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Never Underestimate the Power of Networking: And Additional Advice from an ASUG Volunteer Mentor

by Bob Oldrati | SAPinsider

April 1, 2009

I don't know all the answers. But I do know that when I start networking, I find them.

Bob Oldrati
IT Director and Controller
Powell Electronics

Q: What value do you gain as an ASUG member and volunteer?

A: I find networking, even across the diverse ASUG membership, incredibly valuable. Regardless of a member company’s size or industry, a debit is still a debit, a credit is still a credit, and accounts payable is still accounts payable. We shouldn’t limit ourselves by engaging only within our process community.

Networking saves our company consulting dollars. One of my accounts payable staff members recently ran into a payment proposal problem. Instead of approaching our IT department, she called an individual she met at an ASUG event. They spoke the same business language. They solved the problem over the phone. To me, that is networking at its finest.

When Powell was considering implementing SAP’s warehouse management module, I called someone I met at an ASUG chapter meeting. He recommended a consulting firm I hadn’t considered. As I was finalizing the project implementation plan, this colleague told me that the consultants were wrapping up the project at his company and they were ready to start on Powell’s project. What’s more, they were local. That saved us 15% to 20% on implementation costs.

Q: What’s the key to maintaining a professional network?

A: Seize every opportunity to network. Powell is an SAP reference customer, and we often speak with other SAP customers and support site visits. Whenever possible, I transform any SAP reference activity into a networking opportunity. I tell the customer, “Come visit us, and I will show you whatever you want to see; in return, I expect the same of you.” We received 11 such visits in the past year.

I also encourage all new Powell employees to take advantage of our ASUG membership and engage with SIGs, our local chapter, and ASUG discussion forums. Even if you’re just starting a conversation, you can make connections that help you in more ways than you can imagine.

I don’t know all the answers. But I do know that when I start networking, I find them.

Q: What would you tell someone whose managers don’t see value in volunteering?

A: Volunteering is not just personal networking; it’s networking on behalf of the company you represent. In fact, when I network with other companies, I invite them to include peers from accounts payable, IT, and other departments, and I do the same. These shared experiences benefit me, my colleagues at Powell, and my company as a whole. You simply cannot put a dollar value on the benefits shared across an organization.

Q: What’s on your ASUG agenda for 2009?

A: Local chapter meetings will become more instrumental in a challenging economy. We need to provide ASUG chapters with agendas, suggested discussion topics, and pre-recorded presentations.

I also look forward to growing the community. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of give and take. I give a lot as a member and volunteer, but what I get in return is invaluable.


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