From Local to Global
Insights and Learnings from SAP d-kom 2021
This article is about a project that has managed to build and strengthen relationships between 30,000 people worldwide. And, as you notice, it is written in English. This is because we are talking about a global project and we want to share the insights globally as well.
This article is about "SAP d-kom 2021". The abbreviation dkom stands for "Development Kickoff Meeting" and is an annual event where SAP developers network and inform each other about the latest strategy updates.
We would like to share a few valuable insights and personal learnings with you from this huge project. To this end, we have – among other things – recorded a podcast show with Sabine Dörken and Bruno Volpi, both Co-Leads for dkom on SAP side and Sven Rudeloff, our project lead on the side of ottomisu. So if you prefer to listen instead of reading, just click on the play button below.
If you'd rather get a brief overview and see some pictures of the event first, and if you're also curious about the people behind the project, this short film is recommended.
Welcome back to all who have chosen to read. In this article we explore one particular question: What were the success factors of this global event for and in the developer community of SAP. In order to avoid getting lost in all the information you will find, we'll start with a kind of table of contents.
- The bare figures.
- New ideas for virtual networking
- A corporate radio station conquers hearts
- Global concepts need agility and co-creation
- World peace seems possible.
The Bare Figures
First of all, I would like to give you some impressive numbers about SAP d-kom 2021:
3 DAYS worldwide
500 hours of content
600 Total Content related Sessions
30.000 registered attendees from 55 countries
1 Studio worldwide for Live Show & 3 more for Pre-Recordings
2 Time Zones. Asia Pacific, Central European & America.
10+ Keynotes, Pre-Shows and Entertainment Shows
270+ Lecture style - Big Picture & Next Level Sessions
270+ Live Q&A Sessions
40+ Conversation Session
18+ Hands-On Workshops
1 Virtual Experience Platform
1 Chatbot with over 4.900 intents
72 Hours of SAP d-kom radio one
42 Games and activities Sessions
1.000+ Contributors within SAP
Well, this not only sound, it was definitely a lot of work. So let's take a closer look at what made SAP d-kom 2021 so special.
It all began in April 2020 with intensive consultations and the very early and clear decision on the part of those responsible at SAP to plan the dkom globally and as a virtual event.
Turning the previously very different local events at the various locations into one global event turned out to be complex but feasible. Nevertheless, there were now a number of real challenges that needed to be solved. Let’s have a look at them.
New Ideas for virtual networking
Starting with the centerpiece of any live event. Meeting new people and catching up with old acquaintances during casual exchanges. In the real room, this usually happens at the coffee bar or in corresponding networking areas. But – surprise – It doesn't work that way at virtual events.
This is exactly one of the major challenges since the beginning of the pandemic. As Sabine Dörken mentions: “You cannot just open a virtual room and expect people to go there and talk to each other.” So the idea came up to instead give each of those “Hang Out Spaces” a theme. There were for example "Activity Channels" for cooking, percussion, yoga or Bollywood dancing with an instructor. But of course, also SAP topics like "Ideation and Creativity" or the question "What will developers do in 2030?".
What did virtual networking look like at d-kom 2021 and how did it work out in the end? Bruno Volpi says: „Among those instructors (in the 'Hang Out Spaces') we had a lot of SAP colleagues who were teaching others. This led to a more personal Approach and was certainly one of the success factors.” Another crucial element was certainly the integration of Slack. Again Bruno: "Developers use Slack every day, they know how to use it. So we decided to use it during the event as well, to allow developers to network."
TIP: If you're planning events in an unfamiliar form, use tools that attendees already know. Or give them a chance to familiarize themselves with a new solution and how it works beforehand.
Sven sees it from a different perspective. Less on the limiting factors and more on the opportunity that lies in virtual networking. “When we developed dkom as a virtual Event, we gave the developers community the chance to really come together globally for the very first time.”
A Corporate Radio Station Conquers Hearts
Another special thing was a real radio station broadcasting throughout the Event. Some said, it gave a voice to the event platform. Of course, radio is neither a new nor an innovative format. So why did it work so well for dkom? Sabine “The audience was involved, they could send greeting and salutations around the world, wish for songs or just listen to music. Beyond that, topics and agendas were continuously announced and there was a real radio professional sitting at the microphone".
Bruno remembers with pleasure “Of course, Radio is not new. But we must not forget that our target group has grown up with the radio. Beyond that, sometimes even developers are overwhelmed with all the new tools and applications the pandemic introduced to our daily life. So our “Radio One” was a nostalgic piece. An old school format that led to old school conversations.” And Sabine adds: “Just nice and human.”
Global concepts need agility and co-creation
The project team has consistently made the perspective of the developers their guiding principle for the conception. There even were "sounding boards" in which they directly involved developers and asked "How do you want to experience this? What topics are you interested in and how do we need to prepare them?"
But they also thought hard about presentation packaging and delivery. For example, by recording presentations in advance and then combined them with live Q&A during the event. And there were clear guidelines for the speakers and their presentations, as well as different image formats in the live screen.
Looking back, what was the most important or let’s say effective part of the conception phase? Bruno remembers very clear “The Co-Creation!” and Sabine adds “Absolutely. The agile approach helped a lot. We had the first concept in summer 2020 when none of us was an expert in planning a virtual event of that size.” While Sven looks back a little further: “Developing a concept for the dkom with co-creation has always been common, already with the live events of the past years. Nevertheless, we started from scratch.”
World peace seems possible
Speaking of the last few years. Previously, each location of SAP (from Shanghai to Palo Alto) had its own dkom event. Some smaller, some larger. Now, for the first time, dkom 2021 was held as one event simultaneously and globally.
The big question was, how to synchronize so many regional mentalities, peculiarities and approaches and how to authentically integrate this very diverse global community of developers and create a kind of one-team spirit.
“Not least through the co-creation approach, the project team was already very diverse. We had a good gender balance as well as many different people from around the world. Plus, we had the “Sounding Board”. That was really important. You know we had so many different locations, cultural and time zone aspects as well as many different content interests and the Sounding Board gave us feedback on a monthly basis. This made it easy to include all perspectives and desires and to integrate everyone,” Bruno explains. And Sabine becomes almost philosophical at this point “We are not that different. We all want to learn.” And Sven also seems very touched by his experience “When you get to realize such a global project with so many people around the world, you realize again how close we actually are and wonder why world peace seems so hard."
Famous last words
Already looking forward to SAP d-kom 2022, Bruno uses an old German football wisdom: “After the event is before the event. We are already creating new ideas.” Sabine hopes that by then a little normality will have returned and maybe even a hybrid event will be possible. In addition, based on the many insights she has gained, she is a little more specific in her approach to the content for January 2021 "Maybe less is more." While Sven picks up on Sabine's thought and is already gripped by passion again. "Maybe we'll do a global hybrid event. I don't think that's ever been done before".
With this in mind, dear SAP developers: See you all at d-kom 2022.