Every year around this time, I find myself in arguments with people who don’t see the relevance of SAP TechEd to business users. That’s too bad, because I think SAP TechEd is the grand prize of all the SAP shows, for business users and unapologetic tech geeks alike. So I decided to tape a video rant about it, and also share a few ideas for building a business case for SAP TechEd, since nobody flies for free these days. I even donned a tie for the video to mark the occasion. And no, SAP didn’t ask me to shoot this video. In fact sometimes SAP itself plays down the business relevance of TechEd, which is a shame.
I should add that if you do end up watching the video and going to SAP TechEd, let me know. I’m planning to go to SAP TechEd Vegas, but I have friends attending the others as well – we’ll make sure to get you introduced so you have an awesome time.
If you’re in too much of a crunch this week to watch the video, here’s a few highlights:
1. SAP technology and business is converging. Geeks and suits are morphing and fluid identities. Process-driven ERP (6.0) requires us to understand process orientation and end-to-end business, but also how to map those scenarios into SAP solutions. Knowing what you can do and what you can’t is critical. You’ll find answers to those questions at SAP TechEd.
2. SAP TechEd does have tracks with plenty of business content – the Business Intelligence and BPM tracks in particular. It’s hard to imagine an outstanding SAP professional going forward who does not have some grasp of BI and BPM trends. The BPM additions to SAP’s ASAP methodology are one key point.
3. SAP TechEd is the most soulful SAP event of the year because it’s driven by the community. The Community Clubhouse is the heart of TechEd and excellent expert networking discussions and informal talks go down there. Better SAP networks translate into better SAP teams (not to mention a better SAP career).
Well, if this video rant has had any impact on your desire to go to TechEd, then you may find yourself in the position of building a business case for attendance.
Here a few keys:
A. Make sure that the project team is clear that TechEd is not just for “techies.” To get across the range of sessions available, share links of the relevant session tracks.
B. Explain how your role can be enhanced by TechEd attendance. For example, one person I talked to is involved in working as a liaison to a technical team that uses SAP’s Composition Environment (CE). So, attending a few CE-related classes should help this person work better with CE colleagues.
C. Propose a reporting structure that will allow you to return to your company after the conference and share the lessons learned. This could include: tutorials with other team members and/or management-level presentations of what you have learned.
D. Remind your team that companies (even competitors) freely share valuable information at such conferences, including the ups and downs of implementing products that may be on your “short list” of projects on the horizon.
E. Point out that SAP sends leaders in its product management group to these sessions – valuable contacts you will be able to call upon after returning. (Example: last year, one person I talked to about attending TechEd had some PLM-related responsibilities. A contact at SAP verified that some of the key PLM product leaders inside SAP will be at TechEd).
Finally, as I wrote last year, don’t fear the geeks – especially of the “Enterprise” variety. There’s a ton to learn from deep dives with the technical virtuosos.
Note: if you want some more ammunition to build your business case for SAP TechEd attendance, check out the longer piece I did last year, “Making the BPX Business Case for SAP TechEd 2009,” which draws on interviews I did with SAP’s Marco ten Vaanholt.