Another SAPPHIRE NOW and ASUG in the rearview mirror ... and I have the blisters on my feet to prove it. This year's event had a good blend of high-level big-impact news and tactical user-level information that should keep everyone in the ecosystem satisfied. At least for now. Here's a few notes.
On the big-bang news side of things, SAP made a few major announcements at SAPPHIRE NOW. They include:
Release of SAP Fiori, a collection of 25 apps that are focused on renewing the user experience for the most common business functions, such as workflow approvals, information lookups and self-service tasks. They're device-agnostic-- meaning they can be used on mobile devices and desktops using browsers that support HTML5. As CTO Vishal Sikka pointed out, Fiori means flower in Italian, and flowers are "the perfect blend of mathematics and design" in nature. (That imagery figured heavily in Sikka's portion of the keynote.)
Announcement that SAP HANA is "no longer a little girl" by Sikka. (Note to SAP communications: That "little girl" metaphor's getting a little...uncomfortable. Just sayin'.)
But in addition to the big-splash keynote news, there were demos galore on the show floor and SAP continues to do a great job of making its technology available to everyone interested, from customers to partners to analysts and media. (I think some folks in the ecosystem might be a bit spoiled by SAP's openness in this area -- not all companies do this).
And the ASUG sessions up on the South Concourse provided a plethora of customer experience presentations across a wide variety of topics. In addition to what I outlined here I caught sessions on super user programs, IT testing practices, experiences in the early adoption of SAP HANA, best practices in deploying RDS, and best practices in educating SAP user base, all led by real SAP customers who were very frank about their experiences.
And in addition to all of that, here's a few of my personal notes from the week:
SuccessFactors CEO Lars Dalgaard was not at the conference because his "superdad" passed away and he was back in Denmark with family sharing the LarsLuv where it was needed most this week. (I did like the video he provided that compared the "promises" he made on the SAPPHIRE NOW stage last year to the results today. Fact checking himself--nice touch.)
SAP is continuing to stick its toe in the B2C water, which will be interesting to watch in the future. Right now, it still feels like.. a toe in the water.
At the risk of sounding like a blue kool-aid addict, I really like the keynote progression at the event. Bill McDermott's sports-related keynote on Tuesday got things off to a fun start. Jim Hagemann Snabe's more product and strategy focused keynote on Wednesday gives the roadmap junkies what they're looking for. And Hasso Plattner's professorial presentation on Thursday transitioned to Vishal Sikka's always engaging talk has a really nice "flow" to it.
The annual press event Wednesday night at the Harley-Davidson factory had a great "vibe" to it as well, although the length of the bus ride out there did have more than a few of us paranoid press types wondering if we had got on the wrong bus and were heading to a bingo weekend in Boca or something.
Dark data is the new old buzzword. If you've been around a while, it's not new to you.
Twitter continues to grow in the ecosystem. If I'm going to continue to live tweet keynotes, I'm going to have to run my iPhone on HANA.
A couple years ago, the question in mobility was if the iPad was going to be an effective tool for business. Yeah, we have our answer now.
The Ariba crew gets the most “road warrior” points. Last week Ariba LIVE in DC. This week SAPPHIRE NOW in Orlando. Next week, Ariba LIVE in Berlin. These folks understand to grow a network you gotta rack up some frequent flyer miles, that’s for sure.
Well if it was customer benchmarking you were looking for, you got your iPad full today. The morning keynote hosted by SAP co-CEO Bill McDermott and his surprise guest host featured three unique SAP customers. (For more on that, check out Ken Murphy's review of it here).
After the keynote, the trio of SAP customers -- Under Armour, NBA, and the 49ers -- joined McDermott for a press conference where the customers elaborated a bit on what they hoped to get from their SAP solutions. Sports fans, they said, are now consuming these sports through data, as much as by watching the games. Fantasy sports, gambling, even apparel purchases are all driven by data. So providing more of that data to sports fans will only increase fan loytalty. Whether it's draft data or biometric data direct from the players, these companies are looking into new ways of using this data to increase customer (aka fan) engagement.
But the keynote panel was only the start of the customer best practices. The ASUG sessions over on the South Concourse were packed with useful case studies on a variety of topics. Aerospace firm Rockwell Collins described its user training strategy which included establishing a change management office in the company.
Entegris' Helen Frericks outlined the proper care and feeding for a successful super user program, providing a six-point plan to rebuilding your super user program. "Super users are often the first to get hired by other companies," she said. "Some don't get used after go-live and get bored and don't volunteer the next time around."
Dutch brewing giant Heineken provided a detailed look at its SAP testing strategy in another session, providing seven testing principles it used to standardize its programs.
The ASUG keynote wrapped up the day and author Seth Godin provided his very unique take on...human behavior? It was an engaging and active presentation to end an engaging and active day.
For the SAP ecosystem, the 2013 conference and tradeshow season is in full swing. Here at SAPinsider, we just wrapped up our third batch of co-located conferences in Las Vegas and we're gearing up for our European SCM/CRM, HR, and BI/FIN/GRC/Admin events in Prague and Amsterdam. In between, many of us will shoot down to that little shindig in Orlando, the SAPPHIRE Now and ASUG annual conference in May.
I'm getting frequent flier miles just thinking about it. Whether you're an SAP employee, customer, partner, or influencer, you've probably bought a plane ticket somewhere in the past couple months.
But for those of you who couldn't make it to our US-based events this spring (or even those that could but couldn't catch the keynote presentations -- they were, after all, bright and early in Las Vegas) we've done you a favor and posted the keynote presentations here on the Insider Learning Network. Access to these keynote videos is free for all members of the Insider Learning Network.
Click here to watch the HR 2013 keynote "The Digital Transformation of People Management" featuring Debra D’Agostino, Editorial Director of Thought Leadership for Oxford Economics, and David Ludlow, SAP Group Vice President for Line of Business Solutions – HR
And as a reminder, if you did attend any of these events in person, you can download all of the presentation slides here on the Insider Learning Network. Just login and click on the "conference materials" button on the right.
As I wrap up the last day of the SAPinsider Financials, GRC, BI and Admin conferences, I'm reflecting on an interesting point. While most of my notes from the sessions are dominated by phrases like "planning to move to BI 4.0" or "needed solution to gain deeper visibility into invoices" every once in a while I come across a note referring to the "human factors" of an IT project in one way or another. And it reminds me (and hopefully you) that in the middle of all the IT we've heard about this week--and there were plenty of screen shots, demos, roadmaps--at the end of it all, the goal of all this IT is to help a human being in front of a screen (end user) perform a function.
For example, during the Financials 2013 keynote, just after the solution map, but before the demos got rolling, speaker Joel Bernstein reminded attendees about the intersection of IT and human beings when he said, "I cannot underestimate the importance of change management." A very human concern for IT organizations.
During her Financials 2013 session on implementing SAP Business Planning and Consolidation, Kathy Calvert of PepsiCo took time to emphasize the importance of identifying a BPC owner in the organization who is equally comfortable talking with IT and finance. Our ability to communicate is, of course, one of the things that makes humans human, isn't it?
In a GRC 2013 session this morning, PwC's Jonathan Levitt discussed best practices for using Emergency Access Management (or Firefighter as you might call it) and you know what--it's all about humans. Which human (user) should have access to what functionality and for which scenario. In fact, Levitt used a decidedly human metaphor to get his point across. "An effective Firefighter strategy is like making a stew--you need all the right ingredients or it won't taste right," he said.
I just got out of a BI 2013 session on 3M's move to BI 4.0 and sure enough, that move was heavily driven by two user requests: "Users were demanding more analytics and mobile access," said speaker Jeffrey Robinson. And 3M might know more about humans than most companies. Robinson said every person on the planet touches a 3M product every day. (And their IT organization, by the way, plans to have 60,000 humans/users up and running on BI 4.0 before it's all done).
And speaking of humans, thanks to all the humans (presenters and experts) that stopped by the SAPinsider booth to sit for interviews on camera. We'll be posting those interviews in coming weeks across our various web sites (SAPexperts, SAPinisder, insiderPROFILES and here on the Insider Learning Network) so check back.
And a big congrats to all of the humans (my colleagues) on the SAPinsider staff for producing such a great event(s) here at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. It's not always easy to focus on business in Las Vegas for a number of very human reasons. In fact, as I write this blog at 11 a.m., there's house music thumping and a crowd of humans (partyers) dancing and drinking at the pool below. But our conference team is like a keenly-focused, well-oiled machine from top to bottom.
Lastly, I hope all of you humans (attendees) have gotten what you came for here at Finacials, GRC, BI and Admin. From the many discussions I've had with attendees and presenters, it seems you have.
Now if you'll excuse me, after a week straight here in the conference center (conferece decathalon personal best achieved, for those keeping track), it's time to go do what humans do here in Las Vegas--wander the strip for a few hours aimlessly.
We're heading into the third full day of conference sessions here at the SAPinsider Financials, GRC, BI and Admin 2013 conferences, and I've already heard a number of great case study presentations from a wide range of industries addressing a variety of SAP solutions. (Kudos to SAPinsider conference producers here Bridget Kotelly, Allison Martin, and rookie of the year Matt Moore.) Some of the case studies focus on more technical tips and include demos and screen shots, while others dive into the business case and user training strategies.
Here's a quick-hit look at some of the ones I've caught already:
How PepsiCo went global with BPC: Speaker Kathy Calvert described how PepsiCo worked with partner TekLink to add BPC to its ERP implementation project late in the game, which turned out well, but presented some challenges. "It was hard because we on the BPC team had to sort of guess what the foundation layer was going to look like," she said, adding. "I'd recommend waiting for the ERP to be in place before putting in BPC on top of it." One of the most important lessons learned from the project, Calvert said, was defining a BPC owner or lead in your organization. "It should be a business person that can talk IT. I can teach a finance person the IT language, but I can't do it the other way around."
Johnson Controls streamlines accounts payable: Speakers Sreenadh Kundurthy of JCI and Brian Shannon of Dolphin addressed JCI's move to a centralized, shared services model to optimize the accounts payable process in its European division. The project goals focused on gaining control and visibility while reducing cycle time and risk in processing more than 2.5 million invoices a year. "Keystrokes matter when you're talking about 2.5 million invoices," Kundurthy said. Working with Dolphin, JCI used optical character recognition to digitize its invoices. One of the crucial steps was to have the purchasing team work with suppliers on submitting invoices in a format that could be easily read by the OCR solution. By integrating solutions from several SAP partners, JCI's invoice approvers can now see the invoices and approve them without having to go into SAP, while vendors can also view and track their invoices through a vendor portal.
Great West Financials on cost center accounting optimization: Speaker Aileen Tynan provided a very detailed look at the functionality and screens the longtime SAP user (2003) is leveraging to streamline its cost center accounting. She provided some very useful functionality tips for attendees.
Financials and GRC keynote: Not all of the customer case study information can in breakout sessions. During the Financials and GRC keynote on Wednesday, Joel Bernstein, CFO of SAP North America, brought two customers onto the stage to share their experiences. Scott Waller of energy giant Royal Dutch Shell detailed his company's finance transformation, driving innovation from the higher levels down into the functions. "We use data to identify where control points can be used to avoid risk," he said. UnderArmour's Jordan Lichtenberg described how his company is using SAP Business Planning and Consolidation and Xcelsius dashboards to analyze customer profitability. They key in driving adoption for this project, he said, is using a "value" message instead of a "control" message in rolling it out.
Even SAP's risk management guru Bruce McCuaig provided some case study information of his own including how serving as a volunteer fire fighter in Texas educated him about risk management. (Sorry--you had to be there for that one).
If you can't be here in Las Vegas, be sure to follow the action on Twitter using hash tags #FINANCIALS2013 #BI2013 #GRC2013 and #ADMIN2013.