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Playing Games at SAP TechEd 2011

This year’s SAP TechEd held in the world’s capital of gaming – Las Vegas – got off to an aptly appropriate start with a keynote presentation from Dr. Jane McGonigal entitled “Gamification” explaining how inventing new work and business practices based around games that engage employees, customers and vendors in the workplace is about to explode into a multi-billion dollar market space.

Citing examples from companies like Zappos, Dr. McGonigal quite convincingly explained how games create positive emotions like joy, relief, love surprise, pride, curiosity, awe, contentment, creativity and excitement. Judging by my own teenage son’s reaction after playing World of Warcraft or Call for Duty, I might add a couple more emotions to that list.

A recent study estimated that people around the world spend a total of 3 billion hours a week playing online games alone which certainly would indicate that we like playing games. At the same time, the cost for not being positive in the workplace has been estimated to cost businesses around $300 billion a year. McGonigal explained that the opposite of play is not work but depression and that games can help to create “super empowered, hopeful individuals” and make work more fun than fun!

We then played a game of “massively multiple player Thumb Wrestling” to show how playing games gets our oxytocin flowing and makes us feel good and I must admit that I left the session pretty upbeat but with some sore thumbs!

The next day it rained – a rare occurrence for Las Vegas and I got pretty wet running to the Starbucks to get my wakeup fix. The detour made me late for the first keynote so I ran across the bridge from the Starbucks to the Venetian which was not very smart on that slippery surface. About half way across, I saw my feet appearing at the same height as my chest and my butt was the next part of my body to strike the ground. I had but one thought – “Save the Café Mocha”!  It was in my right hand which I held high and upright and despite some nasty bruises and soaking wet pants, the Mocha was saved.

I entered the keynote dripping wet and sore but triumphant (Mocha in hand) as I watched a video of Hasso Plattner declaring once again how SAP has reinvented itself in terms of technology through HANA. The theme was continued with several case studies and video testimonies, including showing how HANA can analyze a boat load of data faster than someone can bake a cake. It was all very similar to Sapphire four months earlier. Interestingly, a quick show of hands in the audience of over 4,000 indicated that less than 2% of attendees were considering HANA in the next 12 months.

There was some mention of Sybase and Sybase IQ with an impressive established install base of customers.

Then there were breakout sessions galore although, like Sapphire, not that many on BusinessObjects.

One session that I did find very interesting was entitled “Pervasive Location Analytics” which was an intriguing look at the growing significance of the location dimension in data and how Google, in particular, have had a big influence on this. There was a fascinating case study shown where the Guardian Newspaper in the UK  (www.Guardian.co.uk) used location analytics to determine if poverty was a factor in the recent riots in the UK. By layering the locations where the riots occurred and arrests were made with the location of the addresses of those arrested with a heat map of the average income level of those areas, they were able to see a correlation.

The presenter mentioned that SAP has recently signed a 3-year deal with Google to use Google Maps and other Google location API’s with its applications and they had also signed a partnership agreement with Centigon Solutions (www.CentigonSolutions.com) to use and resell their Google Maps plug-in for Xcelsius dashboards.

Like Sapphire, TechEd is just too big with too much going for me. It is hit or miss on the sessions (some useful, some not). I am not sure if I will go next year but, if I do, I will definitely avoid playing thumb wars and running on wet slippery bridges.


If you are interested in the idea of gamification, here’s a TED talk from Feb 2010 by Jane McGonigal on how Gaming Can Make a Better World.

About Paul

Paul Grill, Co-Founder and CEO of Infosol Inc., is an information technology guru with more than 40 years’ experience in the IT industry. Recognized as an industry expert, Paul’s vision is to collaborate and develop long-term global relationships, resulting in the successful implementation of business intelligence solutions. Paul believes a company’s success with Business Intelligence is a combination of data and people’s insights and actions. He believes in the coexistence of technologies. With a strong portfolio of clients ranging from fortune 50 companies, start-ups, and middle market, Paul takes pride in his ability to deliver positive transformations impacting company’s productivity and profitability through the application of business intelligence. He is often heard saying that “data holds amazing nuggets that can be used to create limitless BI solutions that make a difference in people’s lives”. Throughout Paul’s career, he has been a speaker, lecturer, and writer sharing his passion for Information Technology and Business Intelligence. On a personal note, Paul is an avid runner, Tai Chi practitioner, and youth soccer coach. Paul’s curiosity for knowledge expands beyond technology with a passion for Ancient Egyptology and Gorillas.

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