Despite the economic downturn and dwindling travel budgets, more than 520 people from business and IT met in Sydney from August 4 through 6 at the SAP Australian User Group’s SAUG Summit 2009. The event was held at Darling Harbour, Sydney’s popular recreation district right on the waterfront, and – unsurprisingly – all eyes were on the current financial crisis. Unlike the perfect location and the sunshine, the economic forecasts were not set to lift spirits in the business world. That’s why the event’s tagline “intelligent advantage” aimed to address today’s challenges. Representatives from customers, partners, and SAP gathered to discuss how companies can gain that all-important competitive advantage when times are tough.
How can IT help companies gain competitive advantage?
Many of the presentations, discussion forums, and panels at the event seized upon the idea of intelligent advantage and demonstrated how flexible and adaptable companies can not only survive the crisis, but emerge from it stronger than ever. A number of customers spoke about their experiences and explained the role that IT can play here.
Kenneth Hierman, CFO of Walt Disney Theme Parks and Resorts, gave a presentation about how Walt Disney deploys business intelligence solutions in its financials division. By connecting SAP BusinessObjects software to the company’s SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse, the organization gains new and more detailed insights.
Today, Queensland Rail is one of the world’s safest railway companies. Nevertheless, like in most countries, the railway network in the Australian state of Queensland was originally a government department. In 1999, Queensland Rail was restructured to become a statutory government-owned corporation – a move than involved immense challenges for the entire organization. In his role as CIO, Patrick Lilwall oversees the ongoing restructuring measures and supports them with SAP ERP. He reported on the journey Queensland Rail has embarked upon.
28 sessions on strategy, operations, solutions, and infrastructure
The event participants had the choice of 28 sessions on many different subjects, giving them an opportunity to learn and swap experiences. Topics ranged from information on SAP Business Suite 7 and SAP upgrades, through SAP BusinessObjects solutions and the roadmap for business intelligence products, to day-to-day operations, such as effective dashboards and testing. In presentations about implementation and upgrade projects, individual customers and partners showed how they managed to tackle their specific issues using SAP software. These included state-owned Australia Post, whose giant, unwieldy databases were a major challenge to back up.
Participant numbers down
The number of participants at this year’s SAUG Summit dropped by around a fifth. However, this may be attributed to the fact that SAP was also on the road at the same time with the SAP World Tour, visiting many cities in the Asia-Pacific region and giving customers the opportunity to find out about and discuss current SAP trends and topics.
Although fewer people attended this year, the SAUG Summit remains one of the most important events down under – and in fact, the number of companies attending actually rose in 2009. Grahame Reynolds, chairperson of SAUG, was duly satisfied. He said, “We are very happy with how the event went. Lots of people attended – and support from the sponsors and exhibitors for the exhibition was great, too.”
And finally, the Summit addressed a typical problem in the industry: Software developers aren’t known for their ability to speak clearly. Acronyms abound when they get excited about BPP, SOA, EHP, and a harmonized UI with embedded BI capabilities. SAP is no exception here, but the “Business Suite 7 in Plain English” workshop came to the rescue. The session removed the gobbledygook and jargon and used plain English to put the new SAP Business Suite 7 into the context of the real world.
The SAP Australian User Group (SAUG) is a not-for-profit organization with more than 2,000 members, including SAP licensed customers, SAP partners, and individuals. SAUG offers unparalleled benefits for people with an investment in SAP solutions in Australia. SAUG members have access to a large database of other SAP users, they gain numerous opportunities for virtual and face-to-face learning, and have the chance to directly influence current and future SAP products.