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Wondering where to be at SAP Sapphire 2011? Attendees share plans

With SAP Sapphire Now just weeks away, attendees talk about what they want to get out of the annual event.

Some will be heading to the upcoming SAP Sapphire 2011 conference to network, and some will be going to learn about new SAP applications.

For Archana Sharma and others like her, the trip to Florida is about pain.

Sharma, an SAP program manager for Bell Canada in Toronto, said she’s most interested in learning more about SAP ERP supply chain and financials so she and her team can consolidate the financial data in the telecommunication company’s merchandising and service plan operations.

“It’s not easy,” she said. “One is retail, and the other is non-retail.”

Others come to listen, just not to SAP.

“We have a pretty good relationship with SAP,” said Christian Matz, managing director at the consulting firm Ecenta America Inc., based in Bellevue, Wash. “A lot of things that are going on at Sapphire we’ve already heard about, or may have already seen.”

It’s more important to find out what SAP customers are interested in, especially in the firm’s specialty areas of CRM implementation and change management. “For me, it’s all about networking,” Matz said.

Learning more about Solution Manager, mobile computing and in-memory technology was at the top of the list for David Hull, SAP solution architect for The Walt Disney Co.

Disney is getting ready to do a proof of concept for HANA, SAP’s high-speed analytics appliance, looking at ways it can use in-memory analytics for its general ledger financials, according to Hull. He will be there to see if the technology was all that it’s cracked up to be, he said. “There’s a lot of talk about what it’s going to do, but nobody’s doing it yet.”

Although he said he typically attends as many sessions as possible, Hull said networking sessions will probably be the most effective way to get some of the answers he needs. “That’s where they have all different kinds of speakers, special briefings by some of the product managers,” Hull said. “It’s usually when sessions are going on, so if I have to choose, I’m probably going to the networking lounge.”

He also said that the networking lounge is also the best place to not only network with SAP managers, but also to get to know other conference attendees, as those events are more conducive to asking questions and exchanging information.

After all, he said, if the person next to you is asking the same kind of questions, he likely has the same kind of IT challenges or interests, Hull said.

For Brian Sommer, an analyst and head of Vital Analysis, a technology consulting firm in Batavia, Ill., Sapphire will be an opportunity to get further into the details of SAP’s on-demand ERP suite Business ByDesign.

“They’re taking the gloves off of this thing,” Sommer said.

Vendors like Panaya Inc. are also on Sommer’s list of people to talk with, he said. Panaya is a company that puts a “virtual” copy of a customer’s ERP system in the cloud. and The company then uses that copy to simulate upgrades and fixes to work through beforehand any challenges that might come up during the actual on-premises work, Sommer said.

His plans also include talking with systems integrators such as IBM that handle the upgrades and patches to SAP ERP systems on behalf of their customers by hosting those same systems in the cloud. What will happen to that model now with the ongoing popularity of applications that are natively hosted in the cloud and therefore maintained by SAP itself, Sommer said he wants to know.

“You can see the end of that day coming,” he said.   

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