Feedback on SAP Mentor Initiative from #SAPTechEd Madrid
Last week I attended SAPTechEd Madrid (and Innojam Madrid, just before TechEd). I’ll try to write another blog post about my experiences at the event (or you can tune in at SAP Inside Track Brussels next Friday Nov 23rd: SAP Community Network Wiki – Community Events – SAP Inside Track Belgium 2012 (Friday Nov. 23rd) to hear more about it), but in this blog I want to concentrate on some feedback I got when I got back in my hotel after Demo Jam and the subsequent eGeeks dinner.
Some of my colleagues were still sitting at the bar of our hotel, so I joined them. The subject of Demo Jam came up, and the following ‘observations’ were made:
- It was odd/suspect that (once again) almost all entries had at least 1 person from either SAP or the SAP Mentors among them. The selection process of the Demo Jam entries was seriously questioned.
- The SAP Mentors are an incestuous bunch anyway, almost indistinguishable from SAP itself (see also the previous point).
- (To prove the previous point): They always hook up with each other at events, and are in general not nearly as approachable/open as they would like the (SAP-) ecosystem to believe.
- I’d only been admitted to this group by <censoring> paying lip service </censoring> to other SAP Mentors.
Now, I know and respect my colleagues, and it’s far too easy to dismiss these allegations as coming from a bunch of uninformed idiots. Most of them have several years of experience in the SAP ecosystem, and have been to SAPTechEd’s for a number of years now.
So, let’s start to see how much is true of these allegations. Again, one by one:
- This one is kinda funny (if it wasn’t so sad): in recent years there has been a lot of criticism regarding the selection process and rules of Demo Jam. Especially the SAP Mentors(!) have been very vocal about this issue: see DemoJam – Innovation in Technology, Marketing or Both? by Matt Harding , On Genuine Demo Jam Awesomeness by Thorsten Franz , The gamification of Demo Jam by Twan van den Broek and what is wrong with SAP TechEd Demo Jam 2009? | Pixelbase by Michael Koch . This year’s entries had only 3 people from SAP among them (not counting the Regatta opening act, which wasn’t allowed to compete). Two of them came out of the Innojam contest. So from my point of view that problem is solved. Furthermore there were exactly 2 entries with SAP Mentors: the Garbage Collector (with the aforementioned Twan van den Broek) and SAPLink plugin for ABAP in Eclipse (with Gregor Wolf and Abdulbasit Gulsen). Of course we could count a third one as SAP Mentor and SAP employee Greg Chase came on stage as an Innojam winner. Still, 3 entries out of 8 doesn’t count as much in my book. Especially considering that the SAP Mentors are the most active members within the community anyway.
- This one is more serious, but we’ll have to split it in two pieces: the incestuous part, and the difference between SAP Mentors and SAP itself.
- Incestuous bunch: there might be some truth in this, as future SAP Mentors have to be nominated by the community, and the votes of the SAP Mentors are important in this process. Since they naturally tend to nominate their peers (at least, people they know), there is a risk that more and more people with a similar background, as well as more and more of ‘the incrowd’ will be made Mentor. That said, we’ve seen (more than once) people being selected that are definitely not to be considered as incrowd: examples include some analysts, the latest of which is Paula Rosenblum, and this fall a bunch of Powerbuilder experts like Bruce Armstrong , Yakov Werde and Sue Dunnell . I’m sure next time there will be people from Ariba among the newly chosen. So while it’s a fair point, I think Mark Finnern is already taking this into account.
- SAP Mentors are more or less equal to SAP (or are a part of SAP). This is definitely not true, as most of them work at a customer or a partner company. They’re also among the fiercest critics of SAP (example: Jarret Pazahanick with blog posts like The Real Truth about SAP and SuccessFactors Integration and SAP and SuccessFactors – “Proven” Integration is Hype ).
- This one is certainly true, though there is a good explanation: the SAP Mentors are a global representation of the community, and don’t see each other often. With some exceptions, the SAPTechEd season is the only time they get together, so it’s only natural to go and find each other and continue the online conversations. Still, the Mentors should (in myhumble opinion) be as open as possible to the wider community because they serve as a model to that community. In the past I’ve had the same uneasy feeling myself about this, and I really think the SAP Mentors should try everything to avoid making that impression.
- No need to go into this one here, methinks. Everyone is entitled to his/her opinion, but I beg to differ, and I can’t imagine Mark Finnern falling for that one.
So, while these allegations are either not true, or can be explained fairly well, we still have a problem. And the problem here is not whether it’s true or not, it’s the perception. As one of my colleagues already said: “If we already have this impression, how about the other thousands in the audience?”. And this is the main point of my blog post: as Dennis Howlett likes to say: “Perception is reality”.
Call to Action
That means we still have a lot of explaining to do. And while I can (and certainly will) try to educate my colleagues, I can’t do the same for all the other participants of SAPTechEd Madrid who might think the same. So I would really welcome any suggestions for improvement in the comments. Any other thoughts are of course equally welcome!