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dahowlett

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This was originally posted at my AccMan site for a professional services community. The principles outlined seem to hold true(ish) for many environments. It is cross posted here by request. Enjoy.

 

Following on from my 'why blogging isn't dead' post it struck me that's all very well but then I can't count the number of professionals both those who are connected to marketing and what I would call functional experts who have come to me saying they find it really hard to write posts. It's not they don't know where to start but they don't know how to frame in such a way that a topic becomes interesting.  I've found this method works well but you decide for yourself.

         
  1. The perceived wisdom is - know your audience. OK - but what if you're new and don't have an established audience or are unsure? Hugh MacLeod said it well many years ago. I can't immediately find the reference but it boils down to this: write for yourself. We're not in this to show how super freakin' smart we are or win a Pulitzer Prize but to share our interests.
  2.      
  3. More perceived wisdom - give readers something they can't get elsewhere? Hmmm...if you're new or unsure than how do you know what they don't know? Here's what to do: ask questions. Rather than spout about something that may be completely irrelevant, talk to the reader as though you were having a conversation. As a professional you already know this consists of asking LOTS of questions so frame your position but invite questions. Examples might be: what did I miss? Am I on the right track? Does this make sense? Am I mad?
  4.      
  5. Tell a story - everyone loves an anecdote and as professionals we all have a rich store of those. Starting is easy: One day I was scratching my head over a client's tax return when... And I'm betting it won't be long before you're into adding a touch of humour and wit. Always a winner.
  6.      
  7. Don't be afraid to get it wrong. I've never met, heard or watched THE one person who had a lock on what I need to know but I can learn from many sources. That's why I shun terms like 'expert' 'guru' and the like.
  8.      
  9. Link like crazy. Much of what I've read recently suggests that blogging has become so skewed towards traditional media that linking is now passé and to be avoided. Screw that. I still link to send people away. Why? So they come back. And they do. As a side note it is a mark of humility to link to someone who does know more and with whom you connect.
  10.      
  11. Stay focused. I've said this many times before but I don't always take my own advice which makes me something of a hypocrite. On the other hand, I genuinely believe this is the easiest one of all. If you have bags of experience in just a handful of industries then you've got lots to say. Chances are you read around industry topics anyway and can readily find angles that have a way back to what you really want to say.
  12.      
  13. Keep it simple. Unless you are the world's expert on some arcane area of tax/audit or whatever then I can assure you nobody will care. Attention spans are shortening as well so you need to get into and out of your topic area as fast as possible. It's a good discipline for sharpening thinking processes.
  14.      
  15. Short and sweet. Another area where I lack discipline. But seriously, when I was at uni I was given an assignment that was meant to run 1,500 words. I wrote a brilliant, superbly researched 2,000 piece that scored me a D- because I ignored the word length criteria. That taught me a lesson I've never forgotten: If your reader can't skim through and get the nuggets in less than 2 minutes you've probably failed.
  16.      
  17. Be original. This is often perceived as very difficult when in fact it is much easier than you think. All you have to do is consider a topic of likely interest and then ask yourself: but what do I really think? I"ve never met anyone who didn't have something original to say. Give it a try. This goes hand in hand with...
  18.      
  19. Be current. Nobody cares about what happened 10 years ago unless it has relevance to today. Sometimes it does. I often think: I've seen this before and can then add insight or a refreshed view based upon experience.
  20.      
  21. Strong positions loosely held. Nothing is forever and last time I looked there were very few universal truths. In our practice lives things change all the time if for no other reason than our government masters like to set new tax puzzles every year. On the other hand it never hurts to take a strong position - provided you can back it up. But then don't be so dogmatic (unless the position is born out of genuine conviction and faith) that you cannot wriggle out as circumstances dictate.
  22.      
  23. Develop your own rhythm. There are no hard and fast rules but it helps to set expectations. If people 'know' you'll have something to say once a week then stick to that. If they know you only write when you have something to say, do that as well. That's how I roll and sometimes it means there are gaps. So what? (See no.1)

Anything glaring I've missed? As I said - this is a formula that pretty much works for me. I didn't know it at the time I started but these, along with a passion for sharing knowledge has kept me going nicely.   

Finally. Don't give up. This is a tough one but learn from this person - it's a cryptic link to take you further ;)

Dennis Howlett

I'm outta here !!

Posted by Dennis Howlett Nov 2, 2011

I've just come away from doing my last bit of mentoring another person in the SAP community before hanging up my shirt at SAPPHIRE/TechEd Madrid. It involved reading through something they want to say and providing feedback. It's something I thoroughly enjoy as I almost always learn something fresh along the way.  

I've said it before but it's worth repeating. When Mark Finnern called me up to become a Mentor I thought he was mad. I am one of SAP's most vocal critics and bringing me into that group was not going to make one iota of difference to my position. It was a bold and dangerous move. In the last year or so I've seen more of 'my kind' come on board and that's terrific. There needs to be a balance and having those who don't slavishly suck the SAP kool-aid or guzzle its chanpagne is what SAP needs. That's especially true as competition from the cloud vendors heats up. 

I wrote my first post on SCN back in October 2007. In the interim I've contributed a fair few more but nothing like as many as others who write technical stuff. I even managed to become a top contributor in 2010 though quite how I found the time to get so many posts written is a mystery. In the world of SAP, everyone seems busy and especially now as customers up their spending. It won't last, it never does and those who are wise are making provision for when the cycle starts trending south. That might include contributing more rather than less at a time when everyone seems time constrained. Individuals don't scale and SAP Mentors are but individuals. So..what's happened and what do I want to leave as a message for those that follow?

In the four years I have been part of the Mentor community I've learned an enormous amount. Having the ability to tap directly into the minds of others who know more than I has been incredibly useful. SAP is a big universe and no one person can hold it all in their hands or mind. Having experts who have deep expertise in smallish areas has extraordinary value. Having some of those people in the Mentor community makes it easier to find sources of valuable information. That wont change going forward. The friendships and bonds I've made with like minded people will last well into the future. 

What saddens me is that despite I meet so many of these people, there must be thousands more outside the Mentor community I don't get to meet. The closest seems to be the BI/BOBJ folk who have retained a specific identity. I'd love for instance a session with HR specialists. I'd love to see more HR people inside the Mentor group. I'd love to see more finance people, supply chain, sales...the list goes on. 

But then I wonder what the Mentor community offers. Sure, there is always the comfort of knowing you are part of an elite club of sorts. But that's also a barrier. The fact that Mentors form an easily identified pool of knowledge that SAP can tap into is turning into something of a two way exchange but there could be so much more. Just how much difference do what Mentors say really feed into the development process? With a handful of exceptions, we dont know. SAP desperately needs more business minded people bringing into the Mentor group. Having deep knowledge of BASIS and ABAP is fine but SAP provides business solutions not lines of code. 

One thing that is a huge positive. SAP technical teams and Vishal Sikka's group in particular enjoy meeting with Mentors and getting questions from the floor. These are always high quality conversations. For some it also means they get to short cut the myriad and sometimes confusing lines of communication that get in the way of accomplishing outcomes. That in itself is truly worthwhile. I hope that flourishes.  

Another I've noticed is that more Mentors are prepared to publicly question some of the things they see in the marketplace and especially on SCN. That is absolutely the right thing for those that believe in open dialogue and something I'd actively encourage. It is particularly good to see how some people have developed ways of drawing others into deep conversations on current topics without losing their cool, even when you just know there is an undercurrent of frustration. That speaks to the maturity of those prepared to speak. It stimulates debate of the kind that can only be good for customers in the long run. But then there are other, deeper questions.

What real difference does being a Mentor mean for people's careers? I've seen some gain benefit from this program but it doesn't seem to figure hugely in outcomes. I guess there are not that many out there prepared "to work the system" hard enough. But then if being a Mentor is recognition in iteself then SAP could do a lot more to market the meaning of being a Mentor to the outside world. 

I guess my larger concern is that the Mentors seem to becoming a small but perceptible part of the SAP broader marketing machine. Is that a contradiction of what I just said? Not really. Most of those who are part of the program have a strong affinity to SAP. That's hardly surprising when their livings depend upon work around the SAP system but is that affinity alone something that should be used as part of marketing? Most of those I know view marketing with suspicion. It's not always for the right reasons but I get why that is the case. IF SAP wants to take that route then it needs to do more to explain to Mentors what that means and why it is important TO the Mentors.

But I guess my biggest concern is that I can't find a single answer to the question: What does it mean to be a Mentor? It seems to be different for everyone and that makes for a motley and sometimes rag bag crew. Perhaps that's the way all tribes evolve - I'm not an expert in that field, I'm sure someone out there knows the answer. For the future I'd like to think SAP Mentors will evolve into a genuinely important part of the SAP landscape and not just a bunch of identifiable guys and gals who roam the SAPPHIRE/TechEd halls. How that happens remains to be seen. 

So what do I leave behind?

Along this journey I've been privileged to participate in a small number of projects that represent personal triumphs. ESME and C5 stick out as does work on BYD during its dark days. All involved other Mentors, all provided learning experiences. All proved to me that on certain occasions I can work as part of a team. Trust me - that's a big deal for someone who prefers to hunt alone. Heck it's even led to my ongoing collaboratio with Jon Reed as JD-OD.com. That isn't going away as I retire from the Mentor commmunity. We'll be there at Madrid filming the good, the bad, the ugly and the downright hilarious. 

As I write this I am thinking there could be one more triumph - developer licenses. Ever since I came on board, the problem of developers gaining easy access to technology without going through insane hoops has been a thorn in everyone's side. I have a feeling we are close to SAP finally 'getting it' and developing a way to help developers. If that happens - and my hopes remain high despite endless hours arguing the points - then I will be delighted. It will at last demonstrate that SAP seees the treasure it holds in the developer community and is prepared to make that capital work for all concerned. If it doesn't then I fear the company becomes less relevant. That would be tragic given SAP is closing in on 50 years as a business technology leader. I cannot believe that would sit well with the founders. 

As the Mentor programme moves forward I leave best wishes to all who take part. Despite my grumps and questions, great things have been achieved. There are too many people to thank for inspiring me - you know who you are. Be encouraged by others, grab with both hands the opportunities to bring positive change. Don't be afraid to say 'no' when something is wrong. Be the leaders SAP believes you to be. Contribute like it was the last thing you have to do. Comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable. Take a leaf out of the late Steve Jobs book and celebrate the crazy ones who will change the world. If you have the ears and eyes to hear and see it then you are part of that way of being.

Thanks - I'm outta here. 

At SAP TechEd Las Vegas, Jon Reed and I cranked out a total of 22 videos. They were a mixture of talking heads, fun stuff, customers and partners as well as our own unique brand of chat summing up our views of the show. Madrid sees us take this to the next level. An evil plan if you like.

Beyond the usual executive stuff, we want to focus in on BYD customers. So here's the deal:

If you know or have or are customers that have been implementing ByDesign then we'd like to hear their/your stories. We'll take as many as we can cram into the time we have available. 

Each video will be limited to 5 minutes - hence the idea of Speed Dating. In real terms it means you'll need to allocate about 15 minutes of time to setting up and filming the shoot.

We'll be happy to help customers hone their pitch but what we're really after are these three things:

  1. Why did you go with ByDesign?
  2. What have you gained as a result?
  3. What would you pass on as learnings to others?

Partners who bring customers onto the show get a bonus:

In the final video production we'll put their name AND URL into the show credits. Partners will be allowed (actually encouraged) to take the vids to their own sites as collateral they can use through our Creative Commons License. We'll provide partners with the embed codes so they only have to cut 'n' paste. What could be easier?

We're also creating a BYD channel on JD-OD where we'll showcase all the vids we produce. That will provide customers and prospects an opportunity to find 'like minds.'

As an added incentive there's a wee prize. A JD-OD.com hoodie to the best video as voted by the JD-OD viewers. One for the customer and one for the partner. If that sounds a bit naff - well, we're a low budget outfit so...

There's a catch - JD-OD retains full editorial control. We decide the questions, we deicde how (if at all) we edit the shoot. Now - if you've watched past shows you'll know we do very little editing because we like to demonstrate the conversational 'flow.' Nevertheless, some shoots need editing. 

In addition, we're asking those who come on the show to give us their One Word assessment of the show. It can be anything they want to say but it MUST be just One Word. If you watch the video above, you'll see why. 

If the idea of Speed Dating on JD-OD appeals to you then please get in touch with Stacey Fish. Stacey is our support at SAP for all things scheduling in Madrid. You'll have to wrangle with her for scheduling rights.

If you're on Twitter, then also let Stacey know your Twitter handle. We'll put that into a lower third on the video.

SAP Mentor Daniel Graversen's blog How to be a small sap software vendor provides tremendous insight into the difficulties that independent developers and contractor experience in proliferating their best work.

The cost of test systems combined with the cost of certification factor into making it almost impossible for the independent to share code on a commercial basis. 

Mrinal Wadhwa, another Mentor, puts forward the idea that:

But, lets consider the example you gave, a small add on, lets say hypothetically it costs one developer $20,000 worth of time to build this add on, now lets say there are 200 teams around the world that need this addon (generally there are more), now since they can't buy it from anywhere they all develop it independently, total cost to SAP customers $20000x200 = $4million .. instead if these 200 teams could've just bought this addon from the developer for say $140 ... total costs to SAP customer $28000, that is 0.007 of what it would've costed the customers otherwise. The independent developer who made the addon earns a 40% premium on his hourly rate, that makes is so much better for him than consulting work. The teams who bought the addon get to focus on solving more complex problems rather than focusing on the this redundant add on. SAP gets happy customers. Everybody wins !

Not quite. In Mrinal's world, SAP doesn't see a dime - at least not directly. I'll get there in a minute. Mrinal then goes on to talk about the quality issue. 

But, what about quality ? .. well actually its way better than the one off implementation that the consulting team would've made, because the same addon gets used over and over again its quality improves because of all the feedback it receives from repeated use by new customers, and these new improvements can also be sent to old customers. This process of natural selection and improvement actually ensures that only the highest quality code gets used in production. I think this process will work way better than any certification process ... we all know that that its impossible to reliably vet the quality of code without trying it out in a real environment for some time.

I can see that going down like a lead balloon in the hallowed halls of Walldorf. That despite SAP management is aware this is an issue. 

As an accountant by trade and VERY occasional code jock (I don't count myself among the rock star geeks) I think I have a solution. 

At Mrinal's pricing, any dev shop will pony up $140. I'd bet they'd spend $250-300 without batting an eye, especially seeing as that fades into insignificance when set against $20K for their development and that's before they add a markup. So let's work with both $140 and $250 and Mrinal's 200 dev shop estimate. You'll see why in a few minutes.

Whether Mrinal is right about real world testing as opposed to SAP QA is moot for the purposes of this argument but let's assume SAP feels the need to test because of legal issues. That's a real threat so let's not kid ourselves here. SAP puts the minimum price on that sssurance at $7K. But as an upfront cost it represents a genuine barrier.

SAP loves to talk about co-development so why not add that into the mix? See where I'm going?

Here is the business case:

Using my numbers, our little add on could generate $50K via the hub. Our developer could take his $28K leaving $22K or 44% for SAP. That more than covers the test cost AND drives revenue for the Ecohub. Now everyone is really happy because in my scenario, the downstream improvements that Mrinal envisages continue. SAP has enough money from the deal to apply incremental tests so our add-on is not only more useful but it carries SAP's assurance.

Why will this work? Mrinal makes the initial case but I will go seven steps further.

  1. The precedent for this has largely been set through DemoJam. Here are my reasons for making this assertion.
  2. DemoJam ringmaster Craig Cmehil likes to bring past winners on deck to demonstrate the value of what they showed in the previous year. As I recall a year or so back, he said that one company increased business 500% as  result of winning DemoJam. Was it a tested solution? I've no idea and it doesn't matter because no-one is going to turn their noses up at that potential. And all from two geeks getting in front of maybe 5-7K developers. If solutions are in the Ecohub then they will have the potential to reach millions and in those circumstances 500% will likely look shabby.
  3. DemoJam represents a microcosm of the small dev shop. When our group developed ESME, there were half a dozen or so folk on the team, cranking code and designs in spare time for less than 12 weeks. More often than not I hear about tiny teams doing much the same thing. I'd bet a lot of money that if ESME could have made it to Ecohub it would have proved wildly popular. But that's another story. My point is that small teams can do great things. Here's an example. 
  4. Anyone remember Ed Herrmann and Dan McWeeney's SAPLink? It won DemoJam back in the day. The current download number for the Web_DynPro-0.1.0a.nugg file is 8,450. The data dictionary has been downloaded 10,806 times. It still has committers. It's open source but could have been a paid for item. $50 anyone? The best stuff always generates demand.
  5. Co-development means shared risk. SAP does this with customers so why not with independent dev shops? As I have demonstrated, even with Mrinal's de minimus estimate of demand and my calculations of revenue, everyone including customers is a winner.
  6. SAP doesn't have a choice. In offering Business ByDesign at a ticket price of $149/user/month with a minimum user count of 10 it is signaling the lower end of revenue expectations at $17,880 pa. Expecting developers to pony for test systems and testing at current levels is unsustainable. SAP will have to develop a far more attractive model for this line of business. That would have to go the same direction as Mrinal is suggesting to come close to the BYD model. SAP knows it has to test BYD add-ons to ensure they don't break the multi-tenancy upon which BYD relies but that cannot be done at prohibitive cost and especially when SAP will (not might) rely on armies of small devlopers to fill in white spaces. If SAP goes this route then where does that leave add-on development for other solutions? They have to fall into line otherwise there is no logic in doing ANY development for Ecohub purposes other than out of the goodness of people's hearts. Last time I checked, that didn't pay the rent. 
  7. Daniel and Mrinal's argument about repeat development resonates very well. For too long, SAP customers have effectively overpaid for code that doesn't always stand up. This method solves that problem at a stroke

Large dev shops will go nuts. It is a disruptive model for them when they can charge over and over for the same stuff but that's too bad. The world is changing and the model I am outlining above is the way of the future. If you don't believe me then ask yourself this: why did Salesforce.com acquire the Heroku community? SAP doesn't have to do that. It already has a massive vibrant community of dedicated and seasoned developers.

SAP is moving many solutions towards 90 day development cycles. This model fits very well with that idea. It adds an urgency and drives focus towards delivery. It matches what we see in DemoJam development timelines. This model is therefore an accurate reflection of what is already happening and what is needed across the whole ecosystem. 

Finally...I'll make an emotional plea. SAP Mentors are among the best in the SAP ecosystem, according to SAP. Most represent small dev shops or are independents. A few come from large shops like IBM. Some are SAP employees. Imagine what an incentive it would be if Mentor code ended up on the Ecohub? Imagine how many other coding stars might emerge as a result? As it stands today, that isn't going to happen. Is that what SAP wants for its best? I cannot believe that. 

But what do you think? Have I done enough to create a convincing business case or could it be enhanced?

By any numeric measure, SAP's community is a success. Millions of members, thousands of posts, advice freely given by the armload. From what I can gather it contributes to reducing SAP's cost of service. One of the outgrowths has been the emergence of a new style of influencer in the shape of the SAP Mentor program. So you'd think it represents a win for everyone. Maybe so. Yet how could it be made better?

Motivating people to provide content to the community is easy. Make it a condition of their job. Score points and that becomes part of your performance evaluation. But that sort of carrot and stick is much more stick than carrot. It doesn't work in the long run because people end up posting a ton of material with limited and decreasing value. 

Another source of motivation comes in the indirect recognition people get for putting out great stuff. That's nice if ego inflation floats your boat or if you need the occasional validating slap on the back.

Still others see that putting out content is something that can bring them attention when a company has a particular problem to solve. Kerrching!!

And yet others like sharing for the sake of it and happen to believe SCN provides the right forum for them to do so. That's a kind of altruism that has the joy of sharing as its own reward

The problem with all these forms of motivation is that you can never be sure what the mix of factors is likely to be across points in time. That in turn means you can never be certain whether content is consistently delivering quality or being improved. 

SAP doesn't provide a particularly strong set of motivators beyond the points recognition system. While that works reasonably well I wonder if we've reached a point where that could usefully be enhanced. I'm thinking of adding in the notion of 'gamification.'

Gamification has become one of the latest hot topics in Silicon Valley. As I've said elsewhere, it is a rotten word but one that adequately describes the notion of taking ideas behind gaming theory and applying them to community. It works something like this.

As you contribute, you become entitled to rewards. Those rewards are random and unknown so you don't for example know what reward will be given at any point along the way. However, this system has proved useful in gaming communities (sic) and elsewhere as a way of driving value. Best Buy uses this theory as does BT.

One element might be the voting up of content considered to be valuable by the rest of the community that in turn leads to a reward. This changes contributions from being a volume game as it is played out now on SCN to a quality game. That makes a lot more sense because it forces contributors to up their game, give away more but provides tangible rewards for doing so. 

From what I can understand, there are measurable upsides for the community owner. That could in SAP's case be the further lowering of support costs, it could be the exposure of valuable innovations that can in turn be developed. It could be as simple as SAP learning more from its users than is currently possible and from which it can take development forward or in a previously unthought of direction.

Why am I excited by this idea? Simple. I have had solid discussions with folk 'in the know' on this topic who are pointing me to cases of success that can be both replicated and scaled.  

Of course not everyone agrees. My good friend Sig Rinde for example thinks of this as applying perfume before using soap. But what do others think?

Would SCN benefit from this style of interaction? If so then how might it work in this case?

I can't remember if I am in my third or fourth year as an SAP Mentor. Whichever it is, time is flying by. 

During that period I've been privileged to meet and learn from some of the brightest, congenial people I know. And in all the years I've been in and around SAP  - which goes back to about 1994 - I've probably learned more in the last few years than at any other time. 

There is no current time limit on serving as a Mentor but I think there comes a moment when it is time to move on. As volunteers, we're not tenured and I don't believe in elitism being bestowed either on a temporary or permanent basis. I also believe that an ever expanding group of Mentors runs the risk of losing its heart and soul that has to date been bound by an intimacy among 100 or so people. 

If the program was to grow substantially in number, I sense that intimacy would be lost, that value would decline and that ultimately, like all large organisations, silos of people would emerge. I can't imagine SAP enjoying the prospect of that occurring. 

In other words, the very things that make the Mentor program so good for all concerned would be lost. And with it, SAP would be the biggest loser.

But should Mentors simply drift away or suddenly be chopped out of the program after a specified period of time? Neither seems appealing and especially not when so many great relationships are formed along the way. 

I prefer to think that SAP could establish an alumni program. It doesn't have to be that complicated. Neither does it have to be funded to the extent that the Mentor program receives an allocation from SAP. But it would serve to allow SAP Mentors the opportunity to decide whether they wish to continue in a semi formal program that brings people together while allowing SAP to both maintain contact and, at the same time benefit from past experience.

If SAP is able to work this out then it also provides a clean mechanism by which Mentors will both know the limits of their expected commitment. It would also serve as an incentive for SAP to hunt out the next generation of bright minds. 

In short, an alumni program tied to clear time periods for serving as an SAP Mentor provides SAP with a system of constant renewal, fresh thinking and a way of keeping the program valuable to everyone.

As to myself? Regardless of what SAP decides, I've reached that point where I think my time as a Mentor is coming to an end. I have therefore decided that once this year's crop of TechEds are out the way, then I will bow out. 

It wasn't a difficult decision and yes, there is a tinge of sadness. But I'd like to set the example of stepping aside and let someone who I'm sure is far better than I, to step in and take a turn. 

I wont be going away...I will simply take a different role - whatever that might be. And yes, I will maintain the solid relationships I've built over the years. Those are too valuable to let die. 

Dennis Howlett

Naming Conventions?

Posted by Dennis Howlett Feb 11, 2011

Blagbert Comic #65

If you don't know the context then here's a link to some Certification 5 related stuff. 

If you don't know Blagbert aka Alvaro Tejada Galindo - then you should. Apart from being a brilliant comic, he's not half bad at doing SAPpy ABAPpy stuff.

Enjoy. Oh - and as a side note - who was it that said doing SAPpy stuff means you have to be serious all the time?

In his The specified item was not found. Dick Hirsch picks up the Redmonk beat about having developers at the heart of go to market. To be 100% clear on this, Redmonk is a strong advocate of having developers front and centre of pretty much everything and especially product marketing. I have some sympathy with that view but not always. I am also aware that Redmonk has a special place in the hearts of SAP developers. Be that as it may.

On ByDesign, Dick says:

 

Suggestion 1:  Don’t create a separate developer community for partners

 

On occasion, I’ve heard some indication that there should be some separate community for ByD developers. This would be a mistake. Exploit the passion and experience of the existing SCN community.

 

It is easy to see why Dick would hold that view but it is a fatal mistake.

  • I speak with a lot of SAP customers and user groups. The number one gripe about SCN is that it is way too focused on the Business Suite. Almost everything else gets drowned out.
  • If you look at the BPX community, that's been a hell's on earth job to get into reasonable shape.
  • There is a dearth of conversation that BusinessOne customers can tap into. All-in-One fairs little better.
  • Business ByDesign is unlike anything SAP has put into the marketplace. It needs to be treated as such. 
  • When you look at the construction of the SAP Mentor community it is 90% drawn from folk whose primary interest is in the Business Suite. That is changing as new people with interests in River, BOBJ and mobile come into the picture but it doesn't change the fact that SCN is cemented to the Suite audience. 
  • If the BYD audience is largely going to be business focused then, for example, how does SCN think that those same users are going to live with the crappy UI associated with blog post creation here (for example.) They won't. 

Why would anyone with an interest in ByDesign come to SCN? It is nothing like the Business Suite. It is not a sale to a technology buyer but to mid-sized companies that have a need for an integrated suite they can easily implement - no coding required.

Heck - there isn't even a points development area for it yet!!

SAP is working - albeit with what seems glacial speed - to bring the VAR community up to speed. It has shown the SDK to developers. Those who 'get' ABAP and C# will have little problem dealing with what is in effect a scripting language. So where is the place for a ByDesign community inside SCN?

I agree that having a vibrant developer network for BYD is critical but it will be many a year before those same developers will need to be sharing code. Instead I predict we'll see developers rapidly develop add-on modules for the white spaces SAP is not going to cover. They will likely share those in the context of a marketplace but that's about it. And from what I've seen, there just are not going to be that many issues with the SDK to warrant a large community.

I could be wrong of course but let's put it this way: when I can follow a script, code it and have something 'new' running in BYD then ANYONE can do it. 

I also believe BYD developers need their own identity. At the moment, those who know the Business Suite are making the instant comparisons and asking questions like: 'Why can't I just write ABAP?' Clearly SAP has a messaging issue here but in short - this is different, you're not going to be getting anywhere near the source code. You will be playing with business objects and forms. A totally different way of working and thinking. And it is this difference in thinking that to my mind is the hallmark of why a BYD community should not come anywhere near SCN. Anything else risks the 'old world' anti-bodies from stifling innovation on this solution. 

Rainer Zinow does a fantastic job of working through the technical ins and outs of BYD. Rainer will likely admit that he needs to improve on changing his tone from one that sounds like SAPense to one that reflects business language. If you agree with that then it is easy to see how BYD will be an odd fit inside SCN.

Dick's second suggestion makes a HUGE amount of sense:

 

Suggestion 2:  Find a BusinessByDesign SAPMentor

 

This suggestion may be premature. I know that the ByD SDK hasn’t been released yet.

Still, I’d like to suggest that there be a SAPMentor who is a BusinessByDesign expert.  The synergy would be amazing and the inclusion with this group would help promote this new development environment.

 

Note to Dick: the SDK has been released but version 2.6 is the one that everyone is waiting for - due later this month.

I am currently in the process of developing a paper which SAP will have rights to distribution. In that paper I, along with my co-author Brian Sommer, talk about it as a business solution first and foremost. It is not a toolbag of bits and bytes although good implementations will need the knowledge of process experts.

I can therefore see some cross over from the BPX community into one for BYD but that's about it. 

Rather than try live with the old I'd be MUCH happier seeing SAP carve out a separate identity for BYD devs. That's what makes market sense, whatever you believe the role of developers should be for this solution. 

Last week, SAP Mentors manned a booth at the annual SAP UK & Ireland User Group Conference held in Manchester.

It was something of a landmark event for the Mentors since it was the first time that Mentors had been invited to take a booth by any of the User Groups. 

None of us are exhibition experts so designing and assembling a booth in less than 10 days was something of a challenge. John Appleby did the needful in fine style. How did the Mentors get on?  

From the get go we decided we wanted to 'own' the social media conversation and especially that coming through the Twitterverse. On his Bluefin blog, John notes:

  • 831 tweets reached 69,757 people containing #suguki10
  • 1,077,287 tweets were read overall containing #suguk10
  • 135 people were involved with #suguki10
  • At least 20 SAP mentors were involved from 4 separate continents

That's impressive, regardless of whether you think Twitter is either useful or a waste of time. Even so, it is perhaps more a reflection of the impact Mentors can have along with the way Mentor relationships operate in the wider world. That in turn reflects the enthusiasm Mentors have for all things SAP. 

We had a lot of fun along the way. Again from John's blog:

Early on, we were having some fun on the Twitter feed and Alan Bowling (SAP UK&I chairman) came over to see us. I thought that he was coming over to throw us out actually, or at least to chide us for teasing the User Group.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. Alan was gracious and wanted to learn about how to interact with social media – he crucially wanted to be part of the conversation. He asked for a session with the Mentors to understand how we can help each other and be a better pressure group with SAP together.

Going into the event, we had no idea what people would be interested in hearing. The first question on most people's minds? 'What are you selling?' Maybe a banner next year that says 'We're Not Selling Anything' would be a good starting point. 

We had to spend a lot of time explaining what Mentors do. It must have seemed confusing since we come at this from personal perspectives rather than from a clearly articulated vision. That taught me two important lessons. SAP Mentors need to:

 

  1. Define and refine a 30 second elevator pitch is needed. That requires a discussion with SAP. 
  2. Get better at talking about SAP Mentor community value. Mentors can only do so much. John suggests speaking slots at events but I think a lot more is needed. SAP does a great job using social media channels but these represent a minority of the communications that SAP users consume. 

 

Later in the conference I had a useful conversation with both Alan Bowling and Craig Dale, SAP UK&I UG CEO. We agreed that going forward, Mentors and the User Group will:

  1. Share product roadmap information. Mentors often get early access to technology SAP is either thinking about or is putting into production. The User Groups get similar access. The purpose of these interactions will be to act as a permeable membrane through which learnings can be shared.
  2. Help the User Group develop ideas around how customers/developers showcase innovations in a way that is a development of the DemoJam concept. How this happens has yet to be worked out. Alan told me the Dutch user group did something similar this year and it was well received.
  3. Encourage Business One users to come forward. The UK&I UG is keen to see B1 users gain more visibility. One way that can happen is through encouraging Community Network participation. That's a lot tougher than it sounds and is part of a much larger conversation about how SCN moves forward.

I have a specific project related to SAP Business By Design that I need to parse via the SAP BYD team that will hopefully mean SAP user group people gain access to new information on that topic. 

Looking back, this was a great event for both SAP Mentors and the User Group. I sense Mentors are at an inflection point. In the past, Mentors have been largely wedded to SAP and its agenda. That is as it should be. Now the Mentors have a genuine opportunity to act as a permeable membrane between SAP and its users in new ways where everyone is a winner. SAP is emphasising customer engagement. This will always be a challenge because SAP and its customers have agendas that don't always match. SAP Mentors are not faced with the same problem. 

What do you think? Do my conclusions make sense or am I drinking too much Mentor glory driven Kool-Aid? 

Endnote: thanks to everyone who made the event a success. Shout outs are at John's blog. Check it out.

The SAP Certification Survey is finally over. We started it on August 13th and let it run through different events we attended either in person or virtually. We got 500 responses on the day that SAP Inside Track Istanbul took place this last weekend. It was a fitting time to draw the survey to a close and on behalf of the Certification 5, I'd like to extend our thanks to all those who took the time to complete it. I also want to especially thank the 286 people who added comments of one kind or another. Comments provide the enrichment such surveys desperately need. So what did we conclude?

Earlier I said that almost from the get go we were seeing reasonably consistent answers to key questions all the way through. That remained the case right to the end. While it is always dangerous to project through to larger numbers I am reasonably confident that we would continue to see similar patterns within 1 Standard Deviation. 

Interpreting the results is another matter. As a first shot I'd argue that the demographics indicate we reached a broad spread of SAP expertise across all geographies. That should mean results are not particularly skewed in favor of location, experience or skillset. I believe the results fairly reflect the whole SAP population although there are bound to be nuances.

Our key questions centered around the value of multiple choice questions in the context of how SAP certifies skills. 47% of those who are certified did NOT believe MCQ validates practical skills. That is despite the fact 59% thought it would help their career prospects even if employers had not requested certification. 

As expected and based upon comments we were regularly seeing on certification blog posts, 63% of those who are not certified believe the ability to demonstrate practical experience is more important in the roles they undertake. 46% said that certification had not been asked for by their employing or contracting organization. 

It should not therefore be a surprise to find that only 29% felt certification was very important/important in staff recruitment.

At this point I would conclude that in broad terms, the survey bore out much of what we have seen anecdotally among the communities in which we participate and upon which the Certification 5 based its original whitepaper critique.

We wanted to establish whether proposed changes to the way SAP certifies would be welcome. In order to do that you first have to consider whether people believe there could be value in a fresh approach to skills certification. The professional and master levels are relatively new introductions but...

Alarmingly, 37% did not know there is a professional and master level program in operation. The message is clear: SAP has to do a better job communicating this topic through its various education and ecosystem channels.

Having said that, 74% felt there is value in assessing soft skills such as project management. At a personal level I consider this a vital element in ensuring project success yet this topic isn't tackled through certification. Much will be made of this and there is clear potential for SAP to work alongside professional management organizations. 

Along with those who have deep SAP experience, we have long argued that testing for a practical problem would have significant value. 87% agree with that idea. However, 46% only think this is worthwhile IF such a test is perceived as enhancing their career. That is understandable given we are currently talking about something that has yet to feature in SAP certification. However, based upon discussions around this at TechEd and other events, we believe there is a lot of goodwill that SAP can leverage in making this a reality. 

One of our survey tests was to discover the extent to which people might have been swayed by the arguments presented in the original SAP Certification whitepaper. 63% said they had not read it. You can argue about the extent to which the other 37% skewed results assuming they were ALL in favor of our proposals. Here I go back to my opening remarks - while the survey was ongoing, we saw patterns of answer that did not change materially. I interpret that to mean that the impact our paper may have had on respondents was minimal. 

At this point I should restate that SAP Education has returned to us on this topic. While there are detailed points of discussion, there is broad agreement that the direction we propose is something SAP needs to take. I count that as a major milestone achieved through community effort. The next step is to get SAP to commit funding that will take these ideas forward.

Anyhoo...that's how I view the results. How about you? Do you believe this is a fair interpretation or have I missed something fundamental? 

Endnote: If anyone would like a PDF of the results set out in chart format, please let me know. 

If you don't have the Enterprise Geeks on your radar then you are missing out on some of the most entertaining and incisive commentary around the SAP developer community. 

If you don't know who they are then here's the usual cast: Eddie Herrmann, Thomas Jung, Dan McWeeney, Rich Heilman and Craig Cmehil - all names that should be familiar to any SCNer of more than 5 minutes acquaintance.  

In their most recent podcast, Thomas Jung kicked off a debate about the quality of developers that are coming through the ranks. It's strong stuff and one interpretation might be that the 'egheads' are being a tad elitist until you hear Dan McWeeney saying in surprise that some people he's seen don't know what a debugger is about. 

I would never put myself into the uber geek class of these fellows but even I know what a debugger is and how to use it. If grad students are not being taught this critical skill then quite frankly shame on our teaching institutions.

One argument that didn't get well explored centered around the drive for simplicity and how this might be impacting the teaching that students receive. It's an interesting topic about which much more could be said. 

Listen to the section that runs from about 15 mins 40 secs and you'll hear Thomas say: "I am shocked at how many developers don't understand the difference between a binary file and a text file." I'm shocked as well and again, I don't come at this as someone who is an uber geek or even that great a coder but come on people, this has got to be a concern. 

At around 26 min 30 secs, Eddie wonders whether there hasn't been some sort of dumbing down as tools get easier to use and Thomas then conflates that to mean that as tools get easier, the technical knowledge requirements for developers become less to the point where fundamental knowledge gets lost. 

At around 28 mins, Eddie makes the observation that he sees today's ABAP forum users as lazy. Dan says: The biggest difference comes in your interest to tinker...it's a much better indicator of whether they'll be any good...Every good programmer is an incredibly good debugger."  

All participants see this as a serious problem that has many facets, including the tools necessary to keep the right people.  

I was particularly struck by the way Eddie Herrmann mashed up the discussion with thoughts around Certification and the Certification 5 efforts to move SAP certification forward. 

In the early days of discussing certification topics, Eddie was one of the most outspoken critics of having SAP experienced developers certified. Over time, it's fair to say he has come around to the thought that if valuable then certification is something he would support. 

At 47 mins 30 secs he throws in the notion of an Enterprise Geeks Certification, expanding that into a discussion of how he now sees the world: "If I'm going to pay someone hundreds of dollars to do something on SAP maybe it's a good idea to have someone who is certified?...especially if it balances the experiences and reputation and paper knowledge because anyone can memorize a book and spit it out."

At around 50 mins, Dan adds the though that if you want to find out how good someone is then ask them to show what they're doing on Github. I won't speak to the value or otherwise of such a selection process element but I can speak to what the Certification 5 Survey has revealed. 

Selected demographics 

So far we have 455 completed responses following 2,466 visits. That's an 18% response rate.

There was broad representation across skills such as ABAP/developer, BASSI, finance, CRM, HR/HCM, supply chain/logistics, portal, workflow, BI, security, BOBJ and archiving/ILM. 

North America, EMEA and APAC were represented by roughly 31% each with 6% coming from South America

36% respondents came from SAP customers while 34% were employed at an SAP SI/consultancy.

Experience varied as follows:

 

  • 5%<1 year
  • 7% 1>2 yrs
  • 30% 3>5 yrs
  • 28% 6>10 yrs
  • 30% 11+ yrs   

 

Key Questions 

34% did not know there is a Professional and Master Level certification

64% of respondents had NOT read the C5 discussion paper

73% agree there is value in certifying soft skills. 

73% say that validating advanced SAP skills cannot be accomplished by MCQ alone

87% say that providing an answer to a practical problem would be a valuable enhancement to SAP Certification 

29% say that SAP Certification is not important in recruitment while 22% say it is important.

 

Selected qualitative answers 

There were 145 qualitative answers, representing 32% of all completed surveys. Many touch upon issues that surround the C5's current thinking but which clearly hark back to the Enterprise Geek conversation Comments include: 

 

"SAP Certification via MCQ is an insult to the disclipine of Computer Science/Information Systems. None of my higher level CompSci classes were passed only by answering multiple choice questions. Higher level computer science classes(including systems analysis) require essay style questions to test knowledge in an objective fashion. The current MCQ certification exams only promotes rote memorization of feature lists and not whether you have the ability to solve a business problem via that solution."

"SAP Certification in my opinion is not going to work because there are several SAP consultants who don't have exposure to software development practices. I mean most of them started working in SAP after attending training programs 10+ years ago. For example, a good number of BW developers would know how to create DSOs/ODSs, Cubes, mapping, transfer rules, loading etc. Most of them probably attended training programs in BW and learnt just these tasks. So yes, they would do very well if you or certification exam asks questions on tcodes, how to create objects, transfer rules etc. They may not have other soft skills(such as analzying data) needed to be successful. I am going to write a blog on this which might make this clearer."

"I believe SAP still see Certification as a way to drive Education revenue. They should see it as an investment and invest in it. This does not mean give it away - it means invest"

"Rather than a practical question to assess professional experience I would prefer to see candidates submit details of their professional experience and referees for that experience (similar to CISA, CIMA, etc)."

"Having programmed in ABAP since 1994 and made so many different solutions during this period for real difficult problems I took the ABAP certification test (most advanced) 2 years ago. I did decent prep and did know what areas to be covered etc. Now. Taking the test and only MCQ all over. Quite a few asking for totally irrelevant things like the name of the ABAP program to be able to transport a SAPScript. How RUDE! This is by no what so ever a test of my abilities. I did fail with a few %. Was I pleased - NO! I felt like someone had driven over my 15+ years of effort always adhering to the latest standards in ABAP. The cert exam cost quite some money and time to do proper prep. I was a total waste for me at that time. I highly awaiting something better from SAP to more accurately measure relevant skills that are needed. From this survey and the ongoing debate there might come something good eventually."

"It would be great if they turned back to Workflow Certification. I think, some basics skills should be proved, before someome try to enter to a certain area, for example, there are people who gets abap certification but they never worked with any development, they just studied for the exam and passed, but besides their successful exam, it doesn't mean development is the right area for them." 

The survey is still open so please feels free to add your voice.

Closing thoughts 

There will always be much debate around this topic and SAP will never satisfy everyone. But when put into the context of the Enterprise Geeks' latest podcast, it seems there are more nuanced arguments emerging on how SAP certification might be developed to improve what the uber geeks are effectively warning is coming: a dumbed down industry that serves no-one any good. When people of this calibre and authority speak, we should all be listening and learning.

Earlier today and under extremely difficult technical conditions, I presented early results from the Certification 5 survey during SAP Inside Track Belgium. At the time of writing we have 399 responses. The pattern of responses to key questions is not changing over time. I'll get to that later.

Here's the presentation which you can download from the link in the header of this blog post.

 

The thing to understand is that the key theories we proposed in the original Certification 5 paper are largely supported by those who have completed the survey. 

So for example we asked:

"If you are SAP Certified, do you believe that the multiple choice question format validated your practical skills?" 

62% said no. One respondent added:

"SAP Certification via MCQ is an insult to the disclipine of Computer Science/Information Systems. None of my higher level CompSci classes were passed only by answering multiple choice questions. Higher level computer science classes(including systems analysis) require essay style questions to test knowledge in an objective fashion. The current MCQ certification exams only promotes rote memorization of feature lists and not whether you have the ability to solve a business problem via that solution."

That's possibly the most stinging indictment I have ever read of SAP Certification. The flip side of that question:

"SAP Professional Level Certification is designed to validate advanced SAP skills "by requiring proven project experience, business process knowledge, and a more detailed understanding of SAP solutions" in your focus area. Do you think this can be accomplished solely by multiple choice?"

72% said yes. To the follow up:

"If SAP Professional Certification included a requirement to provide the answer to a practical problem the answer to which could be objectively assessed, do you think this would represent a valuable enhancement to SAP Certification?"

87% said yes 

I said I would talk about patterns, When I developed the survey there was always the risk that much of what the C5 had been trying to say would be blown up as not something the market of SAP freelancers and others want. Once we got past the first 100 or so answers I started to monitor the pattern of results and especially to the questions mentioned above. That is because the style of Professional level certification is what now lies at the heart of discussions with SAP and, at some stage, will inform the Master level.  

I can confidently say that up to present, there has been very little movement in the numbers. So for example the answers to questions about validation as described by SAP vary in the range 71-76% over time. The answers to the question of practical problem requirements range 83-88%. I consider these to be insignificant in the context of the whole and statistically valid. Other may disagree but I am satisfied that subject to some obvious 'fixing' we have a result that's unlikely to materially change over time.

It is possible these results could change significantly with a larger sample but I am assuming that would not be the case given we have now been running the survey some 6 weeks. 

During the SAP Inside Track Brussels event I was asked if I can share more from the survey. The answer at this time is 'no.' It is not that I wish to hide anything but the C5 need to give SAP Education a full debrief including our thoughts on the totality of the results before releasing the full results into the public domain. We believe that is only fair as we expect they will wish to consider and respond to the findings.  

Two things I can share which I think are contextually valuable:

36% of respondents were not aware SAP is expanding to Professional and Master levels - that means there is a strong need for communication.

64% of respondents have not read the C5 paper. It was important for us to know this because there is always the possibility that vested interests in the topic might try and flood the survey and so skew results. Given the C5 paper has been downloaded: 4,891 times as at the time of writing then I think it is safe to assume we have succeeded in avoiding obvious survey completion bias. Given also that the number of people who have not read the C5 paper has grown significantly over time (at the 200 response levels it was about 50/50) AND taking into account the patterns we're seeing, then I belief this adds weight to my confidence that what we're seeing is defensible.

Am I pleased with the results survey so far?  Of course. It is always gratifying to see theory tested and proven largely correct or at least in the right ball park. Is there much from which SAP can learn? Absolutely. Having a 31% qualitative response rate from respondents is phenomenal. It is clear this topic continues to stir plenty of thought and for that I must thank all those who took the time and effort to run through the 23 questions and then go on to add insights we have so far not been able to see. 

One thing that HAS been a disappointment. There are very few  responses from the SI community. We know from back channel conversations that SAP Certification is a thorny topic for them. They often do their own thing and, quite frankly, would rather things stayed as they are. There are many reasons for this. The C5 do not share that view, considering it to be the 'lazy way' that fails to address the needs of customers.  

We are continuing to run the survey through TechEd so if you are reading this for the first time and would like to participate then please take the survey here.

 Today in Boston at 10am ET, SAP is on stage talking about the Sybase acquisition. I'm stuck in Spain but am tracking the Tweet action via Cover-It-Live.

There is a live webcast.

SAP has Mentors on the ground in Boston and I will be using Cover-It-Live to communicate with them and try get questions put to the panel of speakers.

If you have questions and want them put to speakers then use the Twitter hashtag #sapsybase and they will appear in the Cover-It-Live stream.

ZD Net's Michael Krigsman is in the audience alongside colleagues from the analyst world @paulhamerman (Paul Hamerman, Forrester)  @toppundit (David Dobrin) @vendorprisey (Thomas Otter, Gartner in Frankfurt)

Enjoy. 

  Jon Reed is an SAP Mentor and the President of JonERP.com - he blogs, Tweets and podcasts on SAP skills and market trends.

Martin Gillet SAP Consultant, SAP trainer and SAP MentorBelgium

Michael Koch, SAP Mentor and Independent SAP Consultant. 
Working in IT since 1990, I've been involved in the SAP arena since 1997. Doing the needful.

 Leonardo De Araujo has been a SAP Logistics Functional and Technical consultant for more than 12 years. Based in Montreal-Quebec, Canada.

 

It is almost four months since the Certification Five paper: SAP Certification: The Certification 5 Report was published on SDN. Since that time, there has been a tremendous amount of feedback on SDN, via email, at LinkedIn and other places. All good stuff representing valuable additions to an important debate. 

It is clear that passions run deep on this topic but if we are honest, much of what we are seeing amounts to a collection of anecdotal evidence which is difficult to disseminate on a meaningful basis. We felt the time has come to get a bit more scientific about this and discover more about the implications of Certification both now and going forward. 

One of our prime objectives in developing the survey has been an attempt to be as objective as possible. That is difficult given our position as advocates for change. After much agonizing, tweaking, discussion, rip, replace, rinse and repeat we think we've come up with something that will help everyone get a better sense of what people are thinking, whether Certified or not.

In an ideal world we'd get millions of responses. In reality we expect somewhat less although we will be using our best efforts to distribute the survey as far and wide as we possibly can. Apologies in advance if you are a member of subsidiary groupings in other communities and see us promoting this survey. However, we would like as many people as possible to participate so that we end up with something that not only provides a rich source of information but which can serve as the basis for any next steps. That means the survey is 'long run' - over the next couple of months.

Is the survey perfect? Of course not. Could we have gone further? Absolutely. On this occasion we are trying to keep the focus tight, making it of sufficient length that it has value but not so long that people get fed up of completing it. Juggling those parameters is tough but we think we've just about got there. It will take around 2 minutes to complete. Sadly we cannot offer any prizes or incentives to complete other than than your having the satisfaction of knowing that completing the survey is making a valuable contribution to a debate SAP Mentors, Certification Five geek out with Bill McDermott

Some might be thinking - why now? Having seen the growing success of SIT over the last few months and participated in lively debates around the topic at several SITs we saw a chance to kill three birds with one stone: Bangalore SIT is tomorrow - if you can't attend in person then check out the agenda. The afternoon is dedicated to C5 topics. We're presenting via Adobe Connect which will be pretty darned awesome given that Jon Reed will need to be up at 4.30am. Finally, with 53 registered attendees, we felt that this was a great audience with which to kick off the survey. 

It should go without saying that the results will be made public and available to anyone who is interested in the topic. Early results will be all over the map so keep checking back.

We are both excited and nervous about the outcomes so have at it. Here's the survey link and thanks in advance.

Finally, we'd like to thank those among the community that have helped us iron out the survey bugs and made suggestions for improvement. You know who you are, give yourself a round of applause and beers are on us whenever we next meet.

Last week a colleague asked me if I could provide detail or recommend someone who could give some insight into the integration challenges for SAP CRM and R/3 4.6. This was in the context of a competitive bid that might involve a SaaS provider. I decided to set this as a Mentor challenge...a thought experiment if you like. My colleague provided a good amount of detail so there was enough with which to assemble a reasonable answer. Since this was commercially sensitive I laid down a few rules, the principle one being 'no blog.' Don't worry, I'm not going to break my own rules!!

First up, it is fair to say I have a reasonable amount of invested capital among SDN'ers and Mentors. The likelihood of them failing to respond is small. To that extent I have an advantage and won't claim the results are representative of any trends. 

Setting aside the end of (SAP support) life issues around 4.6 the exercise was interesting at multiple levels. 

  • I gave respondents 3 working days to supply an answer. They all got back within 36 hours...on a weekend.
  • All gave solid answers with varying levels of detail.
  • Some addressed the competitive issues alongside the technical take, adding value beyond that which was originally expected.
  • Where there was uncertainty or ambiguity, respondents posed fresh questions. 

One respondent made an excellent point that is worth the repeating: "I can't believe that in the current climate customers don't make more use of people like us (mentor freelancers). I mean, no offense, but you basically had massive consulting advice there. From an SI you would have had to wait ages and pay ££££ for it. That's the sad truth."

Which raises some interesting points. 
  • If SAP Mentors are willing to freely give of their time in such a manner then does this signal some sort of shift in consulting or was I simply able to trade a bit of goodwill? 
  • Does it mean that consultants need to think about pre-qualifying themselves by giving something away first?
  • Can the independents steal a march on the Big Boys by offering this type of service?

What do you think? Did I strike lucky or do you think that the consulting game is changing? Has commoditization reached into the otherwise premium world of SAP? 

Side note: When I set the challenge I didn't mention any reward. However, the answers were so impressive I asked my colleague to select the best and then roped my buddy Vinnie Mirchandani into donating a copy of his book: The New Polymath. It seems wholly appropriate.

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