Mastering SAP shows the way user conferences should be run

Mastering SAP shows the way user conferences should be run

Summary: Mastering SAP sets a new benchmark for developer user conferences. Here's my initial take.


Mastering SAP is a unique event. It's like a get together with a few hundred of your best mates. It's not an informal event yet has a loosely coupled feel that beats the pants off any user conference I've attended the last 10 years. It edges out Convergence, which, as Paul Greenberg says was the best he attended. Heck, I liked that event as well. There are only two drawbacks I'll get off the table up front:

  • Australia seems insanely expensive compared to the US and EU. A reasonable pizza comes in at A$24 and the Sofitel Wentworth tax for internet use was A$27.50 for 100MB per day. I chewed 197MB in three hours. Ho hum.
  • It is one heck of a journey to Sydney, racking up anywhere between 22 and 29 hours flying time depending on your starting location.

Once here, the event content is second to none. Every session included a demo track, some of which crashed, there was open and frank discussion from the stage by customers about what works and what doesn't. The moment when Shane McCauley from Royal New Zealand Airforce stood up and said that his functional counterpart kicked off thinking he was 'an arse' is a classic that lives in the memory. This is the kind of thing that while apparently crude, lends full credibility to presentations.

Then there was the community aspect. Nine SAP Mentors gave presentations, some gave multiple presentations. Gregor Wolf aka @wolf_gregor dragged himself from Germany to speak. Thomas Jung aka @thomas_jung came over from Kentucky. And then there were the home grown Mentors, all doing their bit to share genuine innovation. Nigel James' aka @njames session about how open source technology built by SAP community members is being used in place of paid for SAP components was a revelation (video to follow.) Finally in this section I should mention Graham Robinson aka @grahamrobbo. He was everywhere, helping others find solutions, exhorting developers to get creative and making sure I didn't miss meeting anyone who is doing cool 'stuff.'

I was most struck by the way in which this conference mined the collective knowledge and wisdom from the Mentor group to showcase the best of what can be achieved by SAP technologies. That in turn elicited a closed session between the Mentors and Sanjay Poonen, President, SAP, Global Solutions & Go-to-Market, Mark Yolton who has led the sometimes troubled SAP SCN revamp and Chip Rodgers who has overall responsibility for SCN content. It was a brutally frank but extraordinarily valuable hour for the developers. You'll hear more about that content in a special report on 10th April.

All conferences include a sales pitch element and this was no exception but it felt low key and was played to a packed house. As I said to Poonen, I was impressed by the lack of BS in his product and technical strategy session.

The real evidence of success comes from attendee drop out. This was a small gig of perhaps 400 people. I only counted four unclaimed conference badges. That is well below the average of 20-30%.

Finally, we should not forget the wonderfully friendly and helpful event staff. Nothing was too much trouble. Then of course there is Sydney itself. I saw almost none of what the city offers but enough to make me want to come back at some point.

How was all this achieved? This is an event that is brought together by the users and for the users, albeit with the help of a professional event organisation. It is that simple. It is not a flogathon where there is an expectation that mega deals will be closed although there were plenty of sponsors on hand. There is no big name rock band or artist to entertain the crowd. You make your own entertainment which, in turn provides an environment where you make new acquaintances and learn new things but at your pace. But it also means fun. Where else might you find a toy helicopter being controlled by SAP ABAP? Why? Because it can and because one crazy developer thought it might be a good idea.

It is, in the end, a conference for developers who are the kingmakers for the 21st century IT environment. If that floats your boat and you are deep in the weeds of SAP, then Mastering SAP is an event you should not miss in 2013. It is well worth the trek.

In the meantime I shot a stack of video which I'll be posting here and elsewhere over the coming days and weeks.

Topic: SAP

Dennis Howlett

About Dennis Howlett

Dennis Howlett is a 40 year veteran in enterprise IT, working with companies large and small across many industries. He endeavors to inform buyers in a no-nonsense manner and spares no vendor that comes under his microscope.

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  • Great read!

    Having been treated to an amazing experience last year, I can only say that the Eventful Group has redefined what a conference *should* be. And this is coming from a die-hard ASUG conference volunteer. I wish that I could bring our conferences back to the reasonable numbers and the intimate setting (relatively speaking) that MasteringSAP Technologies conference has.
    I know that the Eventful Group and some SAP experts spend lots of quality time interviewing attendees from one year to the next to determine what the focus areas should be. This attention to detail (which we used to be able to do at ASUG, but alas, have no time nor support for) is what makes the content so relevant.
    Sophie (@ssipsma) and Doug Hay (@doug_hay) - and their crew - have a winning formula - as a speaker who received the benefit of their care during my trip to Sydney, I can honestly say I have never felt so well cared for at a professional event. And they have built in networking time - so you get to make those connections which are worth every penny of the conference fee.
    Well done, Dennis, and well done MasteringSAP!
  • Great article Dennis, good comment Sue, however please remember...

    In my opinion Eventful do run the most professional SAP related events (not just Mastering SAP Technology but others) in the AU / NZ market,and possibly worldwide. (And yes I have attended overseas SAP events like Tech Ed, SAPPhire, InsideSAP etc as well as Mastering in the past). Yes they do involve SAP community groups on a volunteer basis to keep the content fresh each year. They also manage to harvest a good crop of speakers for their events from this process.

    Please remember though that Eventful (unlike ASUG I hope, or the local SAP Australia User Group SAUG) is an organisation that exists to make a profit for its proprietors. Hence the conference fees are quite hefty, compared to events run by the not-for-profits. This even with the quite heavy sponsorship fees they presumably garner each year from SAP and its Partners.

    Can I also suggest that in your articles and comments on events like this, that you indicate or declare whether or not you paid the delegate fees or not, (presumably as speakers you did not) so that complete transparency is afforded to us the readers?

    Sincerely, Phil Gleadhill.
    • Sure

      I was comp'd on the fee but there is a certain quid pro quo here. No big deal. BTW - do you think the trade shows are run at a loss? FYI - ASUG is run as a for profit organisation although in an odd way.

      I'm not getting into a debate about cost to the attendee. All I will say is that if the content was not worthwhile then the event would not be a success. That's what matters.
  • Sure, Phil

    Hi Phil, of course, full disclosure. I was invited to speak at MasteringSAP and I had a comped registration. And also, I was very excited and happy to finally be seeing a bit of Australia.
    I did not mean to disparage what ASUG (and SAUG by association) do. As a matter of fact, we are in full prep mode for the ASUG Annual Conference, and I can tell you that the ASUG volunteers work long and hard in selecting content and speakers.
    Perhaps what showed thru in my comments was simply some nostalgia for the conferences that I attended years ago, where we were smaller, more intimate, and more focused.
    Thanks for keeping me honest :-)
  • Where else might you find a toy helicopter being controlled by SAP ABAP?

    On the down side, the helicopter took 6 months to take off and then flew in every direction apart from the one you wanted.
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