This year at SAP TechEd in Berlin and Las Vegas it felt different. Almost gone was the "What about these blue shirts? How can I get one?" A lot more "I have the following problem, do you know a solutions?".
The SAP Mentors have arrived.
As Chris Solomon writes in his TechEd recap: Fear and Loathing.....at SAP TechEd 2010?
People actually approaching SAP Mentors!!!!
... SAP Mentors are finely getting a bit more recognized. I know personally that no less than 7-8 times over the week at TechEd I had people approach me, grab me, yell at me, etc. and say "Hey! You're a Blue Shirt.....let me ask you something....". They would rattle off their question and just like any and all of us Mentors do, either I would answer or I would go locate a Mentor that could help them out. We LOVE that stuff! It seemed in the past, either people did not know about the SAP Mentors or quite what to make of us when they saw us all strolling around in our rugby shirts (no, it's not a cult, team, product, clique, or secret society). This year though, it seemed perceptions have changed. Very cool!
Of our 95 mentors 40 were in Berlin and 55 in Las Vegas. Some like John Applebee, Martin Gillet, Michal Krawczyk, Brian Whitmarsh, plus some SAP employee mentors where even at both locations back to back.
The SAP Mentors were everywhere. Starting even before the official TechEd kick-off: Ingo Hilgefort's ASUG pre conference seminar: SAP BusinessObjects BI Solutions in One Day was sold out way in advance. At the Innovation Weekend it looked like every team had at least one mentor participating.
No wonder that Gregor Wolf in Berlin as well as John Astill in Las Vegas where on stage with the winning teams. I would have loved to see them compete at Demo Jam, as I think they had a good chance of going all the way and winning the prize.
Gregor Wolf and team winning Innovation Weekend Berlin, John Astill & team winning Las Vegas and Matt Harding winning Demo Jam in Las Vegas. (Last 2 pictures via Martin Gillet)
If I counted correctly 6 out of the 8 community members interviewed in the opening video for the keynote were SAP Mentors.
Similar prominent were the blue shirts in the press conference, where some say that over half of the questions were asked by SAP Mentors.
If there was a panel on SAP TechEd live, didn't matter what theme, invariably a blue shirt was sitting on one of the high chairs. Especially the customer community experience panel with Mark Yolton, where 4 out of the 5 customer representatives where SAP Mentors.
The SAP Mentors also helped out in many of the TechEd hands-on sessions. Harald Reiter was engaged in so many, that he had almost no time for the executive mentor meetings.
Throughout the two weeks the SAP Mentors had feedback sessions with the following executives: Vishal Sikka, Herve Couturier, Bjoern Goerke, Marge Breya, Singh Mecker, Mark Yolton, Wolfgang Hilpert, Kaj van de Loo and team, Denis Browne, Jeremiah Stone and team, Sanjay Poonen, Keith Costello, Heinz Haefner. In addition the SAP Mentors also arrange their own meetings with SAP employees in the area of expertise.
These meetings were open deep discussions around SAP developments. It was built upon mutual trust: SAP Mentors sharing their constructive criticism as well as praise and the SAP executives sharing insights and listening attentively to SAP Mentors' concerns.
The trust we have built over the last years lead to the biggest news for SAP Mentors during SAP TechEd: SAP is opening up their Developer Kick-Off Meeting (DKOM) next March to the SAP Mentors. Goal is for the mentors to bring the outside voice of our customers and partners to the event. About 14K SAP developers come together at DKOM to learn about SAP's development direction, get to know about the latest development trends, collaborate and share their development, ideas, tips and tricks.
From my only slightly biased viewpont, there is no better group to do that. Just to open the eyes of the SAP developers to the potential that Code Exchange is offering to them, is wirth opening the DKOM gates to SAP Mentors.
SAP Mentors have their independent voice and sometimes what they post is not what we at SAP like to hear. Thorsten Franz' Kiss of Death for Web Dynpro Java The Follow-Up Questions post made some waves, as especially the blog title is a bit sensational. Some say it is even a bit misleading, but at the end it lead to this engaging post by Michael Bechauf Technology Stability in a World of Constant Change that brought clarity and understanding to the situation and the dialog forward. I have never seen that many thoughtful comments to an SCN blog post before. It is an example of SAP Mentors through constructive criticism, even though a bit sensational with the headline, keeping us SAP on our toes. Sometimes it hurts, but it forces us to focus on the market demands and it makes us stronger in the long run.
Wearing his SAP Mentor shirt made also a huge difference to Julius Bussche. At the airport in Berlin travelling back from TechEd, he was approached by a customer who recognized his shirt. They talked and the SAP customer told him about a challenge they were having, which perhaps a mentor could solve. It was an interesting discussion about a B2B scenario which with some tweaks SAP IdM can handle.
A week later the customer called him and he now has a (small) contract with them to develop a proof-of-concept. Not only that, but because of his SAP Mentor status he was able to negotiate a premium rate. The customer is a large corporation. They often don't want to add new suppliers to their system, so you have to go through third parties to do business with them. Not this time. His contact pushed through that he got preferred supplier status from the get go.
That just makes my day/month/year, that the amazing SAP Mentor magic that all of us mentors create leads to food on the table of mentor families.
If you are in Shanghai or Bangalore and see one of the blue shirts, don't hesitate to talk to them. In Bangalore, you can even innovate with them during Innovative Community Day Bangalore November 30, 2010 SAP Labs Offices
I would add you never were cool ;-)