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ASUG Conference – Useful or not?

I want to reflect a little on ASUG here if I may… For this year’s conference I handed in 5 solid abstracts (at least that was my opinion) covering some new technologies in the Supply Chain area that we wanted to share with the user community. I just received my 5th letter back from ASUG. 4 outright rejections and 1 alternate selection (so read – rejection). I was OK with that, although I know there were sessions I proposed that users that I work with wanted to see…

1 day after receiving these rejections I got an email from ASUG the day after the last one offering a guaranteed speaking slot for Associate Members which most implementation partners are, all we had to do was contact the account rep. i.e. We have to now pay to speak at ASUG.

I thought that this sounded a little weird so I contacted some folks at SAP to get their thoughts on the matter. The response was similar. In the Supply Chain space I heard that a department had several abstracts submitted across 4 or 5 resources and all were rejected but 1. And this was SAP…

Reading between the lines I guess ASUG only wants users speaking and all partners (including SAP) to pay to have their say. I understand the need for a money generating business model but I’m not sure this is going to lead to anything good (once again, in my opinion).

In general (and certainly there are exceptions) users of SAP have experience based on the 1 project they implemented covering the 1 set of circumstances / issues they encountered. This is useful information but is it more or less relevant than getting that same update from a system integrator that implemented the same scenario 10 times over for several clients and encountering many more issues? In my experience, I have also found a reluctance, from the clients side, to actually stand up and talk about their experience. Public speaking is still a challenge to some folks and although it’s often a common trait for consultants in order for them to perform their job, clients don’t have that same need.

These are just me thoughts but if on the one hand you are making participation at ASUG more difficult for the folks that have useful information and are willing to share it,  vs. on the other hand, forcing users to step up and speak publicly on the piece that they worked on  then are the attendees getting the best available product? IMO the answer is no. ASUG should be focused on delivering good, relevant content to users of SAP so that they can see all the ways it can be used out there. In many cases that message can be more adequately delivered by the implementer and not the client itself. Once again, I’m not taking anything away from those clients who have delivered many successful talks at ASUG, it’s just that we are only realizing half the potential by shutting out the partners.

ASUG may continue to play a role for clients in the future but it may well just be used as a “project thank you” where you send your team to go hook up with those vendors that are attending SAPPHIRE to experience the ASUG party!!!!

I don’t believe I am alone in this thinking, as I know many folks, including SAP folks, that would rather support SAP Insider conferences because they seem to take more ownership around providing a quality product, from whomever can deliver that message, to their attendees. It just so happens that this week SAP Insider is in Vegas so I’ll see you there and in May we’ll see you in Nice, France. Unfortunately you won’t be seeing me at ASUG – Although I make a big assumption that you wouldn’t mind seeing me 😆

I would like to get your thoughts around this topic… Is ASUG going the right way or not and if not then what can they do to better the product they are delivering. Trying to keep it constructive here.

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  • My external point of view from the customer perspective after attending ASUG/SAPPHIRE is that SAPPHIRE content from SAP is really the focus and that ASUG part is more of an afterthought.  The biggest example is that a majority of the ASUG sessions were held “upstairs” away from all the SAPPHIRE show stuff(out of sight, out of mind).

    I also understand each year ASUG gets “squeezed” in the number of slots they have available total due to SAPPHIRE restricting/dominating agenda.  My understanding this year was even worse with less slots available again for ASUG.  At the current rate SAPPHIRE will give ASUG one slot per topic, which I hate to say is only a matter of time.  Perhaps if ASUG was a separate conference from SAPPHIRE then they might be able to accommodate everyone(including more ASUG customer members) sessions.  Instead you end up with a conference that really doesn’t seem as friendly towards ASUG, but instead SAPPHIRE-oriented. Yep the real culprit you should blame is SAPPHIRE for gradual squeeze out/shutdown of ASUG content.

    I do agree that the insider conferences cover as much or more content than ASUG/SAPPHIRE due to ASUG/SAPPHIRE being “too big”.  There’s more content at a insider conference in your area of focus than ASUG/SAPPHIRE at least for my area of interest.

    Take care,


  • Kevin,

    I am an ASUG volunteer, not currently on the Program Committee but I did work closely with the Program Committee when our SIG Community’s program was being finalized, and please note that I am expressing my own opinions here. You may not be aware of it, but the ASUG education footprint is greatly shrunken this year, and many longtime ASUG speakers and volunteers will not be speaking this year, even those of us who do in fact spend a lot of time on upgrade and implementation projects and have a lot of lessons learned to share.

    Partners have SAPPHIRE for speaking opportunities; ASUG members just have ASUG sessions unless a partner invites us to speak with them. Those ASUG Hub sessions that are so disappointing to you are sessions that are carved out of space/ time that used to be available to ASUG volunteers to meet with our members, so don’t imagine that we are particularly happy about it either. We would gladly take some of those time slots back for the sessions we had to cut such as Ask the experts panels.

    It is my own strong suspicion that ASUG’s education footprint at this event is shrunken at SAP’s behest, so you may consider looking to them for answers.



  • To Stephen’s comment, not that many years ago ASUG and SAPPHIRE were indeed two separate events.  If I recall correctly, at some point they became back-to-back events at the same location, i.e a week each or two weeks total, and then they were formally combined into a single event.  We (as a customer) sent one person to the ASUG national conference in Orlando many years ago, and have never been back since, not because it wasn’t useful, but the conference plus travel expense was just too much for a K-12 school district in hard financial times to bear.  That person, a manager, who went came back with glowing reports of educational sessions and intentions of sending technical people in future years, but unfortunately that never happened.  We have never sent anyone to SAPPHIRE, which always looked more like a marketing pitch aimed at executives from our perspective, nor have we sent anyone to the combined conference since that became the reality.  (We have sent someone (me) once to SAP TechEd).

    We do, however, regularly send people to the local ASUG chapter meetings, which are a) free, and b) local, so the only cost is a day spent away from the office for those who attend.  We often find these useful, but to Kevin’s observations:

    • When you’ve seen one “this is how we implemented XYZ” by a customer, you’ve pretty much seen them all.  Unless they really have a unique angle or are addressing a niche functionality of interest, we don’t attend those anymore.  Still, I’m sure those are interesting to those who are just about to launch their first implementation.  So, I agree with you here.
    • Many of the presentations given by partners come across more like sales pitches than educational sessions.  However, this isn’t always the case, and sometimes there really is some ‘meat on the bone’ here.  So, I half-agree with you here.  In the scenario you describe, of an integrator presenting best practices gleaned from many implementations, but not trying to sell an add-on or third-party product, I fully agree with you.

    In other words, the best ASUG local chapter presentations tend to be from customers, or customers with their integration partners, talking about something other than their initial implementation or an upgrade project, e.g. “how we fit Concurrent Employment (insert your odd niche functionality here) to our Public Sector (insert your industry here) requirements,” and so on.  When we see something like that on the agenda, for something we use or are considering, we tend to sign up.  I don’t know if that holds true for the bigger national conference or not.



    • Matt,

      I agree with you completely. If you take a look at how SAP Insider edits their presentations, it takes care of pulling out “sales pitch” and concentrates on value add. If ASUG were to focus their attention on that then we could get good content out to the community. It just feels that they are not interested in that and that they are just looking at making it “pay for play” from a supplier perspective.

      Gretchen pointed out that SAPPHIRE is for the vendors to speak but that’s not the case. SAPPHIRE is seen to be a sales pitch area by everyone, but if you are a partner looking at sharing your experience with the user community then ASUG is the better forum you would think. Yes we are trying to get our name out there but you don’t have to deliver a sales pitch to do it.

    • Matt,

      Regarding your observation: When you’ve seen one “this is how we implemented XYZ” by a customer, you’ve pretty much seen them all.

      I think that all depends on what “XYZ solution” you are talking about. I am now on my third GRC10 project, and each project has been unique, and every presentation I have been to on implementing/ migrating to GRC10 has been different. Some of these solutions such as GRC and SolMan have so many different components, which not every customer configures all of right away, that there can be things to learn from such presentations for years.



      • Gretchen,

        Yes, absolutely true.  I guess I became jaded by seeing one too many standard FI/CO/MM/HR implementation presentations in which the presenters detailed how they followed the ASAP methodology like it was the newest thing.  On the other hand, perhaps that’s because having been a customer, then a consultant, and then a customer again, and having laid out many a project plan, I could probably recite the WBS elements of ASAP in my sleep.  Admittedly, if I were brand-new and just about to start my first ERP implementation, such a presentation by a customer similar to me would no doubt be quite interesting.

        I would love to see a good GRC presentation.  We don’t use GRC here, and it’s not currently in the cards, but I can foresee its usefulness and would like to be able to speak more intelligently about it to my management.  That’s an example of what I, perhaps incorrectly, referred to as a niche implementation, not meaning to belittle it in any way, but to indicate it’s a highly specialized solution that isn’t necessarily part of every landscape, and which requires specialized knowledge and configuration.



        • Matt,

          Since you are not planning to attend ASUG/ SAPPHIRE, I encourage you to register for the Security SIG web casts on GRC10.x Access Control. Our web cast series last year was very successful, and I am sure that this year’s will be as well. Speakers in the series of monthly web casts will include SAP solution management and customers.

          I encourage all readers here who are ASUG members to check out the ASUG Event Calendar for web casts being offered by your SIGs.



  • Hi Kevin,

    I totally see your point.   As Gretchen has already said, we have had drastic cuts in the educational program as the years have gone on. 

    I still believe that our mission, as ASUG volunteers, is to seek out customers who have experience to share.  Every time I attend ASUG, I learn something new – and I’ve been attending for many years.

    We really do want informative and useful sessions – even from partners 😉 so it’s a shame that our time and space are so drastically cut.


  • Hi Kevin, I agree with what Stephen and Gretchen have said. I have been on the Program Committee many times and I know first hand that ASUG’s goal is to have more quality education sessions. The problem is that they got squeezed by SAP. You and your colleagues should take it up to SAP. If all the customers are asking for it, I am sure SAP will allocate more time slots to ASUG.

  • You volunteers do a fantastic job for the community and we applaud you for that. No reflection on you folks… We’ll see what direction SAP takes as we move forward but until change is made it looks like fewer and fewer talented individuals will be sharing their knowledge at ASUG and taking it on the road with WISPubs and others.

  • Kevin…I think all conferences related to SAP are soon to be seeing a bit of a shake-up. It has already begun with TechED (RIP) now being rebranded as “D-Code” and opened up to more of a non-business suite (read as “platform” and developers) crowd.

    Personally, I have not been to an ASUG one in years (nor kept as up-to-date on it), so when I met an ASUG volunteer at HR2014 and heard about al the recent shake-ups and changes that had gone on (read as “make ASUG into a money making venture”), I was a bit shocked. That didn’t sound like the ASUG I knew. Happily, I heard that “that person” who was trying to turn ASUG in a money-tree has since left, so hopefully it will come back around to being USER focused once more.