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Choosing Your Conference

At this time of the year, it seems like there’s a different Supply Chain or SAP Conference to attend every week. 

Between SAPPHIRE, ASUG, Gartner, APICS and IBF, it can be difficult to know which of the supply chain conferences is going to provide the best information, education and networking opportunities for you and your organization.   Sure, they all provide a chance to get out of the office, away from your colleagues and travel somewhere warm after a long winter.  However, each event has a different value proposition depending on what your particular needs are (besides an open bar).   In this article, I’ll break down the target audience for two of the biggest, SAPPHIRE and Gartner’s Supply Chain Summit.



For everyone who is part of the SAP ecosystem, SAPPHIRE is the premier sales event of the year.   Held in Orlando, May 16th – 18th, this conference is ALL THINGS SAP big and small.   ASUG co-sponsors the conference, which provides and education and networking aspect to the event.    SAPPHIRE is MASSIVE – with attendance of 20K – 40K every year.  As such, it can be difficult to sort through all of the activities, sessions, vendors and speeches, to get to those that are of interest to you.  That means planning ahead, combing through the conference schedule and having a solid strategy to get the most of your week.


  1. It’s ALL THINGS SAP. If it’s related to SAP, it’s here (or it’s not worth discussing).
  2. Education Sessions: ASUG is very good about providing relevant industry experiences and best practices.
  3. The Focus Sessions from SAP: These sessions are delivered by SAP experts who provide a surprisingly honest representation of the software solutions.



  1. SAPPHIRE can be overwhelming. There’s just so much to see and do that it’s easy to get that deer in the headlights look.
  2. At its core, it’s a Sales Conference awash in trinkets, knick-knacks, smarmy sales guys and even a Bill Clinton impersonator or two if you look hard enough.


GO: If you’re SAP to the core and can see through the marketing and sales glitz.

PASS:  You’d prefer to focus strictly on Supply Chain Business Processes.


Gartner Supply Chain Summit: 

 The Gartner Supply Chain Summit is all about cutting edge Supply Chain business processes.   Held in Scottsdale May 23rd-25th, the theme this year is the Bi Modal Supply Chain: being simultaneously nimble and in control, unlocking more opportunities for your business.   Gartner is focused on Supply Chain Strategy, Best Practices, Innovation and Big Ideas, not necessarily the technical details of how to get software implemented.  Gartner is also “Vendor and Technology Agnostic” – so the sales gimmicks and strategies are not the driving force behind the event.  There are still vendor booths and sponsored events, but the driving value is in building a better supply chain.


  1. The focus is on Supply Chain education, innovation and best practices. There’s a wealth of information for supply chain professionals.
  2. Geared towards decision makers and those that can drive change within an organization.
  3. Good opportunity to objectively understand how companies are transforming, without a software vendor’s bias obscuring the message.



  1. Technology takes a back seat to business process. There can be a disconnect between the big picture and how to make that happen in your company.
  2. It’s geared towards decision makers, which limits the value to some audience members.


GO:  If you’re a Supply Chain Pro and looking to educate yourself on industry best practices and innovations, this is your conference.

PASS:  If you’re all about technology and less about Supply Chain business processes.

(by Pat Green)