mentors for further input, I would be more than willing to assist.

    Michael

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