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A few months ago I outlined some of the Making Sense of the 2011 BusinessObjects Conference Landscape out there, and then recently I attended one — SAPPHIRE/ASUG Annual Conference — for Pre-Judgment: ASUG Annual Conference/SAPPHIRE 2011. I had planned to blog every day, but honestly the whole thing just sort of got away from me, so I’m gonna throw my high-level thoughts out there now and circle back to the big ideas with later blog posts. I’m going to break this down into the three major value propositions from ASUG to try and keep myself on track.

Education

Probably the weakest option of the three for me, this particular facet of the conference is all about perspective. Because I am relatively technical (especially compared to most of attendees I ran into) I constantly found myself wanting when it came to gleaning really solid technical information. There just weren’t enough “facts” out there to do much with. As with all marketing efforts, SAPPHIRE is all about potential — what could I do if I bought some of this stuff, partnered with the right folks, and pulled out a big win. The “what” that could happen-type information was available in spades. The “how” do I do it was really lacking. There are lots of apps, especially in the BI space, being shown off on iPads, but there wasn’t much new for me to go download today, and with the general availability of BI4 still being somewhat nebulous (although, to SAPs credit they have really opened the door for those who want to play with it) it’s tough to come home from a conference without having anything significantly new to report to headquarters.

I recognize that SAP absolutely has to get out in front of their customers and promise things that aren’t quite ready for prime-time yet, but I feel they have been doing that for a while now in the broader Analytics category and not much has really materialized yet. HANA, the darling of the show last year, was also the darling of SAP TechEd, the Run Better Tour, and lots of other items. I’m not sure if this is due to difficulty in making things work, in properly packaging them, or just talking about stuff too early in the development cycle, but it feels very much like the stuff we talked about last week should have already been delivered.

Networking

The best way I think to describe the networking here is “a mile wide and an inch deep.” It was fantastic reacquainting with old friends, finally getting to shake hands with online acquaintances, and meeting altogether new people. The problem is that with all of those new faces I felt like I only had about 5 minutes to spend with each of them. I’m in sort of a unique situation (or at least I generally assume that I’m always special) straddling the BOBJ and SAP ecosystems, so it felt twice as bad.

I had three fantastic meetings — for three largely different groups of people — that I’d like to mention.

  • SAP Mentor Initiative Meet Up – It was great getting back together with the top community engagers in the global SAP world. Some new faces, some old faces, and always a good excuse to talk code, community, and cocktails (which should maybe be our new slogan).
  • DSLayer Tweet Up – Surprisingly we had like 15 people come and go throughout the evening. Whether we were eating or drinking, it was great talking BusinessObjects with some really dedicated technicians.
  • ASUG Volunteer Meeting – Always a pleasure to meet with the other dedicated folks who put your community experience above their own. Honestly, the passion in those rooms makes me wonder how people get enough value out of ASUG if they aren’t volunteers. Also? I was included in a group tentatively branded as the “A-Team of Data Monkeys.” Can’t wait to see the t-shirts.

Influence

This is, to me, one of the strongest reasons to attend an event like this. Lots of opportunities to change the direction of SAP product development AND the community. Hanging out at the ASUG booth gives you great opportunity so see both sides. Formal influence channels happen throughout the conference, and so do informal influence sessions (those which can include everything from begging a product owner to getting compromising photos of them) give you a real opportunity to get some stuff done, and since everyone is here, it is easy for an SAP person to not only hear your ideas but to quickly vet them with their other customers.

Conclusion

ASUG Annual Conference/SAPPHIRE is a great event, but you really have to set your expectations the right way. If you think you are going to walk away knowing how to implement a system or to catching up on the newest development trends, you’d probably be better off Making Sense of the 2011 BusinessObjects Conference Landscape. If you need to look ahead to products on the way or the changes you want to see in existing products, this conference is probably a great fit.

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9 Comments

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  1. It’s not completely unheard of, but @twailgum was right — the world did need another recap, or at least my small part of it. I watched what I could via the web, coming away very impressed by the promotional effort, but saw nothing new beyond which that could be gleaned from the office, or no value for us other than a big party, and I try to limit my exposure to those these days, particularly on my dime. Some of the relationships may have been valuable from a business perspective later on, but sounds like it would be rare for a lab innovator like ours, so appreciate your other post — teched sounds like a much better investment for us.
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    1. James Oswald Post author
      I hope it was helpful, and if I wasn’t clear enough in the post, Ingo is right – each conference definitely has a place, but you have to be careful and researched to make sure you go to the one (or two, or ten) that will provide you and your organization with the most value.
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  2. Ingo Hilgefort
    Hi Jamie,

    let me give you my view on this. Before I provide my view I would like to highlight the fact that my comments will focus on SAPPHIRE / ASUG annual conference, SAP TEchED and the SAP BusinessObjects Conference. There are several other conferences out there of very good quality but it would go beyond the scope of this comment here.

    SAPPHIRE / ASUG Annual Conference

    SAPPHIRE and ASUG conference is a conference focusing on the business user audience. This confernece has never delivered hands-on sessions, which is why there is SAP TechED.

    SAP TechED

    This is the conference for the complete SAP product portfolio to learn about the actual “how to” for all the products – including SAP BusinessObjects and any other products. The best example here is the co-location with the Sybase conference this September 2011.

    SAP BusinessObjects Conference.

    This is a conference that started last year and is focusing purely on two angles – (a) the SAP BusinessObjects BI and EIM portfolio and (b) customers that are not suing any SAP applications.

    so in a nutshell, a customer that runs SAP applications such as ERP, CRM, HCM, SAP HANA, SAP BW, and wants to learn the technical aspects of those applications or wants to learn how those applications integration with the SAP BusinessObjects portfolio – such a customer should come to the SAP TechED.

    A customer that is interested in “lessons learned” and sharing experiences with other customers but doesn’t necessarily need the real hands on experience should go and visit the SAPPHIRE / ASUG Annual conference.

    Customers that do not have any SAP applications and are interested in SAP BusinessObjects products should look at the SAP BusinessObjects conference but are also welcome at SAP TechED. The SAP BusinessObjects conference is looking at the customers without SAP applications.

    regards
    Ingo Hilgefort

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      1. Ingo Hilgefort
        Hi Jamie,

        the big differentiation between your view and my view is the SAP BusinessObjects Conference.

        SAP TechED is the place to go for customers that run SAP applications – including those customers that would like to learn how SAP BusinessObjects BI and EIM tools integrate with SAP.

        SAP BusinessObjects Conference might be the conference for customers using no SAP applications but I have to admit that the conference was not very “convincing” last year and did also not have much hands-on.

        regards
        Ingo Hilgefort

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    1. Thorsten Franz
      I don’t agree completely. I’ve been attending SAP TechEd since almost its first instance, and it was never about module (or Business Suite application) specific skills. So people with a focus on implementing and configuring a particular application will not find much information specifically related to “their” application (e.g. CRM, FI, HCM, etc.) at SAP TechEd. They’ll find that info at SAPphireNOW if their profile more closely resembles an end-user or first-level supporter, and at the SAP Skills Conference if they’re the SPRO-savvy application consultant type.
      TechEd is primarily for cross-application technological topics (platform, NetWeaver, development, BI/BW, some BOBJ, etc.).
      Cheers,
      Thorsten
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      1. Ingo Hilgefort
        Hi Thorsten,

        agree on the module specific part and perhaps I should have been more specific.

        ASUG / SAPPHIRE is more a “lessons learned” conference with less focus on the actual hands-on part.

        SAP TechED is where you can learn the actual hands on part and the implementation of the software.

        if it is around actual module specific knowledge you might have to go to two conference – TechEd for the Hands On part and a specific conference from SAP Insider, or SAP Skills for your specific horizontal or vertical area.

        ingo

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