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Podcast: How to Build a BPX Business Case for SAP TechEd, with SAP's Marco ten Vaanholt Print E-mail

podcastlogo_jonerp.gif"Why SAP TechEd is Relevant to BPXers, and How to Build a Business Case to Attend"
Podcast Interview Date: July 3, 2009
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In this impromptu podcast, inspired by a Twitter conversation thread, Jon Reed interviews Marco ten Vaanholt, VP of the SAP Community Network and the Global Head of the SAP BPX and Business Objects Communities, on how individuals (and project teams) can make a "BPX business case" for SAP TechEd. (Follow Marco on Twitter, and follow SAP TechEd on Twitter

Site Editor's Note: During the podcast, Jon Reed refers to a recent ZDNet piece by SAP Mentor Dennis Howlett, entitled "Geeks Who Love to Help."

Podcast Highlights

:30 On Twitter, there was a buzz of conversation about whether TechEd is relevant to BPX skills. For the aspiring "BPXer," often (though not always!) on the business side of SAP, is there some value in attending a show called TechEd? Marco says the answer is yes - there is a big business case to be made for the BPXer at TechEd. The word "TechEd" could be misleading - last year there were over 100 BPX-related sessions at TechEd, so it's really "TechEd and BPX-Ed." BPX is a big element in TechEd, and an individual with BPX interests can make a very effective case for TechEd and how it can impact their day to day jobs.

2:01 We begin the discussion with a focus on individuals who are working for SAP customers. In many cases, budgets are tight, and companies only have a budget for a limited amount of TechEd "seats." Jon asks Marco: how can an individual with BPX interests make that case? Marco sees this as a case by case basis. Not every organization or role is the same. Some BPXers are on the IT side, some on the business side - often they have one foot in each area. To make your case, start with this question: "Ask yourself: what can you come back with from TechEd that allows your project to proceed more smoothly, or get off the ground?" One question is: how do I carve out a BPX role at my company? Another good question is reporting structures: how might the BPX reporting structure work at my company, and how can I report back with relevant information after TechEd? In his sessions, Marco often shares best practices on how companies are implementing BPX roles. Another tactic that is often highly effective: make the case that you will give BPX-related presentations to project leaders and upper management when you return from TechEd. You can share information you have learned on how to work with tools like Solution Manager, the Composition Environment, and NetWeaver BPM. You can commit to bringing back "lessons learned" from other companies that have taken good steps in the BPX direction.

4:14 Connectivity is a major theme - it's not just about educating yourself and bringing the knowledge back - it's about connecting with peers in your industry, building a network that you can turn to after TechEd to help your project out. In some cases, becoming a blogger in the BPX community can be very beneficial, especially for companies that encourage that kind of visibility amongst their employees. This can be a great way to share day-to-day findings and apply the lessons learned from the conversation back to project issues. At TechEd, there's also a lot to be learned about project roadmaps. At TechEd, there are product managers from many key BPX products, including Solution Manager, CE, and BPM, that will share the latest product developments during expert sessions - more insights you can take back to your project with you. You can interact with these experts during their TechEd sessions and build a stronger network. This is key to the "TechEd Business Case."

6:15 BPM continues to be a hot button topic for organizations, in terms of how to assess their business processes and map them into SAP landscapes. There's plenty of interest in the SAP's BPM tool, as well as its BPM project methodology. Jon asks Marco if you can get insight into BPM at TechEd. The answer, again, is yes - there is actually a BPM track at TechEd where you can go to a number of BPM sessions. Last year, many of the 100+ BPX sessions were related to BPM and composition. During the preparation for TechEd, conference planners take into account customer requests and interests, and therefore there will be plenty of content on the BPM roadmap, as well as how BPM ties into Solution Manager and third party tools like Aris. You don't have to be a "techie" to get a lot out of these sessions. Marco has heard feedback from past attendees on the business side that they were able to come back from TechEd who came back with good CE and BPM knowledge that they could better explain to their teams (and the IT team), on how to better model processes and which governance models might be appropriate for SOA. In other cases, BPXers come back with a much better understanding of how to work with Enterprise Architects.

8:45 Part of being an effective BPXer is knowing how to work effectively with technical teams. For those on the business side, diving a bit deeper into a few technical sessions can also really pay off. Jon was talking to one aspiring BPXer about TechEd, and he encouraged her to consider a few deeper dives into the tech side. Even if she didn't understand all the content, she would still get a lot of benefit that would help her work with the team members on her project that are heavily involved in the Composition Environment. Part of being a good BPXers is "geeking out" a bit. Marco agrees - the "one foot in business, one foot in IT" BPX model pays off for BPXers. Often, the best approach is familiarizing yourself with the technical implications of these new tools, which can make you a more valuable member of your project team.

10:15 Jon refers to a recent ZDNet blog from SAP Mentor Dennis Howlett about how much he has learned about business from the technical colleagues that he jokingly refers to as "geeks." All joking aside, having the ability to converse with "techies" and benefit from their insights does make a difference. Marco's personal experience validates this. He comes from the business side himself, but the efforts he has made to understand the technical side has helped him considerably in his own work. Talking to the enterprise architects working with SCN collaboration tools, there is a common ground they can discuss because of Marco's efforts to get closer to the technical side of his profession. Jon agrees, and mentions that the time he has spent with the Enterprise Geeks at these events has definitely made him a better write and better SAP analyst.

11:42 The focus shifts from the individual to the project manager who may be grappling with who to send to TechEd. Marco recommends going to the TechEd web site and looking through the TechEd sessions tracks on areas such as Business Objects and Business Process Management. If you're a project manager on an SAP project, you want to send technical folks, from ABAP developers to project managers, to TechEd. You also want to consider sending folks working with CE, NetWeaver BPM, and Solution Manager. People who are interested in (or are starting to use) Business Object tools like Explorer, Xcelsius, and Crystal Reports will also bring back a lot of new insights from TechEd. BPXers that we have already talked about in this podcast are also good candidates. And don't forget about the Enterprise Architects, who can also get a lot out of TechEd.

14:10 Down the road, the most active participants in the community can become TechEd speakers or SAP Mentors, and get even closer relationships with SAP product managers and sharing their knowledge. It's easy to forget that some of the senior individuals in the SAP ecosystem were once "freshers" going to their first TechEd. You can make a real contribution to the community if you take the initiative around TechEd attendance.

15:19 Marco closes by inviting those who need any further help making a business case for TechEd or who have other questions to contact him directly

 

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