SAP Mentor Spotlight Interview: Ronald Konijnenburg
|The SAP Mentor Spotlight Interview Series highlights key strategic topics, such as emerging technologies, learning, and other topics, and provides insights from Mentors and SAP leaders on turning ideas into innovative approaches that impact people, process, and technology.|
Many great discoveries are the result of tinkering. Tinkering means playing around with things, ideas, and trying out something to see what happens. Often, tinkering is done with a goal in mind, but also sometimes just for the sheer pleasure of trying something out to see what happens. It’s all about gaining insights and creativity.
For Ronald Konijnenburg, SAP Mentor, Chief Innovation Officer at Interdobs, and Principle BI Consultant, tinkering is a way to explore, experiment, collaborate, and assess the potential for innovation. Whether as a retired poker player, custom bike enthusiast, or when simplifying BI, he uses tinkering to help dissect problems and come up with workable solutions.
Recently I had the good fortunate to connect with Ronald to ask a few questions about his passions and professional pursuits.
Stacey Fish (SF): From your days at Markus Verbeek Praehep University studying finance to your many work experiences related to business intelligence (BI) and now as the Chief Innovation Officer and Principal BI Consultant at Interdobs B.V., what has been your professional passion that has fueled your career journey?
Ronald Konijnenburg (RK): Funny story how I ended up working on SAP technologies and solutions. After my studies, I joined Honda Netherlands as an Accounting clerk. I ended up doing all sorts of finance stuff from posting invoices, calling debtors, and calling banks to get weekly loans. There were times that 50 million Euros was going through my hands at the age of 20…mind boggling.
For me they were just entries in Lotus notes (Excel was nowhere to be found in these days ;-).
In 1996, the company decided to implement a product called SAP R/3 (Intelligent ERP of its time). I spent my days as a key user, did implementations in Europe, and decided in 1999 that I wanted to hang out with the cool kids and focus only on SAP and becoming a consultant.
Best decision I made in my professional career. Having a couple years at a finance department under my belt helped me tremendously in my next steps: becoming an FI/CO (finance / controlling) Consultant. I spoke the same language as the key users and that helped. Then, in 2002, I came across SAP BW (Business Warehouse) and got hooked. From that point on, Business Intelligence and Analytics was the way forward.
SF: You have several hobbies and interests including retired poker player, custom bike enthusiast, BI podcaster, and Vlogs on YouTube. How have these activities helped you explore new ways to innovate both personally and professionally?
RK: Innovation has always been key in my life. I love tinkering with new stuff. When I drove my Harley, I had it hooked up to sensors to keep track of everything on my phone. When I played Poker, I had stats on all the players and had an advantage that way. All the vlogs I put on YouTube are all about tinkering with SAP HANA. I participated in a lot of TechEd DemoJams and InnoJams. Fun times. Now in my current job, I am responsible for innovations. I test out the new SAP solutions with my colleagues at Interdobs and find the best go-to-market strategy. That has paid out. We were invited to deliver one of the first SAP Data Warehouse Cloud implementations.
SF: How did you become an SAP Mentor? Can you name one or two things you’ve enjoyed in this role so far?
RK: Only one or two, I can think of dozens ;-). I believe I became an SAP mentor because I was one of the first who tore SAP HANA apart. I wrote blogs on how to use HANA in the early days which was picked up by the HANA team in Palo Alto and I assume they put in a good word.
The mentor program has given me so much. Friendships, great talks, adventures. Being able to educate people on SAP and giving SAP feedback based on insights I receive from consultants and clients is the very best part. I love when these shared insights make a difference and new perspectives are formed. In the end, it is all about making SAP better for everyone. From client to consultant to SAP itself.
SF: When you are working with customers, peers, and colleagues around business intelligence initiatives such as centralizing access to data, reporting, visualization, and sharing for better decision support, how do you approach getting started? What are one or two best practice examples of what to look for?
RK: Don’t boil the ocean from day one. BI projects are very hard, and clients often do not know where to start. Make sure you start small, but keep the full data model in mind. Start with creating a common data model, check out the master data quality and source systems you need to connect to and come up with an approach. Nowadays, using SAP SDI (Smart Data Integration) is so useful to connect to exotic sources in SAP HANA, BW or Data Warehouse Cloud. It’s OK to start with simple flat files to fill your data model, but always have a plan on how to get rid of them soon afterwards.
SF: You have blogged and shared many insights on SAP Data Warehouse Cloud, SAP Analytics Cloud, and SAP Business Technology Platform. Fast forward to today with Digital Transformation. A common ingredient (and asset) is data. What are some guidelines that organizations can consider as data volumes grow, balanced by the need to make use of it, and gain significant business value?
RK: Make sure that the soft side is taken care of. What I mean by that is that the technical side is often not the most difficult part of data. Having procedures and guidelines in place to sink data between environments is key. Think about different source systems, a data warehouse in SAP, a data lake in a 3rd party product and perhaps even a front-end tool which is not SAP. To have a flawless experience and good data quality across all these components is hard. Who owns what of part the data puzzle is what it all boils down to.
SF: What advice would you share with students and recent graduates who dream of becoming a Chief Innovation Officer (or a top technology leader) and realize the importance of putting in the time to develop their skills and work experiences? How can these insights help them secure a quality position?
RK: Stay eager and learn. Follow the right people on Twitter, read blogs and look at what people do with software on YouTube. Get your hands dirty. Sign up for Trial software and hack the living daylights out of it. If it breaks, throw it away and start all over.