In early February at the SAP headquarters in Walldorf, Germany, I had an eye-opening discussion about the upcoming series of Sapphire events taking place this year in Orlando, Barcelona, and Sao Paulo. Unsurprisingly, my SAP contact argued that it was unnecessary to visit more than one Sapphire event, as SAP was implementing the same program at every location. There is no better example of SAP’s egocentricity!
If the main goal of attending a Sapphire event was merely to learn more about SAP, then attending the event at all would be a waste of resources. SAP has excellent websites, a comprehensive database available online and, in cooperation with the Hasso Plattner Institute, excellent online learning courses. Everything a customer needs to know about SAP can be delivered to their doorstep free of charge via a browser. So why even bother boarding a plane and booking a hotel?
SAP’s egocentric point of view regarding the SAP community explains their decision to copy and paste the same program at every Sapphire event this year, as well as their recommendation to visit only one of these locations. The only surprise is why SAP has not yet proclaimed Walldorf the center of the ERP universe.
But we know better: we live in the real IT world, and at the center of this world are bits and bytes and business processes, not one sole IT provider. The IT provider could even be replaced every now and then and it would not make a difference. It is then quite telling when SAP sees itself as having the monopoly over possible topics at a so-called customer event—and does not let customers take the lead.
From a customer and community perspective, the three Sapphire locations—Orlando, Barcelona, and Sao Paulo—should all be completely different events. In fact, SAP should offer a round trip with discounted admission prices! In Orlando, the North American SAP partners will set the tone with the ASUG (America SAP User Group). In Barcelona, visitors will meet with the major European SAP partners and the German-speaking SAP User Group (DSAG). And in Sao Paulo, the Latin American SAP community will come together and most likely discuss very different challenges than in either Orlando or Barcelona.
Even though SAP presents similar offerings all over the world, the SAP markets and communities are starkly different. In Orlando and Sao Paulo, there is probably much more discussion of cloud computing than in Europe. In Latin America, we are observing first time implementation in many cases, while in Europe, release upgrades and hybrid systems are up for discussion. SAP should observe their Sapphire event not through their current egocentric lens, but rather a more universal, heliocentric one, and let the SAP community take the lead.