SAP Mentors: A Rare Breed

Mark Finnern, founder of the SAP Mentor Initiative and SAP chief community evangelist, addresses a group of SAP mentors at a recent event. (Photo: Martin Lang)

Thousands of SAP customers, partners, and users will gather in Orlando, Florida May 14-16 for SAPPHIRE NOW, SAP’s largest technology conference. Among the attendees: 50 very special experts known as SAP Mentors.

SAP Mentors are an elite group of highly-engaged and knowledgeable members of the SAP ecosystem. Nominated by peers in the SAP Community Network (SCN) and selected by SAP, Mentors include technologists, business people, consultants, bloggers, and employees associated with SAP and its customer and partner companies. In total, there are 110 SAP Mentors worldwide, all united by a commitment to stir innovation, increase customer value, and make the culture of SAP more open, transparent, and collaborative.

This isn’t just lip-service; Mentors funnel their insight (and yours) back to SAP to help inform the company’s strategies and offerings. “Mentors have great access to people inside SAP, and that’s a special relationship,” says Sanjay Poonen, president and corporate officer, SAP Technology and Innovation Products, and head of SAP’s mobile division. That access includes brainstorming with SAP product managers and the opportunity to meet with top executives, including Poonen, SAP Co-founder Hasso Plattner, CTO Vishal Sikka, and Co-CEOs Jim Hagemann Snabe and Bill McDermott.

Sharing insights

The five-year-old SAP Mentor Initiative has its origins in the SAP Community Network, a 2 million member online social network for SAP professionals, and SCN remains the SAP Mentors’ home base. Through SCN interactions and contributions (blogs, discussions, documentation, etc.) and volunteer activities at industry events, SAP Mentors advance their business and technical skills and gain a rich understanding of SAP and the needs and concerns of its customers.

Along with expertise and insight, another important trait of SAP Mentors is a willingness to use their expertise to help others derive value from their IT solutions. Take Mentor Tammy Powlas, a senior business analyst at Fairfax Water, the largest water utility in the U.S. state of Virginia. Through the SAP Mentor program, Powlas helped The Clorox Company understand the functionalities of the Incident and Problem Management component of SAP IT Service Desk Operation, an in-house support tool that connects to the SAP Service Marketplace.

“I did it without acting as a formal consultant,” says Powlas, whose SCN blogs on implementing the component prompted SAP Active Global Support to connect her with Clorox. “I shared the details of our implementation and directed [Clorox IT] to my blog posts. This not only helped Clorox, but also helped my company to see how we’re managing our support resources.”

Credibility through independence

SAP Mentors also offer customers a unique, independent point of view on the SAP experience. Ray Kloss, who heads SAP Marketing in Australia and New Zealand, says that in an era of incredibly fast-paced technological change and increasingly complex IT landscapes, SAP customers find independent, community-driven expertise invaluable in helping them drive high-quality implementations. “SAP Mentors are vital to the dialogue between SAP and SAP’s customers,” Kloss says.

Moreover, he says, organizations want to acquire SAP-based solutions armed with pragmatic foreknowledge of the challenges they’ll face and the results they can expect. “Absolutely critical to the conversation are engaged, motivated experts who are independent.”

That’s why the SAP Mentors are a natural outgrowth of the SAP Community Network, according to Gail Moody-Byrd, SCN senior director of marketing. “We’re keenly aware that with the rise of online networks, customers seek unfiltered advice from peers who have ‘been there, done that’ with SAP products,” she says, “and that’s exactly what they get from SAP Mentors. They have so much collective knowledge and such willingness to share it.”


Attendees of the upcoming SAPPHIRE NOW event in Orlando (and later this year at SAPPHIRE NOW Madrid  and the SAP Tech Ed events) will have the opportunity to connect with the SAP Mentors in person.  SAP Mentors wear a distinctive navy-blue shirt to help others identify them. “Should you spot one of us in Orlando next week, or at any SAP function, please say hello and ask about that person’s area of expertise,” says Mark Finnern, founder of the SAP Mentor Initiative and SAP chief community evangelist.  “It’s really worth your while to meet an SAP Mentor. Their honest enthusiasm for using SAP solutions well is truly infectious and may help to tap into potential that you hadn’t yet imagined.”

Attendees in Orlando can locate impromptu meet-ups with SAP mentors on the SAPPHIRE NOW campuses by following the Twitter handle @sapmentors. Also follow @sapcommnet, SAP Community Network’s Twitter handle, for information where you can find SAP Mentors at local events around the globe. You can also receive tweets from individual SAP Mentors by following their personal handles.

Of course you can follow @sapmentors on Twitter anytime, and if you’re not attending SAPPHIRE NOW, it’s a great way to keep abreast of the action. The handle is particularly active during the keynotes with thought-provoking commentary.