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Dennis Howlett

We're Not Selling Anything

Posted by Dennis Howlett in dahowlett on Nov 27, 2010 2:23:51 AM

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.

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