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Author's profile photo J. Pazahanick

12 SAP Troublemakers

In a recent I’m outta here !! Dennis Howlett stated:

“I am one of SAP’s most vocal critics and bringing me into the Mentor group was not going to make one iota of difference to my position. It was a bold and     dangerous move. There needs to be a balance and having those who don’t slavishly suck the SAP Kool-Aid or guzzle its champagne is what SAP needs. That’s especially true as competition from the cloud vendors’ heats up.”

It is a great viewpoint and a very important topic for the long term sucess of SAP. It got me thinking about how few people are willing to publicly provide SAP with challenging and constructive criticism. Over the past 6 months I have written three articles that would meet that criteria including Why Workday is a Major Threat to SAP, SAP Certification Sale is Bad News and Is SAP Using the Right Mobility Strategy which hopefully give me additional credibilty when I write a very positive article such as SAP’s Golden Opportunity to use Co-Innovation to Make better Software. My goal in being more vocal on the difficult topics is to cultivate an open dialogue on areas I felt that SAP needed some tough love. Doing so has labeled me a “troublemaker” in some circles though I consider it a badge of honor.

Enclosed is a list of 12 people who have consistently and publicly shared smart and well researched opinions that have crossed the spectrum of nudging, challenging and criticizing SAP. Most of their articles also contain ideas and potential solutions to the issues they feel passionate about. I would highly recommend you read their articles as well as start following them on Twitter.

Dennis Howlett – Dennis is a SAP Mentor Alumni and probably the most well know “troublemaker” in the group. He has a lot of respect and credibility in the industry as his articles are always well thought out and he is not afraid to provide SAP some tough love (probably much more then they like). Some recent articles include SAP HANA Gut Check and SAP Mobile Inching Towards the Rest of the World. You can follow Dennis on twitter at @dahowlett.

Jon Reed – Jon is SAP Mentor and recently published an excellent article called SAP at the Crossroads. He also partners with Dennis Howlett on JD-OD which covers many important and difficult topics. He is the only one of the group that has a picture showing his rebel side (smile) and you can follow Jon on twitter at @jonerp.

John Appleby – John is a SAP Mentor and over the last year has written many articles that have cemented his reputation as a “troublemaker. Some examples include Oracle & SAP: sticks and stones may break my bones and SAP’s Mobile Strategy: Really? You can follow John on twitter at @applebyj.

Mark Finnern – Mark is the leader of the SAP Mentor wolfpack and it will probably surprise many people to see him on this list. He is responsible for creating the SAP Mentor Initiative and boldly selecting many of the people included on this list and providing them a vehicle to band together. The mentor program also provides a more prominent platform both within the community as well as with SAP Senior Management to express their views and constructive criticism. You can follow Mark on twitter at @finnern.

Thorsten Franz – Thorsten is a SAP Mentor and well known for his Kiss of Death for Web Dynpro Java – The Follow-Up Questions Kiss of Death for Web Dynpro Java – The Follow-Up Questions article which was quite controversial. Articles like that help provide additional credibility when he publishes a positive article on SAP such as Not your Grandfather’s SAP. You can follow Thorsten on twitter at @thorstenster.

Vijay Vijayasankar – Vijay is a SAP Mentor and has very effective style of writing articles often from the angle of asking difficult, open ended or challenging questions. Some great examples include A few HANA questions if I may? and What does it take for execution success at SAP? You can follow Vijay on twitter at @vijayasankarv.

Mico Yuk – Mico is a SAP Mentor and has been publicly vocal on all things SAP Business Objects related mostly via social media and twitter. An example of one of her articles is Four Burning SAP BusinessObjects 4.0 Questions Answered and you should follow Mico on twitter at @MicoYuk.

Michael Koch – Michael is a SAP mentor who isn’t afraid to be vocal with SAP and an example is SAP ByDesign SDK-A River runs through it. He is also part of the Certification 5 group with Jon Reed and Dennis Howlett, which has been very public in trying to influence change within the SAP Eduction group. You can follow Michael on twitter at @pixelbase.

Graham Robinson – Graham is a SAP mentor who recently wrote Thoughts on NetWeaver Gateway and appeared in Problems with SAP’s developer infrastructure model both of which sparked a lot of excellent discussion within the SAP community. You can follow Graham on twitter at @grahamrobbo.

Ethan Jewett – Ethan is a SAP Mentor who is isn’t afraid to be vocal with SAP and does so on a regular basis via Twitter. An example of one of his articles is Thoughts and questions about the HANA announcement and Ethan is definitely someone you should be following on twitter at @esjewett.

Thomas Wailgum – Thomas is the managing director at ASUG News and although many of his articles are from a reporting angle he is bringing important topics to the forefront such as SAP Licensing Negotiations: How to Turn the Tables. In addition, I believe as ASUG News continues to evolve we will start to see stronger opinions and challenging articles on the important issues facing SAP customers. You can follow Thomas on twitter at @twailgum.

Mark Chalfen – Mark is a newly appointed SAP Mentor who has written Have SAP’s Enhancement Packages lived up to their hype? and What were people at Sapphirenow saying about the new release strategy? which are important topics for SAP customers. You can follow Mark on twitter at @Mark_Chalfen.

In the context of this article being a “troublemaker” is something all these people should feel very proud of. It is a real badge of honor and shows how much they care about SAP as most of these people make their living in the SAP ecosystem. SAP also deserves a lot of credit as while other enterprise software vendors try to muzzle any negative or critical opinions SAP goes out of their way to engage with many of the individuals above. They do so by giving them special access to senior management, ensuring they are at all major confernces and influencer events, including them in the SAP mentor program and most importantly providing a platform such as the SAP Community Network where their views can be seen by 2.5 million members. My hope is going forward more people will be willing to challenge SAP when it is warranted as it can make a real difference as I know firsthand that the senior management team is listening. SAP might not always like what they hear but they are very open in trying to understanding challenging viewpoints as they are smart enough to realize how this can help them in the longterm.

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      Author's profile photo Thorsten Franz
      Thorsten Franz
      Wow - HUGE honor to be included in the troublemaker category and especially in this list of fine people, many of whom are role models I aspire to because of their depth of understanding, ability to see the big picture, and passion for what could become.
      It was Darren Hague who put it best. For maximum effect, imagine Darren with his beautiful English accent and slightly scholarly air: "Being an SAP Mentor is about being a pain in the are in the most constructive way possible."
      Words to aspire to. 🙂
      Author's profile photo Thorsten Franz
      Thorsten Franz
      Oops - Swype tried to be polite and crippled the quote. But you know what Darren said.
      Author's profile photo J. Pazahanick
      J. Pazahanick
      Blog Post Author
      Thanks and you are very deserving though two or three more "Not your Grandfather SAP" in a row and your badge may be revoked 🙂

      I love the quote by Darren Hague and it really applies to to outside the mentor program as well as I have no doubt there are 100's of people who have great insight that could help SAP.

      Author's profile photo Darren Hague
      Darren Hague
      Flatterer! 🙂

      I still hold true to those words, though as an SAP employee I have to be a bit less public about it these days - one of the reasons I am hanging up my SAP Mentor hat to make way for the amazing people who are coming into the wolfpack.


      Author's profile photo Mark Finnern
      Mark Finnern
      Hi Jarret,
      Love your list as 11 of the 12 are SAP Mentors 🙂 I would call them constructive criticizers. I understand that this wouldn't work as well as a headline 😉
      Trouble often implies up to no good, but the opposite is true for constructive criticism. They see a problem and point to a solution.
      What constructive criticism does is keeping us at SAP on our toes. It is an early warning system for us to pay attention to. It often hurts when we get it, but is a big benefit for SAP in the long run.
      When I check in with the people who's product/program have been criticized, they often tell me that it really helped them to crystalize the problem as well as bring urgency to a solution that before they didn't have the power to implement.
      This new reality of constructive criticism in combination with a more open, listening and reacting SAP is very positive: SAP ending up with products and solutions closer to what our customers want; Customers get better solutions closer to their needs and the peace of mind that comes form knowing that SAP is listening and changing their ways if you make a compelling case.
      The hardest part is setting the right expectations, as with a 50K employee organization only very few changes can be implemented over night and we are still sometimes struggling on how to really engage with our community.
      Thanks for including me in your list. If we selected a group of SAP cheer leaders, we would have missed the full potential of the SAP Mentor initiative.
      Here is to the misfits, the troublemakers, ...
      Keep it up, Mark.
      Author's profile photo J. Pazahanick
      J. Pazahanick
      Blog Post Author
      It is interesting as when I was finished pulling together the list I noticed that almost everyone was an SAP mentor but that was not my intention as I wanted to highlight the 12 I thought were the most deserving. I went for a more sensational headline but none of these people (including me) 🙂 are troublemakers in the true sense and constructive criticizers hits the nail on the head.

      Interesting to hear some of the back story on how SAP is using this feedback as well as some of the challenges. I love your final line "If we selected a group of SAP cheer leaders, we would have missed the full potential of the SAP Mentor initiative" and kudos to for ensuring that didn't happen.

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Is this a chicken-or-egg question? Maybe it's not a coincidence that 11 of the 12 troublemakers are SAP Mentors. Maybe they are Mentors BECAUSE they are troublemakers ... or, better said, because they are thoughtful, constructive criticizers.  Maybe that's one of the criteria to be an SAP Mentor.  Of course, there are other criteria, like being expert in an area relevant to SAP, humility, a desire to "give back" or help others or "pay it forward," and even some degree of confident contrarian attitude ... but constructive criticism (trouble-making) born of independent-minded critical thinking is definitely at the core.  I think we've stumbled into a key element of the secret formula that describes the SAP Mentor...


      Author's profile photo J. Pazahanick
      J. Pazahanick
      Blog Post Author
      You bring up an interesting point regarding the chicken or the egg and I think many of the people were selected because they were "thoughtful constructive criticizers" (along with obviously many other important characteristics).

      It is a real credit to SAP that they see the value that independent critical thinking can have on the company and openly encourage it (to a degree) by having a program such as the mentors.

      The other thing I didnt mention is the community does a great job of policing itself as unfounded critical or negative views against SAP often get dealt with very quickly in the comments and in many cases by the very "troublemakers" mentioned in this article.

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      I think one of the most powerful aspects of the Mentor program is that it isn't all troublemakers, all cheerleaders, all anything -- it's the people who work tirelessly to make SAP and it's community stronger. And I do count many of these folks as mentors to me, and perhaps more importantly friends, many of whom I have made my own trouble with.
      Author's profile photo Marilyn Pratt
      Marilyn Pratt
      Thanks for a great idea around celebrating "the troublemakers" and highlighting some of the most trusted canaries in the mines (hoping that they are more Phoenix like and will continuously be reborn rather than martyrs though).  I really will have to try harder to make next year's cut.
      Author's profile photo J. Pazahanick
      J. Pazahanick
      Blog Post Author
      Thanks Marilyn and it says something for how SAP changing (for the better) that it is a list you would want to be on 🙂

      SAP is lucky to people like you that encourage individuals to share their opinions both positive and negative (constructive criticism) and I am reminded by a comment you made on a blog earlier this year which sums it up perfectly.

      "So if we have an agenda here in SCN, it is to make sure the right eyes and ears are exposed to "the customer/ecosystem voice". We work hard to ensure that that voice is heard above the din of "attaboys" and what some call "the happy talk". Sure we are a vendor site with vendor content, but we are a community site, first and foremost on SCN. Those of you who are vetern here know that we on the "collaboration team" (the community advocates and evangelists and facillitators) are constantly working to educate internally as well as externally concerning the need for real, transparent, open dialouge. That includes the ugly, the very ugly, and the bad as well as the good stuff."

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      And the most awesome that I know most of them in real life... -:) Feel very luck of having such great and smart friends -;)


      Author's profile photo Tom Cenens
      Tom Cenens
      Hello Jarret

      I actually wrote a blog which touches the subject of troublemaking in one way or the other titled "A word of thanks"
      A word of thanks

      An extract from the blog: "Comments coming from active community members and SAP Mentors are not aimed at pulling SAP down. The goal is to provide feedback to SAP to encourage them to continue making great products so we can keep on going as well. The day we stop commenting and providing feedback, that's the day SAP has to start worrying."

      Looks like I agree to what you are saying here.

      Kind regards


      Author's profile photo J. Pazahanick
      J. Pazahanick
      Blog Post Author
      Hi Tom

      Thanks for the comment and that is a great quote in your article. I will say that it isnt always "easy" to give constructive criticism especially on a controversial topic but it is important and hopefully going forward we will see more of it.


      Author's profile photo Bala Prabahar
      Bala Prabahar
      Hi Jarret,

      As Marilyn mentioned, this is a great topic/idea. IMO posting this blog requires courage. Congratulations on a job very well done. The idea itself is innovative at some level. Mark Yolton summarized it well: "I think we've stumbled into a key element of the secret formula that describes the SAP Mentor...".

      Based on SAP employees' comments to this blog, one could easily understand SAP's confidence in their products, strategy, direction etc. They're asking us to challenge them because it seems they don't have enough challenges. That's how I read the comments of Marilyn, Mark F and Mark Y. Way to go, SAP!

      I don't know if I could ever become SAP Troublemaker; however I guess I could easily become SAP Troublemakers' Troublemaker(Does this indirectly mean becoming SAP Cheer leaders? I would let the readers decide:)).

      To Mark's comment "Here is to the misfits, the troublemakers, ...", I guess Steve set very high standards to being misfit, rebel, troublemakers. Here is a list of few examples from Steve Jobs:

      1) "When Jobs arrived in the Atari lobby wearing sandals and demanding a job, Alcorn was the one who was summoned." I was told, 'We've got a hippie kid in the lobby. He says he's not going to leave until we hire him. Should we call the cops or let him in?'. I said bring him on in!". Wearing sandals and demanding a job... Anyone in the list has done something similar?

      2) Steve refused to have a License Plate on his car. Instead he replaced his car every 6 months(He took advantage of a loophole). This is probably a good example for being Troublemaker/rebel. Anyone in the list has done something similar?

      Life feels so good after reading Steve Jobs, participating in SDN discussions and disturbing the comfortable(Dennis, thanks for that quote. In case I'm using it in wrong context, someone, please correct me).

      Best regards,

      Author's profile photo J. Pazahanick
      J. Pazahanick
      Blog Post Author
      Hi Bala

      Thanks for the kind words and always appreciate your well thought out comments. I have seen your Troublemakers Troublemaker first hand during my Workday article 🙂

      It is great to have a community where everyone from SAP Employees, Customers and Consultants can come and share their views both positive and negative as well as have immediate feedback in the comments (and on social media)

      As far as two questions regarding the examples from Jobs I am pretty straight laced and havent done anything close to either of those. Guess that is the reason I didnt make the top 12 list 🙂

      Author's profile photo Jon Reed
      Jon Reed

      Thanks for publishing this. It takes some guts to put this out there, but I believe that those who challenge SAP to be better are a big reason why SAP becomes better.

      As Thorsten said I'm humbled to be on this list amongst many colleagues I respect. There are plenty who could have been added, here are a few who make my personal list of those who "move the SAP needle":

      Marilyn Pratt - her work often impacts SAP in powerful ways, she has a way of seeing around the corner to the issues we need to talk about. The "What Would Marilyn Pratt Do?" video on is but one document of her efforts. The inclusion events have pushed the right envelopes. Behind the scenes Marilyn advises many of us, she has been instrumental for example in helping the Certification Five. When I think savvy advancement of the cause versus shouting into the wind, she's one who has provided plenty of that kind of guidance to me and countless others.

      - Jim Spath - the ultimate straight shooter. Amongst others: Jim has had  an especially big impact on issues of sustainability in the SAP community. He always keeps it real when it comes to SAP tech hype versus customer needs and reality.

      And then a few outside voice that matter:
      Ray Wang,
      Frank Scavo, Brian Sommer
      Brian Sommer. They may not write about SAP every day, but the breadth of their know-how and their trenchant critiques have brought a lot to SAP, teaching me and many others a great deal in the process. SAP execs listen very closely to these guys and for good reason. Brian doesn't have a Twitter presence so I added a link to his blog instead. And we can't forget Chris Kanaracus who breaks many important SAP stories with the kind of diligent primary research most reporters can't be bothered with. He doesn't pull any punches yet he does it without an axe to grind. In fact, just today he posted an article about negotiating with SAP that's worth a look.

      A complete list would be very long but those are a few that have to be mentioned in my view. However I would hasten to add that it's the collective voices that have the most impact. I hope your post encourages others to put their views out there.

      - Jon

      Author's profile photo Jon Reed
      Jon Reed
      Hmmm... SCN didn't like my HTLM link hacks very much. Oh well, at least the links work. Vinnie Mirchandani Was supposed to be on the "outside views" list with Frank, Brian, Ray.

      - Jon

      Author's profile photo J. Pazahanick
      J. Pazahanick
      Blog Post Author
      Hi Jon

      Thanks for the comments as well as the kind words. It is great that you added some folks that you feel "move the SAP needle" and hopefully others will do the same.

      I tried to write it from a perspective of people who focus mostly on SAP but your "outside voices" are a great group of individuals I personally follow and have a lot of respect for. From that angle you could easily include Vinnie Mirchandani as well.

      Lets hope that going forward more "constructive criticizers"(per Mark Finnern)come out of the woodwork as SCN already has enough "kool aid" drinkers 🙂

      Author's profile photo Nigel James
      Nigel James

      Great Stuff Jarret, I for one would put you on the list because I know you wouldn't put yourself there. I am also glad to be know most of this list personally and love their work.

      I also love Darren's quote and I try to be a pain in the neck for SAP in the most constructive way possible.



      Author's profile photo J. Pazahanick
      J. Pazahanick
      Blog Post Author

      Thanks Nigel and if being a "troublemaker" will help my SAP customers (and SAP) than I will wear it as a badge of honor.

      It was interesting how many turned out to be SAP mentors and in hindsight I realized that I left off Jim Spath who should have been included.