Every year (when there’s not a pandemic-induced halt to the fun), ASUG members, SAP customers, and experts from leading organizations make the trek to Orlando to attend two co-located conferences that might just be the most important conferences we all attend each year.

The main problem for most of us— once we secure permission to go, find a flight, and locate a hotel room—is to figure out how to cope with the over-abundance of things to do: dozens of ASUG sessions, seemingly endless SAP keynotes, and numerous workshops and vendor booths to visit, all while basking in that lovely Florida-in-the-spring weather.

Ok, so we’re not there for the weather.

We’re also not there just for what’s on the official agendas, even though we told our bosses that we need to get the latest information about SAP Business Technology Platform (BTP), RISE with SAP, GROW with SAP, the difference between SAP S/4HANA public edition and private edition, the latest in industry functionality, and where SAP is heading in critical domains like customer and employee experience, supply chain, sustainability, SAP Signavio, and SAP Business Networks, among many others.

Don’t get me wrong; all of that stuff is genuinely important, and attendees stand to gain a lot of valuable knowledge from the official side of SAP Sapphire & ASUG Annual Conference Orlando. A ton of ASUG and SAP experts are there to make sure we know how to get the most out of our SAP investments, and a well-planned couple of days in Orlando can be a very cost-effective investment in your company’s success.

But there’s another important reason to go, even if it’s one that’s hard to put into words while staring down a budget-conscious supervisor giving your travel request a skeptical read. This other reason is in some ways as valuable as anything else SAP Sapphire & ASUG Annual Conference Orlando has to offer, even if doubtful bosses and others don’t always see it that way.

That other reason can be summed up in one word: community. And there promises to be a lot of community in Orlando: fellow ASUG members, peers from other companies within and outside of your industry, old friends and new ones you’ve only ever met on a video call, and all manner of consultants, experts, partners, and SAP employees whose experience and perspectives can add significant value to your time at SAP Sapphire & ASUG Annual Conference Orlando.

The ASUG and SAP community attending these two conferences can provide more than just fundamental knowledge of how SAP technology, hopefully, delivers value. Even more importantly, the community brings along its vast tribal knowledge about the things you won’t necessarily learn from a formal briefing or an executive keynote: the personal experiences of peers and partners who’ve been laboring in the trenches, trying to make good on the promises SAP makes from the keynote stage.

SAP Sapphire & ASUG Annual Conference Orlando is, of course, the starting point for this community engagement and for the knowledge transfer that can only come from looking behind the hype to see what actually works and what doesn’t. The pre-conference is a great way to get the ball rolling. The trick is to keep that knowledge transfer flowing once the official conference gets underway.

That’s why it’s so important to do more than just sit in a chair and listen to what SAP wants you to hear. The real value often comes into play when engaging with peers and experts outside formal presentations. If you focus on active engagement and not just passive observation, your SAP community is where you can find someone who can help make good on all those lofty promises made from the keynote stage.

Annual Conference and Sapphire are the perfect places to find someone with experience extending a general concept, such as SAP Integration Suite’s ability to support end-to-end process integration to meet the specific needs of a company like yours. It’s also a great place to find out what to do about those SAP BTP credits that came with the RISE with SAP contract you signed last year or how to figure out what to do about customization you built into SAP ECC that could be theoretically replaced by a standard process running in SAP S/4HANA Public Cloud. Or how to optimize an SAP S/4HANA investment even if your company also runs non-SAP software, such as Salesforce, Workday, and Coupa. That’s not something you can count on getting from SAP directly. But chances are, someone in the community can help.

SAP partners, particularly the smaller ISV and implementation partners, can also be an essential community resource, even if they’re not always seen in that light. The best of them excel at supporting the complexity that results from real-world problems, such as when a customer needs a unique business process or help to fix a problem that doesn’t fit neatly into the official scenario about how things are supposed to work. Many partners are run by ex-customers, former SAP mentors, and other community members who’ve actually walked the walk and aren’t just there to land a deal.

It's my view that SAP has struggled to maintain its community of late, which is another reason why ASUG is so important to all SAP customers. Community engagement is an important source of information that can really make a difference in deciding your success, and the level of engagement that yields the best results is the kind that does not just take place online. Engagement must also occur over coffee, drinks, dinner, in the waiting line, or while mingling on the show floor kicking tires. More often than not, these ad hoc conversations turn out to be the most valuable of all.

Joshua Greenbaum is Principal at Enterprise Applications Consulting. 

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