I am off to SAP SAPPHIRE in Orlando, and in spite of time spent away from the ‘day job’ at a tough time, the cost/budget issues, and the awfulness of air travel these days, I’m looking forward to the show for the value it will bring me. Given my frequent comments about how we can use a variety of tools to access information and share knowledge, this might seem to be a surprising statement, so what is it that drives me to really want to go to the event? Simple answer is ‘innovation’. To put it another way, if I know what it is that I want to learn about then I can use a product selector and various tools to collate and collaborate around the focussed issue. So I don’t need to be at a trade show to extend or expand what I know today. But that’s not the challenge for many of us – we need to find the breakthrough ideas that can change the game for our department or even our enterprise, and that means, ‘I don’t know what I don’t know’. People go to trade shows to be subjected to a cascade of brand-new things, and that’s a whole lot more than just the new products, though granted they are pretty important enablers! Many of these products are not prescriptive in their use; they are as much tool kits that allow for flexibility and differentiation in how they can be used, and so I find myself irresistibility drawn to insights in what other people see as the key issue and how they address it. The commoditisation and industrialisation of the IT industry is a long way away from some of the discussions that I have had at industry events this year. At SAPPHIRE I fully expect to meet a wide selection of our existing clients among many others, and to be challenged on new topics around what Business wants and needs from technology, as well as how that can be integrated with the equally pressing needs of the enterprise IT systems to meet compliance goals. I don’t expect it to look like a SAPPHIRE of, say, three years ago when it was all about knowledge of the products, and experience in rolling out the products on large projects. Instead I expect to discuss how to use the ERP systems, etc. as a part of quick, high-impact business capabilities around supporting people to optimise how they work. Am I right in this thinking that there is a new interest in Trade Shows? Well, I have been to a couple this year already and was amazed to find that the crowds were back, but very selective in what and who they wanted to spend time with. It was pretty clear that people were attending for fact-finding input to their planning of activities, and that a trade show enabled them to achieve a rapid scan, filter and evaluation. Could you do the same with collaboration tools? Well, yes, but frankly at this stage it would still be very hard to find what you don’t know you are looking for! So, I hope to see you at SAPPHIRE, and I would love to get this and any other subject challenged with a really interesting discussion! Oh, and if you are interested, you will be able to listen to my own contribution with my colleague Puneet Suppal at SAPPHIRE, as a basis for the discussion. If you are going to be there then I would be delighted to meet you. I will mostly be in the Capgemini booth (#700). I will be working as one of the 'experts' in the stand, doing ad hoc consultations for visitors, and as a further inducement to come and see us, you can also enter to win an Amazon Kindle preloaded with my book Mesh Collaboration. Click here for full details of Capgemini’s participation at Sapphire, and register for my presentation with Peter Maier of SAP on Wednesday, May 13 at 10:30 am.