Tech-Driven Business

Get ready to think differently about how technology driven solutions can lead to business success. Mustansir Saifuddin is the co-founder of Innovative Solution Partners. With a career that spans multiple industries and a variety of roles including a software quality assurance engineer to leading global teams and projects, he knows what it takes to fuse technology with what a business wants. Listen as he interviews tech experts, business experts, and visionaries on their successes, challenges, and lessons learned. We’ll cover everything from SAP and ERP focused solutions, to leveraging data analytics, to how to achieve your business goals with technology.

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Episodes

Thursday May 16, 2024

In this latest episode, Geoff Scott, of ASUG, joins Mustansir Saifuddin to discuss what is required for businesses to be successful with Gen AI as they prepare for the future. With more than 20 years of leadership and technology experience, including seven years of extensive SAP implementation and operations experience, Geoff understands the impact of Gen AI in digital transformation. Listen in as he also highlights how ASUG is supporting the SAP ecosystem on the Gen AI journey.
Geoff Scott, is CEO and Chief Community Officer of ASUG, believes that the connections ASUG makes for our members have the potential to become career-defining relationships that inspire innovation and success for their organizations. His forward-thinking leadership prioritizes helping our members make the most of their investment in SAP technologies. To that end, Geoff works closely with customers, members, the SAP Executive Board, and the extensive partner ecosystem to amplify the voice of the SAP customer.  
Past positions include CIO for TOMS Shoes, where he led the implementation of SAP: CIO at JBS; and senior leadership positions at Ford Motor Company. Before becoming CEO, Geoff was an ASUG member and served on the board. Geoff has served on several philanthropic boards and is the founding member of the Denver CIO Executive Council. 
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Episode Transcript
 
Welcome to Tech-Driven Business brought to you by Innovative Solution Partners. I'm honored to have Geoff Scott, CEO of ASUG, joins me to discuss what is required for businesses to be successful with Gen AI as they prepare for the future. He'll also share valuable insights on how ASUG is supporting the SAP ecosystem on the GEN AI journey.
[00:00:02.560] - Mustansir
Welcome to TechDriven business, Geoff. How are you?
 
[00:00:11.190] - Geoff
I'm wonderful. How are you today?
 
[00:00:13.480] - Mustansir
I'm doing great. Thank you. Thank you for joining our show.
 
[00:00:17.570] - Geoff
Pleasure to be here. Thank you for having me. Or I should say, you can make that decision after we're done today.
 
[00:00:23.130] - Mustansir
All right. Sounds like a plan. Hey, it's always good to have you, Jeff, especially meeting in person every year, either in the volunteer meeting or at Sapphire or other events. It's always fun to have that conversation with you. Glad to have you on our show.
 
[00:00:38.390] - Geoff
What a pleasure to be here. I want to thank you for your connection and commitment to ASUG, your commitment to the Michigan chapter, one of our most wonderful places to be in all of the United States. I have close ties to Michigan, so it's always wonderful to hear Go Green, for those who are Michiganders, my alma mater. I think that being part of ASUG and being part of this The SAP community is really a tremendous thing. I've been doing the CEO job at ASUG for 10 years. Every year, as you mentioned, we get all 300 volunteers together to plan the year and celebrate our successes and talk about our challenges. It's a tremendous things. So I encourage everyone to be part of ASUG. If you are an SAP professional and you want to be at the top of your game of SAP, there's no better place to be than being an active part of ASUG, which you are. I want to thank you for that.
 
[00:01:28.530] - Mustansir
I second that. Thank you. Thank you. So today, we will be talking about how digital transformation in AI is changing the business landscape. How does that sound to you?
 
[00:01:39.350] - Geoff
I think that sounds like a tremendous conversation.
 
[00:01:42.040] - Mustansir
It absolutely is, and it's going to be fun. So let's start with the basics. Jeff, you have been around for a long time, not counting your-Original dinosaur. Hey, it's all good. But your extensive background with SAP. Can you share with our listeners a brief overview of your career journey?
 
[00:02:03.150] - Geoff
Well, I would love to. As we just spoke about, 10 years as the CEO of Asug, and I don't love the CEO title. I like to think of myself as the Chief Community Champion. My job is to rally us as a community around this SAP software and make sure all of us are getting the most value from it. The organizations that are purchasing the software, we as all professionals in investing our careers into this amazing ecosystem, it's very important that we feel like we make forward progress. We feel that this is a place where we can learn, connect, and grow, which are three of our very important ASUG pillars. That's been a tremendous journey for me for the last 10 years. I didn't come into this intentionally. Prior to that, I was a CIO. I was at Tom's Shoes in Los Angeles. Prior to that, at a beef company, small beef company, only the third largest in the world, in Greenley, Colorado, where we were also an SAP shop. That was where I cut my teeth on being a full-time SAP advocate. Then prior to that, in your neck of the woods, in your backyard, in Deerborn, Michigan, doesn't take a lot to figure out what's in Deerborn these days.
 
[00:03:08.510] - Geoff
So I was there for almost 10 years doing lots of different IT work. And then obviously prior to that, consulting in college and being a teenager and things like that.
 
[00:03:20.120] - Mustansir
That's a wonderful background, Jeff. It's okay. I think the best part about this is being in your role, the role that you're playing at ASOG, your background or your history really brings that tremendous amount of knowledge and technology know-how, which really is what a lot of ASA customers or in general, SAP folks who are dealing with technology on a daily basis can utilize your know-how and your in-depth knowledge of what's going on in the industry versus someone with a background in business. You don't really have that depth in terms of what you bring to the table.
 
[00:04:00.920] - Geoff
You're very kind. You're very kind. In my career, I started off when I was going to college, just a little bit west from where you are. Again, go green. Then that's the last I'm going to say that today, maybe. My degree's in accounting, and I chose that field because I really wanted to understand how business worked. I figured the best way to figure out how business would work is to understand how the money moves around. Accounting was actually a fallback for me. I started I started off in finance, and then this will date me tremendously. Then the stock market collapsed back in the late '80s, and I went, Oh, wait a minute. I don't know I want to be on Wall Street anymore. I grew up in the suburbs of New York City, so I had this delusion I would go back into New York and be on Wall Street. I said, I don't think that's going to work so well. I went to accounting, and I found I liked it better. A little bit more pragmatic. Finance can be fairly esoteric. I came into consulting in IT because I always thought about IT as a way in which businesses can be more efficient.
 
[00:05:01.780] - Geoff
I was always intrigued by how we could use technology to drive business outcomes. That has served me throughout my career. I really think about business outcomes first and technology second.
 
[00:05:13.390] - Mustansir
Absolutely. I think that's what really counts, how business drives technology. That takes me to my next discussion point. Ai. Ai took the business world by storm last year. We all know that. How are ASOG and ASAP supporting their clients with navigating AI and Gen AI in particular. Everybody is about Gen AI, so I'd like to hear your thoughts on that.
 
[00:05:38.820] - Geoff
Yeah, I think that generative AI and all the things related to AI, nothing new to that, Mustache. We've been around in the SAP ecosystem. Ai has been around for a long time. What was new in November of 2022 when ChatGPT first came onto the market was this thing of generative AI. Well, that was different. But most SAP practitioners, the people you and I are talking to today, would say, Hey, we've been filling around AI for a long time. Understanding PDF documents, understanding pictures, converting pictures to text, scanning documents, scanning invoices, making sure we can convert all that. None of that is terribly new. I think generative AI made it mainstream. What was back office technology that was used to achieve business the outcomes all of a sudden became available to the masses. And it became available to the masses in a very simple way. I can sit down, I can write a sentence into a computer, and it will produce paragraphs of very eloquent text. We can have a whole conversation about how accurate it is, but I could finally get this star tracky type of thing, or I could type a sentence in and I would get this back.
 
[00:06:55.320] - Geoff
And I could do cute things. Tell me how to bake a cake in Shakespeare in English, and it would do it. I think it became a piece of technology that everybody could connect to, and that everybody includes the board of directors, the CEO, the rest of your business peers who can now say, I get it. I understand how this works, and I want that for my business. We can make this work for all of us.
 
[00:07:25.460] - Mustansir
I think it's a very interesting point you mentioned, Jeff. We always talk about C-suite, right? And you know that in this-I'm one of them. Yeah, exactly, right? So we talk about, I still get involved with a lot of implementations and boots on ground. And I know that a lot of these technology implementations, you have this gap between the C-suite and folks who are actually involved in the technology day to day, right? Do you think Gen AI is going to close that gap? What is your take on that perspective? Bringing these two worlds together.
 
[00:08:03.730] - Geoff
I think generative AI is going to be an incredibly interesting diversion or departure for all of us in the sense that we've talked about for a long for a long time, the importance of some things in the SAP ecosystem that are near and dear to our heart. Master data, accuracy of data, archiving, things that warm our hearts that make the business run for cover. You want to watch paint dry? Have a conversation about archiving. The challenge with all of that is if we really want to get the most value from a generative AI solution, whether it be SAP's Joule or ChatGuard, GPT or everything in between, our enterprise data has to be lined up correctly. I think this is where we're going to see a tremendous amount of energy and effort to understand how this enterprise data will form these models and make them work. There was an article in the New York Times, I think two weeks ago, and this is topical because last week I was in Las Vegas for a few days at Google Next. And I always go to Google Next, and I also like to try to make it to AWS and Microsoft's events as well, because it refreshes me and it makes me think about how to tackle these problems from different perspectives.
 
[00:09:29.500] - Geoff
And that, coupled with the New York Times article was very interesting to me in that it appears we're running out of trainable data for these models, that our models now are demanding so much data that we can't fill them. And And so there was an interesting topic in Las Vegas about synthetic data, which I'm still wrapping my head around and what that means. I'm trying to understand how we get to the levels of data. We do know one thing that these generative AI models require a lot of data in order to give very effective answers. And even when they have a lot of data, they can still hallucinate. I mean, there's no greater data source than the English language over the last 300 years. And the cool thinking about it is it hasn't really changed all that much. I can take all that stuff and I can pour it in. And yeah, there's different dialects, but the English language or pick a language, French, whatever, it hasn't moved all that much. So the data is fairly stable. Sure. Is that true when we think about our enterprise data? And the problem that I see coming is if we have lots of historical data, what does it really mean?
 
[00:10:37.900] - Geoff
How accurate is it? And then the second big question is, how relevant is it? And if both of those are not at the top of their game, you run a huge risk that your model is being trained on data that isn't accurate, isn't relevant, and then you expect it to give you amazing results. The thing that makes me chuckle is the notion of saying to a model running on top of your SAP data, Hey, what's the best product I should sell? And it spits back a product that you made 15 years ago because it might have been at the time the most profitable based in parts that you don't even have access to anymore. And the model doesn't know that. I think there's another really important part of this whole equation, and that is something that I call gray data. And gray data is the data that's in our heads, in our minds, which is what we use to make decisions that the AI models have zero knowledge of. And the only way long term an AI model will be able to replicate what you do, what I do, what anyone listening today does, is it has exactly what's up in your head.
 
[00:11:42.850] - Geoff
And it's not going to. We still know today in you're involved in SAP implementations all the time, that it takes someone interpreting that data, oftentimes, to understand what it's saying and what cues it's giving. Ai doesn't understand that because it's missing all the stuff that's in your gray space. And if that's the case, and how much of the data that you use to run your enterprise is gray data versus bits and bytes. If the answer is greater than 50 %, 60 %, 70 %, wow, we got a lot of missing data, and the model is not going to be that effective.
 
[00:12:17.980] - Mustansir
For sure. I think it's an interesting point you mentioned about historical data and the quality of data. And that leads me into this next conversation about, I'm an analytics person in data focus. And it's all about good information will produce good results, right? So from that perspective, I'm curious, what are you seeing with ASUG members as it applies to their approach, especially to real-time data and analytics, and also the move to the cloud? Because a lot of things are happening in the cloud. So what is your take in this whole space?
 
[00:12:53.370] - Geoff
Well, certainly, I believe that if you are going to want to participate, play in in a generative AI, AI space, and you say, and probably before you make that conclusion, you have to ask a question, which is, where do you and your organization want to be on the innovation curve? Do you want to be on the very front of it? Do you want to be in the middle of it? Where do you want to be? Now, if you want to be on the very, very back end of the innovation curve, continue doing what you're doing today. If you want to be to the middle of the innovation curve or the front end, and I think about it as a bell curve. If you want to be to the middle to the front end of that curve, and most people don't want to be at the front, you need a lot of courage and a lot of strength to be. That's the scary place. But there are organizations that are there. Let's say you want to be safely in the middle. I don't want to lead the pack. I don't want to trail the pack. I want to be right in the middle.
 
[00:13:47.870] - Geoff
It necessitates three things, I firmly believe. Number one, you have to be in the cloud. Number two, you have to really think about your software investments as software as a service. You're moving the requirement for changes and updates to the software vendor in this world SAP. Number three, as little customization as possible. If you can If you can do those three things and you can do them well, you have the greatest likelihood that you will be able to take all this innovation, absorb it and go. Which to your question is, when you talk about analytics, when you talk about predictive analytics, that's what you're going to For many, many SAP customers, that is a tectonic shift in perspective. And certainly, the longer you have been an SAP customer, and the more customizations you have made for whatever reason. Your business process doesn't line up with SAP's. Sap didn't have a solution for you at the time. We talk about this thing of technical debt, and where I quibble with some of the leading thought people is We tend to say and infer the technical debt is bad. Well, I don't think any of us as SAP practitioners wake up in the morning and say, Today is the day I'm going to build a lot of technical debt.
 
[00:15:11.820] - Geoff
There are some good reasons for it. There might be some bad reasons for it, too. I don't know how to do something, so I'm just going to code it. I get it, but I don't necessarily believe that the technical debt is something that we all strive for. Motherhood and apple pie, as few customizations as possible. The problem now is the stakes are way up because we've learned that you have to be in cloud, you have to be in SaaS, and you have to be almost no customization in order to adopt fast. And that means that we have to be super careful about customization. That creates another problem inside most organizations, and that is how do you handle change control and how do you handle organizational change management? So the IT folks say, Hey, this is good for me. No customization. I'm good to go. And the business says, Well, wait a minute here. I have to retrain thousands of people across 16 time zones in 32 different geographies, and that's hard. And it is. And it is. So how do we find that necessary balance? And I think if you've been on SAP a long time, that transition is not going to happen overnight.
 
[00:16:14.000] - Geoff
It's going to be multiple years, maybe even a decade, dare I say. And if you haven't started your S/4 migration yet, you are fastly running out of time. And so there's no time like the present to start working on that, because absent that, you are going to be perpetually behind. And I don't want to be Cavalier here, Mustanzer, because what I just described is an epic undertaking. But if you get there, predictive analytics is super interesting, right? We have got to figure out a way to take our technology professionals and find ways for them to have more time. Because if we really want to do predictive analytics, it requires us to jump into data sets. It requires us to look at data, plant floor data, log data, all these other things where we haven't traditionally looked for things. In order to find those patterns and those indications and those clues that help us sell more, get more efficient, do other things. And that requires time. And in order to get that time, we have to be more efficient. So if we're going to spend all of our time working on customizations of SAP, we are not going to be doing predictive analytics.
 
[00:17:18.870] - Mustansir
For sure. And I think that's one of the key points you mentioned about that, right? Stop spending time on doing things that are not adding any value, especially in this fast pace, changing constantly on a daily basis. And you put AI in the middle of all this, all of a sudden, your stakes are different, your challenges are different. And at the same time, the time to make those decisions is shrinking for you. So for organizations to be nimble and be able to act quickly, I mean, all the things you just mentioned, I think they go hand in hand, especially a lot of times folks think about analytics as a byproduct, right? It's after the fact. And then What we're thinking or what are you talking here at this point is put analytics in front because that will drive that whole behavior of change of exactly what is important to me. Predictive is one part of it. There's so many different aspects of information which you can put your right brains and your geeks. I mean, everyone has got geeks in the organization. I mean, you want to put those folks to good use. And the best way you can do it is having that Get ahead of the curve, right?
 
[00:18:31.520] - Mustansir
Don't wait, basically.
 
[00:18:32.910] - Geoff
That's what I'm hearing. A hundred %. And I'm excited about the potential of AI to help us migrate systems faster. I'd like to see us use AI to help understand quality in data, to help us understand how we lift and shift business processes out of legacy systems into new systems. I'd like to understand how we use AI to drive business test cases, quality assurance. I believe that we are at a massive inflection point where the upgrading of these systems, you asked a question earlier about digital transformation. We have to move to the next generation of SAP software. I believe that unlocks the gateway to everything we're talking about today. That cannot be a five-year project. We have got to figure out as technology professionals how to automate it, how to make it faster, how to do it and how to make sure we can get an unlock value faster. It's my biggest ask of SAP, and in conversations that I have with their CEO and their leadership team, please stop making new SKUs for new software licenses. I implore you to make your software easier to migrate and uplift and move to the next generation.
 
[00:19:53.220] - Geoff
And can we use some of these AI ML tools to achieve that? It's essential.
 
[00:19:58.860] - Mustansir
For sure. No, for sure. And I think talking about all this technology and SAP, let's come back to our conversation ASAG. Asag is a great start in 2024, right? I mean, personally, I know we had over 150 people at our Michigan Chapter meeting back in February. That is absolutely amazing. So what can ASEC members expect this year from their membership? Can you delve into that?
 
[00:20:26.820] - Geoff
100 %. First and foremost, I think you said the most important thing where we're seeing the most interest, the most excitement is in our 39 chapters. So if you are an SAP professional and you want to be at the top of your game and you want to learn, connect, and grow, you don't have to jump on an airplane. And of course, we're welcoming you to do that. You don't have to spend hotel room nights. Go to your local ASUG chapter and become involved. You will meet people like you who want to get ahead and understand how to solve problems using SAP. And you're You're in the middle of the Michigan SAP scene. It's amazing. So go spend time there, which is a huge pitch for what you do and why you volunteer is because you want to be part of what's happening on the ground, real-time in geography. And that is what the chapter organization is here to do. And I would really like to see that over the next three to five years grow to epic proportions. I have a challenge. I want to see your Michigan meeting not be just 150 people. I want it to be 350 people.
 
[00:21:33.460] - Geoff
That, to me, is exciting, which is a very different change of perspective from us. But I think in a post-pandemic world, what a great opportunity to get out from behind your laptop. And whether you're back in the office or still working remotely, go spend time with your friends in an ASUG chapter event in Michigan or in California or in Florida. Pick a place and just go and have fun and meet your peers. It'll be so wonderful for you. If that's not good enough, then And enjoy some of the other events that we do. Get online and do some research and education there. We have ASUG annual conference and SAP Sapphire coming up in June. In the fall, we have SAP for utilities. We have ASUG best practices, which is a whole source of industry-based events. And then we cap off the year. This is my most exciting event. We cap off the year in West Palm Beach, Florida, November 12th through 14th with ASUG Tech Connect. It used to be called TechEd, but we've reconfigured TechEd with SAP. So TechEd is a virtual program. But in North America, it's ASUG Tech Connect. So if you want to wrap up 2023, sorry, 2024, getting my years all confused, and get ready for an amazing 2025, ASUG Tech Connect is the place to be.
 
[00:22:46.120] - Geoff
And I think those are fine. What else can you do? First Five newsletter comes out every Monday morning. It's an amazing place to just get a recap of the top five articles that happened in the SAP ecosystem over the last week. Podcast, you and I are in a podcast Today. Everyone's doing podcast. Aseg does podcast. Be there. Let's get together at Campus Connect. Citadel University, University of Texas at Dallas, Fayetteville State University, and then my favorite at Michigan State University. There's my last plug for Go Green, are all very much in the Campus Connect program. What a great way to have this next generation of talent, get excited about the careers that we've been so fortunate to have in the SAP ecosystem.
 
[00:23:29.360] - Mustansir
For I think there is a lot to learn. And the best thing about it, like you said, there's so many mediums. You pick what makes sense to you, what really florts your boat, especially after the pandemic. A lot of folks are open to coming out and meeting others and getting to know what's coming exciting. No, put it this way. Excitement is one thing. You get to meet people and either it's online, either it's in person or you're traveling somewhere else. Or like you mentioned, June. June, big event. A lot of new things are being shared and you understand and know exactly where SAP is going, where ASAG wants to take you in your journey. And as an organization, you want to learn from your peers, right? And That's the best opportunity. And one thing I like about your plug for the November event, you cannot go wrong with it. Exactly. You end your year on something that you really want to take into next year, and that and search your basis for exactly what you want to do. A lot of opportunities. I really love the whole platform that you explained so well.
 
[00:24:37.180] - Geoff
Thank you. There is a lot going on inside the SAP ecosystem. It is a wonderful place for professionals like you, me, and everyone else, 130,000 of us in North America, to make our home, to learn, connect, grow, to thrive. And all you got to do is just raise your hand and go to a chapter meeting, meet with people outside of your your standard core team that you might be working on SAP for, and the whole world will be unlocked for you. And it'll make you feel like what you're doing has value, that the things you're learning can have a place in this broader ecosystem. We are going to need a lot more talent who stands there in the next 10 years than we have today. It frightens me about how much change is happening, and I believe we all find very rewarding careers inside of SAP.
 
[00:25:27.700] - Mustansir
Now, I think the future is really bright And I know we can talk for hours, Jeff. I mean, your knowledge, your passion for technology and SAP. But I do have to finish our session, our talk for today. I'd like to leave with this one question for you. As far as topics and discussions you covered, what is the one key takeaway that you want our listeners to leave with?
 
[00:25:55.440] - Geoff
I believe the key takeaway today is generative AI is real. The faster you get in and start contemplating what it can and can't do. We are trying inside of Asug lots of different technologies, and we're fiddling, and we have this experimental culture. Let's go try some stuff. It's good. And I think we We're doing a lot with video to text, recaps, things like that. I think there's a ton of upside to all of this. Go get yourself immense in AI.
 
[00:26:25.780] - Mustansir
Yeah, for sure. I think that's a great advice. And It seems like a lot of folks who are still on the edges, it's time for them to move on and get on this bandwagon because this train has started rolling and there's no stopping. At least I don't see it in the near future.
 
[00:26:43.870] - Geoff
Today is the worst day AI ever will be. It will get better from here, and it's going to be on an exponential scale. So don't wait another three, four weeks or months or years. Get in now.
 
[00:26:54.490] - Mustansir
Great advice. Thank you. Now, this is an awesome conversation. Really enjoyed the talk, and I would love to get you back in the future. Whenever you need. Feedback on how things have settled down once we traverse through the 2024.
 
[00:27:10.980] - Geoff
We are here for you, and I appreciate greatly everything you do for the community, for the SAP community, for ASUG, and everything you do in Michigan. Thank you.
 
Thanks for listening to Tech-Driven Business brought to you by Innovative Solution Partners. Geoff delved deep into the transformative power of Gen AI shared valuable insights on how organizations can transform business with Generative AI. His main takeaway? Generative AI is real. Go get yourself immersed in AI as today is the worst day AI will ever be.
We’d love to hear from you. Continue the conversation by connecting with me on LinkedIn or Twitter. Learn more about Innovative Solution Partners and schedule a free consultation by visiting isolutionpartners.com. Never miss a podcast by subscribing to our You Tube channel. Information is in the Show Notes

Wednesday Mar 20, 2024

In this latest episode, Mustansir Saifuddin delves into the ever-evolving landscape of Gen AI with Todd Kackley, Vice President and CIO of Textron. Todd shares how his team implemented their inaugural generative AI solution and the crucial role leaders play in crafting scalable, well-governed, and future-proof data analytics and AI infrastructure.
Todd shares invaluable insights into striking the balance between leveraging third-party capabilities and developing in-house models, shedding light on the dynamic interplay between proprietary solutions and open source technologies. Whether you're a seasoned leader or a budding enthusiast, understanding the nuances of Gen AI and its implications is key to driving innovation and staying ahead in today's digital landscape.
Todd A. Kackley is vice president and chief information officer for Textron Inc. In this role, he leads the business unit chief information officers and the Textron Information Services (TIS) organization. He oversees Textron's Information Management Council and manages Textron's information technology supplier and outsourcing relationships.
Prior to his current role, Kackley was executive vice president and chief information officer for Bell where he developed and executed IT and digital strategy, aligning business systems, infrastructure, cybersecurity and development capabilities to the needs of the business.
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Todd Kackley
Mustansir Saifuddin
Innovative Solution Partners 
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or learn more about our sponsor Innovative Solution Partners to schedule a free consultation.  
Episode Transcript
[00:00:00.890] - Mustansir Saifuddin
Welcome to TechDriven business brought to you by Innovative Solution Partners. Today, an old friend, Todd Kackley, Vice President and CEO of Textron, joins me to delve into the ever evolving landscape of Gen AI. Todd shares insights into implementing their inaugural generative AI solution and the pivotal role leaders play in crafting a scalable, well-governed, and future-proof data analytics and AI infrastructure.
 
[00:00:40.270] - Mustansir Saifuddin
So thank you for joining the session today. Today, we will be talking about any organization's readiness to embrace Gen AI. And I would like to get your perspective on this topic. So with that, I would like to get into our session.
 
[00:00:57.060] - Todd Kackley
Let's do it.
 
[00:00:59.280] - Mustansir Saifuddin
Awesome. Great. So let me start with, as you lead your organization in these times of quicker adoption, we see this across the board, across technologies. When we talk about AI-driven solutions, how are you and your team striking a balance between leveraging third-party capabilities versus developing in-house models?
 
[00:01:24.640] - Todd Kackley
Well, Mustansir I think that's a very good question. And this is also something very relevant for us at Textron. We recently implemented our first production generative AI solution, and that solution leverages a third-party proprietary generative AI model. And part of that decision making was certainly there's a lot involved in developing artificial intelligence models as a technology company as well at Textron. We've dealt with AI, and it's been part of our product offering and some of the things that we do around geospatial analysis and other things. And we built models in the past. So the decision to make versus buy, it wasn't necessarily one that we had to approach when it comes to generative AI, because I think this is an area where it's certainly a buy, leverage third-party models because of the capability and the massive amounts of compute and investments required to go off and build a model, the capability that we're We're seeing coming from third-party proprietary models that are secure. And certainly that's something that's very important to us, making sure that we leverage a third-party model that is secure and allows us to be able to work within the confines of our data tenant and be able to leverage the benefits of the OpenAI, but at the same time protecting our sensitive data.
 
[00:02:58.640] - Mustansir Saifuddin
Now that makes sense. I mean, let's fast forward, right? Are you even looking at in-house models sometimes in the future, or is this something that you think a third party will give you the leverage that you're looking for as far as technology as well as security? One of the big question marks right now with Gen AI.
 
[00:03:16.820] - Todd Kackley
In our defense businesses, it's something we're certainly possibly kicking around where there may be smaller scale opportunities for us to build lambda-based models or others using Compute technology that's not massive data center type of the computing horsepower that you need to be able to do something as large as an Open AI or an Azure AI type of experience. I contend that most of the use cases that we're seeing right now, I think there's a difference that people need to look at when they approach this question, and it's what What outcome are you trying to achieve? And if the outcome is, I want quick analysis or summarization or content generation and so forth, recreating that wheel and trying to build that model may not make sense where those third-party proprietary models already exist to do that. In fact, I'm seeing even in the ecosystem of development of workbenches and use cases around these third-party models, there are several developments already in place that have the turnkey copilot for a contract's evaluation or proposal generation or service centers and doing things like help desk. Those are accelerating the ability to implement quickly and get value quickly. And even the model itself, I read something yesterday that It just blew my mind that the evolution of ChatGPT 3.5 to 4.0 to 5.0 is at a pace that it's reinventing itself about every six months.
 
[00:05:12.810] - Todd Kackley
And that's 4xMaur's law. If you think about that, the pace of Maur's. As a technologist, that just blows my mind.
 
[00:05:21.990] - Mustansir Saifuddin
For sure. I think that leads me into my next question. When we talk about proprietary solutions versus open source, How does that affect your strategy?
 
[00:05:34.270] - Todd Kackley
Well, I certainly appreciate how open source really drives innovation, and it really OpenAI is a good example. Openai is a good example. The release of ChatGPT a little more than a year ago as an open source technology has really fundamentally changed the perception of artificial intelligence and pretty much put the technology technology in the hands of the everyday consumer. You don't need to have a PhD in neural network to go off and understand how to interact with artificial intelligence. In fact, I think that has really accelerated. It's the fastest adopted technology hitting the 100 million user mark in less than two months. But at the same time, as a technologist, I think we've seen over time that there are certainly risks with some of the open source technologies, whether they become proprietary at some point or they get consumed by some player and they now become a fee-based application, and you've already committed to the technology. We've seen that across some of the major players that consume other open source technologies, and they turn around and license it. That's certainly a risk. It's certainly something that you can't undermine or underestimate the amount of patching and keeping up with the vulnerabilities of open source technology, because I think they're a little more susceptible to one of the vulnerabilities.
 
[00:07:11.670] - Todd Kackley
But it's certainly something we have to weigh out when we make decisions around using proprietary technologies versus open source.
 
[00:07:21.460] - Mustansir Saifuddin
Yeah. I think what I'm hearing from you, it seems like a lot of that is dependent on your business model and your individual needs as an organization, right?
 
[00:07:31.620] - Todd Kackley
Absolutely. It's not just, let's go find the lowest cost solution always. You have to take into consideration many aspects not just is it the best solution? Is it a secure solution? Is it one that's going to endure, that's going to have a life cycle that is going to sustain? Because you don't make a technology investment. You hope not to make a technology investment and expect It's like that they only have a couple of years life cycle. You want it to endure a little bit. Sometimes what we've seen in the ecosystem, even in the larger players, in the consolidation of certain applications of the stacks and so forth, and the reinventing of those stacks, it's really forced us to stand back and look at all of these investments to make sure that there's going to be viability in the solution provider to continue to support, do investments, and continue to evolve that product set, whether it's a small individual capability or a larger enterprise-wide program.
 
[00:08:42.080] - Mustansir Saifuddin
Yeah, for sure. I think longevity and durability It seems like it needs to be built in the solutions that you're looking for, right?
 
[00:08:50.300] - Todd Kackley
Absolutely.
 
[00:08:51.310] - Mustansir Saifuddin
So thinking about from an experience perspective, you got years of experience, both in business and technology. What are some of the good use cases of AI-driven solutions that you've seen deliver tangible business value? I mean, it's all about providing value to business and then at the same time building trust with the business. What's your take on that?
 
[00:09:13.760] - Todd Kackley
Well, we go back a long ways Mustansir. I appreciate you not actually stating how long I've been doing this job, but it feels like much longer. But it's interesting. The whole generative, as I just said, the whole generative AI thing, if you think even a year and a half ago, this wasn't on the radar for most CIOs or most technologists in general. And now it's pretty much consumed most of our discussions. For sure. So we decided here at Textron to take a look at an applicable use case. And while there are lots of analysis on where these capabilities actually work well or maybe provide the best value, we focused on our service center area of opportunity. And when you think about a services business where you have large volumes of data, not just on how you support, sustain that customer's product and the history of sustaining that customer's product, but you also have the combination of data around all of your All of your technical publications, all of your engineering specifications, everything known. And many of our products are in a regulated business, like commercial jets and so forth, or helicopters. So you have a lot of data that you need to maintain, and having that in disparate sources or even trying to make it accessible to a maintenance technician or a service center, call center resource, sometimes is a challenge.
 
[00:11:06.350] - Todd Kackley
So we sought to try to accelerate the access to content internally for our maintenance technicians in our service centers, and it certainly provided an opportunity for them to have a capability, allow them to quickly either troubleshoot or identify content and point them to the the latest publication, latest operating procedure, latest set of instructions, and give them some insights as to how they should consider approaching either troubleshooting or diagnostics types of activities. We're certainly seeing that that's going to drive a measurable impact in the time that these maintenance technicians normally spend in front of a computer. They would rather spend time turning wrenches and doing the work to repair the aircraft and get our customers back in the air. And that's where the value is, having our customers' aircraft not sitting on the ground in our service centers, but in the air. So we see that not just in our aircraft industry, our business. But we also see that opportunities across anywhere we're providing a customer support type of solution. You think about even in IT, The help desks, we have... Most large organizations have a level one, level two, level three type of help desk.
 
[00:12:38.140] - Todd Kackley
And as questions go from level one to level two, and level two to level three, the cost of that answer continues to get higher. So bringing the information and the ability to solve that person's question closer to level one, or maybe not even needing level one at all, if you're bringing it to the user, it And yourself, most people that I know, when you have a general household issue, you go to YouTube. How do I solve this? How do I fix this? And before you call the service technician, everything, you try to figure out. And I think users are more inclined to do that if they have access to the right information at their fingertips, and it's useful and current and timely. So I think those are really applicable use cases.
 
[00:13:30.620] - Mustansir Saifuddin
No, I think for sure, what I'm hearing from you is time to delivery, right? And the example you use of YouTube is so real. Every day we do this, we look up things and we are trying to find things. How can we apply the same approach in a business scenario, in an organization which has got all these different levels of teams and support systems in place? The time to delivery to a customer, either internal or external, makes a lot of sense. I And this whole use case, especially when you talk about what Gen AI can do, seems like it's just helping get to the answers much faster than we ever comprehend it in the past.
 
[00:14:13.560] - Todd Kackley
I agree. I do think it's going to transform how knowledge workers and beyond that, even the example of the shop floor of workers that we're having, the maintenance technicians, they're very excited because if you think about it, we have a... Most organizations have a challenge around keeping talent and skills and the continued evolution of having to provide them with the training and the knowledge. And the generative AI opportunities that allow us to use content generation for training or just the accessibility to the information levels the field a little bit from somebody that maybe 20, 30 years of experience to somebody that has less. So they all are leveraging the same resource and getting that expert information to help them accelerate their jobs. So I'm excited about that. I think that's going to help, particularly help us bring in the next workforce in the future and prepare them for the skills.
 
[00:15:25.600] - Mustansir Saifuddin
No, totally. I totally agree on that. So taking a little segue over here, on On a personal note, where do you go do your research? What are some of the readings that you're currently doing? Would you like to share?
 
[00:15:39.140] - Todd Kackley
So particularly on the topic of generative AI, there's a lot to stay on top of. I certainly follow most of the leading business journals and tech journals, and stay on top of that. I've got a lot of flags in my search criteria to be able to pop up new things that are coming up, and certainly look for those articles. And I follow several podcasts and tech leaders, spend a lot of time talking to systems integrators as well. And then I have a very large network that I belong to a number of professional organizations with technical leaders, CIOs, and we have a lot of discussions on this topic as well. It's an evolving topic, and I find that not just generative AI, there are several disciplines when leading an information technology organization that one needs to stay on top of. And then I try to find time also to read self-development books, things certainly leadership and books on organizational change and leading large organizations and working across generations. So there are tons of resources. I think the most valued resource is in your peer network, having an opportunity to sit with peers in the same type of role that you have and have those discussions, whether it's a chief information officer, Chief Information Security Officer, CTO, even an analyst in a business function or a technical function, having that ability to work with their peer group and understand what's going on day to day helps them develop their self-awareness and their knowledge of their skills.
 
[00:17:48.750] - Mustansir Saifuddin
Yeah. It seems like your time is filled with all these different areas where you're pulling in the information and making sure that you're applying those your day to day operations as well as your learning that you're going through.
 
[00:18:05.910] - Todd Kackley
I can't profess all of it sticks. I mean, there's probably more content going in that actually I can retain. But it's one of these things I find that having conversations about it and checking your understanding, this gener AI, going back to that quickly, my having to understand how all of this works and feeling comfortable with the solutions that we're looking to bring forward and how those operate safely, securely, and understanding how we explain that to the users and leaders as well. That's a big piece of that, being able to understand the capabilities and technology enough to assure key stakeholders and leaders that we're making the right decisions as Absolutely.
 
[00:19:01.290] - Mustansir Saifuddin
Absolutely. So let's talk about from a Gen AI perspective, right? It is so new. It's a developing area for both business and technology. How do you see leaders such as yourself establishing a data, analytics, and AI infrastructure that is both scalable, well-governed, and at the same time, future-proof? It's a lot of things in one, but I-Yeah.
 
[00:19:29.970] - Todd Kackley
That's a really good question. One of the things that we're still having a discussion on is there's been several years in the data and analytics, and I know you and I go back several years in the data analytics space originally. And organizations have spent a lot of time and money and effort putting together large data lakes or a focus on structured data for the purpose of data and analytics, for the purpose of dashboards, for the purpose of possibly maybe even more impactful data sciences and driving more value out of predictive and prescriptive type of data analysis and so forth. And that's all part of this evolution, I think. And we're still getting our arms around this. There's And maybe I'll just say this, and whether people think I'm right or wrong, we'll let them be the judge of that. But I think there's a Venn diagram here where data sciences and data analytics overlaps with the generative AI, and there's something in the middle of that Venn diagram. But the difference is when you're really focused on the predictive and the prescriptive repeatable model of a data science model where I need this machine learning algorithm to drive a very predictable output, understanding whether or not my machine on the shop floor is performing predictably, and I can identify when it's varying off of its function versus the generative AI type of experience where I need very comprehensive analysis with structured and unstructured data versus the data science, which may be more structured and curated data.
 
[00:21:40.160] - Todd Kackley
I've often described it to people. I see data sciences as I'm looking for the needle in the haystack, and I see generative AI is what's in the haystack? And oh, by the way, there's a needle. So there are two different ways to look at it. I think when it comes to making decisions around the whole data side of this, data governance and data ownership is going to be a key piece of that, and it always has been, because ultimately, neither side works well with bad data. So that's certainly going to be something that's going to continue to drive the discussion. But I think a bigger piece of this is going to change the The way we think about architecting our data, whether or not it needs to be as structured as we've had in the past. We were just having this conversation the other day with our senior leaders in the past to build something like a chatbot or to build something like a very large search engine, you had to spend time creating the database, creating the indexes, creating all the special keys, doing all the tables and everything you to do, and then do all the programming around it.
 
[00:23:02.920] - Todd Kackley
With generative AI, it doesn't matter really what structure your data is in. It's really about the prompt and how you ask the question and interface with the model to get the answer. So I do think we have to make a clearer distinction on what tool sets are used for what purposes, because you can't always use one or the other to solve the same thing. But that's going to be the challenge for technologists as they look at, do I need a data mart? And one of the risks here also When you're dealing with data, this is ultimately replicating all this data over multiple places and paying for it in multiple places and so forth. So you have to think about that. What's the architecture? Does it sit natively in the application and AI works around it. So we'll see. It's still too early to tell, but I think those are things that we have to directionally think about.
 
[00:24:09.750] - Mustansir Saifuddin
Yeah, definitely. I think it's an evolution, and we are just getting into it, finding ourselves right in the middle of it. Great discussion so far. But based on all that we have covered so far, what is that one key takeaway that you want to leave with our listeners today?
 
[00:24:30.030] - Todd Kackley
Well, if we're talking about, since the theme has been largely generative AI, I think the key takeaway is that There may be a few, but I think when you're having the discussion around generative AI, it's important to understand that many organizations have been doing AI for a while. Data sciences is part of that evolution, building an algorithm and building a model and so forth. So I've seen peers in my industry and others, even not in my industry, their immediate reaction was, we've got to shut this genervate eye down or we need to go slowly. And the reality is, I think it's an evolution of what we've been normally doing with It's things like machine learning and algorithms and so forth. And it's something that regardless of whether or not, and I'm finding here, regardless of whether or not you have a position on to go fast and forward or to be more risk averse and hold back, the users are going to find a way to use this capability. And that's probably the big message here. If you're a technologist listening to this and you think you've got ChatGPT blocked or you're shutting down and saying, We're going to go slow.
 
[00:26:05.320] - Todd Kackley
Trust me, your users are finding a way to use this technology to help them with their jobs. And you're going to have to figure out how to make it part of your business processes going forward in a secure manner that meets the requirements of the business and the need. And and embrace it because it's not going to go away.
 
[00:26:34.360] - Mustansir Saifuddin
Thanks for listening to Tech-Driven Business brought to you by Innovative Solution Partners. Todd shared valuable insights on how organizations can transform business with generative AI. His main takeaway, Gen AI is here to stay. If you are a technologist, know that users are finding a way to use this technology to help them with their jobs. We would love to hear from you. Continue the conversation by connecting with me on LinkedIn or Twitter. Learn more about Innovative Solution Partners and schedule a free consultation by visiting isolutionpartners.com. Never miss a podcast by subscribing to our YouTube channel. Information is in the show notes.

Thursday Feb 22, 2024

Meagan Knoll and Tom McGinnis, long-time collaborators and educators rejoin me to dive into what it takes for employers and universities to succeed with the SAP University Alliances program. Although employers may find it daunting, Meagan and Tom share valuable tips on how employers can engage with universities and students alike to develop a qualified talent pipeline.
Meagan Knoll has been a member of Grand Valley State University Faculty for the past 16 years. In addition to her longstanding dedication to academia, Meagan has achieved a new milestone as the Vice Chair of the SAP North America Academic Community Board and as the Co-Chair of the Partnership Committee. Meagan's commitment to student success extends beyond the classroom. She takes great pride in her extracurricular role as the advisor of the university's SAP student group, a community that serves as a crucial bridge connecting students to professionals within the SAP ecosystem. Outside of GVSU, Meagan remains deeply involved with the ASUG Michigan Chapter, where she currently holds a position on the Senior Leadership Team (SLT).  
Thomas McGinnis has industry experience as a Software Developer, Business Analyst, System Administrator ERP Consultant and Project Manager. Tom also has 20 years of experience in academia.  He has a Master of Science and a Ph.D. in the field of Business Information Systems; he is an SAP-certified Associate Consultant and TERP10 academy instructor.  Tom has developed and taught courses in Enterprise Resource Planning (using SAP), Business Intelligence and Data Warehousing.  He is active in his local ASUG Chapter; frequently presenting new and developing aspects of Business Intelligence at chapter meetings.   Tom’s research work has appeared in peer reviewed journals, in book chapters and numerous conference proceedings. 
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Episode Transcript
[00:00:00.890] - Mustansir Saifuddin
Welcome to TechDriven business brought to you by Innovative Solution Partners. Meagan Knoll and Tom McGinnis, long-time collaborators and educators, rejoin me to share how SAP University Alliances is impacting the IT industry talent pipeline. Listen in as we uncover the value of UA programs, how employers leaders can connect with universities and the key takeaways for fostering successful partnerships in the ever-evolving tech landscape. All right, So let's start with the very basics.
 
[00:00:46.430] - Mustansir Saifuddin
When we talk about University Alliance, what is the real value of the UA program in building a talent pipeline overall from an IT industry perspective?
 
[00:01:00.900] - Meagan Knoll
Well, let me get started with telling you some of the unique opportunities that the University Alliances offers, and I think that will really segue into some of the value that comes from it. So the University Alliances has a lot of different initiatives behind the scenes. They offer training and workshops to faculty so that we're always on the cusp of new technology and emerging technology. They allow us to have hands-on access to SAP systems so that our students can explore and learn really the basics and the extended knowledge of being within the SAP system. They offer a lot of curriculum resources. How can we impart this knowledge onto the students in a very hands-on way? And a curriculum that is pretty standardized across the University alliances, so we can pool our talents to troubleshoot and provide these really in-depth curriculum opportunities. Then one of the best, I think, when it comes to connecting SAP employees or SAP users, is it helps faculty and students collaborate with those experts. For new emerging technologies or maybe a specific line of business, they really help make that connection so that we're talking to the right people and having the students learn the right content.
 
[00:02:29.740] - Meagan Knoll
Then they offer certifications and badges, which is really great for the students to not only leave with a degree from a university, but with a SAP certification There's many different ones that can be taken, but a value at the student level is that that certification has tangible learning objectives that they can take from their degree at the university and then apply them to those certificates and badges.
 
[00:03:07.990] - Mustansir Saifuddin
That sounds incredibly awesome. I hear a few things when you talk about this at length. One is that not only the students are getting benefit, but even the teaching staff has got that breadth of knowledge by going through this program.
 
[00:03:28.760] - Mustansir Saifuddin
Tom, from where you said, what do you see the value?
 
[00:03:32.500] - Mustansir Saifuddin
What is that comes to you when you talk about UA program?
 
[00:03:36.870] - Tom McGinnis
It's the continuation of exactly that. With the students and the faculty getting together, it provides a great deal of value for the employer that's going to be hiring those students. You have students who are arriving on site on day one that have a process understanding. They understand, if you will, the of SAP. They know what master data is. They know what the org structure of the organization could be. They understand the transactions. That fundamental knowledge of all those pieces really adds a great deal of value. Usually In the UA, a majority of the schools are worried about the make-buy-sell process. The value is not that the new hire has the company's specific business processes in mind, but But they know how to translate what they got out of the UA program into the organization and translate that into reporting, data sourcing, data-driven decisions. It really lets them hit the ground running, and the businesses can get a great deal out of that. At the same time, the students get a great deal out of that as well because they understand the value of what this means to business. Normally, speak to students about what's important, and they accept that.
 
[00:05:04.310] - Tom McGinnis
When they see the University Alliance and how it partners with business, they now get a real value for that, and they're no longer passive in their education. We see students really jumping on board and augmenting skills more and more. So it improves both the business side as well as the student side. It's really fun to watch.
 
[00:05:25.790] - Mustansir Saifuddin
For sure. I think I can totally relate to it. I mean, you would Your choice of words, especially when you talk about translating, translation, it is so much important. When you talk about a business, there are certain parameters they run and they use certain terminologies, technologies, and then everything is coming together to make up a business environment. And a student who is exposed to it very early on, they now are able to simulate in the new system because it's just natural to them now. That takes me to my next question, which is, look from an employer's perspective. Where can employers find a university they can connect with who has got the UA program?
 
[00:06:15.890] - Meagan Knoll
The University Alliances, of the schools that participate in the program who offer some SAP courses, they always have one point person that's called the Faculty Coordinator. This point person is a great go-to as a person to learn about what offerings they have, if they have any student groups, if they have any needs or things that they want to connect over. There's also some great advisory board opportunities. A lot of local universities who offer the SAP program have advisory boards where different companies can sit on those advisory boards and help direct the curriculum choices. There's a really good touch point, which is Career Services. Contacting a local university's Career Services to see if they have an SAP program, if they have a University Alliances program, and getting your foot in the door with Career Services can then open not only the doors to the courses that were offered and the student body that makes up those courses, but also ways to really get engaged when it comes to maybe taking the students on for internships or taking the students on for an entry-level career.
 
[00:07:42.330] - Mustansir Saifuddin
Wow. There are so many different aspects and avenues for employers to interact with a university that has got the program going, right? Now, looking from a different angle, what do you expect from prospective employers? What is that you guys want or the students are looking for?
 
[00:08:05.550] - Tom McGinnis
There's a couple of things. Part of it is being active or participating with the faculty and the students. It also brings together the folks to talk about what the requirements are and expectations. I know Megan and I have worked with a lot of students in bringing companies into the student group to just talk hiring practices, talk about what's the average day in the office. That opens up their eyes. It also gets the employers in to help assess the program, if you will, because Not all programs are made equal. Some schools will have larger programs than others. Sometimes a school will have dedicated SAP coursework, meaning a full 15-week course dealing with business processes. Activities, dealing with configuration, dealing with warehouse management or building a data warehouse. And along with that, there might be snippets in other courses. So the accounting course may have a two-week discussion around SAP and what accounting looks like. A supply chain course might touch upon procurement just for a few weeks in the semester. There are different ways of teaching the classes, and employers can come in and take a look at that and see what they're looking for. Students see the employers coming in and get an understanding of what the employers are looking for, and everyone starts to dial in on what they like.
 
[00:09:43.650] - Tom McGinnis
In some of the programs I've taught in, a majority of the students taking the courses, SAP courses, are not MIS students. They're not technology people. They're business process people because they see that the employers value that business process understanding. It's really fun to watch that eke out. Then faculty, of course, get involved because they want their courses to be relevant to employers. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy where everyone's feeding off each other's energy to ramp up the programs. It's really exciting to see that happen.
 
[00:10:23.260] - Mustansir Saifuddin
Now, that's interesting. I think one point that I really got out of this is as an employer ourselves, at Innovative Solution Partners, basically what I'm hearing is you want us to be there, interact with the program and students, and get to know what is being taught. And this is one way of Getting the value out of the program because each program has got its own merit in terms of what has been taught in the program. And each school has a different curriculum. So this way an employer has an opportunity to get to know what they will be dealing with or what they will be getting in terms of the talent that they're looking for.
 
[00:11:09.540] - Meagan Knoll
To speak to that point, let me give you some examples of some opportunities that have taken place at a lot of University Alliances schools. There's something called the NextGen Labs. Nextgen Labs are a space within the university where they can do hands-on projects for or a community partner. If your business has a small project that maybe you don't have the bandwidth to take on and it involves SAP in some way, you could turn it over to a course at a university, and the students could work on solving that problem for you or making that report that you need. That's one great way to preview the talent because those students that are on that next-gen project who are going to be meeting with you and talking about it and presenting it gives you a great insight into what type of employee those students might become. Another one that is pretty popular is code jams. A great way to connect with the students and see the students in action would be to participate in a code jam. A lot of SAP organizations or user groups groups, they have code jams put on by SAP. Students can attend those as much as the employees at the different businesses can attend.
 
[00:12:39.710] - Meagan Knoll
And having that mix between students and professionals is a great way to see that blossoming talent and really connect with them before you hire them on.
 
[00:12:53.380] - Mustansir Saifuddin
That's very interesting. So I know I'm familiar with code jam for sure. This next Gen program that you mentioned, it seems very interesting also. It seems like there are multiple ways a prospective employer can connect and interact and get a first-hand look at the talent that they're dealing with or they will we're going to be approaching in the future. So this is really good news.
 
[00:13:18.880] - Mustansir Saifuddin
Now, let's take a different approach.
 
[00:13:24.130] - Mustansir Saifuddin
I know you are being an educator, you're dealing with students day in, day out. How How are you preparing these young people to be productive from the get-go?
 
[00:13:35.620] - Meagan Knoll
I think it takes more than just an individual faculty member. It's really, most of these SAP University Alliances programs are housed in a larger college, like the College of Business. It takes that whole roundabout knowledge of the tactical things, the systems thinking, the hands-on, education, all the different insights that come from career services and come from extracurriculars, even leadership type roles that students might have on campus. It really takes a large ecosphere at the university level to really prepare the students to go forth. And the UA gives a really great mix that universities can already add on to their great programs, but it just gives that little bit of extra edge.
 
[00:14:29.920] - Mustansir Saifuddin
Yeah, that makes sense, because especially when you think about these programs, I know it feels like sometimes when you think about these programs, you are looking at one part of it, but it's an overall scheme of things It makes sense to have it as the way it's set up, like you mentioned.
 
[00:14:49.740] - Mustansir Saifuddin
Tom, you have any other points that you want to share about this, especially when you're preparing young folks?
 
[00:14:57.940] - Tom McGinnis
Part of it is there's There's a couple of aspects to it. It's more from the employer side of things is when you're looking at programs, as I said before, they're not all the same. Oftentimes, I see companies struggle with how to participate, how to put their foot in in those cases. Megan has mentioned career services and all those opportunities, but part of it is assessing the schools that you partner with. Most organizations already have a set list of schools that they recruit from. It could be just as simple as going out and looking to see if one of their current schools is on that list. Sap, www. Sap. Com, they have a list of UA schools. If you have a list of 10, 15 local schools that you recruit from, it's worth checking to see whether those schools are there on that list. Then you just take a look at their program. How many students do they have? What's the mix of majors? How involved are the faculty? What courses are involved in that? Lastly, as Megan said, the certifications. You're looking at that holistically and bringing that all together, and that's where you get some of those unique views.
 
[00:16:19.160] - Tom McGinnis
The faculty oftentimes go along for the ride because they see the interest in those programs. It's a great way of getting that synergy involved. I think that's the thing I want to stress. It's the combination of faculty organizations and the students. That's what really brings this home as a value prop for everyone involved.
 
[00:16:44.870] - Mustansir Saifuddin
For sure. I think this subject is such a vast subject, and we can keep on going, but we do have a time limitation. I'll try to wrap this up. Just looking at all the discussions we had so far and what we covered, what is the one key takeaway that you want our listeners to go with?
 
[00:17:10.720] - Meagan Knoll
In preparing and talking and getting this topic on the top of our minds, the one takeaway that really stood out to us is that old adage of, You reap what you sow. So the more involved that you are in that synergy of students and faculty and organizations the more that your connection and your internship possibilities, your young career possibilities will flourish.
 
[00:17:39.870] - Tom McGinnis
There's opportunities out there for companies to harvest these diamonds in the rough, we call it. Fantastic performers that are sitting there in school not quite knowing what they want to do yet, who are going to really flourish in the right environment. It's just getting those folks together and seeing the value on on all their sides. And oftentimes, I see organizations not taking advantage of this because they have some self-imposed barrier to entry in this recruiting scheme. And there's nothing there. It's a simple call to Career Services to find out who on campus could I talk to and going from there. Or it's leveraging your current grads and whatever alumni associations you have in your company, using them to go out and recruit on campus. So there's a lot of low-hanging fruit that's there for people to take advantage of.
Yeah, and I think I would like to sum it up with this is almost like a matchmaking
 
[00:18:45.870] - Mustansir Saifuddin
You have the right set of talent on both sides, right?
 
[00:18:51.530] - Mustansir Saifuddin
In our business, looking for individuals or teams that they want to bring into their fold. And the university is looking at placing these young individuals into a system where they can flourish and they can get a sense of what they are getting into. And it seems like the UA program allows them to do both of it in a way that interaction starts so much earlier than any other program where you are doing the book study versus not having that real-life exposure. I really appreciate you guys coming together and sharing your thoughts on this.
 
[00:19:38.430] - Mustansir Saifuddin
Thanks for listening to Tech Driven Business brought to you by Innovative Solution Partners. Meagan and Tom shared valuable insights on how IT firms can leverage the University Alliance program. Their main takeaway, the more involved that you are in that synergy of students, faculty, and organizations, the more impact the program will have. There is a lot of low hanging fruit that's there for people to take advantage of. We would love to hear from you. Continue the conversation by connecting with me on LinkedIn or Twitter. Learn more about Innovative Solution Partners and schedule a free consultation by visiting isolutionpartners.com. Never miss our podcast by subscribing to our YouTube channel. Information is in the show notes.

Monday Jan 22, 2024

In this next series of episodes, Megan Knoll and Tom McGinnis, long-time collaborators and educators join me to talk about how companies can leverage the SAP University Alliances to build their talent pipeline. In this first episode, we'll start with an overview of how the program is helping shape a skilled workforce and benefiting students, educational institutions, industry partners, and SAP. 
Meagan Knoll has been a member of Grand Valley State University Faculty for the past 16 years. In addition to her longstanding dedication to academia, Meagan has achieved a new milestone as the Vice Chair of the SAP North America Academic Community Board and as the Co-Chair of the Partnership Committee. Meagan's commitment to student success extends beyond the classroom. She takes great pride in her extracurricular role as the advisor of the university's SAP student group, a community that serves as a crucial bridge connecting students to professionals within the SAP ecosystem. Outside of GVSU, Meagan remains deeply involved with the ASUG Michigan Chapter, where she currently holds a position on the Senior Leadership Team (SLT).  
Thomas McGinnis has industry experience as a Software Developer, Business Analyst, System Administrator ERP Consultant and Project Manager. Tom also has 20 years of experience in academia.  He has a Master of Science and a Ph.D. in the field of Business Information Systems; he is an SAP-certified Associate Consultant and TERP10 academy instructor.  Tom has developed and taught courses in Enterprise Resource Planning (using SAP), Business Intelligence and Data Warehousing.  He is active in his local ASUG Chapter; frequently presenting new and developing aspects of Business Intelligence at chapter meetings.   Tom’s research work has appeared in peer reviewed journals, in book chapters and numerous conference proceedings. 
Connect with Us:LinkedIn:
Meagan Knoll
Mustansir Saifuddin
Innovative Solution Partners 
X: @Mmsaifuddin
@ISolPartners, 
YouTube
or learn more about our sponsor Innovative Solution Partners to schedule a free consultation.  
Episode Transcript
[00:00:00.000] - Mustansir Saifuddin
Welcome.
 
[00:00:03.310] - Mustansir Saifuddin
To Tech-Driven Business brought to you by Innovative Solution Partners. Megan Knoll and Tom McGinnis, long-time collaborators and educators, joined me to share how the University Alliance Program is helping shape our skilled workforce and benefiting students, educational institutions, industry partners, and SAP. It's all about building a valuable talent pipeline.
 
[00:00:28.810] - Mustansir Saifuddin
So how are you guys?
 
[00:00:38.400] - Meagan Knoll
Well.
 
[00:00:39.200] - Tom McGinnis
Thank you. Very well, thanks.
 
[00:00:41.830] - Mustansir Saifuddin
So I know the topic from today's session is building your talent pipeline. And I know it's a wild subject, but I try to keep it to a few points that make sense in terms of how our listeners interact with our podcast. So if you guys are ready, we can get into our questions.
 
[00:01:05.990] - Meagan Knoll
Sounds great.
 
[00:01:06.500] - Tom McGinnis
Let's get started. Let's go.
 
[00:01:08.420] - Mustansir Saifuddin
All right. So I know talent pipeline, big word, a lot of different things that goes along with it, but let's focus on a couple of things. Can you describe the University Alliance as it applies to SAP and the SAP customers and partners ecosystem? Absolutely.
 
[00:01:31.680] - Meagan Knoll
The University Alliance is a program that was initiated by SAP, and the whole idea was to foster collaboration between educational institutions like the universities and trade schools, SAP itself, and then SAP customers and partners. What we like to think of for the University of Alliances is that it is a conduit for knowledge transfer that will help prepare students to become skilled professionals in the SAP area. It's a global initiative that has over 3,500 educational institutions, and that spans over 113 countries.
 
[00:02:18.810] - Tom McGinnis
From a customer perspective, it gives an avenue. It allows companies to work with their local schools, because often times universities are struggling with what content to provide that's meaningful to the local community when it comes to job skills and with systems work. Companies can help identify what those requirements are and the skills that they value and help set those realistic goals for the graduates. And from a school's perspective, it's the target market that they're working with. So the whole idea of having this conduit back and forth allows both sides to get what they need out of the relationship. Collaterally then, everyone gets other benefits outside of the University Alliance, a variety of different ways that we'll probably end up talking about in a few minutes.
 
[00:03:12.440] - Meagan Knoll
One of the other points when it comes to the SAP University Alliances is that there's a lot of collaboration and making sure that students and partners can both participate in things like conferences, meetings, workshops, boot camps, certifications. It really helps to make sure that our students are skilled to the point they need to be to jump right into that talent pipeline.
 
[00:03:40.340] - Mustansir Saifuddin
Now that's a great explanation about the University Alliance. Thank you. Let me ask you this, how long has been this University Alliance around in terms of your interaction, both of your experiences, goals?
 
[00:03:57.820] - Meagan Knoll
I have been interacting with the University Alliance for about 17 years now.
 
[00:04:03.680] - Tom McGinnis
And for me, close to 15 years.
 
[00:04:07.050] - Mustansir Saifuddin
Wow, it's quite a long time. Okay. So that leads me into my next question. Especially, we're talking about talent. University Alliances, coming from a customer's perspective, what can SAP customers and partners expect from this program? Can you elaborate on that?
 
[00:04:25.830] - Tom McGinnis
Yeah, everyone gets a little bit different benefits out of it. The major stakeholders, as you said, the business community, the academic community, and most importantly, from our perspective, the students. From a business perspective, their impact on the school, I don't think organizations appreciate how much impact they can have on their local schools because they're looking for guidance, they're looking for help when it comes to what to offer students. The partnerships that are forged with companies and the local universities provide a variety of benefits out of that. Companies also, from an internal standpoint, get visibility at school so that their own organizations can see opportunities for upskilling employees, working with researchers at universities, and that partnership really builds. From the school's perspective, it's almost like self-marketing. They're working with these organizations, and it's a front-facing thing, where now these companies have a face on campus, and that means a face in recruiting. That's a face for research, a face for value generation that helps the university move along. And of course, with students, it's the networking. Students struggle. They struggle hard with meeting companies and getting their foot in the door with these social networks, professional social networks.
 
[00:06:00.830] - Tom McGinnis
The UA program is a shot in the arm for them for that. It helps them meet people that they want to interact with and start slowly gaining that understanding of what an organization does. Again, it leads to other peripheral things. There's a lot of internships that come out of the UA, and that allows companies to test drive students in a manner of speaking, but also the students get to test drive a company and see what organization they'd like to work with. Ua schools are a great place for organizations to get interns because they're ready to hit the ground running when they're done with their coursework. So there's a great variety of things that benefit all three parts of that group.
 
[00:06:49.850] - Mustansir Saifuddin
Yeah. It's going to be very interesting term you mentioned that it seems like a mutually beneficial for all parties involved in terms of... Especially, I think one thing that I really liked about your observation is everybody gets a test drive, right? You get to know the employer versus the employers get to know the students and the university being in the middle trying to engage these different parties into a common platform, right? So, Meagan, from your perspective, how have you seen this work? What's your perspective on this?
 
[00:07:28.900] - Meagan Knoll
From an education standpoint, I have seen the great collaboration that has come between industry partners, SAP Proper, and then also the universities in the University Alliances. There is a wealth of information that's provided by these companies when it comes to adapting new technologies, giving students hands-on opportunities to work with these new technologies, and it also helps to encourage and support faculty-led research. Not only are we looking for benefits to the students, but also benefits in making the research aspect of working and having that environment where we have that pipeline of students versus our students going to our employers, it all comes together as a nice symbiosis.
 
[00:08:26.720] - Mustansir Saifuddin
Makes sense. No, definitely. Let's talk about from a different angle. Lessons learned when you're working with employers, how can they be successful?
 
[00:08:38.590] - Tom McGinnis
Well, that's a good one.
 
[00:08:40.300] - Mustansir Saifuddin
Yeah, for sure.
 
[00:08:42.340] - Tom McGinnis
Well, it comes back a little bit to what we were saying just a bit ago about that front-facing aspect. One of the things that we've seen with our students, and part of it is the demographics of the student today, but if they don't know an organization, they tend not to go out of their way to recruit at that organization. They like whatever they know and they stick with it. Well, for companies that don't have an end consumer product, they're at a disadvantage. Those people who make intermediates, they make the product that goes into other products, our students don't know them, and the company is not on the radar during recruiting. With a program like UA, they're seeing how everything is made behind the scenes. A lot of UA schools also—and I do plant tours and things like that as part of the curriculum to get folks onto the shop floor, let's say, and see how SAP is really used there. Breaking down that barrier, if you will, or informing the students of who's out there, that's a big change in the opportunities for a company to recruit. And that's probably one of the biggest things I've seen come out of UA programs is the visibility of the company in front of the students has greatly increased compared to traditional courses.
 
[00:10:05.800] - Mustansir Saifuddin
I think I really love that aspect of it. It seems like there is a conduit into how a student is starting from an education point of view, but then getting to real life earlier than they expect to. I mean, this engagement through the UA program allows them to experience way upfront, which makes it easier when they actually get into the real work-life, right? So it seems like a very powerful tool that allows them to be ahead of the competition. I mean, there's always companies looking for talent, but talent that comes with education upfront about themselves, about the organization where they're maybe potentially working in the future.
 
[00:10:58.270] - Meagan Knoll
Absolutely. We have noticed that there not only is that reduced onboarding time because they have those skills and they're ready to hit the ground running, but there's also the opportunity to develop the talent. It's not uncommon for students who are part of the university alliances to intern at a company, then possibly work part-time at a company, and then become full-time hire as soon as they graduate. You can start to develop that talent in a specific way that meets your needs of your organization.
 
[00:11:33.790] - Mustansir Saifuddin
Yeah, for sure. And that is the key point, right? How do we get that engagement going early on? So now taking a little deviation from our UA part of it, but on a personal level, you both have been an educator for quite some time. Taking it back to the University Alliance, what is the aha moment that you would experience over the past few years? And you can go, Tom, you can start and then Meagan, you can follow up with what are your experience is. I'd love to share that with our listeners.
 
[00:12:15.910] - Tom McGinnis
Well, it's funny the way you said that, because for me right now, it's going through the list of aha, moments. There's not just one. There are a couple of them. There was one moment for a Midwest company. This is a company that was in Minneapolis. They had to change the way that they hired new hires and students because they brought on a student who was doing SAP work, coursework, as an intern his sophomore year in school. They liked him so much, they brought him in for another internship the following summer. When he graduated, of course, he applied for a position there and they gave him a position, but he had worked there so long already they couldn't hire him as a new hire. He was actually in a different salary bracket. When you have a student that's that valuable before they've even finished their coursework, that's a big aha moment on what a UA program does for the student's skills. The other big aha moment is when I take a look at the students in my classroom, and I'm MIS faculty, Management Information Systems, you would think the course I teach predominantly has MIS students in it.
 
[00:13:35.970] - Tom McGinnis
But my biggest SAP classes, my MIS students are in the minority in the class. It's usually other disciplines, supply chain management, marketing, accounting. It shows, I think, the value that other disciplines place on SAP skills and what those organizations are then doing to the recruiting at our college. Yeah, there's a lot of aha, moments.
 
[00:14:01.580] - Meagan Knoll
I think the biggest aha moment for me was a very rewarding experience. A couple of years ago at Sapphire, I was able to sit in on a session in which one of our former students was presenting as the subject matter expert. That was only three years after she had graduated from our program. Knowing that the roles were reversed and I was able to learn from her, just like she had learned from me in the classroom five years earlier, was a great aha moment and a great feeling that our program does make a difference and that we could really bolster up that talent pipeline and really have students who are ready to hit the ground running to make valuable impacts for any organization that they're hired at.
 
[00:14:49.470] - Mustansir Saifuddin
Great example. Thank you for sharing that. I think one thing I would like to add to this is being an SAP professional for over 20 years and working with different industries and different customers, one thing is very clear to me, and that is the talent that comes out of the UA program. I mean, the example that you used, Meagan, about someone this early in the career getting on a stage, something like a Sapphire conference, a huge opportunity and a huge gathering of customers and partners and folks who are learning more about SAP. And this is a moment for a student that just came out of this program and getting into the workforce, be able to share what they've learned on this stage. I think that is great. And especially, Tom, your examples speaks for itself, right? I mean, you're looking at as an organization, customers looking for talent. But when the talent is that well developed early on and they are able to get into the organization, start running from the get go. I mean, that's what a lot of these companies are looking for. They want to have employees who are ready, who understand the culture, who can adapt to the applications, to the technologies that they're using.
 
[00:16:22.160] - Mustansir Saifuddin
So it's a happy ending from both angles, right? So great examples. Thank you. Well, I know we talked about a bunch of things in our session, so that takes me to my last question. And this is one takeaway that I always like our listeners to have with them after every session. Based on all that we have covered so far, what is the one key takeaway that you would want our listeners to leave with?
 
[00:16:56.560] - Meagan Knoll
I would say that the one key takeaway that I want listeners to leave with is an expanded knowledge that this program does exist. It may not be at your fingertips at this time, but just the knowledge of knowing that the University of Alliance is out there and is promoting and producing this talent, is something to maybe tuck into your back pocket and revisit at another time and really reach out to a UA school in your area.
 
[00:17:26.980] - Tom McGinnis
To echo that, I think it's about engagement. A company needs to reach out in this day and age to find the resources it needs. The UA is a great place to reach out to, but you also want to reach out to your local schools. Even if they're not in the UA program yet, your interest in UA coursework may push them in that direction. And it's that interaction that I really want to see organizations do, is get out there with their local schools and start that conversation. The worst thing that could happen is that you don't find the resources that you want. The best thing that can happen is you find these diamonds in the rough that you can then use and use them to recruit even more diamonds in the rough. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy.
 
[00:18:21.530] - Mustansir Saifuddin
No, great examples, and I think that's the key, right? I mean, you have the opportunity and you have the means to get to this great program that has been around. And how do we get the word out? So folks who are looking, folks who may be looking in the future, folks who never even heard about it, this is an opportunity for them to avail this, at least explore the options and see what is out there in terms of what UA can do for them. And we'll look forward to having you both on our next session, where we'll dig more into the details of the University ofAlliance program. So thank you.
 
[00:19:02.180] - Tom McGinnis
Thank you. Thanks for having us.
 
[00:19:09.410] - Mustansir Saifuddin
Thanks for listening to Tech-driven Business brought to you by Innovative Solution Partners. Meagan and Tom shared valuable insights on how partners can come together in building a talent pipeline. Their main takeaway? Know that the University Alliance is out there and reach out to your UA school in your area. It's all about engagement and finding these diamonds in the rough that can help build a talent pipeline. We would love to hear from you. Continue the conversation by connecting with me on LinkedIn or Twitter. Learn more about Innovative Solution Partners and schedule a free consultation by visiting isolutionpartners.Com. Never miss our podcast by subscribing to our YouTube channel. Information is in the show notes.

Thursday Dec 14, 2023

In this 2nd part of a 2-part series of Tech-Driven Business, Nick Verhoeven, Solution Manager for Planning & Analytics at SAP, rejoins Mustansir Saifuddin to dive into how SAP Analytics Cloud's seamless integration between planning, reporting and predictive capabilities is modernizing FP&A strategies. SAP Analytics Cloud continues to reshape business analytics and strategy. His key takeaway? With continuous technology developments, make sure you have a vision and then see how technology can help you achieve it. 
As solution manager at SAP, Nick's role is to align the different functions within the company. Customer engagements, analyst relations as well as supporting the internal controlling functions are the main drivers of the role that spark enthusiasm in Nick and steer the solution in the right direction. Nick’s discipline stemming from professional sports is his main strength, helping him drive enterprise engagements however sluggish processes might be.
Connect with Us:LinkedIn:
Nick Verhoeven, 
Mustansir Saifuddin,
Innovative Solution Partners ,
Twitter: @Mmsaifuddin
Innovative Solution Partners
YouTube
or learn more about our sponsor Innovative Solution Partners to schedule a free consultation.  
Episode Transcript:
[00:00:00.260] - Mustansir Saifuddin
Welcome to Tech-driven business brought to you by Innovative Solution Partners. Nick Verhoeven, Solution Manager for Planning and Analytics at SAP, rejoins me to dive into how SAP Analytics Cloud's seamless integration between planning, reporting, and predictive capabilities is modernizing FP&A strategies. SAP Analytics Cloud continues to reshape business analytics and strategy.
 
[00:00:37.390] - Mustansir Saifuddin
Welcome back, Nick, to Tech-driven business.
 
[00:00:39.830] - Nick Verhoeven
Thank you, Mustansir. I'm happy to be here.
 
[00:00:43.670] - Mustansir Saifuddin
Well, thank you, Nick. It's been an amazing session we had last time. Really enjoyed the discussion. And for our conversation today, I'd like to give a little background on what we talked about last time. We were looking on the surface of what planning is and what planning brings to SAC, especially in the analytics space. You are bringing both the planning capabilities and analytics together in the SAC platform. So what I would like to do today is I would like to start our conversation with taking it a step further. A lot of times, customers look at things where they are looking at, What benefit does it bring to me? What do I get out of this tool? So if I want to go and bring on planning capabilities of SAC, and how does it compare to other planning tools in the market? How does that sound to you?
 
[00:01:44.810] - Nick Verhoeven
I think that's great. I always look forward to a bit of a deep dive in SAC and cloud, so let's do it.
 
[00:01:51.060] - Mustansir Saifuddin
Awesome. Let's start with the most obvious thing. Whenever you look at any planning tool, you look at features. So what are some of the key features of SEL that elevates it compared to other planning tools in the market? What's your take on that?
 
[00:02:08.510] - Nick Verhoeven
Well, that's a good one, Mustansir, but if I look at it, so this is my perspective, what I think is unique to the experience cloud is the flexibility in an enterprise setting. So what do I mean? What I mean by that is that with its integration to SAP systems and non-SAP systems, using commonly accepted APIs for metadata as transactional data to create and maintain data models for planning, that they can be easily extended with flexible dimensions and measures and accounts for a user interface. There you see this enterprise as well as business functionality coming together in that sweet spot. But then if you go beyond data, going beyond the model itself, you have user interactions through data inputs, analysis, workflow. Here similarly, we offer flexibility through drag and drop and wizards to build entire flows for the business user. But here we can also expand into scripting on those same objects and using a single artifact, lowering overall total cost of ownership, but allowing for limitless flexibility. Now having all these capabilities puts SAC Cloud in a true sweet spot in offering enterprise as well as flexibility, allowing for the FP&A persona and IT persona to work side by side on these different capabilities.
 
[00:03:31.360] - Nick Verhoeven
And I think that's really unique to us.
 
[00:03:35.080] - Mustansir Saifuddin
Yeah, I think definitely I echo that same sentiment. One thing that really stuck out for me in this conversation is you mentioned flexibility a few times. So from your perspective, what you're seeing in this tool, what I'm hearing is from a business user's perspective, the flexibility is at a different level. Is that true? What is your take? What are you hearing from the customers when you talk about flexibility and that business ownership on this tool?
 
[00:04:07.790] - Nick Verhoeven
Well, it's a sliding scale. In essence, a lot of business users are not used to working with enterprise tooling. They're used to working with Excel, and flexibility is 100% there. Then if they move to enterprise tooling, they need to be guided to a certain extent. I have a nice example from a toothpaste company from the US. What they've done is they've started with extremely guided applications, really having the user guided step-by-step, using heavily scripted applications, which are more expensive in the maintenance of such applications. But as the users gotten into it and started to accept the application with less flexibility than Excel, they've actually opened up bit by bit the functionalities that SAC brings to them. In a self-service perspective that they can do their own thing. With that, they started using those flexible functionalities for themselves, as still using scripting every now and then when they want to extend, but having the ability to create their own stuff, create their own models. Then they're really starting to appreciate the benefits of having a centralized database that consolidates all of the planning inputs side by side with a tool that is flexible enough for them to work on, albeit never as flexible as I thought.
 
[00:05:28.310] - Mustansir Saifuddin
Yeah, sure. And that's the key differentiator, right? And thank you for delving into the details of this. So what I'm hearing is at least you have two different paths. If you start off with a flexible application where a business user takes ownership versus an example where you started off with a guided approach and then let the business ease into the tool. So seems like multiple options available from how business can benefit from this tool. Great. Thank you. So now, and this question always comes up, and I've been working with planning and analytics in the SAP space for quite some time. What would be your recommendation for existing BPC customers? What is a realistic path forward for them?
 
[00:06:16.780] - Nick Verhoeven
To your point, we get this question a lot because, of course, we have a huge user base using our BPC solution. Now, the first thing that I always want to say is we have tied our BPC support to that of BW for HANA, which is a long lasting one. There is no case of forced migration of any kind because this theoretically goes all the way up to 2040. However, it is the case that if you want to innovate, BPC is a platform that is being maintained and not expanded. This is where SAP Analytics Cloud comes in as our flagship cloud platform, neatly integrating with BPC so you can move on a case-by-case basis and build experience in the new platform. But no need, we're not forcing you in that sense. But realistically, customers have made major investments and moving without any aim of innovation does not make sense. My advice to BPC customers is to figure out where do you want to be from an FP&A perspective? What do you need? Considering the standstill of B2C from a functionality perspective and strong innovation in SAC and create an approach that aligns with your budget and resource constraints but still allows you to innovate at the because FP&A cannot sense it.
 
[00:07:34.430] - Mustansir Saifuddin
I think that's the key point you mentioned, right? And the FP&A is this whole paradigm is shifting in this space. And if you're looking at a tool that is not moving with those changes and how the business is changing over across the board. So what is the best way to move forward? Is it a combination? What I'm hearing is it can be a combination of you still having your PPC and your landscape, but you're introducing SAC slowly, so where you can take in the benefits of all the new innovations that are coming in in SAC, correct?
 
[00:08:11.400] - Nick Verhoeven
Yes. That is the more typical, to be fair. There is multiple examples that we have from companies. Some immediately go for a big process redesign because they want to consolidate their tooling, meaning they will only have a single platform and they move it immediately. But that requires a lot of resources and budget. If you do not have that available, but you do want to innovate, it makes more sense to do this case-by-case basis because it's a lot of change and you need to be ready to do the change management if it all happens at once. It's not black or white, but I would... I think that the more you go case by case is more logical if you have a big BPC investment.
 
[00:08:50.440] - Mustansir Saifuddin
Makes sense. That takes me to a different topic and this same realm of conversations that we're having. Let's think from a business user's perspective, how can a business user be more effective using having SAC planning at their disposal versus other traditional planning applications? Can you provide some examples from your experience?
 
[00:09:14.290] - Nick Verhoeven
Definitely. Because where I see traditional solutions having their place and mainly being very important to add up the numbers, they were also quite inflexible, up to the point that they were mere models of consolidation where data was added up. With SAP planning or SAP cloud planning, as our marketing department tells me to call it, one can do instance simulations using the versioning concept as well as running flexible, driver-based, and predictive-based calculations. That's a lot of buzzwords. What does it mean? Let's take the example of our reference customer Roche. They are a big pharmaceutical company in France. In their R&D expense planning, which is, of course, key as a pharmaceutical company, they had to produce about 20,000 data points each and every time that they run this situation. They, using our predictive functionality, have automated 16,000 out there. This is where they've used the embedded predictive capabilities in SAP's cloud for planning to automate to a certain extent, their planning process. Not all of it, because not all is automatable. But they've used the points that are predictable, used predictive for that. With that, they got the focus on those 4,000 points that are currently not that predictable, and they've increased their accuracy.
 
[00:10:36.560] - Nick Verhoeven
This is really innovating the department, doing more with less and focus on where it matters for the people.
 
[00:10:46.180] - Mustansir Saifuddin
I think that that is something that a lot of times it's not very obvious, especially you mentioned predictive capabilities and especially a lot of customers. But when you think about the traditional planning applications and tools available, a lot of times they don't even have those capabilities available. So from a business user's perspective, having this available at the disposal, it just gives them a lot more flexibility as well as control on what they are trying to get out of the tool. So it definitely, I think, puts them in a different level compared to how the traditional planning applications work in the past. Now, you used the example of Roche. How often do you see predictive being part of the planning solutions in terms of customers using SAC? Is this pretty prevalent or is it just trying to catch on now? What is your take on that?
 
[00:11:51.220] - Nick Verhoeven
I wouldn't dare say that it's only starting to catch on because from the very beginning there were customers experimenting with this. But I think since we've released and this was 2021, 2022, the ability to directly write back into planning versions from predictions, this has really taken off. I actually myself have done an internal project with our central forecast team, where for central forecast, this is at a higher group level, we do the entire P&L using SmartPredict. I've trained a number of controllers to apply SmartPredict to the predictive functionality in SAP's cloud on their planning models. And not all accounts were automatable, but the ones that were are now being utilized. And we see those controllers applying it themselves because the focus of our predictive is that it's very much business-user-based. However, we are heavily investing in this. You say, What is the difference of a modern tool? I think that we are going to, and this is in our statement of direction, we are going to infuse artificial intelligence into each and every workflow of SAP and it's cloud for planning. This will go from version management to data management to scripting. All of that will get artificial intelligence and this will even more widen the user base that's able to work with SAP and it's cloud for planning.
 
[00:13:15.890] - Nick Verhoeven
And first release is being mentioned on TechEd, which is currently ongoing. Their Just Ask has been presented as the natural language ability that we will get in SAP and it's cloud also on planning models.
 
[00:13:29.760] - Mustansir Saifuddin
Yeah, I think that is really good news. I mean, a lot of customers that have been thinking about that and now, as you already took the initiative of sharing that information with us, this is awesome because what I see, especially in this area, when you allow the business users to be more in control and this capabilities with AI becoming more forefront in a lot of these scenarios, and you have that tool that is already having those capabilities where it's allowing the business to take more control of their planning process, I think that's the wave of the future, basically. So talking from that angle, let's take a step back. The analytical applications, they've been around for some time. Can you use or share with us a use case where analytical application is required for a planning project?
 
[00:14:32.510] - Nick Verhoeven
Yeah, sure I can. An analytical application is now embedded within the story, right? So it's a single artifact. But looking at the scripting functionalities of the unified story, so the former analytical application, we can devise a use case, and this, of course, comes from practice, but I'm not allowed to call the customer name, but let us just imagine I am a regional manager at a supermarket and I'm on the road. This regional manager then needs to analyze financial performance as well as subjective scores on cleanliness of the stalls and such. On entries or I enter this local supermarket, I desire to input set scores on my iPad and I would like to also compare these to the financial performance. After these inputs have been done, I want to sit down with the local manager and I want to figure out how can we tweak local forecast numbers based on the latest actuals and market expectations. In this situation where I need this flexibility on my mobile device, it is clear that I want a mobile experience and an easy way to input the numbers, say, in entry form with sliders. Having this is not standard.
 
[00:15:49.910] - Nick Verhoeven
Of course, we have the ability to add Sliders, but how do we make sure that it writes back in the correct position of our plan and model? This can be easily achieved using descriptive functionality. This is an alternate way to leverage standard functionality, but then from Script. In this way, we will feed the Sliders into the model. We will make sure that we have a guided experience for a supermarket manager that is not necessarily someone that can build applications themselves. We actually see many specific requirements being fulfilled in this rate to really guide users through the process. Think about pop-ups, entering the screen, sliding screens as you go through them. Extra relevant for infrequent use, where a user can make do with minimal SAC training to what is needed using the scripts, you can really simplify their whole experience. I think that is key functionality where the scripting can help to either hide what could be viewed as a complex experience or to extend functionality that is just needed in that specific case, like the regional supermarket manager here.
 
[00:16:58.920] - Mustansir Saifuddin
I think that's a great example, especially I like the fact that you're taking that extra step to make it easier for any user who maybe he or she may not be as comfortable with the application. How can you make their job function easier to handle depending on the requirement, right? And I see analytical applications becoming a key factor in those scenarios where you have the ability as a user to do things on the fly, but as long as you have the minimal training given to you, that makes a lot of sense. I think we talked about a lot of different things today. We are coming to the end of our session. Based on what we have covered so far, what is that one key takeaway that you would like to share with our listeners today?
 
[00:17:49.610] - Nick Verhoeven
Well, I'd say there is really a new world of possibilities in the world of planning today. We've discussed a few with scripting and flexibility, but there is much more to explore now with AI also being infused into the platform like we mentioned. With that, it only becomes useful if we get tired to a specific strategy. Where does FP&A see themselves in the next 1-5 years in the world of AI, autonomous finance, and big data? Then we would want to see that you use that strategic vision and turn it into reality using rapidly evolving platform with the latest technology in the cloud, because that's the only place where this innovation can be offered. I would, of course, say look at SAP cloud, but my colleagues will tell you that you also have to look at the SAP Datasphere to have the surrounding data fabric. So really look at all the innovations ongoing, but always look at them into the respect of where is your FP&A strategy heading? You have a vision, you have something that you want to deliver on, and how can technology help you with that? And then as soon as you map that out, I'm quite sure the experts are more than willing to guide you on that.
 
[00:18:59.290] - Mustansir Saifuddin
Yeah, I think that's a great takeaway, especially you mentioned DataSphere, right? I mean, you think about technology, you think about cloud, all of it needs to be put together in a nice data mesh in terms of how you bring it all in one platform. And, of course, cloud is the way to go. So great insight on that one. I do appreciate your time. Thank you very much for sharing your insights. It's been a pleasure having you on our show. And definitely like to share this information with our listeners and make sure that they get the benefit of what you had to share today with us. So again, thank you.
 
[00:19:40.480] - Nick Verhoeven
You're most welcome, Mustansir. I'm looking forward to see the recording.
 
[00:19:47.260] - Mustansir Saifuddin
Thanks for listening to Tech-driven Business brought to you by Innovative Solution Partners. Nick Verhoveen highlighted the dynamic evolution of SAP Analytics Cloud, emphasizing its integrative power within business planning and forecasting. His key takeaway: With continuous technology developments, make sure you have a vision and then see how technology can help you achieve it. We would love to hear from you. Continue the conversation by connecting with me on LinkedIn or Twitter. Learn more about Innovative Solution Partners and schedule a free consultation by visiting isolutionpartners. Com. Never miss our podcast by subscribing to our YouTube channel. Information is in the show notes.

Wednesday Oct 25, 2023

In this next series of Tech-Driven Business, Nick Verhoeven, Solution Manager for Planning & Analytics at SAP, joins Mustansir Saifuddin to discuss the power of SAP Analytics Cloud for Planning and how it integrates within the SAP landscape. Listen in as Nick dives into how planning is such a powerful addition to SAP Analytics Cloud. His main takeaway? "To do relevant planning, you want to make sure you understand your current state of the business, the latest trends, and have your analytics looking at the future using AI and predictions." 
The main purpose in Nick's role is to align the different functions within the company. Analyzing and reconciling these inputs to provide and position the best possible FP&A solution to facilitate optimal decisions through data. Customer engagements, analyst relations as well as supporting the internal controlling functions are the main drivers of the role that spark enthusiasm in Nick and steer the solution in the right direction. Nick’s discipline stemming from professional sports is his main strength, helping him drive enterprise engagements however sluggish processes might be.
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Mustansir Saifuddin,
Innovative Solution Partners,
X: @Mmsaifuddin
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or learn more about our sponsor Innovative Solution Partners to schedule a free consultation.  
Episode Transcript
[00:00:02.910] - Mustansir Saifuddin
Welcome to Tech-Driven Business brought to you by Innovative Solution Partners. In this first episode of a multipart series, Nick Verhoeven, Solution Manager for Planning and Analytics at SAP, joins me to share how planning is such a powerful addition to SAP Analytics Cloud. It's all about how it integrates with your SAP landscape and beyond.
 
[00:00:28.300] - Mustansir Saifuddin
So joining me today is Nick Verhoeven, who serves as a Solution Manager for Planning and Analytics at SAP. Welcome to Tech-Driven Business, Nick. How are you?
 
[00:00:40.090] - Nick Verhoeven
Thank you, Mustansir. I'm quite well. It's been a good Monday so far, so happy to be here.
 
[00:00:45.620] - Mustansir Saifuddin
Thank you. I'm glad to have you on our show. And this topic is very near and dear to me. I've been in planning and analytics for so many years, and really happy to have you as our guests and share your experiences, especially for our topic today. It's a three-part series. We are looking at kicking off this session, and we want to talk about what makes SAC planning such a powerful addition to SAP Analytics Cloud? How does that sound?
 
[00:01:16.710] - Nick Verhoeven
Well, I think that sounds great. I'm looking forward to it.
 
[00:01:20.500] - Mustansir Saifuddin
Awesome. Let's get into our topic then. I want to start with the basics. What sets apart SAP Analytics Cloud compared to other cloud-based tools in the market? There are so many tools. So I like to hear your perspective. What makes it so special?
 
[00:01:38.010] - Nick Verhoeven
So of course, I'm slightly biased, right? I love the product. I'm the solution manager for the product. But I do think there is something that is rather factual that really sets us apart. You ask about the market, so how do you define a market in general? And then what I'll be using is the Gartner MQs. The Gartner Magic Cloud runs Gartner is an analyst company and they make ratings of different software markets, if you will. What I think is rather defining, if you look at the way that SAP Analytics Cloud is positioned, is that we are represented in the business intelligence market, as defined by Gartner, but we are also, as the one and only vendor, also represented with the same product in the financial planning MQ. And that, I think, really sets us apart. And beyond that, if you look beyond just the solution SAP Analytics Cloud for Planning, I think the integration within an SAP landscape sets us apart. So it's the integration to our transactional systems, but also the integration to our business technology platform systems, which allows a wealth of data integrations and connections.
 
[00:02:54.070] - Mustansir Saifuddin
I think that is the key piece over here, right? I mean, you just hit it on the head. So it seems like when you look around, especially when you're dealing with a cloud-based solution, a lot of times you're stuck with either one or the other solution. So what I'm hearing from you is it's really about bringing two technologies together in one platform, right? Is that basically what makes you think that this is a special tool that allows customers, especially when you're looking for a unified approach of doing things? So it seems like SAC is serving up both those areas from a customer standpoint, right?
 
[00:03:35.790] - Nick Verhoeven
I'd say so, and think about it. When you are going to do planning, you don't start from scratch. You want insight on where you are, where you're going. And this is where analytics and planning to me and also to SAP, of course, are a natural extension of each other and not something that should have been viewed in a silo.
 
[00:03:54.810] - Mustansir Saifuddin
Absolutely. Now that makes a lot of sense. And so talking about from that angle, let's get into the details. When you look at from an SAP perspective, you're a little biased because you're working in that tool and you know the insights and what's really going on. When we move forward, SAP continues to enhance its analytics offerings. What do you wish customers knew about SAP that they may have overlooked? A lot of times a tool is out there, but there are certain insights that you may have that can help a customer get more out of their investment, basically.
 
[00:04:34.170] - Nick Verhoeven
I would say... We were discussing analytics and planning, but if I really focus on analytics, I think the main new addition, and people may have not overlooked it but haven't fully appreciated the capabilities that it brings, is what we call the unified story. This, in essence, means that we take the original object, that is the story where you could drag and drop self-service BI capabilities in there, and we combine that with the capabilities of the former artifact, which is the application designer. Here you could create very specific applications through scripting. Now, by combining these two, we allow in a single object to be present simple, low TCO way of building your analytics or planning input sheets for that matter. But the ability at any point in time extend that with scripting, if you so will. This is already quite interesting and relevant, but it's not the no point of return. At the point you've added scripting, you can close that again and give the object back to the user that might not be adapted to scripting, but the ability to maintain the object in itself, still remaining and retaining the lower TCO, but having the full flexibility to adjust the behavior of your analytical or planning object with specific scripting, I think that is unique to our platform in the way that we do it and has benefits for analytics as well as planning.
 
[00:06:09.730] - Mustansir Saifuddin
That is very interesting. So let me ask you a follow-up question on this. So that means that when you talk about application designer, you're talking about the ability from a programming standpoint, you can customize certain things and build an application around it. But when you bring in a user, a business user, who can leverage this object or development that is done by from the technical perspective and then bring in their data or their simple stories and have a single, unified approach of looking at information, right? I'm hearing it correctly?
 
[00:06:49.790] - Nick Verhoeven
I think you hear it completely correctly. Then we also productize that in a way with the recent addition of composites. Composites are reusable objects that will be released in our latest wave, and you'll see it in SAC three. But here what we have is basically script objects or regular objects that can be reused across many stories developed by a highly esteemed professional, but then can be reused across all of those stories. And then if you make an adjustment in such a composite, it will be adjusted in all of the stories, so really scaling out this combined capability across a very large user set.
 
[00:07:29.490] - Mustansir Saifuddin
Yeah, definitely. I think. And that brings value to the customer really many-folds, and that's what I'm hearing from you. So it's the benefit of using something that is being built and that is embedded, and then you're just extending it to a business user. So that's really awesome. Thank you for sharing that. So now let's get into our main conversation, why a customer, why any organization should consider planning capabilities of SAC? That's really the crux of why we have these two technologies put together in a single platform. So can you elaborate on that?
 
[00:08:10.120] - Nick Verhoeven
Yeah, definitely. So I'd say the recent world of turbulent change, and I say recent, but this is of all times, that things are changing around us and we have to deal with it. And I think the natural addition to planning is to start looking forward of where might we be going. If you don't know where you're going, you'll never end up there, right? Yeah. And this is where we're planning adds so much value if you combine that in a single platform. And I would never be one to judge. Every company has their own resourcing constraints and such. But I see all kinds of small planning projects popping up in our analytics user base where they have either a long-term strategic planning that they want to start with or workforce planning as they want to get the right talent at the right time. So small initiatives, and that will then be leading up to a larger enterprise planning deployment at a customer. But I think it is a natural extension to analytics and also where analytics can add so much more value because you have analytics and then put that into something actionable being a plan, which could be resource allocation.
 
[00:09:18.390] - Mustansir Saifuddin
Absolutely. I think what I like in this example, you mentioned two things, right? One is a lot of times when you think of planning, you look at the bigger enterprise planning approach. But here you have the ability or the capability of doing something small and you need planning no matter what you're doing. It doesn't matter if you're working with your labor data or your HR planning versus your financial or your sales data. You have components of planning which can be pretty easily integrated into this platform.I think that's one of the things that a lot of customers  always think about planning as a separate component versus having it together in an easy-to-use fashion where they can leverage the analytics at the same time, add a component of planning depending on what they are working on. So it's a natural extension. So that brings me to a more of a personal question. You've been SAP for quite some time as a Solution Manager for planning analytics. What drives you to make this tool as a tool of choice for customers? What is your take on it?
 
[00:10:31.710] - Nick Verhoeven
If we boil it down to what is the reason for using this tool? It's all about decision making. I'm very passionate about the topic of decision making because it's so abundant in all of our lives because we make decisions all of the time. Where I have the tool myself personally, where I use it to have multiple scenarios of mortgage down payments, I have it for multiple scenarios of investments. I'm using drivers to also influence those investments and what would happen if, and that is my personal life. But then when I go out there with the customers, we have scenarios in the oil industry, we have the medical industry. We have so many different angles that you get to for planning and you have to get into quite a bit of specifics. This is what I really like. This is what I really love. Then on my day-to-day job, what I try to make sure is that I look at the solution not only as a great platform, but also something pragmatic that can help people in their day-to-day operation of making better decisions. And this is the analytics and planning that comes together, which I hold so dear.
 
[00:11:45.150] - Mustansir Saifuddin
Yeah, that makes sense. I think you hit it in the head on this one, especially when you think about how simple can it be versus how complex you want to make it, depending on your use case scenario, right? So it really helps to have this capability built-in where you already have information coming from your organizations, different platforms, and you're looking at more like an analytic solution using SAC, but then you push in this planning capability in that tool, and all of a sudden you got this all-rounded view of the organization, basically. That's pretty powerful. Now, so thinking ahead, we always talk about roadmaps and what is really coming next. And this is, I call it... I call it a two-part question. When you think about roadmap, what is there, from a business perspective, short term and long term, what is coming next that a customer should watch out for when you think about the roadmap for SAC?
 
[00:12:44.190] - Nick Verhoeven
Taking that twofold question, starting with the short term, I'd say there's many developments, right? But I'll make a focus point where short term and long term also meet each other. And if I look at the short term, I'd say API, API, API. What I mean with that is within the application itself, so the scripting that we were just talking about, we offer APIs there so that you can, through scripting, enhance versions, set up customized planning areas. That is a multitude of functionalities there that you can use through APIs. So basically opening up the system to be manipulated in any way that the customer could want. I'd say that's one of the major short-term developments that we have offered and are also enhancing. This is something that also comes together with our B2P offering. So the import and export API can be leveraged by our integration suite, which can then also make sure that the data from the data marketplace in SAP DataSphere rolls in as drivers into SAP Analytics Cloud for Planning, does its calculations. And then if you want to go to the execution side of things, the integration suite can take those APIs again, take that information and push it out to execution system so that you actually execute on your plan.
 
[00:14:03.470] - Nick Verhoeven
So that would be short term. Those APIs also offer a lot of perspective for the long term. So one of the statements that our major development leaders, so Matthias Kramer, has made is that artificial intelligence will come to each and every workflow of SAP Analytics Cloud. Now, the only way to make that work or have something that is effective through AI is to make sure that your application is offering all of the APIs for it to work. Just to give you an example, if you want to have something like asking your application to be built using scripts with certain functionalities, then you can ask the AI bot to write that. But that's only possible if the APIs are there, if it has the ability to create a version API, if it has the ability to trigger data actions. This is where it really meets each other. Just to give you an exciting perspective here, we internally have already developed bots that can generate entire applications, can also create queries, like we know from the pending just ask functionality, but the former search to insight functionality that's still there. But then going beyond that, also leveraging large language models to write a query and also ask AI to summarize.
 
[00:15:29.910] - Nick Verhoeven
What do we see in that query? What are the most profitable stores within my assortment? It's these two stores. Note, this one store is actually on the rise compared to the last time you asked. Those insights the AI bot can offer. I've seen internal demonstrations where we can already do it. We also have an external statement of direction on AI, where we also have some of those beta demos already visible because we're really committed to deliver on that.
[00:15:59.100] - Mustansir Saifuddin
That is so exciting. I mean, especially thinking being on the projects myself, I know that from a customer standpoint, this is really exciting stuff, especially when they're looking at how to maximize their investments, especially on a platform like SAC, and you mentioned a couple of other technologies where you bring in data from DataSphere and all these other surrounding BTP, et cetera, how they all make it so much useful and allow any organization, any business who is using these platforms to extend their value proposition to the end users. So definitely something exciting and really looking forward to having these short-term and long-term goals coming together and giving this tool a boost that it really can make decision making, especially when you talk about these analytical tools, the decision making is where you're looking at time to value, and how quickly can you make those things? I know we talked about a lot of different things. So coming to our closure, one thing that I always like to ask my guests is based on what we talked about so far, what is the one key takeaway that you want our listeners to leave today?
 
[00:17:22.400] - Nick Verhoeven
I'd say it's where we started. We spoke about what makes the platform special. In my mind, it's the presence in not only the analytics market, but also in the planning market, and with that also now with AI and predictive coming together. I think the most important thing is to not decouple these two elements, because to do relevant planning, you want to make sure you understand your current state of the business, the latest trends, and also having analytics looking at the future using AI and predictions, those are natural inputs to your actual plans, and those plans that need to turn into execution. It's so logical if you look at the plan to check X circle from Deming. There are so many things that always relate to these two are interrelated. And I think within a platform, they should also be interrelated. That's my main takeaway.
 
[00:18:24.480] - Mustansir Saifuddin
Yeah, I think that is really powerful. Thank you for sharing that. And that's really what sets the whole application apart from so many other tools out there. And with that, I'd like to wrap our session. I do want to thank you for coming on to our show. I'm looking forward to our next conversation, which is all about planning and what makes SAC planning such a powerful tool. I'm looking forward to having that deep dive where... Especially when you look at all these things outside in the market, even from SAP, you have BPC, you have other competitor planning applications out there. We'll talk about more into a deeper perspective of what SAC planning can do and how will that be a game-changer for folks who are looking at planning as one of their additional analytics capabilities to be built into their platform. So looking forward to that. Thank you.
 
[00:19:23.910] - Nick Verhoeven
Thank you very much. I'm looking forward to that as well. Thank you Mustansir.
 
[00:19:26.590] - Mustansir Saifuddin
Thanks for listening to Tech-Driven Business brought to you by Innovative Solution Partners. Nick shared valuable insights on the power of SAC planning. His main takeway? To do relevant planning, you want to make sure you understand your current state of the business, the latest trends, and have your analytics looking at the future using AI and predictions. We would love to hear from you. Continue the conversation by connecting with me on LinkedIn or Twitter. Learn more about Innovative Solution Partners and schedule a free consultation by visiting isolutionpartners.com. Never miss a podcast by subscribing to our YouTube channel. Information is in the show notes.

Tuesday Aug 29, 2023

In this next episode, Mustansir Saifuddin speaks with David C. Williams, Assistant Vice President-Automation at AT&T. David dives into how hyper-automation, specially RPA, and AI come together to effectively and efficiently make a business impact. It's not about choosing one over the other.  
During David's career with AT&T, he has created deep-link HTML marketing initiatives that garner 90 million monthly impressions, led Competitive Intelligence which helped shape AT&T's Mobile First strategy, has been responsible for supporting several Fortune500 companies encompassing $120M in revenue, and authored two patents for Reprogrammable RFID and bridging satellite and LTE technology. In his current role, David is responsible for hyper-automation & emerging technology to transform Customer/Employee Experience and Cost Structure for his organization. He leads the largest Robotics Process Automation program worldwide. His innovations are driving change across the company as his team has developed 600+ Bots automating 70M contacts, realizing $400M in operating income at over 3,000% ROI. Additionally, he also invented & sponsored a decision engine driving $200M credit reduction annually.
David is the 2021 Legacy Award recipient at Black Engineer of the Year STEM Global Conference, 2x Dream in Black winner, AT&T Champion of Diversity Award winner, a proud mentor of multiple Employee Groups, & Diversity Ambassador. David’s humble beginnings in the poorest corner of Dallas, TX, continual giving back through Solar Robot Workshops to the community, and rise through a corporate giant is encapsulated in his book entitled, Business Model. 
Continue the conversation on:
LinkedIn:
David C. Williams
Mustansir Saifuddin
Innovative Solution Partners 
Twitter: @Mmsaifuddin
YouTube
or learn more about our sponsor Innovative Solution Partners to schedule a free consultation.
 
Show Notes:
[00:00:03.320] - Mustansir Saifuddin
Welcome.
 
[00:00:04.180] - Mustansir Saifuddin
To Tech-driven Business brought to you by Innovative Solution Partners. In this episode, I welcome back David C. Williams. Listen in as David shares his thoughts on how organizations can use AI and RPA to move business forward. David dives into the role each plays and how they complement each other to solve business problems.
 
[00:00:27.320] - Mustansir Saifuddin
Hello, David. How are you?
 
[00:00:37.300] - David C. Williams
Must say I'm doing well.
 
[00:00:42.460] - Mustansir Saifuddin
Thank you, David. I'd like to welcome you back to my podcast, Tech-Driven Business. Today, I would like to talk about how RPA and AI is helping organizations. How does that sound to you?
 
[00:00:59.900] - David C. Williams
Wonderful. It's an exciting topic, brother.
 
[00:01:07.610] - Mustansir Saifuddin
Yeah, I know this is very near and dear to you. In our previous sessions, you had talked about at length, about RPA. I thought this will be a good segue into this conversation.
 
[00:01:21.770] - David C. Williams
Wonderful.
 
[00:01:23.000] - Mustansir Saifuddin
How is AI and RPA helping organizations increase efficiency in their operations and throughout their business in general?
 
[00:01:34.740] - David C. Williams
Well, when I think about it, RPA is, I would say all of hyper automation, but especially RPA, is one of the, if not the least, expensive way to solve a business problem with software. Artificial intelligence is the computing power we've dreamed of. When you take that type of computing power and intelligence and give it a efficient reach like RPA, you can go do a lot of cool things very quickly and it doesn't cost your arm and the leg.
 
[00:02:17.250] - Mustansir Saifuddin
I like the way you connected the two. So it seems like they are both connected at the hip in terms of how they are complementing each other.
 
[00:02:29.080] - David C. Williams
Yeah. Ai is a brain, right? And just like in a human body, a brain is great, but it can't move anything physically, right? And so you need all these extremities to go about the brain's business every day. That's how I think about AI and RPA coming together. You have the most intelligent computational brain that you could imagine or dream of with mobility of RPA that's so flexible, so ubiquitous, so applicable in so many ways that when you put the two together, it's exponential.
 
[00:03:09.370] - Mustansir Saifuddin
That is great. Let's talk about something in terms of leveraging the efficiency part, right? We talk about efficiencies in business, in our general lives, how we can do things faster, better.
 
[00:03:25.920] - Mustansir Saifuddin
When we talk about leveraging the efficiency of RPA and the capabilities of AI, what makes it beneficial to a business? Can you give some examples? Talk about that.
 
[00:03:43.690] - David C. Williams
Yeah, sure. If you think about the combination of the two things that you could do with this. Let's say you have a workforce that uses some knowledge management system. Well, every day that workforce thumbs through a virtual encyclopedia, right? They thumb through a virtual dictionary to go get information or they query it.
 
[00:04:19.960] - David C. Williams
With the advent of generative AI combined with RPA, what you could do is you could use AI to do the querying and summarization of all of that knowledge management. You can use RPA to quickly place that in so many different places to make it more accessible. Yep, we got it. We got the great brain that's going to take all of this stuff and compile it into something that's usable and easy to extract from. But how do I get it over to my field technicians, to my customer service group? How do I leverage that across several systems? Rpa and other components of hyperautomation are very prone, very likely to be the best options to go do that without having to reinvent the wheel.
 
[00:05:18.730] - Mustansir Saifuddin
That's a great example you use. That leads me into my next question about you've been doing hyper automation for quite some time, and you had some great success and gains that you saw with that implementation at AT&T. How do you see that journey evolved with the addition of AI now?
 
[00:05:42.030] - David C. Williams
Oh, man. Well, I would tell you, when it comes to things like RPA, my team does sit on the very forefront of where all that stuff is going, the way we use it, the conversations we even had with Microsoft on what they're building and enhancing and all that stuff. When I think about where it's going, though, and with AI, AI is going to take our most challenging parts of the development cycle, the most challenging parts of every business or many businesses, and it'll simplify. When I think of that, I think about a world where RPA is even more democratized, where literally any knowledge worker can use RPA. Instead of putting up PowerPoints, we can share prototypes.
 
[00:06:45.660] - David C. Williams
That is going to open up an entire universe of innovation and automation.
 
[00:06:53.900] - Mustansir Saifuddin
It seems almost like you are fast tracking a lot of things.
 
[00:06:59.900] - David C. Williams
Trying to, man. The funny thing about automation is the more you do it, the more folks want it, which is a good thing, but it is still a challenge. As we continue to grow the program, as we continue to help more of our colleagues, coworkers, customers, as more parts of the business depend on the things we create, we look for ways to continue to accelerate. There are a ton of quotes that we believe in and mantra we have on our team. One is that success is momentum over time. As we continue to... We found some success, we built some momentum. It's taking us a little bit of time as we continue to go down this path, we're going to keep driving more momentum. That is the expectation. Honestly, we're positioned for it. The more things that we build, the more we get to leverage. At one point, we were using bricks to build buildings, then we're using buildings to blocks to build cities, cities to build, etc. We're just still lead on that journey, accelerating and looking for ways to continue to accelerate. And that AI version of what I just spoke about is just one area.
 
[00:08:16.220] - David C. Williams
There's a ton of other things that we're looking at to automate so that we can accelerate everything that we're doing in that space.
 
[00:08:24.640] - Mustansir Saifuddin
That is awesome. When you think about opportunities, what opportunities do you see in this area where AI and RP are working together, the idea of creating this intelligent automation? Where do you see that going?
 
[00:08:42.160] - David C. Williams
Well, I think that at a certain point it's going to happen. For those that discover it or leverage it, priced, they will solve more complex business problems at a cheaper price, at a faster pace, and that will impact their competition and so forth and so forth. I think it's just a matter of time. These things, these operations, these big companies, whether you're talking telecom or healthcare, doesn't matter. The efficiency that they can drive helps them to be able to capitalize on the things that they do in those specific industries. Rpa is the least expensive hyperautomation is the least expensive way of solving a business problem with software. I haven't found anything cheaper. You put cognitive capabilities on top of that. That means the more complex things you can get after with the cheapest means of doing it. If you're doing that better than your competitor, look at our competitor.
 
[00:09:57.630] - Mustansir Saifuddin
Yeah, for sure. I mean, there's always this conversation about what technology is moving away from or getting a thing of the past. So when you hear people talk about who say that RPA is a thing of the past and the future is AI, what is your response to that?
 
[00:10:19.710] - David C. Williams
It's probably a laugh, a chuckle. It would be like saying, Oh, you know what? The Wright brothers have mastered human flight. We've discovered human flight. We all can fly now. There's no need for tires. No need for tires. Nobody needs tires anymore. It's impossible to even think like that. I would say the same about AI and RPA. There is no competition between the two. This is chocolate and peanut butter. They work better together. There is no competition between the two. There is no replacement of one or the other. Your brain will never replace your thumb. Never. I don't care how good of a brain you have. That thumb sure comes in handy. That's how I think about RPA is that it's not that this is the 3G and there's 4G. No, no, no, no, no. This is complementary. As long as you have one, you will want the other. That's what I think about AI and RPA. As long as you have one, you're going to want the other. If you have RPA, you want cognitive capabilities to make those automations smarter so you can automate more things. If you have AI, you want reach and you want quick reach because with AI you get quick answers.
 
[00:11:54.510] - David C. Williams
So you want quick, ubiquitous, far, far reaching reach. Rpa gives you that hyper automation gives you that. Putting up Lego blocks together in the right ways, you get exactly that. For those that say that, I guess maybe it may be a little telling, but I don't see it.
 
[00:12:14.950] - Mustansir Saifuddin
I love the example you use. That is really great. It just puts things in perspective. I think it's just like the one cannot live without the other. It's almost like a marriage made in heaven. That's awesome.
 
[00:12:28.810] - David C. Williams
It really is. I mean, when you think about just how fast AI is able to go get the most complex, sophisticated answers and responses to produce code in seconds, whole paragraphs in seconds, whole reports. When you think about that to have that level of intelligence with the an arm 8,000 miles long, you can do a lot. You can do a whole lot. And so that's, I think, the beauty of AI and RPA coming together.
 
[00:13:10.790] - Mustansir Saifuddin
That makes sense. Definitely. For sure. So I guess that takes me to my next point. Based on all that we covered today, what is that one key takeaway that you would want our listeners to leave the session today with?
 
[00:13:29.000] - David C. Williams
You got to embrace AI quickly. You got to move safely with it. Don't throw the baby out with the bath water. Rpa is still the future. Rpa still has a huge impact. I would say to many American Airlines is great for getting you from New York to Los Angeles. But if you need tacos delivered on Tuesday at 2:00 PM American Airlines is probably not the place that you want to call. There's probably better options, more suitable options. One is not better than the other. They just have different roles. That's how RPA and AI relationship are. They have different roles that are extremely complementary of each other.
 
[00:14:23.860] - Mustansir Saifuddin
I think that's a great way to put it. I like the example you use. I think it seems like a lot of times folks are thinking of one technology versus the other. The way you're explaining or you're rationalizing this whole thing is one is helping the other to be more productive, more efficient, and be more robust together as a business, as a technology that is working together to make things better.
 
[00:14:58.570] - David C. Williams
Must have said, I would tell you, brother, that one of the biggest mistakes people make in technology is they want to put all the eggs in one basket. Oh, we're going to have this one thing that's going to do all these things. You know what that's called? They did that a long time ago. It's called the Titanic. It doesn't work well that way. Even if you look at Netflix, Amazon, everything you're looking on a page, it's not just one application. There's so many applications working at once. You just see it in one user interface. And so the same way that those microservices work and they feel like one, but they're all separate is what hyper automation, what RPA is. It feels like one thing, but it's still separate. You put all these things together and you can create something magical versus trying to do this just one big, herculean, Titanic thing. And so I find that putting one and one together, if you get them close enough together, one in one is 11. You get further, faster, you get something exponential. You can skip all the other stuff. That's how I think about AI and RPA coming together.
 
[00:16:17.120] - David C. Williams
You get further, faster putting them together.
 
[00:16:20.620] - Mustansir Saifuddin
For sure. Now it's been a great session, David. And thank you for sharing your thoughts and your insights into this discussion point. I mean, definitely, there is a lot of progress that needs to be made in this field where both AI and RPA coming together, helping businesses and making our lives better. So I really appreciate your time. Thank you so much for joining our session today.
 
[00:16:49.500] - David C. Williams
Thank you. Have a great day.
 
[00:16:58.250] - Mustansir Saifuddin
Thanks for listening to Tech-driven Business brought to you by Innovative Solution Partners. David gave a great overview on the power of AI and rpa. His main takeaway: embrace AI quickly, move safely with it. Rpa is still the future and will have a great and huge impact. We would love to hear from you. Continue the conversation by connecting with me on LinkedIn or Twitter. Learn more about innovative solution partners and schedule a free consultation by visiting isolutionpartners.com. Never miss our podcast by subscribing to our YouTube channel. Information is in the show notes.
 
 
 

Thursday Apr 27, 2023

In this next series of Tech-Driven Business, Michael Kim, Data & Analytics Leader, joins Mustansir Saifuddin to discuss how to approach data and analytics in a complex landscape. They'll dive into how to simplify your implementation approach and what it takes to have a successful implementation. 
Michael has 20 years of product management and consulting experience at Accenture, IBM, KPIT, DXC Technology. Michael is responsible for implementing over 15 Data and Analytics Solutions across multiple industries. He's a Product Strategist and Expert of the information delivery platforms: SAP, IBM, Snowflake, Salesforce, Workday. 
Connect with Us:LinkedIn:
Michael Kim
Mustansir Saifuddin,
Innovative Solution Partners 
Twitter: @MmsaifuddinYouTube
or learn more about our sponsor Innovative Solution Partners to schedule a free consultation.  
Episode Transcript
[00:00:00.000] - Mustansir
Welcome to Tech-Driven Business brought to you by Innovative Solution Partners. In this first episode of a multi-part series, I welcome Michael Kim, a data and analytics expert. Listen in as Michael shares his thoughts on how to address complex IT landscapes for a successful implementation. Hello, everyone. Joining me today is Michael Kim, a good friend and a seasoned leader in the field of data and analytics with a focus on SAP technology. Welcome, Michael.
 
[00:00:42.530] - Michael
Hey, Mustansir. Very nice to be here. It's a pleasure. It's always great to have a conversation and dialog with my good friend. What better topic than talking about data analytics, especially given time right now where things are going. It's an exciting time for the market and the industry, and I'm happy to be here. Thanks for having me.
 
[00:01:02.760] - Mustansir
All right. Now, great to have you, Michael. I think this is one of the hot topic as you go along across the board. Any organization, everybody is talking about challenges of implementing data and analytics in their environment, especially when you have a complex landscape. With that, I'd like to get into our discussion points. Are you ready?
 
[00:01:26.920] - Michael
Yes, absolutely. Let's get it going.
 
[00:01:29.020] - Mustansir
All right. Let's start with a high level. I wanted to get your take on how do you approach data analytics in a complex landscape? What are the things that you're seeing based on your experience? Can you explain, can you share some thoughts on that?
 
[00:01:44.100] - Michael
Absolutely. This is the big elephant in the room for all organization, is what is complex? And especially data analytics alone, topic itself is complex. So how do we tackle it? And it's been a conversation. It's been a question. It's been a challenge for all organizations globally for however long ,I've been doing this for a very long time. And it doesn't change. I think the way I see it and what I experienced for the past 20 years, serving multiple clients and multiple vendors, both from SAP and outside of SAP, and IT and business, I think it comes down to two things is what is a complex landscape and how do we approach it? And really nails down to, two, is process approach or is it a data-driven approach? And there's no right or wrong answer for that matter. It's really what sets the foundation of solving the complexity to provide business clarity on process and what role does data and analytics products and toolset comes into that picture as well. So I've seen an organization who prefer to have a data analytics landscape where they want to have it more centralized, meaning they don't want to have it decentralized from multiple regions.
 
[00:03:07.130] - Michael
They want to consolidate it from multiple regions to one centralized data platform, which will produce data products to the business and to the customers and to the vendors. And then I've seen organizations where they prefer decentralization of the data environment. And of course, I'm not going to say there's no right or wrong approach on this. I think it all comes down to the customer's desire and where they fit in the industry. And at the end of the day, it's understanding the environment of the landscape. And that's how you tackle it is a centralized approach of the data environment and  how do you solve that complex landscape? And then what is that data product and process comes into place as to a data centralized data environment where you want to provide clarity and data insights in that decentralized, but how does that serve the purpose to the customers and the users in the business to provide data products around that area.
 
[00:04:05.550] - Mustansir
Got it. No, that makes sense. I think that's a good lead into my next question. When you talk about implementation approach, what criteria do you employ? And basically, what is the application to simplify the implementation approach is a better question, I guess.
 
[00:04:23.830] - Michael
I always go with this approach is I think it's taking a step back from applications or business, but how we come into this world from when we're infants to when we become an adult and as we age into more mature grownups. There's three stages. There's crawl, walk, and run approach. And of course, I think that's the most important thing for the organization to really realize where they are in the current state is are they in the infant stage? Or they are in the infant stage where they want to make that transition into walking and to running and then ultimately sprinting. And if I have to put that into an analytic perspective is, I think this is the most common term that's thrown out there is, where are you in the organization in your data products and analytics maturity? Is that really driven by descriptive analytics, or is it more predictive, or is it more prescriptive? And then it gets more complex with new embedded things like artificial intelligence and machine learning, which makes analytics going from prescriptive to a lot more advanced to do a lot more wonderful things on how to use the product.
 
[00:05:41.950] - Mustansir
Yeah. I think you hit it right on. That's one of the things that a lot of organizations do have to analyze where they are in this journey. And that can be challenging, depending on the maturity of the data analytics approach that the organization is using. And to your point, when you talk about these three phases of descriptive, prescriptive, and predictive, it is a balance of what you currently have and where you want to end up. That's the key, what I'm hearing from you.
 
[00:06:23.260] - Michael
Absolutely, Mustansir. I mean, you and I work with a lot of colleagues going back to many of us, we serve a lot of customers in the past. And I think it's the same story, even for you. You've been into a lot of big high profile, large cap companies, large different, I guess, corporations, different business global wide and SIs. And when you walk in, first thing I believe you always look for is even for yourself is where are we? What am I walking into? And then where are we as a project, program, also as a client? And minute you, I think, harness that realization, we're in the program, then you also define what you need to do and how you can add value to simplify that implementation approach. It's the same thing for every consultant, every data analytics professional is really understanding your surroundings, your current state, not only for yourself, for the program and the client, and also where does the Si role come into picture? Where does the application or software vendor come into picture? It's really understanding your current state and where you want to get to, which is the future state.
 
[00:07:28.730] - Mustansir
Yeah, for sure. I think that using that as a driver into our next conversation is based on your experience working with system integrators, as you mentioned, customers, SAP itself, what constitutes a successful data analytics project?
 
[00:07:47.520] - Michael
That's really interesting question. I guess it's coming from IT then. I guess it all depends on who you're serving as a data analytics professional or as industry wide consultant or expert. But it really comes down to, in my opinion, is who are we here to serve? Is it IT or is it business or is it organization? What makes the company click? And in my personal philosophy is it's always prioritized business first, mainly because going back to the whole fundamental three pillars is people, process, and technology is when you start a business, even for a small startup, it's selling a small hamburger for mom and pop stores to turning that into a multibillion dollar global hamburger chain. It's all about selling the product and serving the public. Who's going to help you get there? It's the people. It's the people you hire and people who share the same vision. And then after that, after those people are defined to collaborate in that vision, what is the set of process that we need to put in place not only for the company, but also within the division, within the people and the culture? And then once you set that good process and strategy, then that's when the technology comes in and make sure that we execute.
 
[00:09:15.520] - Michael
I think with that said, what I'm looking for as a cost is successful is the business objective is met. And if that business constitutes a C-level executives, or it constitutes a middle management, or also even for the customers and vendor is can they make data analytics about providing insights and providing data and providing intelligence so they can make informed decisions? And to me, that's the prioritization that constitutes successful is that are business able to make better decision for the company than they were able to do it in the past than as to today and also for the future? And also there's no right or wrong answer. It also depends on where you are in the program. And at the end of the day, it's always going back to the core fundamental is making the business and organization successful.
 
[00:10:09.520] - Mustansir
Yeah, I think I like the way you summed it all up. And it seems like first you need to know your end-customer, especially when you're dealing with analytics. And at the end of the day, the business needs to benefit. And if the business is benefiting, then that will allow an organization to grow, which is the whole idea behind Analytics is to help businesses, organizations as a whole, to make sure that they are on the right path, they are making progress. And your approach makes a lot of sense, especially when you talk about success factors, like what are the things that makes an organization click? Thank you for clarifying that. I think this is really important. Then when you're talking on this topic, let's look at it from a different angle. Why is it important to have all these projects? We look at different projects and why is it so important to have a good senior analytics architect who can see things from a holistic perspective on these projects? Why is it that so critical?
 
[00:11:15.180] - Michael
Well, I can share my personal experience working with you when you join the program, one of our clients is they want you join the program. Mustansir here comes in and say, Hey, Michael, Mustansir, very nice to meet you. And we click. And then the first question you asked is, What am I walking into? And who are my customers, and you wanted to get the whole picture all together. And my questions is like, Okay, there's a lot of good questions you're asking. And one of the things you're saying is that everything is connected, Michael. As a senior architect, not only have to see it from technical perspective, but you have to see it from business perspective, and you have to see it from process perspective. That's what the senior analytic architect brings to the successful program is having that right combination of technology and business and also process in place to really see the holistic picture where the whole fundamental principles that you add here that you always preach to me and also we preach to our team is, Analytics and data are all connected within the organization. We just need to help the business and the technology, IT and the customers be able to see the holistic picture of how everything is connected.
 
[00:12:29.030] - Michael
So it's not just the analytic architect who's specializing on tools like SAP or Oracle, or not just the business architect who comes from consulting company like McKinsey, just focusing on such much business process, but being able to connect both process, business, technology all into one, and then package that into one holistic picture and drive that whole success of the program. I think that's what sets the importance of senior architect. And what I'm trying to... I think the lack of a better word is the total package, who sees everything and who are able to connect everything and then able to drive to that success. That was an impressive experience. We always adhere to and we always preach it to our colleagues. So far, it worked out well, right?
 
[00:13:14.650] - Mustansir
Yeah, for sure. That's the key, that holistic view like you explained it. Especially when you're trying to do a robust data environment, how do you define your goals? What is short term versus long term? And like a strategy approach versus more operational approach. So seems like having that person, that view of the whole landscape really allows you to get into the details. And the only way you can do it is having that experience in the past, right? Having been there, experienced it, seen it, and now you're applying all those learnings into this project, right? So I think that's what I'm hearing from you.
 
[00:14:02.620] - Michael
Absolutely. I'm going to quote you on this. There was a moment in the program when we're working together, you said, Hey, I'm here for two things. I'm here to either add value, I'm here to fix the problem, I'm here to do both. I think if that mindset comes in, and that's mindset and the principle that senior architect holds, I think that program is due for good success. I'm sorry to steal your quote on this, but that was the very impressive that the principles that I still go by is I'm always learning from my colleagues like yourself. I think that's the core founding principles as a senior analytic architect is to not only add value but also fix problems, but at the same time do both, not only for short term but long term as well.
 
[00:14:45.640] - Mustansir
For sure. Thank you for the kind words. I think that takes us towards the end of our conversation. I'd like to always ask this question from our guests. Based on what we covered so far, what is the one key take away that you would want to leave with the listeners today?
 
[00:15:02.200] - Michael
Analytics, data, this technology, there's no right or wrong answer. It's changing every day. And one thing that has, I think we're in 2023, year 2023, but the year 2002 pandemic has taught us, if anything, is that we still don't know. Even with the week, we're never well prepared. It's always evolving. And there was one way to counter that is always preparing ourselves to, technology wise, people wise, and process wise. But in order to get there is understanding your organization, either organization as an executive or organization as a middle management, or organization as a customer and vendor we work with. It's understanding your current state and where you are. And then from there, using that self realization to really drive the strategy, the short term strategy and the long term roadmap to really have a good, clear picture of where you want to get from point A to B to X, Y, Z. I think that is the key take away for I want to share with the listeners today is that I think analytics and data technology, what we're doing in this industry is always going to be a journey. We just need to know that where we are in the journey and how we want to get there.
 
[00:16:18.240] - Michael
I think that is the critical component of our success, not only to ourselves, but to our customers and vendors and our partners.
 
[00:16:25.860] - Mustansir
I think you said it very well. My two takeaways from this is change is the only constant in this industry as well as self realization. Self realization is the key for an organization to move forward on where you want to end up as a data analytics landscape. And then, of course, the long term strategy that becomes part of the goals that you want to put together. This was a great conversation, Michael. Looking forward to having more sessions with you where we do some more in depth conversations on this topic. I'd like to get some real life examples from you. Thank you very much for joining the session with us today.
 
[00:17:07.090] - Michael
Thank you Mustansir. It's been a good first session and thanks for having me. To our listeners, definitely it's exciting times for the field of data analytics. This is an incredible journey we're going to embark on. I'm looking forward to more conversation and more dialogs and experiences we're going to discuss going forward.
 
[00:17:28.700] - Mustansir
Thanks for listening to Tech-Driven Business brought to you by Innovative Solution Partners. Michael shared valuable insights on what it takes to handle complex landscapes. His main takeaway, there is no right answer when working with analytics, data, and technology. It is constantly evolving and it's a journey. We would love to hear from you. Continue the conversations by connecting with me on LinkedIn or Twitter. Learn more about Innovative Solution Partners and schedule a free consultation by visiting isolutionpartners.com. Never miss a podcast by subscribing to our YouTube channel. Information is in the show notes.
 

Monday Feb 20, 2023

In this episode of Tech-Driven Business, William ("Bill") Newman, Industry Executive Advisor (Chief), Automotive for the Customer Innovation Office at SAP North America, rejoins Mustansir Saifuddin to talk about the electronic vehicle (EV) market. Bill shares background on the EV market, how the market is developing, and what to expect in the future. From fuel cell technology to point charging to the changing user experience and sustainability, Bill covers a lot. More importantly he shares some valuable information for consumers and suppliers alike.
Bill has over 35 years of executive leadership, strategy, consulting, practice management experience balanced with extensive public speaking and higher education experience. A former leadership team member for Volkswagen’s IT division, he is the author of two books on enterprise performance and has worked with many OEMs and suppliers across the automotive industry. 
Connect with Us:LinkedIn:
Bill Newman,
Mustansir Saifuddin,
Innovative Solution Partners 
Twitter:
@william_newman
@Mmsaifuddin
Instagram
@billwine5
YouTube
isolutionpartners
or learn more about our sponsor Innovative Solution Partners to schedule a free consultation.  
Episode Transcript
[00:00:03.760] - Mustansir Saifuddin
Welcome to Tech Driven Business brought to you by Innovative Solution Partners. In this episode, I welcome back Bill Newman of SAP. Listen in as Bill shares a background on the electric vehicles or the EV market. He dives into not only the past, but what we can expect to see down the road for suppliers across industries.
 
[00:00:30.200] - Mustansir Saifuddin
Hello, Bill. How are you?
 
[00:00:32.060] - Bill Newman
Good, Mustansir. Good to be back on your show.
 
[00:00:35.960] - Mustansir Saifuddin
Thank you. Hey, welcome to Tech-Driven Business. We had some interesting conversations in the past and I'd like to continue our talk. But this time I picked a different topic than what we had discussed in the past. So looking forward to having that conversation with you.
 
[00:00:53.120] - Bill Newman
Sounds great. Let's dive in.
 
[00:00:56.490] - Mustansir Saifuddin
All right. So what we want to discuss as part of the show today is electric vehicles or EV and technology and how they go hand in hand. So with that, let's start with our conversation. I want to start off with, what are some of the cool things on the horizon when you talk about EV market? Can you just give us some background and your perspective on that?
 
[00:01:24.740] - Bill Newman
Well, sure. I think listeners will be pretty familiar with the light passenger space. Battery electric vehicles, plug in hybrid electric vehicles, particularly those are going to be some of the things that we're seeing now and will continue to see. In other parts of the vehicle space, we're seeing hydrogen, other aspects of fuel cell technology, particularly for long-haul. But the general consumer, unless they're part of that transportation business, is probably, at least in the near term, not going to be impacted by that. With electrification comes this pesky business of having to charge a vehicle. I think listeners might be aware of the term range anxiety. The good news is that on a couple of fronts, battery density and the ability to charge a battery quickly using a DC direct-current fast-charging methods and even some infrastructure that allows parallel DC fast-charging will become more and more available. So it's not just we need locations for charging, but we also need those locations to be quick, efficient, and effective. People understand that you can't just put charging stations out in a parking lot and it works great in the summertime. But when there's weather and in the Sun Belt, the weather can be in the summertime, you have to also provide a friendly charging environment for that.
 
[00:03:14.240] – Bill Newman
So you're going to have covers and maybe some solar collection on the top of the covers, maybe some heated environments for northern climates. These things are all being talked about. We went in deep with them with a recent center of automotive research event that we had that SAP sponsored in San Ramon at the end of 2022. I think also, too, the fact that the federal government is enabling an additional subsidy program for passenger EVs, and also putting some significant infrastructure dollars on the table as a part of the IRA will allow not just the Coast and a lot of the key Gulf Sunbelt strips, which do seem to have a high propensity for charging station density, but allow those to fill into places like in America's heartland where there's lots of open stretches in places where the traditional oil and gas companies have fought to keep electric charging out. So I do think that you'll begin to see over the next few years a little bit less range anxiety. Maybe even we get closer to the mythical 1,000 mile charge, which would really free up EVs as a cross continental and road trip platform that you could take with your friends, your family, maybe even towing, given the fact that we've got some really cool high torque electric vehicle trucks that are now making it into the marketplace and are getting very well received. Here to show everybody around the candy store what might be coming with EVs. So far, it all looks pretty good over the next few years.
 
[00:05:16.620] - Mustansir Saifuddin
I think it's a very exciting time that we're living in, especially that some of the changes that are coming in this segment of the market is pretty phenomenal. How the battery life has been standing in a matter of very short period of time. I think this is really exciting stuff. Taking that growth in that EV space now, looking from the lens of a technology company, how can tech companies support this evolving EV market?
 
[00:05:54.100] - Bill Newman
Well, staying on the topic of point charging, we see there an emergence of a new role in the auto ecosystem and that of energy provisioner. Being not just the companies that create third-party charging stations, but actually brands owning that as an option to say someone like you or I buying an electric vehicle, just like we would decide that we want some sporty wheels and trim packages on our vehicle. Maybe there's a package for pulling a boat, and we'll also be able to buy a trim package to hang a charging unit on the inside of our garage and be able to charge that way. Those are products that need to be built. Those are products that need to be serviced and managed. Guess what? There's a lot of companies, like all the big brands that want to have a piece of that and not only just white label those to be able to provide to their customers, but also be able to potentially do some fractal billing, a few basis pennies per kilowatt hour over time really adds up. And so there's a significant upside and revenue potential there and the Wall Street Journal covered that pretty extensively in an article in late 2022.
 
[00:07:18.940] - Bill Newman
So those are all good things from a vehicle technology perspective, obviously higher density batteries, non-heavy metal batteries. So doing a lot of work with silicone, which can be developed synthetically and not have to be mined and harvested out of tough to reach and sometimes areas with really poor labor practices or maybe not politically friendly to Western markets. So there's a real upside there. And really just also, I think when you look at EVs, the nature, and I've spoken about this on this program and others, the nature of how EVs are shifting the experience from the front-seat driver experience to what I call the back-seat passenger experience, where you might be traveling in a semi-autonomous vehicle that is electrified and may not have a steering wheel, may actually feel more like a rolling, either workplace, or family space. And those provide new opportunities for companies who provide interiors, who provide lighting, who provide sound and instrumentation. We are working with suppliers today, automotive suppliers today, that are really thrilled with the opportunity to come up with some of these new creative designs or creative applications to support some of the new technologies that are going into different EV designs.
 
[00:08:56.580] - Bill Newman
That piece is really extraordinary. If you look back in time, it's almost like when we left the Model A and the lifted carriage design that Henry Ford made so popular and really began to go into the longer sedan like driving experience where everybody could go for a Sunday drive in the countryside. And it was really liberating. I think in many ways we're at that next juncture point now in the design of vehicles that EV is letting us aspire to.
 
[00:09:36.600] - Mustansir Saifuddin
I like your comparison. Really, it is coming to the point where we are going to see a big shift, at least from the vantage point we are at right now, seems like the possibilities are endless, especially when you talk about the interior of a car and the experience of a passenger, not just a driver. You're bringing in a whole new market segment, not only for organizations who are building those interiors, but technology companies who provide those accessories where it opens up a lot of opportunities for the consumers to have a different experience altogether in a vehicle.
 
[00:10:24.330] - Bill Newman
I'll just add really quickly to that and do a shout out to the Experiences Per Mile Advisory Council, and the report that they issued in 2022, actually was the first report of its kind that suggested that the utility or the experience value, the value of an experience was different based on the purpose for that particular use of a vehicle. So if I was going on a vacation road trip, or if I was just driving to the office, or I was taking my kids to a soccer practice, there were lots of different use cases. And it's really pretty extraordinary to see then, are we moving to a place, particularly with new EV design, where we're actually designing or maybe just using a vehicle specifically fit for a given purpose or a set of specific purposes. And then for another basket of reasons why we would use a vehicle, we use something completely different all together. Really suggests a huge differentiation in potentially where vehicles could go and maybe moving out of that, how many hundreds of thousands of this particular vehicle did I produce to make money in a particular year to how personalized was I able to make this vehicle experience to my customers?
 
[00:11:55.840] - Bill Newman
And how many times were they able to come into my portfolio of different vehicles to get the value that they wanted? So it's pretty fascinating stuff.
 
[00:12:07.660] - Mustansir Saifuddin
I think you touched upon a very important point over here, the experience economy. Everything is about the experience now. This whole EV market can definitely change how folks look at a mode of transportation being so versatile and so open to having these possibilities which were unimaginable a few years back. Definitely a big shift in this direction. On a separate note, let me ask you this, what do you consider your biggest accomplishment? I know on a professional level, definitely you have a lot to share, but something that sticks out to you on a personal professional level that you'd like to share with our listeners?
 
[00:13:01.080] - Bill Newman
Well, I think outside of my family, on a personal level professionally, I've always tried to be more of a teacher and a mentor. Interesting story. When I was a junior at UCLA, I was a substitute teacher for a school district that was on strike. All the world of respect to educators out there, but I was a hungry college student that needed to earn a few bucks, so I taught some math classes. One of my most fulfilling moments in my early adulthood was being able to work with some of the high school students that frankly hadn't gotten much of a shot from the institutional educators that were working at the high school that I was pinch hitting in and really being able to watch them grow. I've learned over the years that some of them have actually gone on to become educators themselves. I find that hugely fulfilling and feels like I have in a small way left a mark in somebody's life moving forward. Also just as a youth leader, too, as the same thing, whether it's at church or boy scouts or any of those things. Professionally, I've been part of some really cool vehicle design programs.
 
[00:14:23.900] - Bill Newman
Listeners might know that I was an airplane guy before I was an automobile guy. So being able to take advantage of some design to first flight vehicle programs was really rewarding for me, as well as watching the Volkswagen Beatle sunset and roll off the assembly line down in Puebla, Mexico, after owning one as my first car when I had just gotten my license when I was 16. Those are just some fun things that come to mind. Appreciate you asking the question.
 
[00:15:03.360] - Mustansir Saifuddin
Now, that's awesome. I can see that spark in your eyes when you talk about teaching and your passion for that and how it relates to your professional life also. But coming back to our topic, when you talk about EVs and this whole conversation about technology, what's your take on sustainability? How big a role is sustainability playing for the supply chain as you have seen in the past year or what do you see as the future in 2023?
 
[00:15:39.080] - Bill Newman
Well, for sure, we're doing in our supply chain, we're moving more to a make-to-market, so more of a regionalization, which is good ecologically. Putting things on airplanes and putting them on boats and making them go thousands of miles. Yeah, I understand that there's a factor cost benefit to it to keep the price low, but it's not a good thing in terms of emissions either from vehicles or from ships, air vehicles, airplanes, air cargo jets in particular, and it's also very expensive. So I think that that aside, being able to figure out a way to manufacture EV technologies with less of a reliance on heavy materials that, again, need to be strip mined in many situations and have a tendency to devastate the environment of developing nations and not so developing nations who are doing that at their own expense. I think that there's something to be said about that. We're going to look at Scope 1, 2 and possibly Scope 3 requirements, along with significant tailpipe emission requirements and other rules that are going to come to the US in 2023. One can imagine that if I don't have my rules in alignment, I could, as an innocent EV owner, purchase a vehicle that was manufactured using inappropriate labor sources with materials that were mined in non-environmentally friendly ways and powered by non-environmentally friendly coal fired electrical plants.
 
[00:17:39.120] - Bill Newman
So just because you drive an EV doesn't mean that you're being ecologically mindful. You have to really understand where it's all coming from and how you're using it. So sustainability plays a huge role there. We're going to see more regulatory impacts and reporting impacts as we go into 2023. And frankly, that works for people who want to drive gas powered vehicles as well. They're complex pieces of machinery and whether you have an affinity to drive gas powered electric or what have you, there's no guarantee that just because you climb behind a wheel, some gas powered vehicles are actually more sustainable than EVs. So it's not a black and white thing. Just to use the expression, you really have to go under the hood to understand what's going on there so that you're putting your money in a meaningful way in a place where you can act accordingly based on your beliefs for what sustainability means for you.
 
[00:18:48.360] - Mustansir Saifuddin
I think you just hit it really right on the point when you talk about you really have to look under the hood to see what's going on. That's a good advice for our listeners to keep that in mind when you look at sustainability and how big of a role it plays overall. I think that brings us to the end of our conversation. Like I say always, what is the one take away from this particular topic that you're talking about that you want our listeners to keep in mind how we move through 2023?
 
[00:19:26.100] - Bill Newman
Well, I think on the topic of EVs, just to wrap up the last piece that we were discussing, I think you have to decide what kind of an impact and how early you want to make, if you are going to be a green buyer and be conscientious and put your money where your mouth is. And for those people who really want to make an impact right now, immediately, and feel good about what they're doing over the next 5 to 10 years with the environment, buy a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle. It's proven technology. Do plug it in. Don't drive it like a gas powered vehicle because then you're no better off than if you're filling up at the gas station. But that's very finely tuned technology. It's multi generations old. If you do feel that compelled to go in and buy a full battery electric vehicle, also understand that the technology is going to significantly improve, not quite like Moore's Law, but you're going to see some significant improvements in vehicle performance and comfort. Maybe not reliability because they're generally very high quality vehicles built today. But certainly in terms of battery capacity range, etc. You're going to see some real significant improvements in the next two to three years.
 
[00:20:51.240] - Bill Newman
But again, plan to drive the car for 10 years, 15 years, 20 years. That's how they're built. And that's a real change in the mindset, particularly of North American auto consumers who, as recent as 20 years ago, generally bought or leased a new car every 4 to 6 years. We're moving away from that. So be really happy and confident in the purchase, particularly that you're making when and if you do go in for a form of electric vehicle. And that way you'll be quite satisfied over the period of ownership.
 
[00:21:33.120] - Mustansir Saifuddin
That's a good advice to keep in mind. Thank you so much, Bill. It has been a pleasure talking with you. And it was a great conversation, especially this topic has been lingering and a lot of folks have questions in terms of how we are seeing the market now, but also what is the future holds for them. So thank you again for sharing your insights into this topic.
 
[00:21:58.240] - Bill Newman
Great to be with you again. Take care. Have a great day.
 
[00:22:02.340] - Mustansir Saifuddin
You too. Thank you.
 
[00:22:07.920] - Mustansir Saifuddin
Thanks for listening to Tech Driven Business brought to you by Innovative Solution Partners. Bill covered so many aspects of the quickly evolving EV market. His main take away? Decide what environmental impact you want to make and when. We would love to hear from you. Continue the conversation by connecting with me on LinkedIn or Twitter. Learn more about Innovation Solution Partners and schedule a free consultation by visiting isolutionpartners.com. Never miss a podcast by subscribing to our YouTube channel. Information is in the show notes.

Tuesday Jan 24, 2023

In this next series of Tech-Driven Business, William ("Bill") Newman, Industry Executive Advisor at SAP North America, rejoins Mustansir Saifuddin to discuss how Workforce Planning has evolved through out the pandemic. This includes Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives, changes in business operational styles, talent acquisition and retention, and how SAP is playing a role in this landscape. From not only supporting customers with their talent attraction and retention to providing access to education to expand the talent pool, SAP continues to be an important player in the tech industry.
Bill has over 35 years of executive leadership, strategy, consulting, practice management experience balanced with extensive public speaking and higher education experience. A former leadership team member for Volkswagen’s IT division, he is the author of two books on enterprise performance and has worked with many OEMs and suppliers across the automotive industry. 
Connect with Us:LinkedIn:
Bill Newman
Mustansir Saifuddin
Innovative Solution Partners 
Twitter:
@william_newman
@Mmsaifuddin
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@billwine5
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@isolutionpartners
or learn more about our sponsor Innovative Solution Partners to schedule a free consultation.  
Episode Transcript
[00:00:04.090] - Mustansir Saifuddin
Welcome to Tech-driven Business. Brought to you by Innovative Solution Partners. In this first episode of a multipart series, I welcome back Bill Newman of SAP listen in as Bill shares his thoughts on how workforce planning has evolved in the pandemic. There are so many moving pieces to the puzzle and Bill hits on what businesses of all sizes should be aware of.
 
[00:00:30.730] - Mustansir Saifuddin
Hello, Bill. How are you?
 
[00:00:33.530] - Bill Newman
Great. Mustansir. Good to be back with you again.
 
[00:00:36.970] - Mustansir Saifuddin
Thank you. Thank you for joining us. It's been a while, so it's really good to have you back on our show.
 
[00:00:42.590] - Bill Newman
Good to be back with you. Good topic to revisit now that it's been a little while, for sure.
 
[00:00:49.730] - Mustansir Saifuddin
I think today we will focus on workforce planning and DEI. That's what we want to talk about and get some real examples from you and how things have progressed over since our last conversation. So if you're ready, we can get into our questions.
 
[00:01:10.230] - Bill Newman
Let's dive in.
 
[00:01:12.390] - Mustansir Saifuddin
Sounds good. So I know when you last joined me, we were in the midst of a pandemic, right? And looking back at 2022, what changes have you seen and where do you see us going?
 
[00:01:28.330] - Bill Newman
Well, I think the biggest change is that we're all we're all back together again, right? We're all working. We're working differently. So obviously there's a lot of technology that has been provided to enable remote work that's become mainstream. And in fact, in many cases, it's de facto. Whereas prior to the pandemic, we would say, tell me why we can't get together face to face. The kind of the thinking now is, tell me why we can't do this virtually. Right? Everybody's kind of enjoyed not only do they have the technology to work remotely, many people have enjoyed the fact that they haven't had to spend two, three, 4 hours a day commuting or traveling. So if we need to, we will. If we don't, why should we? It's even gotten to a point where a lot of our customers have asked their employees, tell me what days you would be willing to come into the office. And no big surprise, very few people lift their hand on Monday and Friday because they would like to spend those days at least working from home to have a little bit more of a work life or life work balance.
 
[00:02:47.270] - Bill Newman
But interestingly, everybody coming into the office on Wednesdays just creates the same traffic nightmare and parking anxiety that everybody had prior to the pandemic. So that's always an interesting facet. I think the way that we engage with people both in terms of how we bring them into the company and what our expectations are of them once they're in the company, I think has certainly changed. I think about some of the prioritizations and I guess what's a good word for it, some of the glamour that kind of went along with working for, say, for example, a high tech company in Silicon Valley. Well, guess what? You can probably work for that same company and work in Asheville, North Carolina, up in the mountains eating fish tacos at night. So there's really lots of different opportunities to work. So the glamour around working for some of these companies where you would come in, you get the ping pong table, you could bring your pet to work, you could get free lunches, free dinners, almost create an environment where you'd never want to leave, particularly if you were at the time of young millennial without a family.
 
[00:04:13.570] - Bill Newman
That pretext has gone away and that pretense doesn't make any sense anymore. We'll get into a couple of other things around workforce hiring and some of the things that are emerging around diversity and equality and inclusion or dei, which I think is very interesting as we do our look ahead. But those are some of the main and plain changes that we've seen since you and I were together, I think over a year ago.
 
[00:04:44.490] - Mustansir Saifuddin
Yeah, for sure. I think Bill and thanks for getting into like the nittygritty of what's going on and what we are seeing in this 2022 versus during the Pandemic. I think one of the things that was really stood out, especially for younger workforce, they find this as a new normal. And that has definitely put a lot of pressure on organizations to look at this as a going forward approach also right. In terms of how they should be operating, not just now coming out of the Pandemic, but in the long run, how should they be structured and what should be the criteria for the employees to be attracted to an organization or to associate with them. Right. In that fashion, I think it's safe.
 
[00:05:35.780] - Bill Newman
To say that geography has very little correlation to where we work and what we do anymore. And that is a huge game changer.
 
[00:05:44.190] - Mustansir Saifuddin
Yeah, for sure. That kind of takes me to looking ahead. So let's fast forward to 2023. What do you think organizations should be looking at and employees at the same time, right? What should be their focus as far as moving ahead in 2023?
 
[00:06:07.190] - Bill Newman
Well, I think on the topic of workforce planning, for sure, and I'll look at this through a manufacturing lens. So, you know, you and I are both manufacturing experts, so let's kind of stay in our base camp for the moment. There's going to be a significant amount of hiring that's still going to continue just because we decide to keep interest rates high. That's not going to take away the need from having people with both skilled trades as well as higher education, engineering especially, to come in and really contribute. So those talents will remain and will become very competitive across different kinds of manufacturing as well as non-manufacturing segments. So, again, remember, we took geography out of the equation. So you and I are today recording. We're both in Michigan. Tomorrow we could be looking at bringing somebody on board to our projects that could be in California, Arizona, Massachusetts, Florida and Georgia. Doesn't matter. We're all going to be enabled to come together. So I think that this idea of, again, where you work and where you live is now disassociated. And what that does is it creates a lot of competitiveness across industries and across industry sectors.
 
[00:07:36.870] - Bill Newman
So how we interview, I'm a big brand, you want to come and work for me? Maybe I'm not really interested in going through eight to ten interview cycles with you anymore. Maybe I can find a good job, a good next step in my career without having to make that kind of commitment that you expected to come work for a brand name company before the pandemic. So being able to get to figure out for employers, being able to figure out what's the talent we need, what does that skill mix look like, what's my preferred ratio of being in office or being remote? Does the position require being face to face? And if so, how much, how much virtualization can be needed, is needed to be successful? All of that you got to figure out ahead of time and then really compress the onboarding and hiring process. So that's for sure going to be a real challenge, particularly in this talent shortage and manufacturing, again, staying kind of our base camp. I think the other thing to look at and we'll lead into this topic around DEI, it's really in the mainstream now. So I'm going to refer to the recently published Original Equipment Supplier Association OESA study that was completed with Acadia just in December of 2022.
 
[00:09:09.790] - Bill Newman
It really spoke strongly and without going too deep into the report, just kind of give a couple of points. That over 60% of companies now in the automotive supplier space. So again, kind of stay in niche into one of our home bases here have active dei programs and of those, 60 plus percent are showing improvements or acceleration in those programs. And I'm really not just talking about making sure that you have a diverse workforce from a cultural or race or a gender perspective. It's actually also extending to socioeconomic background kind of in terms of culturally where your country of origin might be from, and also making sure that those DEI elements not only apply to new talent acquisition, but also to high potential programs to work shift opportunities. So if you did want to take a different shift in your skilled trade, maybe having that balance across for second and maybe even third shifts is important as well as in the boardroom. So you're not just going to see it at the front end and the back end of the career management process. You're going to see it all across the different elements of an employee journey, throughout the organization.
 
[00:10:35.470] - Bill Newman
And again, while manufacturing is going to be significantly short on effective and productive talent, you're going to see a real lean into that to keep those people happy, to keep them motivated and to keep them performing at very high levels with very high intrinsic value, for sure.
 
[00:10:56.900] - Mustansir Saifuddin
I think you mentioned about DEI and what role is being playing and how quickly it is getting integrated into the new normal. Right. That's amazing. With that being said, let's take a little detail over here on a personal note. I know you always have a pulse on what is going on in the industry. How are you able to do that?
 
[00:11:23.370] - Bill Newman
Well, I think it comes from a lot of years and knowing a lot of people and having done a lot of different things. I really do enjoy learning. I'm a naturally curious individual. I also enjoy meeting new people and hearing their perspective, particularly some of the lessons learned in the personal experiences coming out of the pandemic. I think we have a lot to offer each other and I think that just being able to be part of that conversation and maybe not contribute into the conversation as much as well as listening in and taking ideas away from the conversation, but certainly trying to frame a balance of that. And I think also, too, it's very interesting as the parent of Millennials now that the millennials are essentially running the workplace now. They're the largest generation in the workforce now by numbers. It's very interesting for me to see how the nature of business is changing now that essentially my kids generation are running business here, at least in North America. So I find that particularly interesting and in some cases highly entertaining.
 
[00:12:47.650] - Mustansir Saifuddin
I can totally relate to that. It's just different dynamics, right? That's for sure.
 
[00:12:53.750] - Bill Newman
Yeah, 100%. You know, things are things are very, very different and the different expectations that come with shaping those different generational life journeys is pretty interesting to watch.
 
[00:13:08.010] - Mustansir Saifuddin
Yeah. And I think that in a good way, it's happening and it's happening fairly, I would say at a very fast pace the way it's happening. But now looking back, like, let's do it from an organization's point of view, right. What's your take on how SAP is helping retool the workforce to make it easier for people to jump into it? What have you observed?
 
[00:13:39.170] - Bill Newman
Well, there are some things certainly that we can offer our customers that can make it a lot easier for them to manage their employee journey. So I think listeners are probably familiar with the fact that SAP has a special relationship with Qualtrics. Qualtrics does a lot of work around employee relationship and being able to kind of do those pulse surveys. And we did use those pulse surveys very significantly across a lot of industries during the pandemic. They were incredibly useful just to kind of keep a sense, particularly when we weren't together at all, to be able to keep a sense on where everybody was. The so called pulse check, I think also too that from a human experience management or human HR relationship type of perspective. We've always had tools to help with the onboarding and also the career management of employees. I just think that those are going to gain a higher level of importance, particularly as skilled trade and experienced talent particularly is harder to find and is harder to keep and as the demand grows. I think from a knowledge and community sharing, SAP has been very forward with online learning platforms such as Open SAP.
 
[00:15:13.970] - Bill Newman
So lots of education, a lot of content, a lot of knowledge available to go in and learn basically available for at free of charge in many cases. So just one zone time. And I think based on some of the experiences Mustansir that you and I have had within the user groups, is a very vibrant community within the user base, that allows for not only personal networking, but also for experiential learning as well as story sharing and other really great learning vehicles like that. So we're trying to do our best particularly inside of key industries and localized geographies where people may not be working but where they are resident. And I think that that will continue and become even more important in the coming years.
 
[00:16:07.350] - Mustansir Saifuddin
Yeah, I think you mentioned about SAP's role. I think I likely when throwing you mentioned about user groups and America's SAP User Group (ASUG) I will call them out on this and they have done a great job in kind of mixing in with the the new normal. How things are happening in 2022 after the Pandemic and having that virtual/in-person events, trying to meet up with the demands after the Pandemic, how things are moving forward and what are people looking at as far as learning and meeting up with each other, as well as collaboration. So I think we have a mixed bag of all the platforms that are currently available to the business community are coming along and moving into the direction that makes it much easier for organizations to manage how they are managing their workforce and especially this trend. Will we'll see how 2023 brings to the forefront in terms of what we have seen in 2022 and what is going to be a long term effect on how workforce planning goes in general right now, from an organizational point of view? So that being said, I know this was one thing that I always ask my guest what is that one takeaway that you want to share with our listeners and they should leave with that in this session?
 
[00:17:58.970] - Bill Newman
Well, kind of going back to trying to have a state of natural curiosity, I think listeners can always keep in mind or maybe take with them the fact that we can always learn something from one another. And you may have a highly pedigreed career over decades, but bringing a set of fresh eyes with a different perspective can be really kind of that spark moment that you need to either solve a critical business problem or really just find something intrinsic in your own personal growth journey. Doesn't matter what your age are or who you are, we all have that need, and I think being able to contribute and help shape each other and being open, I think that's really also another key. Being open to those messages when they come in will all make us much better people and make our businesses operate much more productively and efficiently, for sure.
 
[00:19:09.570] - Mustansir Saifuddin
Great advice. Thank you so much. This has been a great session with you, Bill, as always. Thank you and I look forward to talking with you in our next podcast.
 
[00:19:21.810] - Bill Newman
Sounds great. Look forward to it. Thanks for having me on.
 
[00:19:27.750] - Mustansir Saifuddin
Thanks for listening to Tech-Driven Business business brought to you by Innovative Solution Partners. Bill provided valuable insights on how workforce planning has changed over the last couple of years. His main takeaway? We can always learn from one another. Bringing a fresh set of ideas with a different perspective can be the spark movement you need to solve a business problem or for your own personal growth. We would love to hear from you. Continue the conversation by connecting with me on LinkedIn or Twitter. Learn more about Innovative Solution Partners and schedule a free consultation by visiting Isolutionpartners.com. Never miss a podcast by subscribing to our YouTube channel. Information is in the show notes.
 

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Mustansir Saifuddin excels in bridging the gap between business and IT so that clients can create and implement solutions that produce results for years to come. That's why, in 1999 I co-founded Innovative Solution Partners, an IT consulting firm specializing in providing our clients with data insights for informed decision making. As a passionate and visionary leader, I know how to lead teams cross-functionally as well as around the world to drive results.

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