Year after year, teams that support financials, HR, and
governance, risk, and compliance (GRC) initiatives flock to the annual SAP Insider Financials, HR, and GRC conferences to
garner tried-and-true industry best practices and to catch a glimpse of the latest and greatest offerings from SAP to help make their jobs easier.
This year's events — held on March 10-13, 2008, at the Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Resort in Orlando, Florida — were no exception. The conference, produced by Wellesley Information Services (WIS), publisher of SAP Insider, and co-sponsored
by SAP, attracted more than 5,000 attendees looking to take advantage of all the information, best practices, and networking opportunities available.
Attendees Engage in a Wide Variety of
This event offered more than 300 comprehensive sessions in
27 tracks. Popular topics included SAP's Business Objects strategy, so sessions like "A comprehensive guide to new SAP Business Objects Financial Performance Management solutions," given by Stephanie Buscemi, Vice President of Solution Marketing, Enterprise Performance Management at SAP Americas, drew great interest.
This session offered an introduction and demo of the SAP Business Objects Financial Performance Management solution, designed to support all aspects of the performance management process.
"We are in the process of choosing a platform for our budgeting planning solution," said Financials 2008 attendee Byron Bennett of Graybar Electric. "Stephanie Buscemi delivered the roadmap for the Business Objects acquisition. This was very useful information to us."
Attendees also took advantage of the new SAP Strategy and Networking Centers, flocking to forums like the "SAP Financial Performance Management Strategy and Networking Center," which offered attendees a place to learn from industry thought leaders and other customers about corporate strategy best practices for achieving financial excellence through sessions targeted at executives, industry experts, and financial transformation experts.
Sessions targeted toward a more specialized audience — on topics like the SAP Learning Solution and credit management, for example — were also well received. One such session, "A beginner's guide to the features, functionality, and integration of SAP Learning Solution," given by Phyllis Finger of Accenture, offered an introduction to the features and operation of the SAP Learning Solution, and explored how it integrates with SAP ERP Human Capital Management (SAP ERP HCM) data to help
customize user training.
Amy Grubb from AMG Consulting, Inc. said she attended the HR conference to find out more about the SAP Learning Solution, and that the sessions offered on the subject were extremely helpful. Grubb got additional value because the
conferences were held jointly, allowing attendees to visit
sessions at all three events. "I attended several GRC sessions that I probably wouldn't have thought to go to if they weren't right there — and I got a lot out of them. It was a worthwhile use of my time and experience."
Keynote Addresses Offer a Glimpse into the
Future of IT Initiatives
Doug Merritt, Executive Vice President of SAP Labs, and Greg Tomb, President and CEO of SAP North America, delivered
the keynote address "Realize Competitive Advantage by
Building Agility into Your Business." This address set the stage for the event, detailing the importance of not only transforming
the way companies do business, but the way they think about business.
With new industry trends, from regulation and globalization to digitalization and commoditization, said Merritt, companies need to move from a built-to-last to a built-to-adapt approach. "We need to shift the focus from consolidation and efficiency to agility and innovation. We go from command and control to connection and collaboration — from internally driven R&D to 'co-innovation' with our partners and customers," said Merritt.
The keynote also explored the new networks that have
sprung up in response to industry needs. "Two kinds of networks have evolved between businesses: those that require stricter coordination and those that are highly collaborative. Coordinated networks extend business processes beyond the four walls; much of the same end-to-end process optimization that is required within organizations is required between them as well. Collaborative networks are about shared decision making; collaboration occurs between companies. This requires organizations to share data and business processes at a level they've never contemplated before," said Merritt.
Attendees found additional value at the conference-specific keynote addresses, which focused on the opportunities and challenges for attendees of each conference.
- "High-Performance HR Organizations — A Prerequisite to Driving Company Growth," presented by Claus Heinrich, Executive Board Member at SAP AG, and "How SAP ERP HCM Can Help Maximize HR's Impact on Your Business," presented by Hendrik Vordenbäumen, Vice President of Suite Solution Management, HCM at SAP AG, were targeted at teaching the HR audience about the latest trends in HR, as well as the SAP ERP HCM tools that SAP has built to support these trends.
- "The New Benchmarks and Best Practices for 'Best-Run' Finance Organizations," presented by Rosalind Lehman, Chief Financial Officer of SAP Americas, and "Financial Excellence: SAP Solutions for Enabling Growth, Efficiencies, and Greater Performance," presented by Rebecca Polley, SAP's Vice President of Business Suite Solution Management and Financial Excellence, offered Financials attendees a look at best
practices and trends from world-class finance organizations. They also gained insight into how to overcome challenges that every financials organization faces.
- "SAP Solutions for GRC as the Foundation of the New Business Imperative," given by Narina Sippy, Senior Vice President and General Manager of the Governance, Risk, and Compliance Business Unit at SAP, and "Building a Corporate Culture of Integrity," given by author Donna Kennedy-Glans, offered new insights into how organizations can use SAP solutions for GRC to improve corporate governance, business operations, and risk management, as well as recommendations for making integrity practices part of everyday business operations.
- "Where Do You Go with Your Reporting, Analytics, and
Performance Management Plans?" given by Sanjay Poonen, Senior Vice President and General Manager of SAP Analytics, stressed the importance for all departments within all
organizations to gain visibility across their enterprise. He also offered best practices and strategies to define and
translate organizational strategies into action.
What Did Attendees Think?
In addition to leveraging the expertise of speakers at the keynote addresses and breakout sessions, attendees gleaned insights from direct discussions with other attendees and exhibitors. "There are many areas of our current implementation that were reaffirmed as correct assumptions and processes," said GRC 2008 attendee Wyatt MacManus of Sharp. "Many of the tips and pitfalls explained were very useful and should reduce our risk during the implementation as well as improve efficiency of operation."
"The best takeaway for me was through some of the suggestions from other users," said Financials 2008 attendee Crystal Wollesen of Vital Images. Wollesen also enjoyed the abundance of networking opportunities available. "Through networking, our company has found additional resources to help us in the GRC sector. I was very happy that I was able to take back some good templates, great notes, along with new contacts to work with. For a small-midsize company like ours, we aim to benchmark our SAP processes and systems to some industry leaders that have used SAP for many years."
Between sessions and keynotes, attendees also visited the
Solutions Showcase, where 99 vendors exhibited booths to present their newest solutions and services.
"I was really impressed by the fact that I got so much
information from the exhibitors," said Tim Williams, an HR attendee from the State Information Technology Agency (SITA). "They really put on a good show."
Herman Heller, an exhibitor with Netherlands-based
Runbook, was in his third year at the Financials event, looking to get more insight into the US market. "I like this event because it has a focus. And with this focus on financials, it will generate high-quality leads," said Heller.
"As far as HR goes, this is the biggest industry conference," said Scott Burton, Manager of HCM services at Whitaker-Taylor, an SAP ERP HCM consultant company. Burton said that Whitaker-Taylor came to the event looking for exposure. And with their successful vendor-led session "Proactive payroll processing with the Payroll Insight Tool," Burton said they accomplished that goal.
Marie Spies, Vice President of Business Development at
EPI-USE Labs, said that EPI-USE has been with the HR conference since the company's first year when, she said, "we made a splash and business has never been the same. And the
conference just keeps getting bigger and better."
During session breaks, many attendees also visited WIS's
"village," where they could preview multimedia training CDs and the SAP Experts knowledgebase, as well as purchase titles from the SAP PRESS books series.
Did You Miss This Event? Join Us in Europe
For those who missed out on this event, WIS will be hosting
the HR and Financials 2008 conferences on November 5-7
in Amsterdam. For more information, visit www.saphr2008.com and www.sapfinancials2008.com. All three conferences will also be returning to the US in Las Vegas in March 2009