I admit it: Of the very few hours I spend in front of the TV set, most are not dedicated to the wonderful cultural offerings of the arte channel or similar quality programmes. No, a deeply-rooted desire to smut myself (I fathom) makes me watch trash TV formats. A particularly nice one is the German Frauentausch ("Wife Swap") format, which resembles other wife swap formats (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wife_Swap) and is explained quite well in this Wikipedia entry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frauentausch.
To those who have never seen the format, the quality of the episodes varies widely and depends mostly on the choice of participants. Some pairings seem to be designed purely in order to create a telegenic clash between two women or families with entirely incompatible value sets and neuroses. In other episodes, the participants actually benefit from the exchange, sometimes even greatly, because they manage to accept diversity in the first place and are willing to learn (or teach, respectively). Such encounters at a common level, beneficial for everyone involved (and not only for the TV producers) are in fact great to watch. (For example, I have fond memories of an episode in which a gay-transvestite flat-sharing community was paired with a very conventional, square lower-class couple and everyone had a ball and learned a lot about the respective alternative lifestyles.)
SAPtausch is like Frauentausch, only we're not swapping wives but seasoned IT professionals working in the SAP sector. The giving and receiving entities are not the families of the swapped SAP professionals, but the companies they work for.
We aim at the same things that happen in the best Frauentausch episodes. In SAPtausch, we will:
- look beyond our own noses
- promote an exchange of ideas between SAP professionals
- learn how differently things are done in other companies
- share the fun of working with high professional and quality standards
- expand our professional networks
Here's how it works:
- Application: Participants submit their application to the SAPtausch Matchmaking Committee, which consists, for the moment, of yours truly. The application should include: your professional background, a portrait of your company, your motivation to join, how you want to benefit, what you expect from your exchange SAPer, and what your company has to offer to your exchange SAPer. Any secrecy and non-disclosure conditions should be made clear at this point.
- Matching: The SAPtausch Matchmaking Committee will try to match participants adequately.
- Collaboration: Participants will work together for two weeks in one company, then work together for two weeks in the other company.
- Feedback: At the end of each two-week period, there will be an extensive feedback mutual feedback session: What noteworthy observations did the guest observe in the host company, how did he or she benefit, which suggestions does he or she make?
- Let the Community Benefit: I want each participant to publish a SAPtausch Leanings blog about lessons learned in the SAPtausch exchange program.
Some companies are just great matches because they are primarily active in fields where it is highly beneficial to get to see the other side. For example, professionals working at an ISV that is not directly involved in implementation projects might learn a lot by working at a company specialized in on-site consulting and implementations, and vice versa. People from very large, bureaucratic companies might find it interesting to see how processes are organized in a corporate speedboat consisting of 8 to 10 professionals. And so on.
On the one hand, letting someone from another company into your house and allowing them to see your processes, strengths and weaknesses is delicate. On the other hand, employees quit all the time and move on to new companies with everything they know about their former employer. Also, most companies do this every day with external consultants and contractors. But they don't normally blog about what they've learned at your site! So how can we get the companies involved to feel comfortable with letting an outsider blogging about them?
For now, we will let each host company control what the guest will be allowed to publish.
- Firstly, each company hosting an SAP professional will get to define their rules before the exchange. (They shouldn't be too restrictive because the community will not benefit if non-disclosure is all-encompassing.)
- Secondly, each host company has the right to review their guest's SAPtausch Learnings blog and ask for anything that violates the rules agreed and submitted to be removed.
I expect that after a while, a set of best practices for SAPtausch non-disclosure agreements and blogging rules of thumb will emerge that spare participating companies the trouble of defining individual rules. Until then, I expect them to be creative or generous or both, and play by ear.
One of the cornerstones of an exchange program is matching participants at similar experience levels but in different areas so that they can benefit mutually. It doesn't make sense to match a world-class expert with a first-year ABAPer.
So I hope that among the first to step forward will be some SAP Mentors. Why?
- SAP Mentors are professionals with a universally accepted high level of professional distinction.
- Hosting companies will know that they do not buy a pig in a poke - It will be easier to get management approval if the person you're inviting is a well-recognized member of the SAP community.
- SAP Mentors are chosen for their ability and willingness to share and exchange knowledge and ideas, which is the foremost intention of the SAPtausch program.
This doesn't mean that the exchange program should be limited to SAP Mentors. Quite to the contrary, I want it to be available to everyone. I just believe that for the first few exchanges that will actually take place, working with SAP Mentors (as guinea pigs, if you want) will help build management acceptance and establish the idea of cross-corporate employee exchange, which is a pre-requisite for making it an established platform for exchange between more and more individuals and companies in the future.
Fig. 1: Typical "Frauentausch" participant
Fig. 2: Dedicated SAP professional
Think about it. Give me feedback. Talk to your management. If there's a chance your company might join in on the fun, contact me and we will get the application process started. Join SAPtausch!
SAP Mentor Frauentausch was recently discussed on Twitter between @ttrapp, @yojibee, @pixelbase, @rhirsch and @oliver(I hope I didn't forget anyone), all SAP Mentors by the way. I hope they won't be mad at me for stepping forward with what's long been something between a joke and a pet idea and trying to make it happen. I further hope they will be the first to join.
P.S.: Thinking about it, "SAP SWAP" would have been a nice name, too. But in recognition of the long-standing but now withering tradition of Germanisms in the SAP field (e.g. in table, field, and program names), I suggest that we stick with "SAPtausch".