Last week, some 350 chemical industry professionals converged on Atlanta for the first SAP for Chemicals event. By all measures, it was a phenomenal success, from the informative and entertaining keynotes, to the topically-focused breakouts, and the invaluable networking sessions. Even those not physically present were benefitting as more than 60 contributors sent 882 tweets to an audience that reached nearly 50,000! “A mini-SAPPHIRE for Chemicals” was a frequent refrain heard from customers, partners and SAP personnel alike, owing to the highly-professional production quality which the event producer, the Eventful Group, brought to the entire experience.
Wednesday’s pre-conference brought more than 50 SAP partners together for an informative session on SAP’s strategy for the chemical industry and the joint opportunities to build customer value across the entire chemicals ecosystem. It’s clear that SAP and its partners are ready and excited to serve and deliver! Later in the afternoon, conference attendees were treated to two pre-conference sessions: one on the Internet of Things and the Future of the Chemical Industry by Steve Hilton, President of MachNation, and on Innovations for Modern Finance Organization by Thack Brown, SAP’s own GM and Global Head of the Finance Applications business. These topics – with their focus on business innovation and operating excellence – were a perfect way to set the table for an excellent line up of topics for the days to follow.
Thursday kicked off with a one-of-a-kind keynote from Dr. Donna Nelson, distinguished professor of Chemistry at the University of Oklahoma and chemistry advisor to the hit TV show, Breaking Bad. Dr. Nelson inspired the audience to always push their boundaries and have a “why-not-me?” attitude in their personal and professional lives. She also challenged all of us in the science and technology space to work hard to re-shape the perception of our field among the general public. Science can indeed be cool – as Dr. Nelson illustrated on numerous occasions! Maintaining interest and commitment to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM disciplines) among our youth is absolutely critical to securing the future of our nation and its economic leadership.
Building upon the human dimensions that Dr. Nelson laid out, Dow Chemical’s VP of Operations & Supply Chain, Gary Hockstra, further emphasized the importance of people and teams in his keynote entitled, Operations & Organizational Excellence Powered by the Human Element. As difficult as our technology initiatives and projects can be, the human and organizational change management dimensions of what we face in business can be as much, if not more challenging. Not only understanding, but leveraging human diversity and its power to achieve greatness is key to extracting the full value IT transformations can bring.
Further extending the focus on leveraging human capital, author and featured speaker on the topic of cross-generational dynamics, Christine Hassler, spoke about Bridging the Generational Divide – Connecting, Leveraging and INSPIRING a Multi-Generational Workforce. Rich with practical insights and actionable advice, Christine’s keynote helped bust some myths and shed some important light on the shifting priorities and changing work styles of today’s emerging workforce.
Sandwiched in between these insightful keynotes, we heard about SAP’s Strategy and Roadmap for the Chemical industry, including the bold introduction of S/4HANA – SAP’s next generation business suite – and its impact on simplification to drive Agility, Productivity and Insight for chemical companies globally. Throughout the day we also heard directly from customers like Albemarle, Tremco, Axalta, IFF, Celanese, ChemChina, Dow Corning, Hunstman, Eastman and ACTEGA Kelstar as they shared experiences spanning productivity as well as excellence in supply chain, manufacturing and customer engagement execution.
Thursday brought further insights into the human dimension of “working styles” as Doug Whittle, noted expert on human performance development, shared perspectives on leveraging our differences to “Build & Maintain a Winning Project Team”. Further customer insights from DuPont, Celanese, WR Grace, Tronox, Albemarle, Phillips 66, Ascend, Elantas PDG, AmSty, Eastman, and Textile Rubber & Chemical Company focused on the business of IT, Analytics, and Operational & Financial excellence in chemicals. The conference concluded with a wrap-up “fireside chat” with CIO’s Maria Womersley (Huntsman) and Pieter Schoehuijs (AkzoNobel) discussing their perspectives on project approvals, ensuring value delivery, the role of cyber security, and career development paths for would-be CIO’s.
Throughout the event, opportunities to network peer-to-peer as well as with event sponsors – which included Hitachi Consulting, Capgemini, HCL, CSC, Vendavo, ROLTA, Infosys, Vesta, Worksoft, ERM, enowa, Qnovate, Vizaya, Utopia, AlertEnterprise, Reveal, NextLabs, Movilitas, Linx/AS, TATA Consultancy, and Loftware – provided ample opportunities for further discovery and relationship building.
In the end, the response was overwhelmingly positive; from content to networking to information-sharing, everyone seemed to walk away better for the experience. There was even praise for the food and refreshments! What more could we ask for?!
Please be on the lookout for further information about next year’s event, as well as the regional “focus groups” we will soon be scheduling for later in 2015. Also – please mark your calendars for our European Chemicals event, to take place in Dusseldorf, Germany on October 5th& 6th, 2015. Until then… all the best and please keep in touch.
And if you were at the conference and have further insights we would love to hear from you! Just post a comment here. Or better yet – write your own blog detailing your personal experience from the event!