Jon Reed Interviews 3 SAP Mentors on their SAP TechED Bangalore, 2008 experience

24 Nov

Fellow SAP Mentor Jon Reed of who made it a point to be physically at SAP TechEd Vegas and virtually in Berlin and Bangalore, did a small virtual round table with SAP Mentors Dipankar Saha and Somnath Manna of IBM India and Abesh Bhattacharjee (yes… me  😆 ).

Below is the article that he posted on his blog and on SCN. Read away…

SAP TechEd 2008 Bangalore in Review – Three SAP Mentors Share Their Experiences

I was unable to attend TechEd Bangalore, but having covered both TechEd Las Vegas and Berlin in my SAP TechEd podcast series, I was determined to provide some coverage of Bangalore as well. What better way than to ask three fellow SAP Mentors who were there to share their first hand views?

So, I invited Abesh Bhattacharjee, Somnath Manna, and Dipankar Saha to respond to a series of questions I posed to them. I wanted to do this live on Google Documents, but I ran into bugs. Instead, we ran a word document between us by email, a bit old fashioned perhaps, but we managed to avoid any confusion over versions and pull together something.

I wanted to get several perspectives on TechEd because the event is always different based on your own role and background. As an SAP employee focused on the Community Clubhouse, Abesh had a different view than Somnath, a functional SCM consultant. This “roundtable” interview format gives a nice flavor for how TechEd experiences can vary, but how common themes around community dialogue also emerge.

The questions you are about to read were posed by me, and I told the guys they did not have to answer all of them, only the ones that they thought were appropriate or relevant to their experiences. I hope that readers enjoy this “virtual roundtable” we all welcome your comments either in this blog or in the blogs of Abesh, Somnath, and Dipankar.

Introduction: Tell us about yourself and what you specialize in within SAP.

Abesh Bhattacharjee: I work with SAP Labs India Pvt Ltd on SAP MII (Manufacturing Integration and Intelligence) which is a little known application for Shopfloor Integration. My interests include enterprise mashups which can deliver an engaging user experience to the end user.

Somnath Manna: I am a SCM APO Functional Consultant working currently with IBM India. Prior to that I had been working for more than five years with Tata Consultancy Services. My specialty within SAP is Supply Chain Planning using SAP APO.

Dipankar Saha: I’m working in IBM India on architecture and development of ESOA solutions and composite applications on SAP Netweaver platform and also their interoperability to other platforms such as IBM Websphere. SAP MII and adaptive manufacturing is also one of my areas of specialization.

1. What were your personal objectives for attending TechEd Bangalore?

Abesh: The SAP Community for me is a family and therefore TechEd is like a family re-union to me. J For me, TechEd is the time to network, make new contacts and evangelize what I can of SCN. Working with Craig at the Community Clubhouse for the last two years has made it all the more easy for me to get to do all of the above. 🙂

Somnath: Find out new advancements in SAP, Network and hang out with friends and fellow SCNers in Clubhouse

Dipankar: To gain more knowledge about the SAP products and technologies and also interact with the SAP community and customers to understand their viewpoints and needs regarding SAP solutions.

2. Share with us a highlight from TechEd Bangalore Community Day.

Abesh: Obviously the “Where to make a Start” session where I got to share my SCN experience with the crowd. It was a humbling experience to be speaking along stalwarts like Dipankar and Somnath and the passion and raw emotions that came out when each shared their experiences with the crowd really touched many hearts that day.

Somnath: My SDN session “From Functional to Technical” had only five people in the room but one of them took a picture of all of us and sent back with a note. That meant a lot for me as I could reach out my message to the people present. The other highlight was of course our joint BoF (“birds of a feather”) for which none of us had prepared as such but just decided to tell our own journey in SDN. I missed Thomas Jung’s session but managed to see him weave magic at the end of day.

Dipankar: Community Day at Bangalore was very lively and enjoyable with 123 participants interacting with each other in speed networking and community discussions. We had some very useful sessions in the BPX track from Ann Rosenberg and Marc Dietrich on BPM methodology and governance as well, and on BPM tooling from Rajgopalan. The SDN track was mostly attended by the community geeks where we discussed different topics on ESOA and composite applications, enterprise widgets, and gaining expertise as a technical consultant from a functional consultant. Our mentor session on motivating people on community contributions (“Where to make a start”) was also received well by the audience. The mentor hands-on track by Thomas Jung showing the latest capability of ABAP was also very interesting for the community members.

3. What was your experience as an SAP Mentor like at TechEd Bangalore?

Abesh: Extremely fulfilling. 🙂 The Mentors were highlighted by the executives, sought after by the attendees and were encouraged to speak up and provide feedback on what can improve on SCN. There was a sort of camaraderie between the Mentors which was amazing given that many of them were meeting face to face for the first time.

Somnath: It was a different experience compared to last year when I was just another person in the crowd. There is better and focused engagement with Community Managers and SAP Product Managers being a Mentor. However, I was expecting SCNers hanging out in Clubhouse come to meet us have questions on how to use SCN effectively, share their challenges/concerns using SCN general feedback etc. It may have happened there, but I spent less time in the Clubhouse.

Dipankar: It was really great to be in TechEd as an SAP Mentor. Apart from getting the free pass for TechEd, we met several fellow community members coming to us and asking questions on topics on our expert areas and sharing their views. We also got a chance to be present in the press conference of Dr. Peter Zenke (Board member of SAP AG) and to participate in a discussion with the community evangelists and SAP Product and Solution Management to discuss the issues of the community network, specifically on how to improve the quality of the contributions in SCN.

4. For those who are not familiar with being an SAP Mentor, how do you think SAP Mentors can make an impact in the SAP Community, and did you see this happening at TechEd Bangalore?

Abesh: Absolutely. 🙂 The Mentors provided proactive and unbiased feedback regarding SCN to the community team, as well as interacted with the crowd which was always overflowing at the Community Clubhouse.

Somnath: We could voice our thoughts and the Community Managers were keen to get our feedback. It would have been better if I could have spent more time in Clubhouse and maybe we had a Mentor Desk/Roundtable for people to just walk up and voice their concerns, queries on anything that we could pass on to the Community Managers.

Dipankar: Definitely yes – what we noticed in TechEd was that our views and suggestions are sought by the SAP community team, and we can reach out to individual members as well as the community as a whole and can motivate them and put forth our suggestions to improve the community and SAP products and solutions.

5. What did you learn at TechEd that pertains to your skill area in SAP?

Abesh: I could not attend any sessions as I was working the Community Clubhouse along with the other members of the SCN Team. 🙂

Somnath: As usual, there is nothing much for the functional consultants in TechEd. But my focus is on fringe topics like Performance Management as well as advancements (skills set that will become essential in future) like Business Process Management.

Dipankar: I attended some good sessions on BPM, BRM and PI 7.1. The hands-on sessions were useful which gave a good idea about how to use the new technology and solutions. The lecture sessions I attended were also useful and we could ask questions to the presenter and discuss with them at length regarding the issues.

6. We are now living in an uncertain economy that is causing some concerns for everyone in the SAP community. Was this discussed at TechEd Bangalore? Did you get a sense of good trends or skills to pursue that would be relevant even in this economic downturn?

Somnath: I did not hear this much other than in the Press Conference. There is concern the first casualty being companies not participating at all (HP) or in very limited numbers including SAP India. There was no specific trends of skills discussed but the general consensus was focus on core skills like ERP, SCM, CRM, SRM on the application side and XI, BI on technology side.

Dipankar: Yes this point came in again and again in the executive keynotes as well as in the press meets and community discussions. But along with that, it seems there is lot of focus on some niche skill areas such as BPM, ESOA and composition. Also, this time we saw a lot of discussions happening regarding the BPX role and to enable BPX people by education, sessions and learning materials.

7. If you had the magical power to change one thing about SAP, what would it be?

Somnath: What about a personal finance (not a trading account) application that can take care of tracking all my cashflows, assets, liabilities (loans) draw up my Income Tax Return, carry out change of address notifications, do budgeting, provide analytics etc. and give it out free to all SAP consultants/users. This might get more people hooked on to SAP. 🙂

Dipankar: Make things simpler. 🙂 Jokes apart, I think adopting industry standards more in business solutions as well as technology platforms will be a good idea.

8. Give us your lasting memory of TechEd Bangalore.

Abesh: TechEd Bangalore was what it was mainly because of the people who attended it. Their enthusiasm, questions and willingness to learn was what made manning the Community Clubhouse such a fulfilling and a learning experience for me. Secondly, being up on stage for Demo Jam, presenting ESME to a crowd of 4,000 was a real unnerving experience. If you believe in something it is easy to talk about it, but presenting it to such a huge crowd is just a different ball game altogether.

Somnath: Marilyn looking tired after enduring a long journey to meet a fellow SAP Mentor who is recuperating from an accident.

Dipankar: It was great to be with the fellow community members in Community Day for a whole day filled up with interesting activities. Also in TechEd, several people came to me by seeing my name in the TechEd badge just to say “thank you” for my contributions in SCN and to discuss different technical issues they are facing. This is a great experience for me interacting with people and getting motivated by their compliments.

9. SAP events are not possible without the help of many. This is your chance to give a shoutout to someone who helped make the event better for you! Tell us of the “unsung heroes” of Bangalore.

Abesh: Craig Cmehil, Marilyn Pratt, Philippe Rosset and Kurt Smith. Always smiling, always encouraging and always willing to help even when the going was not so smooth, apart from the fact that they were invariably able to bring a smile on the faces of everyone they interacted with, speaks volumes about their contribution to the whole event. While Craig and Marilyn interacted with the crowd, Kurt and Philippe worked quietly in the background to keep the wheels of TechEd rolling. Without them TechEd would not be half as enjoyable and smooth as it was.

Somnath: Craig & Marilyn (last year there was Gali and Uri) definitely gets the limelight. But I managed to get another name, Kurt Smith, who was basically the backend person both at Community Day and Community Clubhouse. I would also add to the list of unsung heroes at TechEd: Phillip Rosset, Christina Miller, and, if I may include Abesh (for managing the Clubhouse). Plus, all the volunteers from SAP Labs at the lecture /hands-on session rooms (they had to be on their toes for the whole 3 days).

Dipankar: Undoubtedly it was Craig Cmehil and Marilyn Pratt. As Mark Yolton said, they are godfather and goddess of SCN. Without them, it would not have been possible to have such a nice and enjoyable event.

10. For those who want to keep tabs on you in the future and read more about your experiences at TechEd, can you share some of your contact information, such as your SDN blog or your Twitter ID or your own web site?

Twitter ID:
Personal Blog :
SCN Blog:

Twitter/ESME: som_nath

SCN Blog RSS Feed:
Community Profile:
Twitter ID:

Thanks guys for your thoughtful reflections on TechEd Bangalore 2008!

[Courtesy : Jon Reed of]