Wow, lots going on. It’s the end of day two and I’m only now sitting down to write my first blog. Then again, much of what I am going to cover has probably been mentioned in a tweet or two.
We started on Sunday with our 3rd annual Influencer Summit. We opened with a recap of the prior year activities from each of the four SIG chairs. The four strategic SIG areas were Product Direction, Education, Support, and Integration. One of the interesting results of the pre-conference survey was that these four areas were still the top vote recipients as areas of concern. My take-away from that is that while we have definitely made progress, there is still room for improvement. One important difference this year was SAP representatives were in the room for the entire session this year so they were able to witness and participate in the entire process. I’ll be honest; if you attended the conference this year and didn’t try to come to the Influencer Summit, you should come next year. We’re getting better and better at how we run these (we had to make some new processes up as we went along because we were doing something new) and the more people and viewpoints that SAP can hear, the better.
ASUG provided an “app” for the conference this year which has been fantastic. I don’t have a paper schedule, we don’t have to fill in paper evaluation forms that will later have to be transcribed into digital form for analysis, I don’t miss important updates during the day… in short, it’s exactly what a conference app should do. Excellent addition to the event.
Because of the app, I can tell you exactly what I did (and when) on Monday.
My first session on Monday was a follow-up to the Strategic SIG panel. Unfortunately there were not a lot of people there. One of the action items that I got out of the session Sunday and the lack of attendance on Monday is that we need to do a better job of figuring out how to communicate what the SIG is doing. It’s important to get that message out, so that more folks can participate.
Visual Intelligence First Look
Also on Monday I got my first look at Visual Intelligence (aka “Visi” in keeping with our normal name-shortening practice) which was first shown at SAPPHIRE / Annual Conference earlier this year. It’s an interesting offering. It’s a desktop client but requires a 64 bit operating system, so that knocks out a whole bunch of potential users on older operating systems. It uses local data but can also connect via Freehand SQL. It will also connect to HANA. Universe support is supposed to be out very soon. What is it? It’s a data collection, analysis, and visualization tool. Yes, another tool. I will admit that I left that session feeling… underwhelmed.
But the price is right; you can download a free 90-day trial and see what you think.
Later Monday evening I had the opportunity to catch up with Timo Elliott and expressed my “underwhelmed-ness” about the tool. He had a different way to look at it, which I am shamelessly stealing and representing here. The conversation went something like this:
Me: I did see Visi today for the first time.
Timo: What did you think?
Timo: It’s like second gear.
The idea takes more explanation than that, of course, but I don’t want to keep trying to relate it as a conversation. Timo suggested that today many businesses have first gear (Excel) and third gear (data warehouses or data marts) but nothing in the middle. Excel is first gear. We can grab data and do some basic analysis and visualizations, but each time we get new data we have to reinvent things. And merging two (or more) different sets of data in Excel is problematic at best. To do full blown data cleansing and merging we often move to the next step of a data warehouse, which is far more complex than the Excel model and therefore third gear. Timo’s view is that Visual Intelligence provides a second gear which can smooth the transition from first gear to third. I can see his point.
What about transitions between gears? Is there a transmission holding all of this together? It turns out that Visual Intelligence can start with Excel data, so there’s an easy link between first gear and second gear. Ultimately I am told that Visual Intelligence can export its results to HANA, which could become the start of a full-fledged warehouse. But at each point I am just moving the data from one gear to another; the work that was done is lost. I don’t think I can export a visualization into Explorer, for example, for use once the data is in HANA. I can’t transport a visualization into Xcelsius either, or Web Intelligence. So once again SAP has presented us yet another tool that we have to figure out when to use.
John Schweitzer Keynote
John Schweitzer took the stage on Tuesday morning for the opening keynote speech. He and Adam Binnie recreated “Back to the Future” complete with a skateboard powered by a flux capacitor. They needed it to process the 1.21 petabytes of data. It was an entertaining skit, even if John messed up and called Adam “Adam” a few times rather than “Doc” as he was supposed to. I’ll post some more thoughts on the keynote when I get time.
Semantic Layer Influence Council
One of the primary benefits of ASUG membership is the ability to participate in influence councils. I have been privileged to be a member of the Semantic Layer influence council over the past year, and while I can’t tell you anything (or I will have to … you know) I can say that I am extremely pleased with the direction of the conversations and the progress being reported. Each council runs for a year, so this version will be retired and a new one will start. If you’re an ASUG member you can check on asug.com for details on when the new council opens up for applications. If you’re passionate (or at least have a passing interest) in the direction of the semantic layer, I encourage you to consider applying for a spot.
Go, Universe, Go!
I delivered my presentation titled, “Go, Universe, Go!” today just before lunch. I’ll have the session posted for download from my blog hopefully this weekend. To be honest, I covered a couple of topics that I’ve covered in some depth before here (shortcut joins and index awareness) but I also covered aggregate awareness, so expect a blog post (or two) on that subject soon.
The evening closed with the Developer Wars presentations and awards. All I can say is that if you were here at the conference and didn’t go to this event, you missed out on a lot of great fun. The teams all did fantastic, the judges tell me that the final scores were extremely close, and John Schweitzer did an awesome Simon Cowell impression. Gabe Orthous did a mean Johnny Depp impression as a member of the Irate Pie-Rates, a dragon mascot asked for chicken, and the red-tie and blue-tie candidates came to a consensus showing that apparently even politicians can make BI work. The fourth team did not do anything for costumes, but they presented four bags of groceries to the food bank, and their sponsor (Decision First) decided to award their final day booth prize ($250 gift card) to the food bank as well. The food bank provided the data for the different teams to use during the challenge.
It was great fun, and I think all of the participants agreed that we need to do it again next year.
It seems like every year I have new folks coming up to me and telling me stories about how BOB or my blog or something I have done has helped them solve a problem. If you are one of those people, please know that I genuinely appreciate the fact that you share your stories with me. Knowing that I have helped people is something that never gets old, so thank you.