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Steve Bogner interview: Sneak Peek of HR 2013 (podcast transcript)

by Kristine Erickson

February 26, 2013

Steve Bogner recently included SAPinsider's own HR 2013 conference producer Amy Thistle in his podcast with the star-studded cast of HR gurus.

Hear from Sven Ringling,  Jarret Pazahanick, Brandon Toombs, and Martin Gillet as Amy answered their questions about HR 2013.

You can listen to the full podcast here or read our edited transcript below:

Steve Bogner, Inside Consulting Partners: Hi, this is Steve Bogner, Managing Partner at Inside Consulting Partners. Welcome to the SAP HCM Inside’s podcast.

With me today are Sven, Jarret, Brandon, Martin, and our special guest, Amy Thistle, the conference producer for HR2013.

With us in spirit is Mark, chatting with us online because for some reason, his microphone is not working. He will be the invisible hand guiding the conversation.

Welcome everyone.

Today’s podcast has two topics. First, we want to talk about HR2013, which is probably the largest SAP-focused HR conference there is. Most of us will be there. After that, we can talk about SAP’s recent announcement that Business Suite can now be run on top of SAP HANA. [Editor's note: This will posted separately]

First, let’s talk about the HR2013 conference. This year, it is Las Vegas, again. For those who like Las Vegas, that’s a plus. It’s the last week of February, and that Friday is the first day of March. Amy, I’m assuming there’s still time for people to sign up and attend, am I right?

Amy Thistle, HR 2013: Yes, absolutely. We allow people to sign up right until the actual event starts.

Steve Bogner: How many people come to that event, generally? How many do you expect?

Amy Thistle: Thank you for including me, Steve. I’m always excited to sit with you guys and talk about HR. This will be our tenth year that we’re running this HR conference. And this year, we expect around 1200 people to be at the event in Las Vegas.

Steve Bogner: That’s big! It’s a great event. I remember attending the first one and speaking at that first one, and it was at the Gaylord Palms in the Orlando area, so it fit inside a modest hotel. I don’t think you would fit there anymore.

Amy Thistle: No, I don’t think so. This year, we have lots of exciting things going on. I think the most exciting thing for the HR community is that this year, the HR event will be standalone. Everybody that you’re meeting at the event is there for the HR conference, which is really exciting. It opens up a lot of new networking opportunities for the attendees, the speakers, the partners, and everyone.

Steve Bogner: I’m glad you mentioned networking, because it’s one of the things I tell my clients is one of the best things about going to HR2013 and all of the HR conferences you put on. It’s a great place to network with other customers who are in similar situations. Some of the most value, I believe, that you get from a conference are the connections you come back with.

Amy Thistle: I completely agree.

There are a few new networking types of activities that we’re going to include in this year’s event. First is, I’m sure many people have heard of “speed dating”. We’re going to have a “speed networking” activity, which will happen very similar to speed dating.

We’ll pair people up one-on-one with different individuals for about five minutes, and then have them move on to the next person, so they can really maximize the amount of people they meet at the event. We’re also setting up a networking lounge in the exhibit hall -- we’ve never done that before – and we’ll have some lunch topic, industry, and geography networking going on. We’ll continue to have our evening receptions with Ask the Experts, and we’ll also have the Insider Discussion Forums, which people also do a lot of networking during.

Steve Bogner: One of the things I know some of us on the call have been involved in over the years are the Ask the Experts sessions. Those are good too – where you can go up and bend the ear of an SAP HR expert for a few minutes and get some good advice.

What I’ve found from there is that the people who’ve come up and asked me questions will hear what someone else is asking, and get interested in that. That’s a good way for people to make connections too.

HR2013 will also happen in June in Amsterdam for the European crowd.

Amy Thistle: Yes, June 8-11 in Amsterdam this year.

Steve: Amsterdam in June should be beautiful by the way.

One little plug for a panel we’re doing before I turn it loose to everyone else to ask you some questions. I’m going to be moderating a panel – and special thanks to Brandon for getting this started, he’s the one who had the idea and got it moving. The panel discussion is a little bit boldly titled, “The Future of SAP ERP HCM Predictions from the Experts.”

I thought, well, consultants making predictions -- that should be kind of fun. But also, I want to get a bunch of questions from the audience too.

The panel is going to include most of the people here on the podcast – Martin will be on it, Mark, Jarret, Luke, and from hyperCision, Sharon Wolfe Newton, who we all have a lot of respect for. She’s an incredible consultant and very knowledgeable.

With that group, I think we have every aspect of SAP HCM covered. Ask any questions you want to when you come to that conference, and we’ll try to make it insightful, fun, and give you some good things to walk away with. That panel is on Wednesday, February 27, at 10:15 in the morning. Not so early that you’re going to be a bit of a zombie, but late enough to be a good time. We look forward to seeing our listeners there, and fielding questions on the future of SAP HCM.

With that, I’m going to turn it over to the group here to ask you some questions, Amy, and to get their perspective on what they’re looking for out of the conference. I’ll start with Martin. Martin, what questions do you have for Amy? What do you want to get out of the HR2013 conferences.

Martin Gillet: That’s an excellent question, but before we actually move on and put Amy in the hot seat, I was going to say we might also challenge people to connect online if you’re not there on site. There’s a great opportunity to come and participate via social media. There is the hashtag “HR2013” on Twitter, and we have also the possibility to interact with the speakers and a lot of people on site. If you don’t have time to attend this year, maybe consider it for next year.

My first question was, like you, Steve, I attended   my first conference back in 2005 and lecturing at those conferences around 2006 or 2007. So my first question will be, Amy, how do you guys keep up with the technology moves and how can you make every conference better? I feel conferences are getting bigger and bigger – how do you keep up with quality versus content?

Amy Thistle: There are a few different sides to that. We do a lot of research into, in this case, the HR market, to determine what sorts of challenges the customers are facing every day to make sure we are covering those topics at the event. We do interviews with all of our speakers to make sure that they’re qualified to speak on various topics. We also leverage relationships we have with SAP PRESS, SAPexperts, and insiderPROFILES, to make sure that we really have the best speakers and are covering the most important topics.

Martin Gillet: Do you have any other benchmarks coming from communities, or for instance, the SAP Mentors?  

Amy Thistle: To ask them to speak at the event? To provide feedback on the content?

Martin Gillet: Exactly – I mean on the content. I know you were approaching different people, challenging people to take the time and come and lecture. That’s maybe a question for later. But regarding the possibility to challenge the content, do you maximize the community besides the user group and the research that you do on the site?

Amy Thistle: Yes, of course. And it varies who we ask by event, but we do try to work with the people who specialize in a certain area to make sure that we’re covering the topics where they see SAP customers working on projects and having challenges. And of course we also leverage the relationship we have with SAP to make sure that we’re covering all the right topics as well.

Steve Bogner: Jarret, I don’t think you’ve been to the HR 2013 conferences, right? This will be your first one.

Jarret Pazahanick: This is my virgin journey to HR2013, using some of Brandon’s lingo there. Shocking stuff [laughs.] I’m pretty excited to be going this year and taking part in the panel, and potentially, some of the Ask the Experts session.

One of the questions I had for Amy is about SuccessFactors. I know last year, you guys did a great job under a short timeframe of getting a little SuccessFactors content, because of the timing when the deal closed. I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about the type of content you’re going to have for SuccessFactors this year.

Amy Thistle: This year, we’ve built an entire track on SuccessFactors. Obviously, our content is for the SAP customer who is either running, or considering running SuccessFactors -- whether they’re curious about the functionality or the integration with SAP, or just to ask questions about what they need to know about SuccessFactors, how to get ready for an implementation, things like that. We do have some customers who are speaking, we also have some consultants, and SAP giving sessions on that track.

Steve Bogner: Sven, do you have anything that you want to ask about the HR conference, or what’s coming up at HR2013 for Amsterdam?

Sven Ringling: Yes, Amy, I wanted to ask you about how you manage the content for European conference, considering that Europe is less homogeneous than the US in terms of everybody has their own payroll.

So far, I think you tried to have content that applied to all European countries. Are you planning to get in some sessions at some point specialized for particular countries, the larger markets?

Amy Thistle: Sven, your question is exactly on point. That is something that I struggle with all the time, especially in the payroll area. We can’t really focus on any one country because we have representatives there from many countries in Europe. Maybe you and I should talk about whether it’s more of an interactive session we do, or a networking session, or a discussion-type session -- and we can segment by region to cover those kinds of  payroll-specific tasks, because I know they’re important. It’s just hard to make sure we hit all the various countries we need to hit with the sessions.

Sven: That would be tough to have 27 tracks and that’s only covering the EU countries. But maybe your point of having discussion sessions or something like this when you have roundtables for each country, where people can come to ask questions on payroll on a particular country . It might be an idea.

Steve Bogner: So Brandon, what are you looking to get out of the conference coming up in another month or so when you go to Las Vegas? What do you want to come back with?

Brandon Toombs: The main thing I would like to see -  and this is a carryover of a theme I had on the last podcast I was able to attend - I really hope that I can convince the people that are presenting from SAP to telegraph ahead of time which sessions are going to break new news!

Last year, we had a couple of sessions where we were getting really good, new information that we hadn’t heard anywhere else, and I want to make sure that, for the sessions where that will happen, that we’re able to know that ahead of time so we are definitely in attendance. That’s kind of what I would like to see come out of this, a good sense of new information. Then, that’s more of the forward-thinking, forward-looking point.

The other thing that I look forward to every year at this conference is the camaraderie of our group. This really is the seminal conference as far as getting together with people in SAP HR, the people that really know HR show up at this conference year after year. So if you want to get your finger on the pulse of this community and where it’s going, there is no other place to do that than at SAP HR 2013.

Steve Bogner: Amy, thank you so much for joining us. We really appreciate you taking the time to introduce more of the new features of the conference to us.We all look forward to seeing you there at the conference. It’s busy for you there, but hopefully we can take some time to chat.

Amy Thistle: That would be great, and thanks again for including me. Thank you all!

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