Having attended the last half dozen or so SAPPHIRE conferences, I have been witness to SAP’s strategic rollout of new solutions and their reactions to and trailblazing in the market. I still remember the first time HANA was announced on-stage focusing on the speed and performance improvements of reporting, ushering terms like “real-time” to the forefront of enterprise software. I know that many reading this blog have similar memories of past SAPPHIREs, likely many years before HANA, when similar introductions and announcements were made by SAP leadership. I am often asked by people for my advice on how an attendee to SAPPHIRE (not a Vendor) can get the most out of their experience at the show. I thought I would put my tips for a meaningful show experience in blog form.
Come Ready With Your Needs Clear In Your Mind
SAPPHIRE, at its core, is a show about solutions. Every vendor at the show, including SAP, is there to help you solve your problems. Make no mistake about it, we are there to drive business and the only way we can do that is if we bring real solutions to real problems. Any good conversation you have at SAPPHIRE with SAP or an SAP Partner should start off with a question like: “what problems are you looking to solve here while at the show?”. Being able to have an answer to the problems you personally are there to solve, as well as other problems your business or colleagues may be experiencing, will help you have more meaningful conversations more often. These problems can be large, such as major market disrupting forces, or they can be tactical, like cleansing your procurement data in preparation for an Ariba implementation. A clear understanding of your problems allows you to get into the conversations you want to be in and out of the conversations that are not worth your time. Getting the most out of your time at SAPPHIRE is a key to success, and spending it in the right conversations is a great way to focus your time on the right things.
Challenge SAP and Vendors
SAPPHIRE is a great opportunity to see, touch, and discuss many different solutions. When you are in one of these conversations, presentations, or demos, do not be afraid to ask tough questions around real business or technical challenges. Often, I have experienced conversations and meetings where the person was holding back on a question or not wanting to come off as rude or confrontational in the moment by asking a challenging question or perhaps disagreeing with something I have said. These opportunities for disagreement and challenge are key points where real innovation and learning can happen - do not let them pass by. My advice as a vendor: come to the show with high expectations for SAP and the partners there and engage with the companies and people that live up to those expectations.
Network Early and Often
Some of the best conversations you can have at SAPPHIRE are the ones that are unscheduled and unexpected. When you are at lunch breaks, in line at coffee, at a happy hour, or anywhere else during the SAPPHIRE week be sure to engage with those around you. Everyone at the show has a name badge, so don’t be afraid to look. You can be surprised about how many good conversations start with: “Oh, you work for XYZ, what do you do there?”. One piece of advice here is to have your answer to this question down and ready to go. You will likely be asked several times questions like: “What does your company do?” or “What do you do at your company?” or “What is your area of responsibility?”. Having a solid answer to those questions will help give your mind a rest and keep your sanity in check throughout the week.
SAPPHIRE can be a great and productive week where you can see more technologies, have more conversations, and advance your personal network further in a few days than you typically can in a full year of business as usual. I hope to see you at the show and hope you enjoy your time there.
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