ASUG Volunteers recently gathered in Chicago for three days of networking, celebration, and planning for ASUG Communities events in the year ahead.
Emphasizing inspiration, collaboration, and success, the annual ASUG Volunteer Meeting, held Jan. 26-28 at the Fairmont Chicago, Millennium Park, provided ASUG Volunteers with opportunities to exchange ideas and best practices to inform the content and structure of future Chapter meetings, also gaining insights into ASUG’s vision for growth in 2024.
“There are a lot of things you are going to see start going into motion,” ASUG CEO & Chief Community Champion Geoff Scott promised during a fireside chat with Carolyn Dolezal, ASUG Chief Operating Officer. “We are in conversations with SAP senior leadership, and they recognize that what we do in ASUG Chapters is incredibly important. And we need to do more of it.”
The entire landscape of enterprise technology is in “interesting times,” Scott said, amid seismic changes stemming from artificial intelligence (AI) impacting all organizations and job functions. “This community is needed more than ever, by all the practitioners that are in it,” Scott added, further emphasizing ASUG Communities as “beacons” and “guiding lights” during this time of change.
Throughout the weekend, ASUG Volunteers networked, shared challenges and successes from their involvement in ASUG Communities events and discussed ways ASUG can help its members continue to learn, connect, and grow.
Top takeaways as ASUG moves into 2024:
- This marked the second year the ASUG Volunteer Meeting was held in person following the COVID-19 pandemic. “The most important thing we can do as a community is come together face-to-face,” Scott said. “We saw the Chapter experience skyrocket in terms of engagement in 2023. Thank you to every single one of you for that.”
- ASUG is progressing its operations into a unified content engine to enable a more comprehensive delivery system through which ASUG research, continuous SAP education, and stories of ASUG members transforming their businesses with technology modernization projects can be effectively shared across ASUG Communities events.
- ASUG awarded four Volunteers for their standout work in 2023:
- ASUG Chapter Volunteer of the Year: Vinson Barber, Oracle Database Administrator and Member of the ASUG Kentucky Chapter
- ASUG Community Alliance Volunteer of the Year: Linda Dietzel, IT Director for Supply & Manufacturing for The Hershey Company and Member of the SAP S/4HANA (ERP) Community Alliance
- Community Advocates of the Year: VerNeil Mesecher, SAP Sr. Director of Customer Engagement Events Liaison, North America; and Kristen Scheffler, SAP Vice President of Customer Engagement for North America
“The ASUG Volunteer Meeting is such an important event in the ASUG ecosystem,” Taylor Weathers, ASUG Director of Community Operations, said after the event. “It’s a perfect time for our amazing Volunteers to connect with other Chapters and really dig into the year’s victories and challenges. I’m also glad we could share the exciting plans the ASUG Communities team has lined up for 2024.”
On Friday, the meeting kicked off with a Canada Chapter meet-up followed by a Roaring ’20s reception where attendees dressed to impress in costumes inspired by flappers, gangsters, and swing dancers of the period.
On Saturday, ASUG Volunteers from all 38 regional ASUG Chapters attended sessions about ASUG’s strategy for the year ahead, as well as marketing support for Volunteer activities.
Separately, meet-up sessions focused on ASUG Chapters and Community Alliances, adopting a fishbowl structure in which a revolving inner circle of 10 participants discussed their alliances as the rest of the attendees listened and took notes. Across three 10-minute sessions–led by Ron Gilson, CIO of Organic Valley; Kimberly Sharp, Managing Partner at EverBlue Partners; and Tammy Powlas, Senior Business Analyst at Fairfax Water–participants gained insights into how their peers approach content programming needs and helped their peers extract the most value from SAP investments.
“If you’re doing an SAP S/4HANA implementation, it better be business-driven,” one participant stated, amid a conversation about the necessity of connecting IT and business stakeholders when undertaking transformation projects. Bob Bucy, IS Business Analyst, Business Solutions Supply Chain at bioMérieux, who serves as the ASUG Carolinas Chapter Chair, also discussed the value of the ASUG Campus Connect program, a recently relaunched collaboration between ASUG and the SAP University Alliances, sharing tips for connecting with learning institutions to bring this programming to regional Chapter meetings.
ASUG reintroduced its Women Connect program at the event. Elizabeth Tuckwell, ASUG Content Coordinator, and Kelly Dowling, ASUG Director of Content Strategy, led the session, which detailed the program’s renewed direction and focus while dedicating time for participants to share their experiences on topics ranging from finding mentors to evaluating workplace success.
Propelling ASUG Forward
Two members of the ASUG Board of Directors—Mark LeClair, CIO at Current Lighting, and Laura Tibodeau, ASUG Board Member—shared their respective visions for ASUG and how ASUG Volunteers factor in.
“When we talk about what propels ASUG forward, it is absolutely you—the volunteers,” Tibodeau said, commenting that the board’s annual trip to SAP headquarters in Walldorf, Germany, is largely undertaken to advocate on behalf of members around issues they express through ASUG research surveys and ASUG Communities events.
The dialogue with SAP leadership, described by Tibodeau as “very genuine, real, and transparent,” serves to keep SAP informed of “what’s on the mind of our SAP community,” and reflected that SAP is willing to let the ASUG Board of Directors “guide and steer” in conveying the concerns of ASUG membership.
Discussing the value of the ASUG Communities programming, Tibodeau urged volunteers to commit to showing up at their Chapters and to focus on meeting as many other like-minded individuals as possible. Personally, she said, the benefits she’s unlocked through regularly connecting in person with industry peers around shared business challenges have been immense. “The personal networking is going to yield so much more than an email push could ever do,” Tibodeau added. “It could be career-changing.”
Volunteers can successfully share and leverage customer stories, such as those shared through ASUG editorial and webcasts, for their events. It’s critical, Tibodeau said, for ASUG to create “curated content” that volunteers can leverage at their events, and for ASUG to empower volunteers to effectively share that content. On behalf of ASUG, Tibodeau committed to connecting the Chapters to a robust mixture of content curated for group-level access; “We can share across industries, and we will share across industries,” she said, promising “a larger forum and richer dialogue” in the months ahead.
“We from an ASUG perspective need to be much better at bringing you information and content that you can bring into your Chapter meetings,” Scott said during his fireside chat, emphasizing the importance of this focus for ASUG.
Scott also offered his thoughts on the role ASUG Chapter Meetings and Communities will play in the larger ASUG ecosystem moving forward, noting that ASUG Volunteers have a unique opportunity to lead the conversation about key SAP topics, including how emerging technologies, like AI, fit into the SAP ecosystem.
“I am hoping that ASUG and this community are at the forefront of [AI], ushering it in, and doing everything we can to change minds and hearts,” he said. “Because if we don’t innovate, our competitors will.”
Keep an eye out for more coverage from the 2024 ASUG Volunteer Meeting in the weeks ahead.