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Author's profile photo Stacey Fish

SAP Champion Spotlight Interview: Simha Magal

The SAP Champions Spotlight Interview Series highlights key strategic topics, such as emerging technologies, learning, and other topics, and provides insights from SAP Champions and SAP leaders on turning ideas into innovative approaches that impact people, process, and technology.

Purpose for organizations revolves around a set of actions which can lead to successful outcomes on many levels relating to employees, customers, partners, and stakeholders.

For example, people may be asked to do a “task” and they know what to do or how to do it, but they don’t understand “why” it is being asked, so they may not buy into it or achieve the best results…

For students at universities and people in all walks of life who are learning about technology, it’s useful to understand why the technology is useful to an organization and how it can impact values, goals, and objectives.

For Simha Magal, Georgia State University MSIS Program Director & Professor, author, SAP Champion, SAP Mentor Alumnus, and entrepreneur, teaching and sharing the “why” comes very naturally.

His experiences – in education, the SAP University Alliances program, or as a pilot – represent an outstanding example of putting ideas into action, and impacting literally millions of students around the world.

So happy for the good fortune to catch-up with Simha and get to know more about his journey!

Stacey Fish (SF): What sparked your passion for business process integration and ERP systems as your journey evolved from Delhi University (undergrad) to Valdosta State University (MBA, MIS) to the University of Georgia (Ph.D., MIS) and now MSIS (Master of Science in Information Systems) Program Director and Clinical Professor at Georgia State University?

Simha Magal (SM): During my first 15 years in the academic world, I had not heard of SAP! Then, in 2000, my then university joined the SAP University Alliances (UA) program. We were all new to SAP trying to figure out what this technology was and how to use it in our classes. Over the next few years, my colleagues and I developed numerous courses based on SAP software. The impact on students was incredible – we had employers (who would not normally recruit from our school) clamoring to hire our students.

I recently joined Georgia State University and currently serve as the MSIS Program Director. This nationally ranked program includes a concentration in Digital Innovation that has three courses that utilize SAP technologies. Other concentrations include: Big Data Analytics and Cybersecurity.

SF: Outside of your work, you spent some time as the past president of the Hawk Flying Club. So, do you have a pilot’s license? Are you still flying? Did you enjoy the community aspect of flying and connecting with peers?

SM: I do have a private pilot’s license. I flew regularly for about 20 years, but I have not flown since I moved to Atlanta! Flying is fun – very calming. I was a member of several flying clubs, and it was fun to get together with other pilots to talk about flying. We would fly to another airport just for the heck of it; I once flew with a fellow club member from Michigan to California! I also used to fly for a medical charity organization, Wings of Mercy, to help transport sick patients to and from hospitals.

SF: You are an SAP Mentor Alumnus and now SAP Champion; what got you into this newer role?

SM: Yes, I was initially inducted as an SAP Mentor in 2012. This was due to my involvement in the SAP University Alliances (UA) community for which I was recognized in 2011 by SAP UA with the Majdi Najm Outstanding Service Award. In 2020, I was recognized as an SAP Champion. To support the SAP UA community, I develop and maintain SAP systems and teaching materials for use by professors, provide teaching and troubleshooting support, and conduct workshops on how to teach with SAP technologies.

SF: You have received a lot of positive feedback on the SAP Press book you co-wrote, “Business Process Integration with SAP ERP,” the need for the students and the next-generation to learn about managing processes from multiple functional perspectives has grown exponentially. What has been the impact of it? How has it helped with talent and career development?

SM: Positive feedback from students is the best complement a professor can receive! While writing the book – Integrated Business Processes with ERP systems (with my co-author Jeff Word), SAP University Alliances asked if we could develop an SAP ERP system to serve as the standard system for education in the UA program.

The system we developed, Global Bike, Incorporated (GBI), is still used around the world – though it has evolved considerably since the initial development. Since that initial development in 2010, SAP UA estimates that the GBI system has been used by over 1 million students, in 1000+ universities in 70+ countries, by 4000+ professors. The positive impact of my work on students’ lives and careers over the years keeps me motivated as an educator.

SF: As a Co-Founder & Co-CEO of Epistemy Press, you and your team have developed an impressive group of SAP S/4HANA eLearning video lecturers – 82 total – which enable students to WATCH and learn versus only reading using real-world examples. What inspired you all to impart this knowledge?

SM: When we first started using SAP in the classroom, I felt that there was not much out there that explained the “why” of SAP vs. the “how.” Students needed a conceptual explanation of processes and integration. So, my co-author and partner, Jeff Word and I wrote two books. We were disappointed with the business model of traditional publishers – focused largely on profit – which made books very expensive.

So, we created our own publishing company to make knowledge available to students at an affordable price. The primary goal is to help students learn; and a secondary goal is at least not to lose money! And we treat our authors well. We started with eBooks but have transitioned to vBooks (VideoBooks) (is this a word?). The new generation of students love to watch vs. read…

SF: As a professor and entrepreneur, you are in contact with many students and recent graduates. What are a few tips that you share to help them focus on securing a high-quality MIS position and make the most of their career journey?

SM: The core advice I like to give is always the same: Technologies change constantly, so students must be lifelong learners. However, knowledge of how a technology works is never sufficient. What is critical is to understand why a particular technology is useful to an organization and be able to use the technologies to improve business processes.

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