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In 2014, I could not attend the ASUG Annual Conference for the first time in, well, over a decade. It was tough not seeing my colleagues in the varied SAP communities, particularly fellow volunteers in ASUG, SCN Moderators, and maybe more than those, the SAP Mentors. Not being able to assist with sessions, not getting the latest updates, not seeing any keynotes (um) were compensated for by my friends sharing virtual toasts.

This year, I got the green light from work, and quickly booked a flight.  My customary methodical approach to reserving a room, a flight, and maybe a Mears shuttle ride to the airport was disarrayed by the wickets needing to be passed, ending up with a reservation at a new hotel (for me), flights at ungoshly hours coming and going, and oh, yeah, I need to get back home on Friday for a quick turnaround to help with registration a large Boy Scouts of America event. I will be arriving during the pre-conference day with every intention of getting to the Orange County Convention Center, waving to my PediCab friends, mingling before the rush starts, topping off the evening by meeting SAP Mentors, alumni, seniors and cubs.  We'll see how that works out.

My good friend, gretchen.lindquist, regularly gauges the level of volunteer commitment that should be expected, by the simple questions, "what's in it for me" and "what's in it for my company" that may only be answered by oneself.  Being allowed to attend is an honor and a privilege I have never taken for granted, and I'll try to maintain my frugality record as well as bring back deliverables for my jobs.  So what are they? It should come as no surprise to my people that know me that learning more about HANA is not on the short list of planned take-homes.  No doubt I won't be able to avoid the topic, as it appears to be the pat answer to any question on where the SAP software world is going. I like to think my role is determining the best automation approaches for my company, not the best way to implement a specific solution to a specific business need.  If HANA is as inevitable an eventuality as they'd like us to believe, I still need to keep the systems up and running well before that happens, and for those applications outside of the SAP world (like workload automation), getting them to talk to the SAP monosyllable.

I'd like to call my mission "Life Before HANA" as there is a lot of road between here and there.

To figure out what sessions I attend, and which ones I don't, I need to run through the Agenda Builder.  Years ago, I'd have a preliminary plan but then fine tune it by looking through the program book the first day of arrival.  Then I got more formal and used the sadly defunct EditGrid site to share out my plans in the cloud (I really detest that phrase almost as much as in-memory nowadays).  This time, I will likely return to the old way, mix in the SAP Mentor invitations I'm getting, and add a dash of specific expertise I need to seek out for actual tuning and capacity planning challenges I'm facing.  I've written about a couple of those, and am unable to share more of them currently (will vent in person if you say the secret word). It isn't SAPs, though that would be a good guess.

One particular difference in this year's ASUG Conference (sometimes called Sapphire by the media) is the transformation of the SAP Mentor program, with mark.finnern2 [ mark.finnern - sigh, ..., Jive ] leaving SAP after a phenomenal time as the Mentor programs chief spark.  I know that jeanne.carboni will do an excellent job, as the program has an excellent global reputation, a philosophy of doing the right thing, and she's up to the challenge.  I can't say enough about what Mark has done for me, much less the SAP community, and I think all will agree that this SAP Community Network platform owes him a good deal of gratitude.

A much delayed task I volunteered for was updating the Mentor's Alumni pages, moving it from the "old" wiki platform into the slightly new Jive document spaces.  It's not done yet, as I need to double check many links and bios; if you want to give me any tips start with the SAP Mentor Alumni 2014

page.  First on my list, and apologies to those who have asked, is to be sure to recognize the most recent (prominent) Mentors who have stepped aside, starting with my good friend jon.reed, and including applebyj and others.  Jeanne - I will keep plugging on this.  While it may not be the most valuable SAP Mentor resource out there, we need to pay tribute to those who have stepped up to the sometimes silly but always engaging world of the Mentors.

The other huge difference in the social aspect of the conference will be the first time again, in a decade, that marilyn.hazen won't be in the SCN inner circle.  I was happy hear Marilyn will continue to engage as an "ex-SAP" employee, and am looking forward to learning of her next plans in more detail (her trip to Italy was just one example of the ways Marilyn surprises us all).

So, yeah, bittersweet, and a tinge of jealousy!

Wrapping it up so I can get some rest after yet another Scout camping weekend, what's in store for my ASUG role?  I lost of couple of months of volunteer status as a result of transaction faults, and was unable to attend the annual volunteer meeting.  The SAP world is much different than 15 years ago when I met with my peers and began engaging in user community volunteerism.  The world has changed as far as the networking tools, the size and depth of the SAP software global landscape (see vinnie.mirchandani' s [er, vinnie.mirchandani2 ] excellent work in SAP Nation: a runaway software economy for example), and in the way software (sorry, "application stack") is managed.  But my inner mantra of test, test, test, challenge the status quo as well as the messaging, has not changed.  I, hopefully, abide.