We* see SAP's ecosystem as a living thing. To understand it, think of the biological kind rather than the org chart or PowerPoint slide that some companies use to represent their ecosystems. Think of people and places and how they interconnect and interdepend on each other.
In Earth's ecosystem, there are land masses. Some are huge and divided into different sectors. While people in each share a great deal in common, they sometimes don't speak the same language and have cultural differences. This sometimes leads to misunderstandings, which can be costly to all parties involved.
In the earth's ecosystem, oceans and waterways connect all the land masses. Increasing the same can be said for SAP's network of online communities. But there's two million users of these networks. Some are occasional visitors some merely use it to get fast answers to tough technical questions.
But there are others who have for varying reasons, chosen to immerse themselves into the community. They have demonstrated expertise. They have helped others and contributed to the community by organizing events, writing white papers, advising newcomers, advising and sometimes pressuring SAP to adjust course.
They are also good communicators and you find their contributions are almost omnipresent wherever you look across the SAP Community Network [SCN]. They are hand-holders, advocates and occasional antagonists; the defend the company against false accusations and tell the company when they think the company is making a mistake in product, service or policy.
They produce local face-to-face events and travel to regional and national ones sponsored by or related to SAP. A mentor gets an annual performance review. She or he can be fired for poor performance and in return for all this time and effort, they are rewarded with tee shirts, recognition and points.
A mentor is an unpaid volunteer who needs to keep his or her day job. There are 75 of them and they reside all over the world. Most work for SAP customers or partners. A few are employed by SAP.
Obviously, the recognition makes them influential in the overall enterprise technology communities, but from those I've talked to, that is not what makes them spend all this time and energy as mentors. They seem to me to be motivated by passion more than professional creds.
which are almost deeply technical. But they simply would not have been selected; nor would they have wanted to be, if each of them was not passionate about SAP and the issues impacting company, customers and partners.
Mentors are similar in many ways to Microsoft's better-known Most Valuable Professional (MVP) program. But the significant difference in perspective is in the name. "MVP, is a sports term. It's for the stars in the field. "Mentor," refers to a wise and trusted counselor or teacher. It's not about being a star. It's about giving.
One other aspect that has impressed me and the reason for this post's title. The mentors self organize into teams. The membership is determined by what needs to be accomplished, rather than who wants some glory. So far, despite some attempts to get them to behave otherwise, each of them speaks and acts in support of the other. It seems to be part of their culture.
Mark Finnern, who will be the subject of my next TLE-related post, runs the program. When I spoke with him, he emphasized that the group was called SAP Mentors, not community mentors. This was because they are influencing and changing all of SAP. Not just the social networks.
More on Mark in my next report.*When I say "we" I mean my co-authors Mark Yolton, Zia Yusuf and me. I do not presume to speak for SAP and I often bring a different perspective to this story.