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Reflections on an SAP Event in the Land Up Over

Note: Thinking of Australia as “the land down under” is to propagate a misnomer. Although Australia is indeed the only full populated* continent to lie south of the equator, “down under” is just a perspective, as I recently learned while attending Mastering SAP Technologies.

* thanks to Robbo for yet another learning: I corrected my original statement which had me ignoring Antarctica (a cardinal sin)

After this, my first visit to Oz and to an SAP event there, I’ve come away further impressed with the quality of community participation, the innovative and “first mover (aka beta implementer) spirit” of the Aussies (pronounced Ozzies) and Kiwis (New Zealanders) that implement and work with new SAP Technology, often before most of the rest of us have even heard of it.

When Graham Robinson, known to many in SCN as “Robbo” , (or as blogger/analyst Dennis Howlett once called Graham “The man who does everything down here in Australia for the SAP Community”)  took the stage together with his cohort Russell the Robot and he set the tone for what was to be a number of days of SAP learning, fun and networking in Melbourne Australia .

Russell the Robot.jpg

To be perfectly frank, I had come to the Mastering SAP Technologies and the SAP Inside Track Melbourne events with a wish list:

  • Gather input/ideas for a soft-skill track or non-technical sessions for the SAP d-Code events
  • Understand the culture in this region and observe the knowledge share and networking between SAP IT Professionals and SAP Business Functional Experts
  • Find interesting content/author opportunities for the SAP Community Network
  • Speak with the regional and global CIOs in their new roles as “Chief Innovation Officers” and “Chief Integration Officers” and look for more support of and engagement with the SCN community
  • Facilitate a panel discussion on inclusion
  • Brainstorm with other attendees around increasing the presence, participation and visibility of women at  such events
  • Socialize and exchange ideas around engaging young people in technology

Each one of these bullet points could be the topic of a separate blog but I’ll try first to summarize some high level notes from keynotes of the event.

Bjoern Goerke SAP CIO and EVP of Global Cloud Delivery in his keynote of the event spoke of:

  • How connected mega trends change the world with a projected 50 billion connected devices including wearables, driveables, flyables, scanables and printables… changing the way we think about business innovation
  • Making meaning out of Big Data and simplifyingt he consumption of it with cloud
  • Changing business models as all these mobile devices create Big Data which could mean unusable junk unless transformed into Big Information
  • Demographic shifts creating additional change as projected that by 2020 half of the workers will be millennials (born after 1982) and their ways of consuming data will dictate many changes
  • Don’t Despair! Good to be skeptic yet remain open-minded

His talk sparked many questions. Among them:

  • What does HANA cloud mean to the Basis guys?
  • What’s the roadmap to HANA Cloud?

Graham Bjoern and Manik Saha.jpg

(Pictured here Graham, Bjoern and Manik)

Manik Saha CIO of APJ spoke of the CIO’s role in the “networked economy” and how to succeed and thrive in a networked economy where real-time processes need real-time insights. From Manik I learned that “hyper-connected retail” is prototyped in Australia.  Manik also described the move in IT from building reports-> to consuming and discovering data, according to one’s own requirements. He highlighted learning and development as the foundations for success.

Sophie Sipsma provided the attendees with a number of hints to maximize the experience of attending the event.

She spoke of a roadmap to do so and explained that first one must “get out of one’s comfort zone”.

It was suggested attendees move from Experience & Information ->Reflection->Plans->Experimentation

where the magic happens your comfort zone.jpg

Gareth and Sophie.jpg

(Finally had the pleasure of meeting Gareth Ellem pictured here with Sophie Sipsma and am really eager for him to post a blog :-))

Not surprisingly, Jelena Perfiljeva had some of the most quoted “take-aways” in her soft-skills presentation: IT and Business: The Tough Love Story.

Her content generated a good deal of conversation and echoed themes heard both onstage and in the corridors.

  • Be human in a technology-driven world
  • Business users are also human
  • “I got people skills, damn it!”
  • People skills for “I’m not a people person”
  • If I wanted to work with people, I wouldn’t have become a programmer!
  • To address the “hostile user syndrome”:
    • Acknowledge
    • Communicate
    • Empathize
    • Share Knowledge
    • Save your sanity…bring the horse to water and leave it there


When Jelena was introduced during the Panel Session: “Is Inclusion a Competitive Business Advantage” she described a special skill of her’s as being:

“Giving advice especially when unasked”.

The panel included: Matt Harding Brian O’Neill Jocelyn Dart and Jelena Perfiljeva moderated by myself. Each of us representing a different demographic, generation, culture, perspective, nationality, skill set, although attendees were predominately developers and techies.

It was interesting to note how attentive attendees were around the topic of upskilling and upscaling skills.  This was a lively conversation during the SAP Inside Track, Community Day where many suggestions were made as to the kind of knowledge people would most like to see more of on SCN as well as practical suggestions to upskill.


In a conversation with Annie Chan (who I also finally got to meet in person) she reminded me that online conversations can be the continium of the networking some of us are privledged to do at events.

This of course is an invitation to participants to blog and summarize experiences and takeaways from the Mastering Event on SCN.

A call out additonally to: Chris Rae  Peter Chapman Chris Paine Martin English Gareth Ellem Tony De Thomasis Sascha Wenninger Alisdair Templeton all of whom were sharing their knowledge at the event …knowledge that would benefit the “home viewing audience” I am sure….

It was wonderful being in the Land Up Over -exceeding all my expectations.

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  • Thinking of Australia as “the land down under” …..“down under” is just a perspective

    It’s also a good catchy song that many of us will shout out after a few drinks

  • Thank you for posting your experience of Mastering SAP Technologies Marilyn. It was a real highlight for us all to have you here. Thanks for your contribution to helping make the event a success. I hope you come back and visit us again soon.


    Graham Robbo


  • Hi Marilyn,

    Thanks much for sharing your beautiful experience with the community. Can’t resist adding that whenever I read any blog of yours, I get the same enriching, diversified and pleasant feeling as after talking with you.

    Graham Robinson – Congratulations on completing the robot. I remember this from our mentor buddy discussion. Would have to see the video later as it’s blocked in current network setting. Are you also planning to make it empathic?



    • Thanks Manik.  Looking forward to further idea exchange and deeper engagement with you and the APJ folks.  Would you perhaps share more of what you talked about as regards the “Networked” Economy.  Perhaps highlighting some of the examples of what the “hyperconnected” retail, hyper-connected cities, hyper-connected manufacturing looks like from an SAP perspective and directly from our customers’ perspectives.

      Would make a great topic for a blog 😉

  • Excellent summary and post.  I enjoyed my special time in Australia in 2012 and kudos to Eventful team and Australians for making it such a fantastic event.

    I also enjoyed Russell the Robot’s taste in music…

    My favorite quote from Jelena Perfiljeva “I got people skills, damn it!” 🙂  

    • The Eventful team was an incredible model of how to host participants and speakers at an event.  The “local” community engaged and welcoming.  Talk about empathy and acknowledgement! Hope Sophie Sipsma of Eventful will reconvene her activity on SCN and share some of her insights and observations. She did that previously in a way that was so “un-marketing”.  She gets community and the value of the customer voice.

  • Hi Marilyn,

    I’ve read, that when Bach played, even God came to mass.

    Well, you are to the SCN as Bach is to the music world, and your energy is contagious.

    Best regards and thanks for an excellent article,


    • Too kind.  Hoping for some really excellent articles posted by those who I called out.  The REAL content and thought generators.

  • Marilyn, It was such a rare treat to have you down to visit us all – we loved having you and hope to get you down (up?) here again sometime!



  • Marilyn, thank you for posting this! It was a pleasure to meet you again in Melbourne, as well as observe the fellow Australian SAP Mentors and SCN comrades in their natural habitat. 🙂

    I’ve contemplated writing a post-event blog but it would definitely have the food reviews and “dustbin pictures” and then Paul Hardy would have to roll his eyes again. 🙂

    All – Marilyn was too modest to mention her great idea to make some funny pictures for the closing session. We brainstormed this quickly less than an hour before the showtime and even though I was skeptical initially, we just rolled with it and it came out absolutely perfect (thanks in big part to the technical support from the event staff). So lesson learned – even if at first you think something is batsh*t crazy and might potentially embarrass you, if you just roll up the sleeves and go with it, then it could totally turn out a success. And that’s “the Marilyn’s magic”.

    • It would be wonderful if you could do a reprise of your sessions for us here. (I know, I know, just read Clinton’s link that you embedded but still…)  I missed the ABAP session you presented, but the one I did attend was excellent and quite surprising.  So interesting that it played well to the “techies” because it was decidedly about soft skills.  Go figure!!!

      I loved what you said about “putting on your own oxygen mask first” before helping others.  I always thought of that as being “to put it on so that you could help others”…but more recently, I’m learning that sometimes it just is about ….breathing….and modeling that behavior. Yep… taking care of oneself can be a healthy model too. Which was also part of what I was doing traveling to Kiwiland and Oz.

      Traveling across the world to meet with someone who is located “relatively” locally.  Nope its not the most sustainable way of doing things. Traveling to the event (an addendum to a personal trip to the region) was indeed a wish to acknowledge the great minds and talents in that region….and of course the added attraction of speaking with some of the fellow “guests”. Feeling a bit guilty about my carbon diet…but I will offset that by working from home and walking to all my errands (for the next 100 years).

    • I have to take my hat off to the Eventful Group for organising these conferences. We are really lucky in Australia that the year is crawling with big SAP events. The good thing about them is that it is all “customer” war stories as opposed to people trying to sell you things.

      It always make me laugh when SAP gives you a user exit to add an extra tab on the purchase order standard screen, or production order screen, and then hard codes the name to “customer data” which of course confuses the hell out of the actual users of the system who naturally don;t think of themselves as customers. It is this sort of brainlessness that SAP need to get over in order to bring themselves into the modern world.

      I did indeed write scathing remarks about people writing blogs saying how good it was to meet everyone else and how good the dustbins at the conference were. so I would be a real hypocrite if I started doing the same.

      So, it was great meeting everybody from the SCN, sadly I don’t have a picture of a dustbin, here is a picture of me and Jelena taken by the eventful group people.

      Paul and Jelena.PNG

      Paul and Jelena.PNG
      • I would add: please a reprise of “Improving and Fixing Custom Programs Without Destroying the Business”. You whetted the appetite something fierce here:Shoot Me Up ABAP .

        And do share the link to the “scathing remarks” if they were to be found.  I was scanning some of your impressive and prodigious “other” blogs on SCN and did not find the reference.

        Your writing and attention to detail is truly noteworthy.

        And as a small silly aside you are only one point short of “Platinum” status here.

        It would be fun to see you cross that threshold …and thanks for your valuable contributions to this community.

        Wish I had had time to truly meet you 😏

        Paul Hardy.JPG

        Paul Hardy.JPG
  • HI Marilyn,

    Thanks for writeup. wonderful experience sharing, brought the glimpse of entire event in front of us.

    Wish to see detail blogs on Jelena Perfiljeva and Sophie Sipsma soft-skills sessions.

    I had a strong belief that without soft-skills/values/virtues as human can’t survive anywhere! We must get trained on these too.

    We had to be human in this technology-driven world for wealth of all including our self.

    Best regards,


    • Would love for you to specify exactly what those soft-skills might best include, if you have the time and inclination.  It would be helpful to create groundswell around such content.