Raphael Branger, Chief Knowledge Officer, IT-logix

I still remember the day when SAP announced it was acquiring Business Objects. My feelings were in between excitement and sorrow. Even though Business Objects was a very successful global company already, SAP was way bigger and just a three-character name for me back then.

What did I do to change this? As a Crystal and BusinessObjects consultant, a good relationship with the software vendor is key, both for me personally as well as for my customers. But I wondered – how would I build a relationship with a global giant like SAP? A company that has also been called the “German Monster” due to its enormous size and power?

First of all, it’s important to realize that mainly, a company is made up of its people. Behind every line of code, behind every newsletter and support case, there are people – individuals like you and me with their own stories. In order to get to know SAP, you need to get to know the people at SAP.

So far, I’ve followed three approaches in order to build personal relationships within SAP, by connecting:

  • With SAP’s local company: Of course, I connected to the local SAP subsidiary in the country I live in. The issue with this from a consultant’s perspective is that local SAP organizations are often mainly sales organizations. As a consultant, my primary interest isn’t selling licenses but implementing solutions long after the SAP sales guy left. Regarding SAP consulting, I meet them more in competitive situations. After all, as a consultant the local SAP organization isn’t where my primary interest is directed to.

  • With SAP’s community: A few years ago, I started an experiment and opened an account on Twitter. I also became a regular reader on the SAP community network. Obviously, SAP was accompanied by a large and global online community. I became part of this community, not only by consuming content, but by delivering my own contributions using my own blog. It’s a great fact that many individuals at SAP engage themselves in the community, like engineers from the global support organization.

  • With individuals at SAP: Pure online relationships aren’t as powerful as personal ones. My third approach therefore was – and is – to bring virtual relationships into the real world.

Building Relationships Through BOAK

At IT-Logix, the company I work for, we’ve organized an annual SAP BusinessObjects user group event for more than ten years now. It’s called BOAK, for BusinessObjects Arbeitskreis (Arbeitskreis means something like “workshop” in German). It’s based in Zurich, Switzerland.

Timo Elliott was the first SAP online contact I invited to join the event and act as the keynote speaker. Suddenly SAP became more personal. Jason Rose, the great Mico Yuk, and other leaders of SAP and the community also have come to speak at the event. We also brought a lot of add-on partners to the event and this, too, is another important aspect of the SAP ecosystem.

With 80-100 participants, BOAK provides a very exclusive and familiar atmosphere where relationships can be built. Within this atmosphere, an open and honest exchange of thoughts can happen.

A great example? We have started to organize for the conference evenings what we call a “fireside chat.” SAP customers, partners, and leaders gather to discuss a given topic. Last year, I had the pleasure of joining Mico Yuk, Jason Rose, and others in an exchange about SAP’s vision and strategy for SAP BusinessObjects. For many of the participants, it was the first time they felt “understood” by SAP, and suddenly, SAP became more human.

Looking forward to this year’s BOAK, I’ve invested a lot of time to continue this goal. With the addition of Shekhar Iyer (Global VP Business Intelligence and Predictive Analytics at SAP), we now bring not only the keynote speaker of the much bigger BI2014 conference to Zurich, but the continuation of making SAP more personal to our community.

In whatever context the term “German Monster” was coined, knowing some of the faces behind the scene makes the monster very natural. SAP consists of human beings like you and me.

About This Year’s BOAK

The main conference day is taking place on Tuesday, September 16th on top of the Uetliberg mountain, an exclusive conference resort located 30 minutes from Zurich down town. The day starts with the keynote from Shekhar. Then 20 breakout sessions, structured in five tracks, follow:

  • SAP BusinessObjects
  • Big Data and predictive
  • Business Intelligence (BI) strategy and organization
  • Data visualization

Speakers range from customers/end users to SAP representatives, software partners, and different consulting companies. The closing keynote will be given by Lawrence Corr and cover agile BI design and model storming. After so much content, the following “apéro riche” is the ideal occasion to meet peers and extend your personal network.

Still, the day won’t yet be at its end. In the evening, the fireside chat will revolve around the question “Is SAP HANA an option for Non-SAP BW data warehouses?”

Note that the conclusion of the BOAK week is an exclusive workshop with Mico Yuk. She’ll teach her “BI Dashboard Formula,” a very practical workshop around planning, scoping, and prototyping dashboards and other BI front-end solutions. This is a must have in your curriculum vitae as a BI project leader or business analyst.

Find out more about BOAK.

I look forward to seeing you there!