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Interview with Alec Joannou of the Mining Customer Council

BPX for Mining secured a veritable scoop recently, when Alec Joannou, head of the global customer consortium known as Industry Advisory Council for Mining (IACM), agreed to take the hot seat and talk to us about his engagement with the alliance of IT and mining companies called the Industry Value Network (IVN) for Mining. In the course of our chat, Alec underlined his enthusiasm for the network, citing the IVN commitment to plugging white spaces in end-to-end mining solutions plus the implicit accreditation by SAP of niche software vendors within the IVN as two outstanding features of the community.


Alec is joined in the meeting by Anja Strothkaemper (head of Business Unit Mining at SAP) together with Brindusa Radulescu (SAP Lead in the IVN for Mining). Due to my poor choice of recording methods, we didn’t capture the entire conversation with crystal clarity. That’s my fault for being a klutz. However, we did salvage a 5-minute extract. You can catch the remainder of the conversation on the transcript shown below.





Kieran:  Hello and welcome to this podcast from BPX for Mining.  My name is Kieran O’Connor and today I’ll be talking to Alec Joannou of Anglo American, who is the current chairman of the Industry Advisory Council for Mining.  With us is Brindusa Radulescu of the Industry Value Network for Mining and Anja Strothkaemper, Unit Director of Business Unit Mining at SAP.

So I’d like to start with Alec, maybe you can tell us a little about your background, and indeed your involvement with the Customer Council.  How does the Mining Customer Council benefit from the Industry Value Network for Mining?


Alec:  Thanks Kieran.  I am Group Head for Applications at Anglo American.  Prior to that, I was a partner and executive at Price Waterhouse Coopers and IBM, respectively.  I’ve been involved with SAP now for some 15 years, and the vast majority of that time was spent as an implementation or systems integrator partner and therefore part of the value network.  Obviously, all these implementations were across all industries, and one of the key success factors of an implementation was to try and get alignment and input in terms of what the industry needs were, and we reviewed the respective IAC, which is the Industry Advisory Council for that particular industry.

When I joined Anglo three years ago, I immediately signed up to the IACM, which is the Industry Advisory Council for Mining, to leverage the knowledge and the collaboration that would take place at this forum between us and, obviously, our fellow mining clients. Last year I was fortunate enough to be voted in as Chairman and that’s how my involvement with IACM has come about.  In terms of the Industry Value Network, I think that SAP would be the first to acknowledge that they can’t be all things to all people.  In the mining space, there are certain areas where SAP won’t be developing solutions, and we will be relying on their partners and the Industry Value Network to provide solutions in what they call the white spaces.  So, they play a critical role in the whole ecosystem and it’s a forum whereby we can get accredited partners and vendors who build solutions in collaboration and co-sponsorship with major mining clients.  I hope that answers your question.


Kieran: Can you give us an idea of the customer perception of the Industry Value Network initiative?


Alec: Yes, I think from a customer perspective, it’s seen as a huge value-add because we can look at end-to-end solutions where previously we couldn’t do that, because, as I said, there are definite white spaces.  And with the Industry Value Network, we can plug those white spaces, so we are getting end-to-end solutions.  The other thing is that because of the fact that it is a more formal kind of structure, and there’s governance, there is accreditation by SAP, so when we’re dealing with those vendors who claim that space, we know that they’re accredited, and that makes a big difference.


Kieran:  So what’s the major value the IVN provides or should provide to customers?


Alec:  The major value-add is that it provides those gaps in the white space, so we’ve got end-to-end solutions.  So if we’re implementing SAP, a process goes across many systems, and in many cases, the actual success of a process is measured from cradle to grave.  If we have a weak link in that process, and we can’t deliver certain solutions, it’s a bad reflection on SAP as well, because some of the information is not delivered at the speed or with the accuracy that’s required.  The Value Network brings in vendors who can actually build those solutions to make sure the processes are OK from end to end.  And, yeah, we’ve seen this throughout all our difference scenarios in the mining industry, where we have value partners coming in and filling those gaps and white spaces.


Kieran: I’m going to drag Anja into the conversation, looking for specific examples within the Advisory Council, where the IVN (Industry Value Network) approach actually paid off.


Anja:  Yeah, sure, I think there’s one example  to start with, which would be the area of Enterprise Asset Management, where we, at SAP, have declared a white space in the part of the process referred to as the Reliability Centered Maintenance strategy, so really the identification of what is the best way of setting up maintenance strategy for equipment.  And here we actually worked with a partner called Meridium. SAP and Meridium have embarked on a journey to develop a joint product and here the Mining Industry Value Network has really taken on ownership and has provided good input into that joint solution, so that we make sure that it adds value and focuses on the right product and content. 


Kieran:  So what about aspirations for the whole SAP-Partner-Customer approach which seems to be at the center of the idea and program?  How would you like that to develop in 2009 and beyond?  Maybe Brindusa could fill in here?


Brindusa: We’ll continue the work we have done in the past years, engaging with partners on focus areas and we would like to continue that.  We have received great support from the IVN customers, especially with topics like Enterprise Asset Management and EH&S, where we set up work group and all of that provided valuable input to our partners – TechniData and Meridium.  We also would like to continue collaboration with partners like Runge and Citect. And partners from the IVN also provided great input in setting up the guidelines for architecture and integration software – particularly input in MII development and roadmap.


Anja: So maybe, Kieran if I can add to this…I feel that this way of engaging with the governance that Alec referred to has helped us, and the idea of securing an end-to-end process on the shop floor side is not new but now that we actually start to tackle it and start be partners and experts at the table and work on integrating based on the eSOA concept with the right group, starting to develop the services which lead the right way forward.


Alec: I think the other value-add is that the IVN defines roles and responsibilities.  In the past, people were playing in each others spaces, now everyone knows where a process and responsibility begins and ends, and allows everyone to focus on how they are supposed to deliver value overall.


Kieran: Great. Brindusa or Anja, maybe you’d like to round off by previewing some of the short-term plans for the IVN?


Anja: I think we definitely believe we would like to continue the path that we have started, continue our collaboration activities. We will have another round of Industry Advisory Council meetings where we’d like to get some guidance about what would be the focus areas, especially in the current economic times.  Maybe that will shift a little bit or help us set priorities in the short-term.  One thing that we observe which is really good is that we see the system integrators have taken a more active role as Alec mentioned – we see that they also go down to the shop floor layer and start to engage with the partners in the Industry Value Network.  So, I think that that’s a bit we would also like to develop and continue throughout the next one to two years.


Brindusa: I would like to add that for 2009, we are already planning a virtual update, based on our focus area with our software partners as well as with the software integrators and we would leverage BPX and Collaboration Workspace to create roundtables for customers and partners.


Kieran: Well, it’s really exciting to witness this cohesion and team effort with so many global players. Listen, Anja, Brindusa, and particularly Alec, I’d like to thank you for talking to us today and I wish you the best with the developments down the line.


Group:  Thank you.


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