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SAPPHIRE/ASUG – Hugged by a Mentor


Oh no, Jim Spath  is already ahead of me in The SAPPHIRE Mentor Blog-off! Time to catch up.

In case you’ve missed my status update and other SCN posts – this week I’m partying attending ASUG/SAPPHIRE conference in Orlando.

On Monday (AKA Day 0, which oddly makes me think about some global pandemic rather than SAP conference) apart from ASUG pre-conference sessions (extra fees) there is not the whole lot going on. For lack of other entertainment I arrive much earlier for the 8 pm Mentor reception at the Hilton hotel to scout the location and immediately run into none other but the newly knighted fellow Mentor Matt Fraser. The “teenage girl at The Beatles concert” level excitement ensues.


(image credit)

The “OMG! OMG!” continues as I notice Marilyn Pratt and finally get to meet Jim ‘The Legend’ Spath in person. It is also great to dispense hugs to many other Mentor family members as well as to meet the new guys and girls. Susan Keohan dispenses some suspicious star-shaped devices that we need to give to a non-Mentor and take a picture of the lucky recipient as being “touched by the Mentor”. I might be a bit fuzzy on details but heck, if Sue says I’ll roll with the program.

On the way back to the hotel room some gentleman notices my colorful Mentor shirt and asks: ‘Do you work for SAP?’. Ugh, <facepalmslap>. ‘No, kind sir, I just sort of work with them’. ‘Well, you look like a walking ad for them!’ – he blurts out. Oh dear.


‘Good Morning’ SAPPHIRE style

Day 1 (AKA Tuesday) starts with a keynote 1 out of 4. We arrive about 20 minutes earlier and – holy shnikes! – this place is huge!!! First the car drove around forever, now we’re walking forever to arrive at the keynote site that is the size of an average stadium or two. Others must have been camping there since last night because the only remaining seats are occupied by the bags, coffee cups and are reserved for some mysterious Media Analysts. The Mentors didn’t get any assigned seating and were told to disperse among the mortals. Which is where I end up somewhere in what looks like might be a different tax jurisdiction.

The keynote (presented by Bill McDermott) is called ‘Run Simple’ (watch replay here). From what I’ve seen and experienced, my own and SAP’s definitions of “simple” don’t frequently agree, so I find myself having a mental argument with the keynote’s talking points almost Beavis and Butt-head style (smirks et al). The biggest point that deserves mentioning – there was a lot of talk about ‘data’, ‘digital economy’ and ‘things’ but the biggest part, in my opinion, is still people. And when we understand that, the complex questions presented at the very beginning would not seem so complex anymore. ‘How do I find and retain talent…’. Um, have you tried just treating people nicely? Not as “the employee number 70879” but as, you know, a human being?

On a bright side, the keynote finishes 20 minutes earlier, for which I’m sincerely grateful because finding a room for the first session is a bit more complex than I expected. While I’m standing in the middle of the show floor looking for a way out, another attendee (obviously mislead by the shirt) rushes to me asking ‘are you giving directions?’. I point him to the virtual map few steps away. Helpful Mentor mission accomplished!

On the long way to the lecture location I find some ASUG posters that look eerily cult-like:


Lots and lots of suits all around (the escalator looks like one big grayish wave), this is a major departure from TechEd where jeans and casual shirts were prevalent. Ladies in high heels and gentlemen dragging around roll on briefcases. This is definitely not your SAP “techie” crowd.

First session BT1453 ‘Warner Bros.: Technical Deployment and Support Considerations for Running SAP Business Suite on SAP HANA’ turns out to be geared towards hard-core Basis folks (i.e. not me), but the presenters do a decent job and, judging by the reaction from the room, people to whom it made sense seemed happy. Unfortunately due to lack of time I didn’t get to ask the most important questions about Batman vs. Superman or whether HANA is helping Warner Bros. to make better movies.

There was a huge line to get lunch and food made me think of TechEd quite fondly. (This information should be of special interest to Paul Hardy 😉 .)

Second session BT404 ‘Build Your Own Hybrid, Mobile SAP Fiori Apps Rapidly Using SAP Web IDE’ left me slightly confused. I didn’t quite get what would be the specific advantages of hybrid apps (this seemed an important distinction) but at the same time IDE itself seemed simple enough and hardly worthy of a designated session. (Really, if IDE requires special explaining then it’s just not very good.) I might have missed something, but it would’ve been nice hear to more practical advice.

The last session EA2331 ‘SAP Architecture Support for Enterprise Architects – From Business Process to Landscape Planning’ was actually quite enjoyable since I could understand every word (finally!). We were told about different sites for SAP solution, innovation, etc. discovery and planning. One of those tools I already commented about on SCN. Pretending to ask a question I got a chance to rant to the unsuspecting presenters that SAP seems to hide information too well.

I shamelessly skip keynote 2 out of 4 to meet Kristen Scheffler (AKA The SCN Fairy Godmother) and the enlightening conversation with her is without a doubt highlight of the day. Kristen also graciously agreed to be my “touched by the Mentor” and I even upgraded it to “hugged by the Mentor”. Top that, you guys! 🙂

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  • The major advantage is that Hybrid apps can use the device hardware, like camera or GPS. They are also faster to load, because although you’re dealing with HTML/Javascript, the code is (usually) on the device itself, not the web.

    The Cordava container (on which Kapsel is based) has plugins that basically translate Javascript into the native language of the device (and vice-versa).

    • Thanks, Joao. Access to camera / GPS was mentioned (it was kind of a main point of the session) but it’d be nice to see other things that you’ve noted. Well, good thing we have SCN. 🙂

      • And did they mention that Cordova is “pluggable” so you can develop your own plug-ins in Java/Objective-C? 🙂

        For example I don’t know if Cordova has a plugin for iBeacon technology but if it doesn’t we can develop one ourselves.

        • Joao – not that I recall. The session turned out to be focused on IDE more than anything. I guess it’s fair since it was in the description, but it seemed too narrow for me and less beneficial than it could be. The presenter was obviously quite knowledgeable, I believe most people in the room would’ve benefited from more broad focus. But that’s just IMHO, of course.

  • Jelena – It’s not a race. Oh, OK, it is.  But I have over a decade head start on you with these conferences.

    “huge line to get lunch” – same experience. Several years back, after our complaints about the distance from ASUG sessions to the “cafeteria” they had lunch laid out on the second and/or third floors near those educational rooms.  Try that…

    Did Sue not mention flashy-blinky-things-dot-com before? or was it flashingblinkylights?

    “the escalator” – I take the stairs whenever possible, as I don’t grasp the concept of getting on a moving staircase, and then turning into a statue/road hazard.

    Looking forward to your next day review.

    [Score: Jim 2, Jelena 1]

    • Huge line was actually on the 3rd floor. All 3 sessions I went to happened to be in the same spot, so I haven’t gone elsewhere till afternoon. It seems 12 pm is “peak” time, if you go after 1 pm it’s a bit easier. But then it depends on the session schedule when you have time (if any).

      And no – I was not in the loop on the flashyblinky for some reason.

  • A round of applause for Matt Fraser and his level great gentleman by escort the lady Jelena Perfiljeva 😀

    Commenting now the blog, impressive as this event is, i was never in that big and full of content like that, but I hope one day to go, while I will not, enjoy this for me 😉

  • “Teenage girl at a Beatles concert” excitement, eh? Well, I must say, I was pretty excited to meet you finally, Jelena. Not sure I’m worthy of that kind of rave, but… hey, I’ll take it!

    In fact, I’m going to openly admit that a lot of stuff I heard, especially today, went way over my head, specifically in the Steve Lucas session. You should have been there; it was all about developer platform stuff, lots of TLAs that I didn’t even know. There, my secret’s out. Can I still bluff my way through this?

    I saw you in the Enterprise Architect session on the first day, but I was stuck several rows behind and away from the aisle, and when it was wrapping up I had to hot-foot it out to make my next session. But your (thinly) disguised-as-a-question rant did not go unnoticed. 😉 I did think it was a decent session. I already regularly use about half the tools they covered (and some they didn’t), but I admit I’ve not made good use of the wikis before, and that will change. I also like the way they’ve gathered links together in one (previously obscure) place — hide information no more, they shall!

  • I have a burning desire to know what the dustbins were like at SAPPHIRE NOW 2015. There was a good photograph of one by a top SAP blogger about ten years back.

    Next Saturday I will be going to the Mastering SAP Technology conference in Melbourne, sadly this year you will not be there, which is (all jokes aside) a great pity, but I will write a blog about it to keep you up to date with:-

    (a) Dustbin quality (with pictures)

    (b) Menu – this year we have a killer spider invasion in Australia, so maybe some of those will make it to the menu

    (c) List of all the people who hugged me (probably very short list)

    Cheersy Cheers


    • @paul that “dustbin” picture was presumably mine, given my environmental engineering background.  I love Aussie humour, but don’t always get the joke.  My dustbin picture for this year went to the ASUG site, not SCN.   Just for yuks, here’s a link:

      And for good measure, a partial shot of one of the recycle bins at the conference:


      Say Hi to TdT for me!


    • Paul, you might find it interesting that we don’t have dustbins in the US, we have trash (or garbage) bins (or cans). And also recycling bins (just like the ones on the Jim’s picture). 🙂

      At SAPPHIRE we had two types of trash receptacles. There were just simple big bins and also “double-bins” with trash on one side and recycling on the other. There were not enough recycling bins IMHO, sometimes I had to really search for one. As a contrast, at TechEd they just had large, neatly covered, bins that had something like ‘Everything you throw in this bin is sorted and recycled by <some company>’ written on them. Fascinating stuff! 🙂

      Do tell about food in Melbourne and I hope you will make it to our side of the pond!

      @jim – “dustbins” and food at the events has been a long sort of an “insider joke”. I can’t find where it started exactly but somehow it keeps on going. Maybe it’s time to let it go…

  • Dear Jelena,

    I remember when I first questioned food reviews you pointed me at an article about “what makes a blog and what makes a document”.

    I am a bit of an IT dinosaur so it was not until about 2001 I ran into the word “blog” for the first time. I asked the guy who sat next to me at work, who was twenty years older than me and had worked in IT his entire career, as opposed to a recent blow-in like me.

    He explained that at that point blogs were a sort of online diary posted on the web by fourteen years old IT savvy schoolboys undergoing the worst part of puberty and feeling the need to share every detail of their lives online e.g. how many new spots had appeared when I looked in the mirror that morning, what I had to eat that day, what I saw walking home from school, what I thought of the TV programs that night, how I managed to hack into the pentagon computer system, why do nice girls hate me, here is a poem I have written about the unfairness of life etc…

    By that definition a blog about going to a SAPPHIRE conference should indeed focus solely on what the food was like, who you met, quality of the toilets, what the pop concert was like, dustbin availability / quality, all with lots of photographs. That is, after all, what one would write when writing a blog for “Trip Advisor” about going on a two week holiday to Morocco or somewhere.

    And indeed, the vast majority of blogs about SAPPHIRE are just like that – you see a title like “my key takeaways from SAPPHIRE NOW” and open up the blog and it is just a series of photographs with captions under each one like “the hotel” or “the conference centre” or “me with Jon Bon Jovi” just like you would get if you wanted to torture your friends with holiday snapshots.

    I think it was about 2004 and that year there were about twenty blogs about SAPPHIRE on the SCN (SDN as it was then) and every one of them was like that, not one word about the content of any of the lectures / keynotes / presentations, just a list of who had met who. John Doe would write a blog saying how he had met Richard Roe at SAPPHIRE and how great it was, and Richard Roe would write a blog saying how he had met John Doe and how great it was.

    Again, by the textbook definition of a blog there is nothing wrong with that.

    The trouble is I had become spoilt by reading a load of blogs on the SDN which were a sort of mixture of how to do something and why to do it – the way I saw it then a “document” told you how to set up SAP’s new scrunge management system, and a blog would tell you how to set up such a system and why you should do it and possibly why you should not do it if it did not fit your business needs.

    In other words the “blogs” on SDN at that time all seemed to have some business relevant information / advice to impart. I did not realise those were not real blogs in the textbook sense of the word and so I was not prepared for / was surprised by the “what the wallpaper was like in my hotel / my taxi driver was Irish” blogs about SAPPHIRE.

    Usually when someone gives a speech about “implementation of SAP scrunge management at Manchester University” you can usually boil down the presentation into three keys points / messages. Indeed I do that for all the sessions I attend and present such a list back to my CIO as justification as in “Look I was not just there for the free drink, I actually learned something useful to our business, so please pay for me to go again next year and get more free drink”. So a blog about SAPPHIRE could in theory contain information about the presentations one intended, the message the speaker was trying to get across, and what one thought about that.

    In your blog above you do indeed mention the sessions you went to and made some comments about the content of each one and your thoughts on the matter. That’s all I am looking for in SAPPHIRE blogs, if that is there then whoever is blogging can garnish the blog with as many dustbin pictures or restaurant reviews as they want and I will still be happy.

    I do hope to be at TECHED in Las Vegas, SAP approached me to do a presentation, I still might get turned down, but fingers crossed.

    Maybe we could get a photograph of you, me and Jim standing in front of a “trash can” eating the caviar, truffles and quails eggs which get served up to the delegates.

    Cheersy Cheers


    • There was definitely some evolution (or maybe rather the opposite of it) of blogs on SCN since the SDN times and documents seem to have become a step child of SCN (we’re actually having some conversation about it right here).

      But one thing I still enjoy is diversity of the content. If everyone wrote about the same stuff in the same way it would be just very boring IMHO. As a Russian poet said, “If the stars are lit then someone needs it”. So I think there is nothing wrong with having a variety of coverage. In any case, both you and Jim (and few other SCN members) could write about food or dustbins or Millennials or S/4HANA roadmap and I’d still read it anyway. 🙂