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Author's profile photo Dennis Howlett

We’re Not Selling Anything

Last week, SAP Mentors manned a booth at the annual SAP UK & Ireland User Group Conference held in Manchester.

It was something of a landmark event for the Mentors since it was the first time that Mentors had been invited to take a booth by any of the User Groups. 

None of us are exhibition experts so designing and assembling a booth in less than 10 days was something of a challenge. John Appleby did the needful in fine style. How did the Mentors get on?  

From the get go we decided we wanted to ‘own’ the social media conversation and especially that coming through the Twitterverse. On his Bluefin blog, John notes:

  • 831 tweets reached 69,757 people containing #suguki10
  • 1,077,287 tweets were read overall containing #suguk10
  • 135 people were involved with #suguki10
  • At least 20 SAP mentors were involved from 4 separate continents

That’s impressive, regardless of whether you think Twitter is either useful or a waste of time. Even so, it is perhaps more a reflection of the impact Mentors can have along with the way Mentor relationships operate in the wider world. That in turn reflects the enthusiasm Mentors have for all things SAP. 

We had a lot of fun along the way. Again from John’s blog:

Early on, we were having some fun on the Twitter feed and Alan Bowling (SAP UK&I chairman) came over to see us. I thought that he was coming over to throw us out actually, or at least to chide us for teasing the User Group.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. Alan was gracious and wanted to learn about how to interact with social media – he crucially wanted to be part of the conversation. He asked for a session with the Mentors to understand how we can help each other and be a better pressure group with SAP together.

Going into the event, we had no idea what people would be interested in hearing. The first question on most people’s minds? ‘What are you selling?’ Maybe a banner next year that says ‘We’re Not Selling Anything’ would be a good starting point. 

We had to spend a lot of time explaining what Mentors do. It must have seemed confusing since we come at this from personal perspectives rather than from a clearly articulated vision. That taught me two important lessons. SAP Mentors need to:


  1. Define and refine a 30 second elevator pitch is needed. That requires a discussion with SAP. 
  2. Get better at talking about SAP Mentor community value. Mentors can only do so much. John suggests speaking slots at events but I think a lot more is needed. SAP does a great job using social media channels but these represent a minority of the communications that SAP users consume. 


Later in the conference I had a useful conversation with both Alan Bowling and Craig Dale, SAP UK&I UG CEO. We agreed that going forward, Mentors and the User Group will:

  1. Share product roadmap information. Mentors often get early access to technology SAP is either thinking about or is putting into production. The User Groups get similar access. The purpose of these interactions will be to act as a permeable membrane through which learnings can be shared.
  2. Help the User Group develop ideas around how customers/developers showcase innovations in a way that is a development of the DemoJam concept. How this happens has yet to be worked out. Alan told me the Dutch user group did something similar this year and it was well received.
  3. Encourage Business One users to come forward. The UK&I UG is keen to see B1 users gain more visibility. One way that can happen is through encouraging Community Network participation. That’s a lot tougher than it sounds and is part of a much larger conversation about how SCN moves forward.

I have a specific project related to SAP Business By Design that I need to parse via the SAP BYD team that will hopefully mean SAP user group people gain access to new information on that topic. 

Looking back, this was a great event for both SAP Mentors and the User Group. I sense Mentors are at an inflection point. In the past, Mentors have been largely wedded to SAP and its agenda. That is as it should be. Now the Mentors have a genuine opportunity to act as a permeable membrane between SAP and its users in new ways where everyone is a winner. SAP is emphasising customer engagement. This will always be a challenge because SAP and its customers have agendas that don’t always match. SAP Mentors are not faced with the same problem. 

What do you think? Do my conclusions make sense or am I drinking too much Mentor glory driven Kool-Aid? 

Endnote: thanks to everyone who made the event a success. Shout outs are at John’s blog. Check it out.

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      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      The title of this post and  a large part of the content resonates with my recent experience with SAP. Having fallen in love with SAP Streamwork I decided to buy a Pro account from the online Store and test drive for a client. After 5 attempts, using 3 different browsers I just gave up!

      What will wake the hell up of SAP??

      Author's profile photo John Appleby
      John Appleby
      I think that Streamworks remains considered a bit beta. But SAP are trying to improve it.

      For my money I'd suggest that they give away the Pro version for now until they get it adding value. Trying to extract revenue from a platform too early makes people feel like you do.


      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      I agree. You are right on. But, the online Store isn't Beta. You just can NOT have a BAD buying experience - no matter how good/bad a product is. Just to keep perspective - I am not whining about my experience - I am just drawing attention to issues that an average geek will consider just technical. What about User Experience, Brand image, etc.,? To SAP's credit they responded within minutes of my tweet & that is much appreciated.
      Author's profile photo Mark Finnern
      Mark Finnern
      Hi Dennis,

      Thanks for opening up the doors by convincing the SAP UK & Ireland User Group to trust us SAP Mentors with a booth. You plus all the other SAP Mentors on the ground: DJ Adams, Phil Kisloff, Owen Pettiford, John Appleby really made the best out of this opportunity. Special shout out to John Appleby who while having a big go life at a client also put in night shifts to get the background panels for the booth done.

      In addition to "We are not selling anything!" we also forgot to add Oliver Kohl's two word summary of SAP Mentor attitude: "Open Thinking!"

      Regarding the elevator pitch. The starting point is the text on the business card or on the SAP Mentor home page
      "SAP Mentors are the top community influencers of the SAP Ecosystem. Most mentors work for customers or partners of SAP. All of them are hands-on experts of an SAP product or service, as well as excellent champions for product roll-in and roll-out. They have been nominated by their peers on the basis of their passion for the community, their willingness to contribute and share as well as motivate others."

      I always see that as the starting point for the individual explanation, as the beauty of the mentor initiative is, that every mentor has a different background and story to tell.

      If your experience is that this is not enough, let's improve it, although it would be a pity to throw away all of the cards that John printed by accident 😉

      I love that you closed the loop with the User Group and it would be a dream come true that we recognize the complementary nature of SAP Mentors and the User Groups. Let's work in strengthening that relationship and everyone wins.

      It was great to be part of this from the far, actually was bummed that I wasn't on the ground to experience it first hand.

      Deep felt honest thank you all so much, Mark.

      Author's profile photo Dennis Howlett
      Dennis Howlett
      Blog Post Author
      @mark: Just to be really clear, the User Group invited us...we didn't ask to attend so in one sense this is a double win.

      I guess it is isn't always easy to explain what Mentors are about given the diversity of background. I think the fact 'we're not selling anything' took a number of people by surprise.

      Author's profile photo Mark Finnern
      Mark Finnern
      ... took a number of people by surprise.

      Going down the lane of partner booths, having my guard up ready to fend off sales pitches or open up the purse if the product aligns with my needs ...

      With that frame of mind to stumble upon the SAP Mentor booth with happy folks inviting you to a dialog with the welcoming words: "We have nothing to sell." Just creates a cognitive dissonance that would have tilted my head too for a while.

      Would have loved to experience that in real life. Thanks for sharing, Mark.