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Eyjafjallajokull and SAP Insider

by Marcy Rizzo

April 27, 2010

As a producer at SAP Insider for nearly 8 years, I’ve encountered many unexpected events at our on-site conferences. It is one thing to plan, and another to presume control of how the actual events unfold once we arrive on-site. Never has this proven more apparent than our recently completed Supply Chain Management (PLM, Procurement, and MFG) events held in Milan last week!

 Last weekend nearly 800 attendee’s were traveling to Milan to gain the latest product insights from SAP; the best practices from field consultants, and lessons learned from their peers across the world, who were prepared to share their implementation and “go-live” stories. This included 24 members of the SAP Insider team, traveling to manage the event, 75 speakers, and dozens of exhibitors. As preparations were made to depart for Milan, a previously dormant, glacier-covered volcano (since 1821) was erupting four miles above a nearby dairy farm outside of Reykjavík.

You don’t need to be able to pronounce it to now know that Eyjafjallajokull had a staggering impact on international travel, shutting down airspace, and stranding travelers on six continents. Among those languishing anxiously in airports from Madrid to Milwaukee, are 19 members of the SAP Insider staff, dozens of speakers, and nearly half of our attendees! The conference, due to begin with pre-event workshops on Tuesday, April 20 is in trouble!

It turns out though, tha t the speakers who do make it to Milan, have the knowledge, the experience, and good will to pickup other people’s prepared sessions for presentation!

The core SAP Insider staffs, with amazing round-the-clock support from those at home in Massachusetts, are able to confidently manage the logistics of the event, and half of our projected attendee’s arrive in time for the Jumpstarts and are ready to learn.

 Many people used alternate travel modalities to arrive in Milan – some, like the crew from Implement Consulting Group, drove 17 hours to get to their scheduled presentations in Milan when trains, and planes proved impossible. Each morning of the conference days, a new schedule is created to allow the flexibility needed to accommodate travel disruptions. Attendee’s check in and pick up their daily agenda, knowing that the unknown continues the next day. The program eventually ends with the final repeat sessions at 17.00 on Friday, 23 April, as planned. The ash settles, air traffic resumes, and everyone slowly clears the exhibition floor. A sigh of relief is heard from the SAP Insider staff. We shake a collective head and know that this story will stand up as “one for the records” back at the office

 Now home, with a bit of perspective, I’m reminded of one of my favorite quotes from author John Simone; “If you're in a bad situation, don't worry it'll change. If you're in a good situation, don't worry it'll change.” 


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