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SAP Skills Forum: One on One with the man who started it all…

It was a cold December morning, and I was watching the sun’s 3’o clock shadow growing steady as I was racing against time in the last quarter of the year.  The mailman pops up on my screen with a request to include “SAP Skills Forum” in the 2016 event plan.  As I got started with the research, I was intrigued and wanted to find out why we needed a training event when we have a whole year of scheduled courses anyway…..

So I sat down with the person who’s brainchild this was – Bjoern Interthal. 


Preethi: How did it all start and what was the thought process?

Bjoern: Our standard training provides consultants with strong foundation training which takes them from 0 to certification.  And delta courses help you update between release A to B.  As a consultant it is very important to be more aligned to what’s happening in SAP and be an early adopter and this means not just up skill but also cross skill.  The gap that I saw, was the cross-skilling and the ability to get the whole picture in a short span of time.  And this is a key requirement for consultants and architects who are close to the technology and the business.  Hence the idea for a 2 day training event which was made-up of a matrix of master classes giving the opportunity to dip in and out across various topics, was born.

Preethi: So is this only aimed at consultants and techies?

Bjoern:  Not at all, the sessions are designed around a key topic, for example this year in the UK it is around the digital core – SAP S/4 HANA.  And the idea is to give a holistic picture for anyone who is touched by this technology.  So whether you are a C-level executive, technical guru or a functional mastermind, there is a matrix of sessions that you can benefit from.

Preethi: How long does it take to prepare for such an event?

Bjoern: Almost half a year, as most of the sessions are first time teaches and are designed to fit a master class style.  So they are bite-size sessions which are easy to consume and it definitely isn’t death by PowerPoint.  There are hands-on sessions as well as a few thought leadership style sessions to get you up-to speed on what’s coming up as well.

Preethi: What was the expectation from customers?

Bjoern: The one resounding feedback we kept getting from customers was – “Don’t want to see PowerPoints and would like to get actual hands on sessions”.  And we listened! There are live demos, hands-on sessions and of course there are a demo-rich sessions as well.  However they all are on the latest innovations in exactly the areas that they are interested, and also an opportunity to explore new technologies in short bite size sessions.

Preethi: And what was our expectation?

Bjoern: Our main expectation was to help close the gap, that customers only get basic training or delta training.  With this event based format they can update themselves in a master class style which is more engaging and they can grasp as much as they can in 2 days.  In addition we wanted to provide a platform where individuals get a flavour of something that they might be interested in cross-skilling in, without having to invest in a full-fledged course costing them time and money.  Now they can get a taster before they decide that that particular area will make a difference in their work.

I take pride in the fact that this is purely an educational event as opposed to a marketing event.

Preethi: What did delegates get from the event?

Bjoern: A real overview based on live demos on latest innovations.  To be specific – for partners: find additional business and be more efficient by being ahead of the curve. And for customers: they can run better and be well informed which enables a more productive engagement when working with partners or even when it’s business as usual.

Preethi: What did we get out of the event?

Bjoern: Reaching our customers/partners quicker so they can get the most in their business through our innovations.  Technology is only as good as the people running it. At SAP Education we are always in the forefront of enabling our customers/partners get the most from our solution.

Preethi: How many people on average attend this event?

Bjoern: SAP Skills Forum has been running for more than 10 successful years in Germany (since 2000).  The maximum attendance we’ve had is 250 people in 2006.  It’s an annual event in Germany and extended to France and now to UK as well.

Now to answer your question – an average of 100 in Germany and France and the UK had around 70 people in their first year in 2014.  So, the event is big enough to have interactions, to collaborate and innovate yet small enough to be heard and have personal attention.

Preethi: What is so unique about this event?

Bjoern:  It is quite a boutique training event.  You don’t normally get the opportunity to get such focused sessions across technical and application level on some of the latest innovations from SAP, and all in 2 days. And its not just live demos, workshops and master classes across the 2 days.  There is a fun element to it, with the evening networking and entertainment feature.  In 2014 UK had a casino themed evening where the attendees had a chance to relax and network with peers from their industry and our trainers as well.  Overall it is 2 days of work hard and play harder!

Preethi:  Thanks for taking the time to walk us through how it all began and hope SAP Skills Forum continues to be a success in the years to come.

Bjoern: Thanks for all the support and we look forward to many more years of enabling our SAP ecosystem.

The next SAP Skills Forum is in the UK on 23rd and 24th June 2016 at Maidenhead. For more details and to register for the event click here.

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      Author's profile photo Nicole Duffy
      Nicole Duffy

      SAP North America is pleased to announce they will also run the SAP Skills Forum in Newtown Square, August 17-18, 2016.