Thursday May 16, 2024

Inside Insights: Navigating Business Transformations with Gen AI with Geoff Scott

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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Mustansir Saifuddin

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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 Never miss a podcast by subscribing to our You Tube channel. Information is in the Show Notes

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