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Former Member

For those of you who might not be aware SAPHILA2012 is a customer-focused SAP conference taking place at Sun City on 27-31October, hosted by SAP and the African SAP User Group (AFSUG).

I have unfortunately been told by some people who have attended in the past that they view SAPHILA as an

excuse for one big party and see no real value in attending this year!

I decided to play devil’s advocate and actually investigate reasons why one should attend SAPHILA or is there truth in their claims?

My colleague, Natasha Cook and I attended SAPHILA two years ago and I personally found it to be quite valuable. When we returned from the conference, each member of the City of Cape Town team who attended had to present to the Enterprise Solution Centre Management about the practical take aways that could be implemented at the City. I also found that the network of people that I met then, I am still in contact with and that is something that I can’t put a price tag on.

In order to answer this question, “Big Party or Real Value”, I decided to approach it from two angles. Firstly, I roped in a colleague who is quite a troublemaker and if we’re talking about brutal honesty he is really the go to guy! He was a speaker at SAPHILA in 2010& Regional SAPHILA2011.

ME: “Shaun, there seems to be a perception that Saphila is an excuse for a big party and there is hardly any value in attending, what is your opinion?”

Shaun van der Merwe, PM Team Leader, City of Cape Town:My Opinion on the value of attending SAPHILA – ‘It’s like most things in life – you have to not only experience it, you must go a step further and be involved in it before you can see the value.’ The value is identifying the leaders in an area and attending those Presentations and Workshop sessions where the most value is gained. If a person comes out of a SAPHILA session having not learnt anything then it’s only because that person has not been involved. My personal experience is that I have yet to be in one place other than SAPHILA that has so many like-minded people sharing across all sectors of Industry the commonality of the same system. The important question is to be asked! What would Industry use as benchmarks in optimising it’s huge investment if it cannot compare itself to others using the same systems. SAPHILA is that place where this happens.

I then decided to get a fresh perspective from someone who had never attended SAPHILA, my fellow SAP Mentor and equally troublesome and direct as Shaun.

ME:Clint, you’re attending SAPHILA for the first time this year, what is your reason for attending?”

Clint Vosloo, Owner, BI In the Box: It has been a crazy year for me with me speaking and attending conferences on 4 continents. Having a look at the agenda you can see that the topics are on par with what is happening with the large international conferences I've attended. All those I have spoken to have said to me that SAPHILA is a must attend, not just for the parties, and I am really excited about getting to know

the larger SAP community, comparing war stories on implementations and forming new friendships!”

I was still not satisfied with just interviewing two people that I knew as this might be interpreted as being biased and took it upon myself to go on a further CIA mission!

I went to the SAPHILA website ( to see if I could get any answers from there. This is what I found:-

  • On the landing page, I was immediately drawn to the “Meet our Customer Café”, which seemed quite interesting. Upon selecting this option, I was immediately lead to a form that I had to complete as a request for meeting one of the 8 customers listed. The form also prompted me to indicate the objective of the meeting(which means that the customer will come prepared to tackle my questions). This is a great opportunity for one to get an hour worth of insight into how other customers have overcome certain challenges that you might  be facing!
  • I also saw that I could download the agenda as a PDF, which was great but I obviously couldn’t see the abstract for each session. What I did find intriguing on this agenda though was the last column – MicroForums. I didn’t know what these were but the topics looked interesting. I asked Tracey Greig from AFSUG what the objective of these sessions was. Her response was, “ I think the core reason for having these sessions is that we are encouraging education through more 1 on 1 sessions through Micro-Forums as well as the fact that we have quite a few SAP Experts coming through for the conference, so we want our customers to make full use of them!”. I have already spotted some topics from the Microforum that I’m interested in i.e. “Strategy on the Move” by Alvin Paules, “EPM on Demand Update” by Guy Murphy,etc. I would suggest that you do yourself a favour and have a good look at these forum topics!
  • I now needed to see some of the abstracts for the sessions but there were only a few categories that I was interested in. This is where the Agenda Builder came in handy. I could group my selection based on Area of Interest, Industry or Line of Business.  I decided on Area of Interest and selected quite a few, i.e. Training, Business Analytics, BI, EPM, Strategy – this resulted in 95 sessions.

It would have been quite nice if the tool could have grouped this according to the time slots so that I could at least get an indication if there were any clashes in the time slot. Being a BI Consultant, I took it upon myself to:-

    • Copy the list of sessions from the website, pop it into MS Excel, concatenate the Session rows so that I could get the day and time. I then sorted this according to the Session Column and got a listing for the days.

    • I now had to prioritise (which was a really tough task) based on my line of work and interest and came out with the sessions that I will be attending. The list shocked me at first as it looked quite short for Monday but I remembered that the whole morning was booked off for Opening Key Notes. Tuesday was also quite short as I will be presenting at 14.00 on "Executing Your Organisation’s Strategy Effectively Using SAP Strategy Management", I had to build in some time for preparation or nerves!  SAPHILA.

I have made a note that perhaps AFSUG can look into automating this exercise – perhaps a mobile app similar to Teched Las Vegas would be great for the next SAPHILA.

  • The last section that caught my eye was the Training section. I remember seeing this from one of the Newsletters that AFSUG had sent out a few weeks ago. From the page it seems like there are 2 courses scheduled for each day, Monday 29th October (SAP HANA Overview & SAP BW on SAP HANA) and Tuesday 30th October (SAP HANA Implementation & Modelling and Mobility, Afaria, Sybase Unwired: Mobility Fundamentals & Best Practices). The prices have been discounted quite considerably so it might be worth your while to look into booking yourself into one of the courses but it does looks like there are NO hands on exercises for the courses.

To summarise SAPHILA2012 really promises some real value, looking at the vast number of sessions covering very hot topics in the industry at the moment, i.e. SAP HANA, mobility, cloud, EPM, analytics, etc. The Meet the Customer and Microforums also provide the attendee with an opportunity to tap into the knowledge and experience of other customers and SAP Experts and SAP Mentors(Clint Vosloo and I) will be at SAPHILA2012 - make full use of us - we are here to serve the Community!

Yes there is entertainment lined up and I cannot deny the fact I am super excited that my favourite local band “Mi Casa" will be entertaining us on the Sunday evening – yes we do need to PLAY! But don’t let the entertainment factor outweigh the amount of wealth and value that you can gain out of this event! Be present, go there prepared, use the agenda builder before the conference so that you have a solid idea of which sessions you’ll be attending, set up appointments upfront to meet other customers or experts or SAP Mentors through AFSUG and most importantly make sure you leave SAPHILA with a practical plan of how your organisation is going to benefit from your new found knowledge, afterall they did pay for it!

So SAPHILA2012 Big Party or Real Value, (as cheesy as it sounds)....the answer lies with YOU!

P.S. I will be blogging and tweeting about the event - follow @zimbuwa, @vosloo777, @afsug and @saphila2012 on twitter for updates. The official hashtag for the event is #Saphila2012.

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