Sapphire Can Change Your Life in 2011

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Chris Edson from Edson Consulting Compares Sapphire in Madrid 2011 to Sapphire 1998

Following Rod Clarke’s blog; ‘Sapphire can change your life’, Chris Edson compares last week’s Sapphire, Madrid with its 1998 counterpart.

Many things have changed since ’98.  Not only have we entered a new millennium but we’ve witnessed the power of technology first-hand as we watched the events of 9/11 unfold before our eyes.  Social Media has arrived; Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter; which have revolutionised the way we communicate.  The world has 1 billion more inhabitants and last month saw the birth of the seven billionth person.  Back in Madrid, the fact that the pesetas in our pockets had been replaced by euros was not the only change…

I asked people at Sapphire what changes they’d noticed and the response was ‘almost everything’s changed’! On the surface, the conference seems to have transformed from large theatre presentations to lots of smaller ‘Microforums’ – meetings of around 15 people at conference tables. Other sessions were held in closed meeting rooms allowing customers to discuss specific topics openly. The Meet our Customers sessions were also very popular and the key note speeches are no longer held in auditoriums but delivered on the conference floor and shown in each hall on large screens.

The benefits of these changes are evident from the buzz that surrounds a contemporary day at Sapphire. The smaller sessions allow people to attend only those sessions of real interest to them. This means they can cover more detail and reach a better level of understanding of the specific topics that concern them. An example of this is where we discussed our recent success in delivering a CRM Loyalty project in one of the closed customer only sessions. We would not have been able to do this in the previous open format due to the competitive nature of the project but this session was by invitation only with the attendees screened beforehand.

Some attendee benefits have also changed.  No sign of the free conference back pack, T shirts or other goodies that used to be given to delegates.  Limo services that were freely available years ago now seem to be a thing of the past and my mode of transport in Madrid was white taxi or SAP bus. I also noticed that unlike the arrivals hall at previous events, SAP branding at the Airport was noticeable by its absence.

On the technology front, the Keynote speeches focused on Cloud Computing, In Memory Processing (HANA), Mobile and return to the CORE solution and whereas we used to discuss WAP, now we talk about mobile on many platforms all on smart phones (Iphone, Android, Tablets, windows phones, etc.)

Discussions at Madrid ’98 focused on massively parallel processing.   The hot topic at this year’s Sapphire was in memory computing or HANA. I spoke to several people who felt HANA (High-performance Analytics Appliance) was a game changing technology including a member of our team who is now convinced that we’ll be able to do complex analysis in real time within the business process.

In 1998, discussions revolved around the move from R/2 to R/3 (still a solution in one system). Since then we’ve experienced ECC and the separate modules of SRM, CRM, APO, BW… The keynote on Wednesday discussed the return to a CORE solution so; all in all, it seems we’ve gone full circle.

On a separate note, COPA is back in favour, powered by HANA in memory process technology, which is good as finance users always liked COPA. (Full circle again!)

Business Objects and Sybase have arrived in the SAP family and many more offshore companies are present.

Cloud computing has arrived and several solutions now appear on the cloud including Business ByDesign.  We used to talk about corporate network security; now we discuss cloud computing, security and the location of the data.

Finally we visited the Prado to retrace Rod’s steps from 1998. It felt like the one thing that’s remained unchanged in all this time and still exhibits inspiring artwork from Rembrandt, Monet, Rubens, Picasso and Matisse to name a few.

Chris Edson is Managing Director of Edson Consulting and leads the delivery of groundbreaking SAP projects.

 Rod Clarke is an executive coach who helps Businesses Succeed with IT

Edson Consulting delivers SAP projects and programmes, both across the UK and internationally. We focus on Project and Programme Management to ensure success. We also provide functional and technical services to realise these initiatives.

We’re different to our competitors in that we have a dedicated project delivery focus. This is reflected in our pricing, delivery methods and most importantly our delivery ethos.

We manage some of the most complex and challenging projects for some of the UK’s most successful companies.

If you would like to discuss your approach to SAP Projects or learn more about the transformation that Rod inspired in 1998 please contact us at or visit us at