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Key TakeAways from the Mastering BI Conference

I was having dinner with Tammy Powlas, SAP Mentor a few days ago at the Mastering SAP  BI/Business Objects in Australia and she suggested I write my firstblog. I laughed it off saying what would I write about and what if no one reads it…or finds it useful…she responded (dropping some wisdom, as she always does without realizing it!) “you don’t blog for others, you blog for yourself”

So I am writing to me myself and I(while listening to Beyonce),documenting my take aways from the Mastering SAPBI\Business objects conference so that I dare not forget the wealth of knowledge that I gained over the past week.

Sunday began with a speakers briefing..(which I was late of…I was still running on SA time). There were over 50 speakers in the room….willing to share their story in front of peers, probably one of the hardest tasks to do! Of course the SAP Mentors were in the house with their cool navy t-shirts! Straight after the briefing I bumped into Clint Vosloo (SAP Mentor from South Africa), Craig Nicholls, Joshua Fletcher and Gabe Orthous all of whom I met at last years Mastering SAP BI in Johannesburg…great seeing a few familiar faces.

I attended the Jump Start session with Lester Meadows which provided a precise description of why we should continue to attend such conferences, why we as speakers put ourselves through the grilling task of presenting. Lester is one of the calmest speakers I have ever witnessed, so methodical in his content he commands the audience to listen attentively. He had such practical examples of where in their organization, Kimberley-Clark…have made use of what they learnt in previous Mastering BI conferences, some that remain vivid in my mind were :-

– Deciding what Business Objects  tool to use when -where they made use of Ingo Hilgefort’s(the Godfather of Business Objects) best practice documents.

-Understanding the differences between SAP Mobi and ROAMBI. He mentioned that he was able to refer back to Mustafa Bensen for info on ROAMBI.

He wrapped up the session by urging us to break away from our groups and interact with people we didn’t know so as to gain as much value as possible out of the conference.

I made a note to suggest to the SA Mastering BI Johannesburg to include such a session next year!

Sunday finished with introductory drinks…met so many people – I unfortunately couldn’t stay too long as I needed to prepare for my session on Monday.

Monday the nerves were running high for everyone(if not everyone then at least ME) The day started with the Eventful group represented by Carolyn Watts and Philippa Sykes welcoming all of us.

The session was followed by the 1st Key Note from Kurt Bilafer – who reminded the audience that SAP is now on a mission is on a mission to win the hearts of Business Objects customers…sweet deal…allowing customers to convert their licenses! He reminded us that business is forever evolving…and it is our job to keep up! He also reiterated that the focus should not be just your Customer, but your “Customer’s customer!”


I’m a girly-girl so the highlight of his session for me was the iPad app that SAP has prototyped for ZARA! Powerful app that includes geo info, impacting supply chain! Absolutely Beautiful!

The next Key Note was Mico Yuk’s session on “5 Proven Steps to Successfully Deploy Your SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards “. I had met Mico the day before and read her tweets about being on “lock-down” on the Sunday preparing for her sessions…so I knew we were in for a performance! Her brutal honesty and passion for subject matter is evident in each of her slides and her delivery thereof! So the key take-aways from her session?

•       Ensure that you gathering requirements (use the template that is provided to help you get started) – Scoping is where it all goes wrong…people go too fast into drawing….DO NOT Do this!!

•       Create a Mock-up (starting with pencil and paper – this is old school but it works!) – NEVER open Xcelsius in front of the business! You will be creating a HEADACHE for yourself!

•       Validate Data Sources

•       Get your hands dirty in User Acceptance Testing – when you build something … have to sit in on the can’t outsource this to someone else. One major jewel that she dropped which we sometimes forget to do is PUSH BACK…the beauty of dashboards lies in getting a response to a question within seconds…if that’s not happening – It’s better to reduce the scope than have people wait for a few minutes…should be seconds!

•       Knowledge Transfer: Change Management – this is where people spend the least amount of time!


Another highlight…cause I like pretty things…was the pic of the SAILBOATS infographic…beautiful use of colours and pics but yet still keeping true to depicting the relevant info for business to make decisions with. I must remember to get the source file from her.

What I realise about building  dashboards after this session is that there is actually a lot  that needs to be considered – we are so quick to start drawing, to start building that we seldom really listen to what the users need. There is however a fine line between providing a dashboard that is too colorful or overly sexy that it takes away from the initial intent – which is for the business to make a decision quickly, based on the information that is visually represented in front of them!

After this session I was off to the discussion Track on Formulating a BI Strategy. This was a new track that was introduced – NO presentations – NO real format or agenda – just like-minded people with

similar stories to tell and pain points that relate to “What should inform a BI Strategy?”, “What BI tool do I use when?”, “How do I up-skill my staff when the tools are forever changing?”, ”We’ve just gone live with BW but there is resistance from the business what should I do?” So this was an hour filled with brain storming and great conversation. One of the best advice that I took away was that as an SAP Customer you are not alone in some of the frustrations that you have but its up to you to MAKE USE OF THE BI Community! Make use of the SAP partners too…we all have a list of each other’s contacts from the conference…MAKE USE OF THEM! I certainly plan to!


The next session I attended was presented by Tamara Powlas “Embedded Analytics: A Possible Platform for Best-of-Breed Reporting”. This was one of the highlights of the conference for me. I had met Tammy on twitter. When I eventually met her it felt a bit weird ‘cause it felt like I had met her before…the beauty of social media!  What one finds when attending conferences at times is that the presentations tend to be extremely high-level with little practical points to take home….this session was different. It felt like I was in a hands-on session and the only thing missing was my laptop! She enlightened us by taking us through a step-by-step guide of how to use the new Reporting features that come with ECC6 EHP5 – the definite quick win which got me jumping up and down is how easy it is to set up Crystal Reports and use the ABAP List View as the data source!! I could see our finance users drooling over this! She also mentioned Transient Providers that allow reporting using BI Tools on top of an ERP system…this was really cool!


My last session for the day was another highlight! A motivational session by an Australian International Youth speaker, Sam Cawthorn! Sam’s life changed dramatically when he was involved in a major car accident. He was left with an amputated right arm and a permanent disability in his right leg. What I learnt from talk was:-

•       Crisis creates opportunity and we should have a new outlook on problems as they define our character.

•       It is our decision not our condition that determines our attitude towards life!

The session was titled “Bounce forward …What an appropriate name for such an electrifying and powerful session! I am a bit of a softie so I did find myself getting emotional and sobbing silently! Thank you Sam for reminding us about what’s important in life!

Exercises - Workshop.jpg

I tweeted about my last highlight even before the conference started! The Workshop on SAP BI 4.x FP3 Tool Suite hosted by Ingo Hilgefort, with Tammy Powlas assisting! I was super excited to learn about the different tools as we will be upgrading our BOBJ environment from XI3.x to BI4.0. Ingo is truly gifted in how he can make any tool seem so easy! There were hands on practical exercises and I’m proud to say I at least completed one! Those who attended would know that that is an achievement!! We even got to test drive SAP Business Objects Design Studio, which I felt comfortable using! I met Ingo at last year at the inaugural Mastering SAP BI held in Johannesburg. My colleague(Lynn van Rooyen) and I skipped networking drinks to pick his brain for as long as possible (more like 2hours). He is so passionate about sharing his knowledge with others it is extremely humbling to witness! If you ever get the opportunity to attend one of his presentations/workshops please do so – you will learn a lot!!

There were so many other sessions that I wanted to attend but time just didn’t allow it, so I’ve downloaded all the presentations courtesy of the Eventful Group(so I have my bed-time reading for the next week or so!)

So that was the end to an awesome conference! If you ever get the opportunity to attend one of the Mastering BI conferences consider yourself fortunate! You will not find a more inspiring and valuable conference. I was telling my colleague that the value of the conference goes beyond the content delivered.

Zim thinking.jpg

It is that tacit knowledge that gets shared amongst the delegates during the networking drinks, those short conversations exchanged during the breaks, and the lengthy discussions at the discussion tracks that I found extremely invaluable. It is during these breaks(as shown in the pic above) that I managed to find out about the Citizen Insight iPad App which leverages the SAP Strategy Management framework and allows an organisation to share results with people outside of their environments. Another app that was spoken of is the SAP Citizens Connect iPad app, which gives citizens an easy way to report issues to local authorities. Citizens are able to photograph, locate, and describe incidents on a mobile device and forward these to local authorities. I was super excited about these…as they are potential quick wins for any organisation (thanks Innogence!).  Also had an insightful chat to Amjad Bashir from Quantum IT on how they are assisting organisations with their BI Strategy!

You will notice that I have said nothing about the sessions that I presented….that will be in my next blog post…so watch this space!

The Eventful Group really went out of their way to ensure that every last detail was catered for! To the Eventful Group, thank you for all your hard work it is really inspiring…definitely taking service to the next level!


After all that’s said and done, I think can safely say that I have found a Global SAP BI Family in Melbourne!

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      Author's profile photo Tammy Powlas
      Tammy Powlas

      zimkhita buwa

      Great blog and thank you for taking the time to share your experiences.  It was great to meet you in person - I felt like I already knew you as well. 

      Looking forward to reading your next blog...

      In terms of attribution, it was Dennis Howlett who said you blog for yourself...and I completely agree!


      Author's profile photo Marilyn Pratt
      Marilyn Pratt

      Welcome zimkhita buwa !  So many things to say in response to this marvelous first post.

      1) You shared such graphic impressions of the event and did it in such a personable way that now I not only feel that I can see the event context a little better but I know something about you as well.  Is that you in the solo picture before the pic of the event staff?  I did a little investigative research and found you on twitter (zimbuwa) so I imagine it is.  Please personalize your profile here too!

      2)  You do a lovely job of acknowledging so many people, many of them in the community. The use of the "@" before their name will help you link to their profiles and give them a shout out as to your posting about them (for example, I'm letting Clint Vosloo know that you mentioned him and Mico Yuk know as well

      3) Tammy Powlas is going to laugh about this I think, but it would be great if you could put some subtitles (paragraph headers) to break the text.  It makes it easier for the reader to follow your important highlights.

      4) And now I will just requote you and say how impressed I was by your "impressions" and graphic description of Tammy's session which you described as

      one of the highlights of the conference for me. I had met Tammy on twitter. When I eventually met her it felt a bit weird ‘cause it felt like I had met her before…the beauty of social media!  What one finds when attending conferences at times is that the presentations tend to be extremely high-level with little practical points to take home….this session was different. It felt like I was in a hands-on session and the only thing missing was my laptop!

      A hand's on session with words.  Yep that is the power of Tammy in a great, journaling description.

      Please keep writing Zim.   Can't wait to hear about your own session.

      Yep.  Blog about yourself.  It's a self to share.

      kudos, Marilyn

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      G'day Zimkhita Buwa!

      Great recap of the conference, a really enjoyable read.

      Also, fantastic meeting you in Ingo Hilgefort workshop on Wednesday, you captured that experience well.


      Author's profile photo Jongi Eric
      Jongi Eric

      Thank you for sharing!

      Author's profile photo Brendan Kensley
      Brendan Kensley

      Hi Zim,

      Had some time on my hands thought I should check out your blog post. You've really captured the conference really well.

      Even though I wasn't there I really found it useful.

      Thank you!