SAP TechEd is around the Corner
You haven’t signed up for SAP TechEd 2010 yet? Still wondering how to get your boss to approve the conference fees and travel expenses for the event? It may be easier than you think because SAP TechEd is really worth the money. Let me share my approach to getting my boss’s approval.
I’ve been a regular attendee almost since 1998, when I started working in the SAP field as a junior developer. I don’t think I’ve missed a single TechEd since 2000, and in most of those years I was the only person from our company who attended the conference. During most of those years, money – especially for training and consulting – was very tight. (My boss was very generous when it came to ordering books, however.)
Ten Miles barefoot through Snow Storms
In a second, I’m going to sound like an elderly person who tells you that as a child, they had to walk ten miles barefoot through snow storms to school every day, but please bear with me. Here it comes: When I was a junior developer, my colleagues and I were happy if we could book one consultant for one day every six months. We used to spend weeks and sometimes months on problems before we were able to present them to an external consultant with a lot of experience. Months before the long-awaited visit of the consultant, we would compile lists of all the problems we hadn’t been able to solve, and try to go through all of them with the expert.
Fig. 1: Ten Miles barefoot through Snow Storms
The occasion to attend SAP classroom trainings was very rare – maybe one person per team was sent to one brief training per year, and our boss used to act as if he had just let four litres of blood after approving that. I used to always bring a lengthy list of really hard problems to trainings hoping the teacher would be able to provide answers. Of course this didn’t always work because the teachers were often very good at teaching but not necessarily the best technical experts, but it was still always worth a try.
The Value of SAP TechEd
Then I discovered SAP TechEd. This was (and still is) a yearly conference with plenty of hands-on sessions. The hands-on sessions are mini training classes that last between two and six hours and consist of highly compact lecturing and hands-on exercises. In my experience, one hands-on session is worth two to three days of classroom training. Thanks to the exercises, you gain valuable experience. Thanks to the fully set-up environment, you have the chance to explore and try your own things in an environment you may not have access to at your site.
The speakers are always accomplished experts, often the top experts in the respective field, who can answer even the most difficult questions you’re able to throw at them. These guys were infinitely better than the regular consultants at our site – so this was the chance to ask the people who had actually developed the SAP standard code. Wow! They were able to say: No, you can’t do that with the current release but it will be a breeze starting with SP 15, because they had just programmed that functionality. Or they could say: That’s a reasonable suggestion, I’ll implement that in the next release. Or they could just come up with a clever way for me to solve the problem which I hadn’t thought of.
- So I would take home many precious answers to my own and my colleagues’ pre-compiled lists of hard questions.
- I would get an idea of future developments and exercise a however tiny influence them.
- I would attend many sessions in new areas and get a broad view of SAP’s technology landscape now and in the near future. Even as a beginner, I found it very satisfying and helpful to my career to look beyond the rim of the plate.
- I would take back print-outs (or USB sticks) with other presentations on them even if I hadn’t had the time to attend them. This would be valuable material to work through later or pass on to colleagues.
- I would act as a multiplier and pass on as much possible of my new knowledge to the colleagues who didn’t attend.
I understood that if I managed to attend four hands-on sessions, SAP TechEd would be worth roughly twelve training days in Walldorf and at least four consulting days (because five minutes with a guru from Walldorf were usually much more valuable than a day with a mediocre consultant).
Here’s the Deal
So here’s the deal I proposed to my boss: “Send me to SAP TechEd and
a) I won’t require any training classes all year and
b) we can cancel the consulting days we have scheduled for my next two projects and
c) I’ll be happy.”
Since my first SAP TechEd well ten years ago, I have had a number of different bosses, and money was more or less tight in the different phases our industry has since gone through. But each of my bosses saw that sending me to SAP TechEd was a smart move especially because of points a) and b) and maybe also because of c). Even those bosses who were extremely reluctant about spending even small amounts of money could always see that this was a very good deal for them.
Fig. 2: Saving Money
Changed Scope, same Rationale
Today, I feel very privileged to attend SAP TechEd as a speaker and SAP Mentor. I work as a software architect, where understanding what SAP has in store for us, getting an idea of technology trends, estimating the respective degrees of maturity and understanding the strategic roles of SAP’s various products is more important to me than a list of bugs and implementation issues. The event itself has changed, too, turning from teacher-centered teaching to a community-centered networking and influencing opportunity.
But my rationale behind visiting SAP TechEd is still the same, and the same arguments are still valid and convincing: It saves us much more money than it costs (and it makes me happy).