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Tim Clark

Fear and Loving in Las Vegas

Posted by Tim Clark Oct 26, 2010

As an SAP employee, certain things I write about might come across as a bit "cheerleader-ish."  But there's a method behind my enthusiastic madness. A good majority of bloggers and influencers that cover SAP are sometimes too quick to point out the missteps, misfires and miscommunications that (once in a blue moon) occur with the largest and most successful business software provider on the planet. (Oops, I think I did it again.) My point is this: I too am here to maintain a sense of SAP balance in this Web 2.0 world we live in. So if there's something that my company is doing well, like SAP Community Network, I'm going to grab a set of pom-poms and give it a spirited shout-out.


At SAP TechEd 2010 Las Vegas, Mark Yolton, senior vice president of SAP Community Network, moderated a panel discussion about the value of SCN. Even though I am an expert blogger on SAP Community Network, I was floored (and a little bit frightened) by how little I actually knew about this thriving and influential community. Let's get some quick stats out of the way:

  • Two million members across 200 countries and territories
  • 30,000 new members per month
  • One million unique visitors per month
  • 16,000 bloggers


Clearly, the SAP Community Network movement can seem a bit intimidating. But what exactly is it and why is it such a hot bed of activity? As Mark Yolton puts it, "The SCN is very much user-led. A very small amount of content is actually put out by SAP." And the panelists that Mark put together also support this belief.


Tammy Powlas of Fairfax Water in Virginia said she often referred to the community network for tips when her company was piloting SAP Solution Manager. She also found SAP Community Network useful to research a proof-of-concept related to SAP BusinessObjects solutions.


SAP Mentor and senior engineer for SEI Investments, Greg Myers, said he opened 41 SAP support tickets last year. This year he only opened six. "I can fix things on my own, thanks to SCN," he said.


Derek Loranca of Aetna Financial Services said he likes the fact that Mark Yolton and the network community-at-large make sure people get involved. "They give you a little push and say, ‘You're an expert, go help.' I don't think there is another community network out there that does this."


So fear not, dear readers, SAP Community Network is your friend. If you've got questions, it has answers. And if you have answers, post them. It will be time well spent. But don't take it from me. Check out what David Hull of the "House of Mouse" has to say about SAP Community Network in the video below.

Do you like sequels? I hope so, because you've just entered Part 2 of "What Happens in ASUG, Stays in Vegas." As I mentioned in the first post, well-known manufacturers were on hand at the recent ASUG Fall Focus: Roadmap to ROI event to tell their stories about how SAP helps them run better. Dow Corning was one of them. Here's how they roll when it comes to SAP Enterprise Asset Management.

Established in 1943, Dow Corning had one primary mission: to explore the potential of silicones. With that came a boatload of challenges, including accurate asset management. Think about all of the different Dow Corning suppliers, partners and employees that retain asset knowledge in their heads, or use their own system of Post-It Notes and Microsoft Excel spreadsheets to track whereabouts and condition of company assets instead of using the automated functionality that SAP NetWeaver Master Data Management offers.

"The culture at Dow Corning is that we are awesome when it comes to the physical plant," said Alex Lackner, asset management and integrity team leader, Dow Corning. "The digital plant, however, doesn't match the activity of the physical plant."

Lackner had to figure out a way to capture the knowledge of the aging workforce; get it entered into the new SAP Enterprise Asset Management configuration system so that the new workforce could benefit. Not an easy task when Dow Corning's "Red Book" - the granddaddy of all data used to name equipment at Dow Corning - couldn't be found. Other important asset ledgers and manuals were also missing or obsolete. Lackner had no choice but to embark on a journey to create a process and foundation - a one-stop shop, if you will - that would make it easy for Dow Corning employees to regularly enter and access important details into the SAP NetWeaver MDM front-end system.

From user-acceptance issues to the heavy lifting involved with manually entering loads of data, it wasn't easy. But the process is in place, Dow Corning's master data is getting cleaned up and old dogs are being taught new tricks. Certainly, Dow Corning is gaining across-the-board efficiencies, but its journey with SAP Enterpise Asset Management is ongoing. This isn't a typical IT tale of slam-dunk ROI goodness. Instead, this is about getting one's house in order. And Lackner has a few lessons learned should you choose to accept an SAP Enterprise Asset Management mission of your own:

  • Operations shouldn't ask Maintenance to do work without a work order
  • Define the difference between a Work Order and a Permit
  • When the data is wrong or missing, take the time to correct it
  • Pay now, or pay forever

Hungry for more? There's plenty of data management and asset management sessions taking place at SAP TechEd 2010.

After glancing at the session schedule for this year's Americas' SAP Users' Group (ASUG) conference, held last week in Orlando, panic set in. How could the Walt Disney Swan and Dolphin Resort produce enough Starbucks for me to counteract yawn-inducing titles like "BPC for Financial Sales & Operational Planning"?  Thankfully, there was plenty of hot java to go around, but it wasn't needed.  Asics, Dow Corning, Harley-Davidson and Under Armour were presenting - and I had a front-row seat.  With methodical precision and unbridled passion, each presenter told his or her company's unique story, touching upon IT themes that will be all the rage at SAP TechEd 2010 Las Vegas.


As a leading designer of and manufacturer of running shoes, athletic footwear, apparel and accessories, Asics struggled with its SKU count, which was growing rapidly each season. Without active style filtering or real time ad hoc reporting, Asics' planning cycle was cumbersome at best. In an effort to reduce its planning cycle, provide extensive reporting functionality, and create a collaborative environment for users, Asics turned to the SAP BusinessObjects Planning and Consolidation application. The results speak for themselves, as Asics was able to reduce its planning cycle by 50 percent, from three weeks down to one and a half. But that was just the beginning according to Brian Hsu, SAP BW BPC specialist at Asics.


"We developed a streamlined process and increased synergies across departments," said Hsu. "The user-friendly UI looks like an Excel interface but it's more robust for users. Now they can easily calculate additional values in micro and macro environments."


Hsu also said SAP BusinessObjects Planning and Consolidation enables extensive reporting functionality. Asics accounting, for instance, is able to distribute reports quickly and easily to the Web, which reduces the large amount of memory that e-mail attachments consume. Asics can also produce complex financial statement packages on the fly; what used to take accountants a few days to produce now requires five minutes. Due to the successful deployment and adoption of SAP BusinessObjects Planning and Consolidation, Hsu said Asics will be upgrading to version 7.0 of the application in the near future. To learn more about SAP BusinessObjects Planning and Consolidation at SAP TechEd 2010 Vegas, go HERE.


This blog can also be read in its entirety on the SAP TechEd Newsroom.

Question: What happens when the best and brightest developers convene in one location to build working prototypes, using real technologies, in real time?

Answer: Innovation Weekend!

Held Oct. 10-11 in Berlin and Oct. 17-18 in Las Vegas, Innovation Weekend serves as the ideal way to unofficially kick off this year's SAP TechEd events. At its core, Innovation Weekend is a 30-hour-long event that challenges techies to apply their skills to a real business case. Working in small teams, participants not only gain hands-on experience with some of SAP's coolest and newest innovative technologies, they also have the opportunity to bring one of their ideas from concept to prototype. Teams can be formed at the event or created beforehand. The team that builds the best working prototype by the end of the event will be invited on stage to showcase what they have accomplished during the Demo Jam event.

There's also a very special purpose underlying Innovation Weekend, according to Marilyn Pratt, Community Advocate, SAP Community Network, Global Ecosystem and Partner Group. Pratt was inspired by the widespread relief efforts called "crisis camps" that mobilized soon after Haiti was ravaged by a massive earthquake. The misson of the camps were to provide services to relief organizations on the ground. Pratt wasted no time in getting involved and soon realized more coordination was needed between the different groups and relief organizations.

"I witnessed the real-time response and the positive impact of people working together toward a common cause," said Pratt. "I am not a doctor but knew I could help with logistics and other areas. Innovation Weekend will operate with a like-minded view as particpants will be creating technology protoypes for the purpose of helping non-profit organizations."

Click HERE to watch an exclusive interview with Marilyn Pratt about the underlying significance of Innovation Weekend.