A few weeks removed from ASUGFORWARD, we sat down with Geoff Scott, CEO of ASUG (and one of the conference’s MCs!) to discuss his highlights and key takeaways from the conference. Geoff talked about some of his favorite sessions and his thoughts on some of the main themes we heard throughout the conference.
ASUG: While we would all love to be at ASUGFORWARD in person, what do you think is a positive that has come out of the ASUGFORWARD virtual experience?
Geoff: One of my absolute favorite parts of any ASUG event is meeting up with our members and partners to network. Regardless, it has been such a joy watching the ASUG team spring into action to leverage the latest technology to reach our members, no matter where they are. I am a firm believer that any time we can get together—virtually or in person—to network is a positive experience. Looking back over the conference, we kept the needs and wants of our members at the forefront as we selected the very best speakers.
There is one more thing I do want to point out. While we are hoping to return to some in-person events in the near future, ASUG does host a lot of great virtual content: webcasts, Think Tanks, and Executive Exchanges are just a few examples. ASUG members not only have access to these events, but they can also access them on-demand. This is one of the hidden advantages of virtual: we are building out a great on-demand content library.
ASUG: I really enjoyed your conversation with actor and writer Kumail Nanjiani. I've got to ask, what is your favorite work of his?
Geoff: First off, I thought Kumail was such a great guest, and I really appreciated the opportunity to speak with him. One of my favorite parts of that conversation was right at the beginning when we were discussing Kumail’s background. He actually double-majored in computer science and philosophy at Grinnell College. Kumail made the interesting point that even though comedy, computer science, and philosophy are all different skill sets and knowledge bases, all three vocations are centered around problem solving and using a certain set of rules to make something happen or prove a particular point. I thought that was such a great insight because so much of our world on the technology and IT sides of things is all about problem solving. If you haven’t seen the full conversation, you should absolutely check it out, along with the member-exclusive Q&A Kumail did with Sarah Ahmad.
I love so many things Kumail has done over the years. My all-time favorite role of Kumail’s has to be Dinesh Chugtai in “Silicon Valley.” Dinesh always cracks me up, and I think the relationship between Dinesh and Gilfoyle is one of the show’s highlights. “Silicon Valley” is one of my favorite TV comedies from the past decade. It did such a great job of mining the peculiarities of the technology and software development fields for comedy.
ASUG: In your mind, what was the biggest accomplishment to come out of this year’s ASUGFORWARD?
Geoff: So many things. I touched on the amazing work the ASUG team did in planning the conference. It really was a group effort, and I’m proud of the team. Besides that, we recently established the ASUG Studio in the same building as our office. This is a project that we’ve been working on for some time. The studio is now completely up and running, and we filmed a lot of ASUGFORWARD in it. After so many months of working remotely, it was great to be in the studio with members of the ASUG team. A perfect example of this was the 30th Anniversary Celebration, which I hosted with Julieus Thomas, the product manager of Volunteer and Leadership Development at ASUG. I so enjoyed celebrating ASUG with all our attendees and some members of the ASUG team.
ASUG: SAP is putting a lot of emphasis on sustainability. What do you make of this, and why is it important for a software company like SAP to place such a high level of importance on this topic?
Geoff: It is so encouraging that SAP is making sustainability such a key part of its ecosystem. In my opinion, this is one of the most important topics in the business world. We all want to create a better world for our children and grandchildren, and we all want to make sure we take care of this planet. SAP is really leading the charge by providing its customers with the tools to have more sustainable operations. But it goes beyond just developing solutions for customers to use. This was incredibly apparent during the SAPPHIRE NOW 2021 keynote address that Christian Klein, CEO of SAP, and Julia White, chief marketing and solutions officer at SAP, gave at the beginning of June. Sustainability was such a significant part of that keynote. SAP is obviously committed to this topic and is taking great strides to provide its customers with the tools they need to measure things like their carbon footprint and grow into sustainable, environmentally-conscious operations. It’s so important for software companies like SAP to provide customers with the tools to do these things. I’m looking forward to seeing how SAP continues to expand its focus on sustainability in the future.
ASUG: Let's talk about RISE with SAP, which was announced earlier this year. What are your thoughts on the new service and how can it help customers?
Geoff: Fundamentally, RISE with SAP is a service to help customers along their journey of adopting SAP S/4HANA and moving to the cloud. This is a key part of the SAP notion of the intelligent enterprise. So many SAP customers—and ASUG members—are still trying to figure out how they begin this process, which can be challenging and time-consuming. I actually moderated a session at SAPPHIRE NOW 2021 titled “Hear Digital Transformation Challenges and Triumphs of ASUG Board Members,” where Tara Gambill, senior director of enterprise systems at MOD Pizza, and Rajeev Kapur, vice president of commercial transformation at Kimberly-Clark Corporation, discussed the ups and downs of their digital transformation journeys.
What’s so great about RISE with SAP is that it guides customers through this journey. I love how the service begins by examining an organization’s business processes, which is really one of the first things you need to tackle before migrating. Another one of the aspects of RISE with SAP that sticks out to me is the inclusion of your hyperscaler of choice in the offering. It makes this process so much easier for the customer to have that contracted along with the rest of RISE with SAP.
ASUG: What do you make of the RISE with SAP for Industries component that SAP unveiled at SAPPHIRE NOW 2021?
Geoff: Any program or service that eases the customers’ transition to the cloud is a good thing in my mind. The cloud is where we are going. I think COVID-19 only served to underline this trend. What’s great about RISE with SAP for Industries is that it helps ease this transition, all while giving customers access to partner solutions and industry-specific solutions. This is such a huge drawing point because it only makes the solution more useful for SAP customers.
ASUG: One of the main focuses throughout ASUGFORWARD was on employee experience, something you've been keenly focused on as CEO of ASUG for the last 18 months. Why do you think it’s vital for organizations to be focusing on this now, and what advice do you have for other leaders?
Geoff: Tony Bond, executive vice president and chief diversity and innovation officer at Great Place to Work, gave an excellent ASUGFORWARD presentation focused on employee experience. I don’t want to give too much away, because Tony’s address was so insightful (you can watch on-demand) but he underlined three things an organization’s leadership needs: credibility, respect, and fairness. Those are three traits I think all leaders should strive for.
Employee experience has really taken a front seat across the entire world over the last 18 months. This was a health crisis, so leaders had to place a high amount of attention on the health, safety, and well-being of our employees so that they could perform the best job possible. In addition to that, the U.S. obviously has had a tumultuous year. The murder of George Floyd and the ensuing unrest resulted in renewed and expansive conversations on diversity and inclusion in the workplace along with discussions on race relations in this country. As a leader, I wanted to make sure that every single ASUG employee had a safe space to express their feelings and emotions on these topics. It’s important to have these kinds of dialogue, and I wanted to provide opportunities for our employees to have those conversations and learn more about the experiences of their peers.
We actually implemented a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Council to continue this work and make sure we keep having these conversations. The Culture Chats we’ve had over the past few months, including those recent ones focused on Juneteenth and Pride Month, have really produced great, open dialogue among ASUG employees. I’m so proud of the work the DEI Council team is doing and I’m looking forward to watching this initiative continue to grow.
ASUG: For those readers who might have missed ASUGFORWARD or were only able to catch up with a few of the sessions, what were some particular sessions you enjoyed or found helpful?
Geoff: There were so, so many great sessions, and I don’t think you can go wrong with any sessions. I obviously discussed Kumail and Tony’s keynote addresses, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Professional racecar driver Julia Landauer also gave an exceptional presentation on diversity in the workplace. From there, I would encourage attendees watching on-demand to seek out my interview with Christian Klein, where we covered a variety of topics from across the SAP ecosystem. Finally, I really loved a few of the customer stories we featured at ASUGFORWARD. One of my favorite parts of any ASUG event is hearing about how SAP customers have implemented and leveraged SAP solutions. There were sessions with MOD Pizza and Mrs. T’s Perogies which I would also recommend.
Missed out on ASUGFORWARD? You can still register and watch all the sessions on-demand. Register here and begin watching.