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Getting ready for SAP TechEd 2009 with tips from Jon Reed

In this podcast, SAP Mentor and analyst Jon Reed tells you how to convince your boss to let you attend SAP's TechEd, and once you're there, which sessions you can't afford to miss.

Will you, or should you, be among them? In this podcast, SAP Mentor and SAP analyst Jon Reed, who runs the popular SAP-focused website JonERP.com, lends some advice on getting ready for the event. He'll share his thoughts on making a business case to the boss to be able to attend, what some of this year's hot topics will be, and some of the can't-miss sessions.

Preparing ahead of time for the event will help ensure there's time to catch everything from the sessions on SAP's business intelligence roadmap, to the new Process Design Slam that showcases BPM methodologies, to the Demo Jam – affectionately referred to as the "American Idol for geeks."

On Oct. 13 through 16, thousands of SAP IT managers, developers, administrators and business process experts will descend upon Phoenix for what is for many the best SAP conference of the year – SAP TechEd.

  Getting ready for SAP TechEd 2009  
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  Program highlights  

  • 1:08: SearchSAP.com: In light of the budget restraints that every company is facing this year, how can you build a business case to your boss for attending TechEd this year?
  • Jon Reed: We need to have a shift in our thinking -- from taking this type of conference attendance for granted, to realizing that we do have to structure our attendance around the business benefits not only for ourselves but for the companies or clients we work for. A lot of that is a company-specific situation, where it's important to talk with your immediate supervisors and project team members, and understand what the glaring needs are in terms of education, or in sharing lessons from other customers.

    I'm a believer in putting that kind of plan in writing, perhaps in the form of a proposal, where you put down what you're going to get out of TechEd, what you're going to bring back to the company, how you're going to share that information. It's not just your education but your project team's education. If you can think of it along those lines, you will definitely have a better chance of getting a green light. The other thing is to get clear in advance is on blogs and visibility. Some companies enjoy having that type of visibility brought to their organization that can be gotten through a blog after every day's events. But other companies aren't looking for that. So you have to make sure that your business case revolves around what your company's priorities are.

  • 2:50: SearchSAP.com: So what are some of the hot topics that we'll be hearing about at Tech Ed?
  • Jon Reed: We'll there's definitely many different technical themes at TechEd and many of them have strong business application. For example, take sustainability -- that's a cause all of us can rally behind, but it also has many practical business benefits, such as how companies are saving money and achieving better compliance and sustainability. There will be a lot of customer case studies and stories around that topic.

    As well, we can expect a lot on clouds, cloud-based virtualization innovation. There'll be a lot on security and compliance. There's a lot on biz process optimization and process modeling. There's a lot on business intelligence and Businessobjects as well, as companies try to get more out of their ERP systems in terms of analytical capability.

    There will also be plenty of stuff around upgrades as well as Solution Manager. That's a tool that everyone is trying to wrap their heads around on how to get the most out of, given its central position in the system. So it really depends where your implementation is at, but once you do that assessment, and go on the TechEd site and look through the sessions, you can see that there's a lot of ways you can angle these sessions.

  • 4:27: SearchSAP.com: What are some of the sessions you would recommend to our readers?
  • Jon Reed: You have to look at that in terms of your individual priorities, because there's a very broad range of topics. Tech Ed is misnamed, or maybe it's outgrown its name, because there's quite a lot of business relevance to the sessions, as well as technical guides. For example, if you go on the TechEd website, you can view the material by job role. You can view all the tracks by business intelligence job roles, or business process job roles, or IT management, or systems admin or developer.

    The things that I get interested is are BPM and business process related sessions, because that's my particular interest, because those are what are helping people evolve their skills and helping project teams understand how to become more process-oriented. There are probably in excess of 100 sessions around that making the most of BPM tools.

    There's also a lot of informal sessions, expert networking session that take place in community lounge, you can look thru those session s as well on the teched website.

  • 5:48: SearchSAP.com: What's the best way to take advantage of some of the networking opportunities with peers and professionals at the event?
  • Jon Reed: The networking lounge has experts for the community who propose 30-minute slots, and you can view a lot of them in the sessions leading up to the conference. I'm actually doing several on SAP skills-related topics that are centered around informal chats on BPX skills and also social networking in an SAP context.

    A bunch of different experts across the SAP landscape are doing the same thing, and it's important to think about TechEd in terms of relationships. With the virtualization of events like TechEd, you don't have to go to every hands-on session while you're at the conference. Yes, you've got to hit the sessions that are really important to your job, but beyond that, I think building relationships in more informal settings is really what makes TechEd stand out as the best SAP conference of the year to me.

    And with the virtual events, you can come back a month later and, through virtual TechEd, go online and check out the hands-on sessions that you missed. So the focus shifts towards: "Who are the people I need to meet? Who are the SAP product managers I want to form a connection with? Who are the experts in the field I want to know better?" And you expand that network, which benefits both you and your project team.

  • 7:21: SearchSAP.com: How can you make the most of your time at TechEd?
  • Jon Reed: A big part of it is having a game plan going in and not winging it. In the early days of attending these conferences I would just show up and hope for the best. What I've realized is that the people who are presenting put in a lot ahead of time for these shows, and you need to do the same.

    There are several things you can do. For example, if you do a Google search for SAP TechEd Twitter, you can find the Twitter ID and start following that now. That will help you ahead of time to start getting updates on what's happening. Then, as you head towards the show, and you start getting your agenda together, you need to be realistic. Will I have time to attend some of the evening activities that are so much fun, like the Demo Jam or the Hacker Night? Where am I going to be all day long?

    Get your appointments set in advance with any key decision makers or experts that you want to talk to. Getting all that in your agenda ahead of time is a big part of how to make the most out of it.

    You can also do live monitoring of the event once you're there. There are various ways of getting updates from TechEd monitors that are posted. It's also good to remember the Twitter hash tag of @SapTechEd @sapteched. Once you start tracking these live updates from people at the conference, one of the things that will do is alert you to any key things that are going down that you might not want to miss, or conversations that are happening. Maybe, for example, Vishal Sikka's keynote might be impacting folks as far as new announcements that he might make. Or maybe even just a debate about SAP's technical future.

    So you want to make sure you're following the sentiment of the conversation that's going on as well as the event, so that you're in the loop while you're there so you feel like you're a part of things as opposed to hearing about it after you get back. Because that's something that can happen if you get too focused on a couple of half-day sessions, and then ask, "What happened today?" And then it's done.

    This was last published in September 2009

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