kitchener (small).pngA little under a year ago I joined the world of SAP.  I’ve been working in IT for some time now in a wide variety of roles, but it is only relatively recently that I’ve entered into the mysterious and at times daunting world of SAP.  Whilst I have experienced and helpful colleagues I can call upon for assistance they are not my only source of the latest SAP related information.

The SAP Community Network (SCN) is something I actually came across whilst preparing for my original interview and has been on my browser bookmarks list ever since.  Quite honestly it’s a gem of a resource for anyone involved with SAP and I try to set aside a bit of time each day to at least have a read through some of the ever growing repository of information.

If you’re reading this I’d probably be wasting my time if I tried to explain to you why it’s so useful.  However some people only really use a fraction of SCN.  They only consume the content.

This is the first of a short series of posts where I’m going to explore the experience of contributing to SCN and to kick things off I’m going to take a look at the question “should I contribute to SCN?”

The Barriers

The question is one that I’m guessing many (but not all) of the users of SCN have already answered for themselves and it was something I asked myself very early on when I started actively using it.  But it’s also a question that can be reviewed.  It maybe the reasons you had yesterday do not apply today.

When I made my decision, I actually began by flipping the question around and asking myself why I shouldn’t contribute to SCN.  What were the things that would stop me being able to contribute?

1) I don’t have enough time

The first reason I came up with was time.  Time is a very precious commodity in my life.  It’s finite, non-transferable and there are big demands on it.  I don’t want to waste the time I do have, so if I’m to spend some of my time contributing to SCN I want to see some sort of return on my investment.

2) I don’t know anything worth sharing

The second reason I came up with was that I don’t want to look like an idiot.  I know I’m new to this particular field and I know I don’t have all the answers.  There are lots of other people out there with more experience and who are contributing really good content.  If I get involved will I give people bad information?  Will I look like someone who doesn’t know what he’s talking about?  Will this reflect badly on me (and anyone associated with me)?  Is my reputation going to suffer?

To be honest, when I thought about these two points I almost decided on the spot not to contribute and not to bother to considering any of the potential benefits.  After all it would take some seriously good points to counter these impediments.  Yet here I am spending my precious time writing a blog post that the entire planet could disagree with.  Why?

The Incentives

Well I did of course look at what incentives there were to contributing to SCN.  The idea being that maybe these could be balanced out against the barriers.  Here’s what I came up with.

1) Reputation

Just like the stock market, reputation can go down as well as up, but SCN has a very positive approach to reputation.  Beyond the fact that they actually use a contribution rewards system called ‘reputation’, the community as I’ve seen it is universally supportive of it’s members and there is a general vibe of encouragement.  I wouldn’t go as far as to say chastisement and snarky comments never occur (there is a system to report such things in place after all), but they are relatively rare and the moderators I think are swift to act.

I think SCN has a maturity that has developed over the years to a level where it is a safe environment for even the newest member to contribute to the best of their own ability without fear of reprisal from their peers or looking foolish.  That being said if you are someone who tries to bluff your way through life I’d recommend a more open and honest approach to your contributions on SCN.

2) Networking

SCN is at it’s core a Social Network (it’s even in the term – S-o-C-ial N-etwork).  It’s a system designed to ease the way we interact with each other over large distances and allows us to draw upon the collective knowledge and experience of a vast array of people.  If you don’t contribute then the network is at least partially closed to you.

If you just lurk in the background not really interacting with anyone you’re not going to have the best possible experience.  If it helps, think about SCN as a party.  Would you want to be at a party not knowing or talking to anyone or would you in fact have a better time talking to people, making new friends and generally sharing thoughts and opinions with them?

Social networks are also believed to be integral to the way we’ll be working in the not too distant future (if not now).  The workforce entering the market today don’t remember a time before the Internet.  In a few more years they won’t remember a time before Facebook.  They’re always connected and appear to interact with one another seamlessly using social networks.  The best way that you’re going to have of communicating with this new wave of digital natives is to connect yourself (not quite like in the Matrix just yet) into social networks that are in the domain in which you want to operate – for SAP that’s SCN.

If you don’t adapt and embrace these cultural changes, then you risk some element of obsolescence.  Nobody wants that.  Nobody wants to be thought of as obsolete and nobody wants someone else to be obsolete when they could potentially be someone they could learn a lot from.

3) Skills

Everyone has a set of skills.  They develop with practice and experience and they atrophy if they are not used.  SCN provides an opportunity to hone existing skills and develop new ones.

Writing for the various parts of SCN tend to require a different approach to writing an e-mail, project document or report.  Choosing the right words and style can often times be difficult as you don’t know exactly who your audience will be.  But the more you write the better you get – or at least that’s the theory.

Even connecting and interacting with people in a virtual community like SCN can develop new skills.  Whilst messaging someone might be like instant messaging or e-mailing (more familiar communications mediums for most), initial contact online is an entirely different experience and skill to meeting someone in person.

Weighing Up

So where did that leave me?

I’ve been blogging and using social networks for quite a few years now and so the skills side of things wasn’t as big of a selling point as it might have been.  The reputation and networking aspect however were very compelling.  The chance to connect and build relationships with more people translates to me quite simply as more opportunity.  If I’m stuck on something I have a bigger group to ‘crowd-source’ a question to.  Some people may even begin to value my opinion and experience more such that it leads to new business opportunities.

The opportunity to make a fool of myself is one that I’ve always found a little unsettling.  I choose my words very carefully and try to provide as honest an answer as I can.  If I don’t know for sure and I’m having a guess I’ll say so.  Sometimes I’m right and sometimes I’m wrong.  In either case I think the majority of people can appreciate that I’m trying to be helpful and that I’m being open about my level of certainty.

I’m also a great believer in the idea that you learn more from your mistakes than your successes.  If you get everything right first time every time, then you’ve nothing to push for and aspire to.  A few mistakes here and there can push you to greater achievements.  Invention, experimentation and innovation all rely on attempting something new.

In terms of my time, that’s the stickiest point.  It’s the one I struggle with most often and I’m guessing is the one that is the tipping point for most SCN users considering contributing.

For me, weighing up the incentives against the barriers pushed me into becoming a contributor.  However this may not always be the case.  Depending upon how much time I have available in the future I may tip back into being a lurker.  Whatever my role, as long as I’m working on SAP and as long as SCN exists I’ll be around here somewhere.


So what factors have been critical to you making your decision about whether or not to contribute to SCN?  Has anything I’ve discussed changed your mind?

If you’re still on the fence, then I’d say that you should give it a go – you might get more than you bargained for.

In the next post in this series I’ll be looking at ‘how’ you can contribute to SCN.

Further Reading

Here are some links to some additional material I found useful in writing this post.

You can also find me on Google+

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  1. Susan Keohan

    Hi Stephen,

    I love your blog!  I am a firm believer of contributing to the community that gives back so much (although lately, I confess, I have been a little too swamped to contribute). 

    Still, with your blog making me feel so happy right now, maybe I will venture into the discussions (not the blog spaces 😉 )  for a bit. 

    It’s also really important that people who ask questions also note when the questions have been answered and what the resolution was.  I hope people will think about this: It’s closing the loop (pardon the lingo) but you would not leave a customer dangling – not knowing if a problem was solved – so why would you leave your friends and associates on SCN dangling?

    Thank you for the smile,

  2. Jarret Pazahanick

    Good job with this Stephen as I think you nailed the top two barriers for most people and on that note will mention two things.

    1. Time – When you think of the most active bloggers on SCN many of folks with very active SAP careers as well so they find a way to make some time.  In my case I am very protective of my work/life balance but take the time to blog typically while flying or on the road as to not impact my family.

    2. Dont know anything worth contributing – In general people on SCN are very supportive of “new” bloggers as they remember when they first started. When I was migrating my blogs to the new SCN Spaces I reviewed my first 10 blogs and lets just say I have come a long ways 🙂  One benefit I always get that someone new to SAP will get as well as when you write a blog you typically learn along the way.  When I pick a new topic outside my comfort zone or write a critical article around SAP I will learn quite a bit along the way so it is a real win/win

    For me sharing on SAP SCN and being active in social media has been one of the smartest decisions I have made in my SAP career.

    1. Audrey Stevenson


      Your comment gives me a chance to urge those who used to contribute but haven’t done so in a while to re-engage. An easy way for folks to start re-engaging is to move their migrated blogs out of their personal space into the appropriate topic spaces, as you did. For instructions on how to do this, see Patrick Flanders blog: How to Move Your Blogs.

  3. Craig S

    Thanks for the Blog Stephen!

    The one incentive I would have liked to see you focus on a bit more was your Skills section. You kind of touched on it with “hone existing skills and develop new ones”.   But I almost don’t think you brought this out enough.  Having been involved with SAP for over 15 years I can honestly say, I’m still learning stuff every week here.

    Discussions can present new problems and issues to you that you might never have the chance to work with or solve otherwise.  I have functionality in my area that many clients never use.  I can go years without implementing certain features and by the time I do, I’ve forgotten half of it and have to research it all over again.  Answering questions in SCN helps me remember all the different nuances of the module and what can be done.

    I particularly like a challenging question that isn’t simply a straight technical issue, but more a business analysis problem.  While I hate the regular everyday posts about doing the most basic stuff, I usually get 2-3 a month that are really challenging and require me to research something or test something I might not normally do.  It’s like getting an essay question once a week from a professor in school.

    And I have to agree with Susan above.. I get very frustrated when I take the time to really delve into question and try to provide a solution and then the OP either never replies, or comes back and just says Thanks.  While the Thanks is nice, I really want to know how he/she solved the original question!


  4. Luke Marson

    Hi Stephen,

    Well done on a good blog post – I hope it inspires more people to contribute. I wrote a blog at the start of the year – My 2012 SCN SAP HCM Wish list – where I requested more contributors to SCN (albeit only to the SAP HCM and STVN spaces) and also suggested ways in which people can contribute. Your blog should certainly help to encourage more people to contribute to SCN and I’m hoping your next blog will look at the ways in which people can contribute in finer detail.

    You make some valid points – both positive and negative – and there are definitely considerations when putting thoughts in the public domain. In some instances a contributor will face criticism, but as you rightly put “you learn more from your mistakes than your successes”. As long as people are smart enough to accept and learn from criticism then they should not have any reason to be worried about what people say. I think more often than not people will get much more praise than they think and, as you rightly said, “If you’re still on the fence, then I’d say that you should give it a go”.

    Best regards,


  5. Gail Moody-Byrd


    Thanks for this authentic look into why you decided to become active. No matter what we SAP’ers say, it’s worth so much more when you speak member-to-member. Looking forward to next blog – let me know if I can help answer any questions about the “how”.


  6. Mark Yolton

    Thank you, Stephen, for sharing this. We need “new” people like you to engage and actively participate here, in part so we don’t get an echo-chamber from the “same old” voices (love those folks, but new perspectives are important to always interject here so we don’t get complacent or skewed in our perception). Keep going!


    Mark Yolton

  7. Stephen Millard Post author

    Thank you to everyone who’s given their input and left a comment.  I’m really pleased that this post has received such a positive response from the community.

    Jarret & Fire Fighter – When I was thinking about skills I was thinking more about the skills of using SCN that are developed.  I kind of thought that the SAP skills are something you would develop day to day in any case.  However I think you’re both spot on with the way SCN actually takes you in directions you wouldn’t have come across in the day to day.  The skills development probably has even more potential than I originally considered.

    Gail – thank you for the offer of answering questions.  I’ve actually written most of the posts (the last couple are taking shape) and I’m planning to release one each day this week.  Hopefully it will generate some discussion about what constitutes a contribution, how the different mediums are used and maybe even crowd source some ideas about types of contributions.

    Overall I’m simply hoping this series will perhaps motivate and inspire a few more people to get more involved.  SCN is a hugely valuable resource and I think many people just don’t see how much more valuable it can become to them if they can only find a way to take a more active role.

  8. Marilyn Pratt

    Hi Stephen,

    I’ve been reading your contents these last few months with interest despite the fact that I am not a professional in your topics of SAP Organizational Visualization by Nakisa and SAP Talent Visualization by Nakisa or SAP ERP Human Capital Management (SAP ERP HCM) .  Your content caught my attention because of your excellent writing style (and also perhaps because in the past it was flagged for needing moderation 😉 .)

    What is particularly noteworthy, is that you were not deterred, found ways to personalize your storytelling and also engaged with some of our top contributors and accepted some of their mentoring and tutelage.  

    In this blog of yours there is much to admire: perspectives, challenges, candor around those things that are daunting and inhibiting in blogging.  I also particularly like the references to other contents that you found useful and was quite engrossed in reading Bostjan Spetic’s blog which you link to above. It’s great the way you chunk your content.  It’s easy to read and follow.  You also make yourself accessible and are interactive with those that take the time to comment to you.  So this blog demonstrates many of the “best practices” of community engagement.

    I’ve been reading a bit of Francois Gossieaux lately @fgossieaux thanks to Michael Schwandt . In a slideshare presentation about Human 1.0 and tribes I read the following:

    The most important conversations in communities happen in networks of people, not between the company and the community – Think Knowledge Network, Not Information Channel

    This also caught my attention:

    Turning a business process into a social process is NOT: PR by blogging press releases, lead gen by spamming community members, recruiting through spray and pray over twitter

    So what constitutes a contribution?  I’m looking forward to what you have to say in your next posts.  And I’m eager to hear more about those “skills development” in creating value for others by creating dialouge here.

  9. Martin English

    The answer is so obvious, I was tempted to hit the abuse button 🙂

    If you (or anyone else) is having problems with getting ideas down in a coherent structure, chase up Christopher Koch who is offering his services (and experience) as an interviewer / distiller of ideas / person who does the actual writing – see his blog The Ideas You’ve Been Missing for more detail.


  10. Amy King

    Really nice blog, Stephen! Thanks for sharing this! I would bet that many people have this same conversation with themselves when considering whether to make the leap from lurker to contributor. I know I asked myself whether I knew enough for my contributions to be worthwhile, and having left my lurker days behind me, I’m quite happy with the leap.



    1. Stephen Millard Post author

      Hi Amy.

      Thank you for the kind comment.  Putting yourself out there I’ve always found challenging – much like standing up on a stage (I’m not overly fond of public speaking); but the rewards are worth any perceived risk and the risk is most likely a fraction of what you might initially believe it to be.

      The leap from lurker to contributor obviously paid off for you – congratulations once again on being chosen as the SCN Member of the Month this month 🙂


    1. Stephen Millard Post author


      I don’t know if SCN involvement is imperative for SAP professionals, but I certainly think for those who get involved it has both benefits (support, networking, etc.) and probably some advantages (greater public profile, etc.).

      You raise an interesting discussion point around the importance of the forums.  I’d be interested in knowing what you and others think about the relative “importance” of forum contributions.


      • What is it that in your opinion makes them underrated – looking at the Contributor Reputation Program FAQ they seem as equally important as other methods?
      • Are they more important than other forms of contribution?

      I know that there are going to be some changes to the SCN gamification of contributions later this year so I’m pretty sure Laure Cetin would be interested in any views you might have on this.


      1. Marssel Vilaça


        Thank you for encouraging this discussion. I think it is impretative because I don’t remember to be noticed of SAP professional that has never used SCN content. Contributor or not, everyone that searches for help on google, or freshers SAP notes, find the SCN links.

        The SCN forum is a very good demostration of knowledge for contributors but it is easier makes rain then getting points and recognition! Basic and easy searching questions aren’t accepted by moderator and remains only rare issues in most of cases. We have also a big number of lost threads. Discussions without reply from who has opened. The result is more evasion of frequent contributors. It´s more recognizable do Blogs or Wikies. This is why I belive underrated.

        In my opinion the SCN gamification should increase more in professional career. Could be a integrated with SAP where could be displayed officially some achievement, certifications, courses, SCN contributions, etc. May be the final customer could evaluate Consulting resources in its projects. I am just wondering. It is not a easy task but would me amazing.

        Last week I interviewed a candidate for CO in my Consulting. My frist step when I took his CV was check his SCN contribution. He wasn’t here and it would be a must for me in this hiring if I could find oficials information of this resource. He was accepted by the way.

        Please take my thought as a positive criticals and let me know if I was wrong in any ponts.

        Best regards

        1. Stephen Millard Post author

          Hi Marssel.

          My personal experience is that I’ve probably gained as much reputation in SCN from contributing to discussion posts as I have from updating and creating wiki pages and writing blog posts and leaving comments.  However I am just a single reference point in what should be a rather large sample pool – it would be great to get a few from others on this.

          Personally I think that writing thoughtful pieces and documentation takes a lot of insight, thought, and effort – just like answering discussion questions.  So for me I think I would weight them on a par.  In fact being able to see someone doing both probably gives me a better idea of who they are, what their interests are and what they know about.

          I also think that some spaces have some individuals who are very quick to answer discussion based questions and don’t always allow others the opportunity to contribute as much as they could.  Blog posts and the like are not as dependent upon time and availability and so this gives them a chance to contribute on a more equal footing to those who are simply quicker off the mark in responding to discussion posts.

          I’m intrigued by the idea of certifications being somehow incorporated into SCN.  How much weight should they carry?  I know there have been contentious debates over the relevance of certifications against tangible experience (and to some extent rightly so), but add to the mix that perhaps not all courses are created equal I’m wondering how you might translate certifications into reputation or are you just suggesting that they appear on your SCN profile?

          I think more and more social networks are being used by recruiters to get an idea of how you round out so I would certainly recommend that for SAP professionals that if they can, they should contribute to SCN and keep their profile and contributions up to date.  That being said I work with a number of colleagues who simply can’t spare the time to contribute to SCN.  They are excellent at their job and have no trouble getting work so it obviously isn’t harming them as their experience pretty much speaks for itself.  So currently (though this may change in time) I would not mark SCN as critical for a SAP professional, but it is certainly something that can potentially mark you out from other candidates 🙂



          1. Marssel Vilaça

            I appreciate your comparison among SCN contents. It isn’t an easy define weight of them. It could depends of the respective utility. The likes and Rating can give a perspective of this utility.

            The relevance of certification are matter of several discussions. The experience is most important in projects but in another hand we have to admit that the theory is the base of the pratice. The certification got an amount of value. We have also consider the global problem with fake professionals. The short term jobs of SAP careers is favorable to this and an oficial profile would be great. I think would be good receive points for passed certification test if this was in the profile.



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