The increased need for collaboration — between companies, networks, and applications — will be the driving force behind the next wave of enterprise business technologies. And the spirit of collaboration was alive at the 2008 Logistics and Supply Chain Management, PLM, and Manufacturing conferences, which are hosted by Wellesley Information Services (WIS), publisher of SAP NetWeaver Magazine, and co-sponsored by SAP.
The conferences, held February 13–15 at The Acropolis Convention Center in Nice, France, and February 25–27 at the Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Resort in Orlando, Florida, drew a total of more than 4,000 attendees, who selected from nearly 300 sessions in 21 tracks.
Doug Merritt, Executive Vice President, SAP Labs, gave the keynote address at the Orlando conference. In it, he highlighted the evolution of business networks — from coordinated to collaborative networks — as a critical step for companies in an increasingly globalized world.
“We’ve done a great job of automating the core transactions for the efficiency-oriented aspects of our businesses. The real question is how we keep up with change — especially if you see wild variations in pricing and the commoditization of what we thought were key differentiating aspects of our business,” said Merritt.
Merritt illustrated the differences between solid, “built-to-last” technologies and flexible “built-to-adapt” technologies with an analogy: while oak trees are renowned for their strength and solidity, it is the palm tree that thrives in areas with the most dramatic winds and unpredictable weather. While the tenets of built-to-last are still valid, the tenets of built-to-adapt are becoming increasingly important, and together they are key to business succe
For example, tool and part maker Bosch recently experienced difficulty after installing an elegant, but expensive, electronic data interchange (EDI) system. Many of Bosch’s business partners did not have the resources to implement the system, leaving them to print, fax, and email orders to Bosch. To solve the problem, Bosch looked to SAP and on-demand hosting partner SupplyOn to create a Web-based ordering system that eliminated the need for Bosch’s partners to invest in the core systems necessary to work directly with the EDI.
“Now, even the smallest partner can not only connect with Bosch affordably, but can also run the same quality software experience that Bosch itself was driving. This completely changed the game by transforming a hyper-coordinated, rigid, barrier-driven system to a very fluid and collaborative system,” said Merritt.
Avenues for Collaboration
Conference attendees also benefited from collaboration of a different kind. The increased focus on networking opportunities at this year’s conferences was an unqualified success, according to WIS conference producer Victoria Groves.
Attendees wore ribbons to identify them by industry, making it easier to share ideas and problems with like-minded attendees. “Of the many opportunities to network at SCM/PLM/Manufacturing, the Interactive Idea Exchanges — especially those focused on topics like cFolders, implementations, and Recipe Management — and the Breakfast Topic Tables gave attendees an opportunity to network around their key issues,” said Groves.
“Our attendees seemed very pleased to discuss their pressing questions with experts and each other, and embraced the opportunity to put their networking industry ribbons to good use.”
Attendees were allowed to select any session from among the SCM, PLM, and Manufacturing conference tracks, which gave them an opportunity to attend sessions that crossed multiple topic areas — from technical advice, to more strategic topics like William Newman’s “The 6 secrets of highly innovative companies: Findings from the University of Michigan’s annual Innovation and Technology study,” a popular session among attendees of all three conferences.
Colin Elliot of Alcatel-Lucent, a first-time attendee at the Orlando conference, says that in one session he discovered the solution to a specific issue that has slowed the progress of a large project he is leading.
“We’re trying to replace a legacy ERP platform that is tightly integrated with an MES platform. The user community is pushing back strongly because of how tightly integrated they are. I found one session on SAP MII that was very useful, because now I view that technology as a bridge between the SAP environment and the MES environment,” said Elliot.
About half of the attendees also showed up a day early to take advantage of the 10 three-hour Jumpstart sessions that offered broad overviews of a range of topics, including SAP Product Lifecycle Management, SAP Supplier Network Planning, SAP Demand Planning, SAP Warehouse Management, SAP Supplier Relationship Management, and SAP NetWeaver Master Data Management.
Attendees looking to take home some further study materials flocked to the interactive kiosks and bookstore where they could browse or purchase books from SAP PRESS, subscribe to publications and knowledgebases such as SAP Insider and SCM Expert, and order interactive multimedia CDs based on conference sessions, among other WIS offerings.
Attendees also took full advantage of the Solutions Showcase floor, which was packed with more than 70 vendors.
“The biggest thing we get out of the show is expanding our relationships with our client base,” said Warren Lee Norris, Managing Partner, Titan Consulting, who attended the conference in Orlando.
“Last year at this show, we spent some time with the management of a company with whom we’d worked — but had never really penetrated the account. Now we do 80% to 90% of the work for that group. You build trust by spending time with a client. You can either fly out and visit a client, take them to lunch and spend an hour with them, or you can go to a show like this and spend some time with them in a relaxed environment.”
Vendors who exhibited their products and services in the Solutions Showcase at the Nice conference reported similar results.
“Our main theme this year was to talk about our customers and hear about their successes,” said Michael Parker, Vice President of Marketing for Winshuttle. At the Nice event, Winshuttle announced enhancements and new branding for its Transaction Shuttle product, a solution that allows users to customize business processes without relying on a programmer for help.
“Both the Orlando and the Nice shows are focused on SCM, Manufacturing, and PLM — which are all closely aligned and have fairly interesting, complex business processes. We help people optimize and transfer their business processes. So where else would we come?”
A Valuable Experience
Even those who attended these conferences in past years said there was more to be learned at the 2008 event.
“There are very few places that you can get so much quality information about the SAP toolset. The quality of the presentations was very high — which is what we expected based on our past experiences,” said Matthew Campbell, principal, K2 Professional Services. “We keep pretty apprised of what is going on, but still there were definitely some new and clever things that we hadn’t seen before that we will take home to our clients.”
The three conferences, Logistics and Supply Chain Management 2009, PLM 2009, and Manufacturing 2009, will be co-located again in Orlando, Florida, March 2–4. For more information, visit www.sapscm2009.com, www.sapplm2009.com, and www.sapmanufacturing2009.com.
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Exhibitors in the Solutions Showcase
Adobe Systems, Inc
Americas’ SAP Users’ Group
Dimension Technology Solutions, Inc.
a 3M Company
IBM Global Business Services
IDOS Software AG
ILC PROSTEP GmbH
Kaba Workforce Solutions
Levi, Ray & Shoup
Platinum DB Consulting
Right Hemisphere and CENIT
SEAL Consulting, Inc.
SEAL Systems AG
Siemens Energy & Automation
Tata Consultancy Services
TopSystem Systemhaus GmbH
Trebing & Himstedt Prozessautomation GmbH
& Co. KG
Unipart Expert Practices
Werum Software and
Zynapse, a Zycus Division