Tales of Two Inside Tracks, SAP Mentor-Style
SAP Inside Track events in Calgary and Chicago offer a live, direct and localized SAP Community
This is the sixth article in the 2012 informational series called “Meet the SAP Mentors.” SAP Mentors are a super-smart, engaged global cohort of nearly 110 experts in all things SAP – customers, partners, employees, bloggers, consultants, business people and technical wizards – nominated by peers in the SAP Community Network and selected by SAP. Every day, SAP Mentors demonstrate their personal and professional commitment to leadership by helping SAP customers and practitioners solve the business and technical challenges that come with achieving better business results via SAP-based solutions. As a byproduct, the SAP Mentor Initiative is enriching the culture of SAP with a more open and collaborative dialog between SAP decision-makers and stakeholders. A shared commitment to dialog, collaboration and customer success helps to make the SAP ecosystem a predictable source of competitive advantage to the world’s leading organizations.
Calgary, Alberta, center of Canada’s oil and gas industry, is host to major energy companies such as Husky Energy, Nexen Inc. and Suncor Energy. Chicago, Illinois, meanwhile, enjoys deep roots in multiple sectors, including manufacturing, printing, publishing and food processing. Brand powerhouses such as Kraft Foods and McDonald’s are located in the city’s suburbs.
No wonder then that in 2012 SAP Mentors Paul Kurchina of Calgary and Bhanu Gupta of Chicago hosted SAP Inside Track events in their respective cities that catered to distinct and dynamic SAP industry ecosystems. What is an SAP Inside Track? As described in this writer’s April 2012 blog post, it’s a one-day, SAP Community Network-anchored event, hosted by local community advocates in their city or region, where attendees get an up close and personal view of a solution or topic of interest to customers an experts in the region – think retail in New York City, for example. The events are an in-person version of what happens 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year in the online SAP Community Network.
Micro-communities in Calgary
Paul Kurchina is a veteran of the SAP ecosystem having held management roles in enterprise architecture and business development in the oil and gas sector. He is a former board member of the Americas SAP Users’ Group (ASUG) and has been an SAP Mentor for the past two years. Today he is, in his own words, a “connector, analyst, and community catalyst in the SAP ecosystem.” Based in Calgary, Paul catalyzes micro-communities that can encourage more dynamic and innovative uses of current leading-edge SAP technologies.
“There’s a lot of face-to-face events, such as SAPPHIRE NOW and SAP TechEd where people come together for three days, see a lot of good stuff, get all inspired, and then go back to their day jobs where nothing happens,” he says. “The goal of SAP Inside Track events is to bring together SAP customers and partners for conversations that support active engagement, delivering value and openness to new possibilities ”
SAP Mentor (and SAP employee) Ginger Gatling leads Enterprise Information Management
Seminar at SAP Inside Track Calgary in September 2012. Photo credit: Paul Kurchina
Kurchina, who cultivates communities of dialogue surrounding the potential of SAP technologies, organized five SAP Inside Track events in 2012, focusing intently on audience needs.
“SAP professionals in a typical group of capital-intensive oil, gas and utility companies around Calgary are a mix of IT and business folks typically in their mid-twenties to late-fifties,” he says. “My SAP Inside Track events help these professionals to have conversations between big yearly events such as SAP SAPPHIRE NOW and SAP TechEd.”
Kurchina’s first two events, held in January and in May, focused on enterprise asset management and linear asset management, respectively. The third event held in June involved three tracks: mobile technologies, analytics and enterprise architecture. The fourth event focused on enterprise information management while the fifth event emphasized solution management.
“There was real interest,” Kurchina says. “Sixty people attended the first half-day event, 140 showed up for the second full-day event, and feedback from attendees and SAP executives was positive.”
Dr. Achim Krüger is an SAP vice president with global responsibility for enterprise asset management solutions. “What is great about Paul’s events,” he says, “is that they bring people together in an environment where they can share knowledge and experiences without anybody trying to sell anything to anyone.
“Paul is great at creating communities and attracting interest for existing SAP solutions as well as upcoming enhancements to the SAP Enterprise Asset Management portfolio. What I really like about Paul is that he is a strong supporter of our joint idea of a holistic asset management.”
Adds Kurchina, “I’m looking to replicate this model of full-day events, eight topics, recorded on video—and uploaded for sharing—for interested SAP customers in other areas because the need is there.
What’s the key to Paul’s success? “People really just like to get together and talk to each other,” he says.
Geek-out in Chicago
Bhanu Gupta is an SAP Mentor and a business intelligence expert at Molex Inc., a Chicago-based manufacturer of connectors for automotive, electronics, healthcare and more. Molex has approximately 35,000 employees and manufactures products in more than 20 countries.
Gupta became program chair for the Chicago chapter of the Illinois Americas’ SAP Users’ Group (ASUG) in 2006. Later she became the chapter vice chair and then the chair. After enthusiastic contributions of time and energy, she was appointed as an SAP Mentor at the launch of the SAP Mentors’ Initiative five years ago.
“Working at an ASUG local chapter sparked the community gene to come alive in me and I really enjoyed bringing people together,” Gupta says. “I became really active with the SAP Developer Network on the business warehouse and business intelligence forums.”
Gupta worked closely with the ASUG Illinois’ Chicago chapter to co-locate a chapter meeting with an SAP Inside Track event, which was held in April 2012. The common theme for both events was new technologies.
Arranging parallel events at one location allowed attendees to get a flavor of ASUG and Inside Track programs and to make connections they might not otherwise have made.
Ingo Hilgefort leads seminar on SAP Business Intelligence integration at SAP Inside Track Chicago in April 2012.
Photo credit: SAP Mentor Tammy Powlas
“We had very nice teams on ASUG and SAP Inside Track sides,” Gupta says. “We pulled together an SAP Inside Track program that included hands-on sessions on topics such as analysis and web intelligence with SAP Mentor Ingo Hilgefort and SAP HANA modeling with Pravin Gupta and Sandeep Khare of TekLink International Inc.
“We also organized a session with Thomas Jung of SAP called ‘Building Custom Applications Natively on SAP HANA,’” she adds. “And we had a terrific panel on women in technology that included CIOs and vice presidents from four or five SAP customers as well as great participation from the audience and panelists.”
Barbara Brooker is manager of supply chain technologies at Pentair Ltd., an SAP customer. According to its web site, Pentair employs 30,000 people on six continents and “delivers industry-leading products, services and solutions for its customers’ diverse needs in water and other fluids, thermal management and equipment protection.”
“The SAP Inside Track in Chicago was like a mini SAPPHIRE,” Brooker says. “I got to see great presentations from companies like Conair, Kellogg’s and SAP, see different company perspectives, observe how people are actually using some of their SAP tools, network with presenters, and meet a number of different people at lunch.
“One huge benefit of the event was having four or five tracks to choose from, which allowed me as an SAP supply-chain manager to keep up to date on a lot of stuff such as business intelligence, sales and distribution, production planning, materials management and logistics.”
Brooker adds that Chicago’s SAP Inside Track event helped her to “decide whether it made sense to recommend [obtaining] a new SAP release for the added functionality.”
Your Inside Track – what’s it all about?
Kurchina and Gupta agree that SAP Inside Track events need to be coordinated with care and attention to local needs.
“We focus on events being concise, neutral, to the point and non-judgmental,” says Gupta. “And we create a free format that allows participants and presenters to talk about their passion and what they’re doing.”
Kurchina, who incidentally collaborated with Gupta on an SAP enterprise architecture special interest group event in Chicago, says, “If you get a group of people who start to know each other, they’re more freely open to learn from one other than if you just get a mishmash of people who come together just once a year.
“What spurred me on was the frustration I feel in not seeing as much potential being realized as possible.”
SAP Mentors like Kurchina and Gupta are like that. They exude confidence that SAP Inside Track events help participants obtain the insight and knowledge needed to not only realize their own potential, but also to meet ever-more-challenging business goals. By staying in touch, people who connect at these localized events build valuable relationships near their offices and can speak face to face once in a while.
It’s that simple—and that valuable.
Please note: SAP Mentors will be wearing distinctive “SAP Mentor” t-shirts while in attendance at SAP TechEd in Las Vegas, Nevada, from October 15 to 19, 2012. Feel free to introduce yourself, to ask questions and to learn more about the role of SAP Mentors within the SAP ecosystem.
Paul Kurchina’s SAP Inside Track Events – Calgary, Canada
Bhanu Gupta’s SAP Inside Track Event – Chicago, Illinois
Other Articles in “Meet the SAP Mentors” Series