In the sixth episode of ASUG Talks, we sat down with Matthew Harmon, Solution Manager Leader of SAP S/4HANA Cloud Environment at W.L. Gore & Associates. Matthew talked with us about his career progression, how he stays up-to-date in the SAP ecosystem, and his experiences with ASUG. 


Here's a transcript of the podcast: 

Jim:

Hello and welcome to ASUG Talks, a podcast series featuring Candid Career Conversations with ASUG members who lead or work on SAP teams across the United States and Canada. My name is Jim Lichtenwalter. I am the ASUG content manager and the host of ASUG Talks host. I'm excited to be joined today by Matthew Harmon. Matthew, thank you so much for joining me today.

Matthew Harmon:

[crosstalk 00:00:47] Jim, thanks for having me. Happy to be here.

Jim:

Why don't you just go ahead and start off and tell us a little bit about how you broke into the IT world?

Matthew Harmon:

Sure. It's a rather sordid tale, but I can ... I'll definitely give you the history there. So actually all the way back to when I graduated high school, actually I didn't really know what I wanted to be when I grew up. So I ended up going into retail actually for a number of years, worked at a few different retail stores. Actually in the electronics departments selling retail or selling electronics. And as I worked through that, I was actually approached by somebody who was actually our Bose rep at the time. His name was Gary DiLeo came to me and said, "Hey, I think you might be really good from a technical support perspective working for both." I lived in Connecticut at the time, so Bose wasn't that far away so I thought about it and I said, you know, it sounded interesting.

Matthew Harmon:

So I applied and was hired through Bose from a technical support perspective, which actually is where I got into SAP at the time, actually. So they were an SAP shop, was an SAP user, sales and distribution was where I got into SAP. But as I worked through and worked at Bose, I really started to find my passion, which was in project management. So I went back, decided to go back to school, got my degree, got my certification in project management, got my PMP. And that's when an opportunity came up to move into IT. So again, being within SAP, there was a great opportunity to move into IT, into a change manager type role is kind of where I broke in.

JIm:

So what did get your degree in? Your undergrad degree.

Matthew Harmon:

That's where I started and kind of the rest is the history from there, as they say.

JIm:

Okay. Yeah.

Matthew Harmon:

Sure. It was in business administration with a focus in project management. So it was really within that vein. You know, worked through, like I said, my degree there, got my PMP ...

JIm:

Across your entire career ... I know this kind of a galaxy brain question

Matthew Harmon:

[crosstalk 00:03:06]

JIm:

[crosstalk 00:04:16] You said that first began using your SAP solutions when you were at Bose, can you walk me through sort of what was your gateway experience to SAP? What were you first using?

Matthew Harmon:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

JIm:

Okay.

Matthew Harmon:

Yeah. So Bose was going from 4.7 To 5.0 at the time. So, so it was an upgrade for them and also going to a single global instance, right, which was interesting. So taking those regional SAP systems and collapsing down into a single global instance. So really, you know, kind of learning from a business process perspective, you know, going from a reasonable, you know, level to a global level, but that's when I became exposed to SAP solution manager, which is the area that I'm most passionate about and the area that I work in that I worked in at Bose and currently work in. But because really what it brought together was the world of SAP and project management, right? So it was really a way to help project teams and enable project teams to deliver better, faster, stronger. Right. So in terms of, you know, bringing that forward and enabling project teams [crosstalk 00:05:34] to truly deliver. At the end of the day, right? That was really where I got my passion.

JIm:

[crosstalk 00:05:34] You said SAP solution manager is the solution you're most passionate about, why is that? Is that just because you have a special affinity toward the solution, or just because you've been using it the longest?

Matthew Harmon:

I, well, a little of both, I think. Right. So I think, again, with solution manager, it has so many different areas to really ... That it can offer in terms of enabling the organizations, right? So anything from, you know, process management, process, documentation, change management, release management, test management, business, process operations. One of the things I often look back on in terms of my career is, again with that project I worked on at Bose, when we went live, we needed to start measuring the progress of the system, right? The KPIs in the system. Right. And we leveraged, you know, an SAP framework to identify what are the business processes and we identify process owners, but then when projects would go live, we'd go in and we'd use manual effort to count sales orders or to count deliveries or to count invoices.

Matthew Harmon:

And each day, you know, mark a red, yellow, green, right? Or do we have ... You know, had all of our invoices cleared or have all of our orders shipped or have they all billed, for example. And I honestly took a lot away from that, right? It was a great experience. You know, I had a great manager at the time who really got that and understood that. But fast forward to today, and you can do that in solution manager now. So to see that actually happen and happen systematically to me is just such a cool experience, right? Where SAP now offers, you know, almost 1400 standard KPIs that a customer can just go literally turn on and start monitoring their systems. And not have to put in those manual efforts that we've done in the past is just really something that I've ... Again, I find a lot of passion in, in terms of leveraging technology, right, to enable that insight. Which I think is so key.

Matthew Harmon:

Especially again, you know, with solution manager, I was traveling to Manila a number years ago and on the plane thinking about SAP and about solution manager and, you know, thought about how would, if somebody, you know, asked me, how would I summarize solution manager in one word? And it really is insight, right? It really should create insight no matter where you are in the application. Again, if it's process documentation, how many functional specs do I have, or how many technical specs do I have, or where am I in my development cycle. Or from charm, how many RFCs do I have? How many change documents, what's the status of those? Are they moving through the life cycle appropriately. Or test suite, right, how many test cases do I have? What's the status of those test cases? And again, business process monitoring, I've gone live, you know, how many orders have billed but haven't shipped yet? Or how many invoices do I have outstanding, right? So it really speaks to that core [crosstalk 00:08:36] insight which I think is something so valuable that solution manager as offered, to be honest with you.

JIm:

[crosstalk 00:08:36] If SAP is ever in the market for a solution manager evangelist, I think I know who I would refer them to. So let's talk a little bit about some of the ...

Matthew Harmon:

Right.

JIm:

Getting into the SAP ecosystem, in my ... The first episode I recorded with Ann Largent at Enosix, we talked about how when she first entered the SAP ecosystem, when I first entered the SAP ecosystem, it was for a little bit kind of like speaking a different language, just because it's such a complicated niche ecosystem. What would you say are some of the significant resources that you were able to come across that not only helped you understand SAP solutions at large, but understanding the ecosystem altogether?

Matthew Harmon:

Yeah. I mean, it's, you know ... There's so many different resources out there, right? I mean, you know, it's one was just really tribal knowledge, right? Was just sitting next to people and learning and talking and exploring. I think having a passion to be just a lifelong learner, that was one area that just was just more, like I said, that kind of that tribal knowledge. Then there was more of the formal trainings there that you'd go to. And you know, again, I remember my first training I went to in Philadelphia, John Krakowski from SAP, you know, gave it, and again, I just had such an appreciation for him. He would stand up there and literally talk in OSS notes, right?

Matthew Harmon:

Which blew my mind. Again, just coming into it, right? Kind of growing up in it, you know, wondering how am I ever going to get there? Because the reality is with SAP is there is no start here. Right? You, you kind of jump in the middle and you learn a little bit to the left and you learn a little bit to the right. And you just start to kind of find your area that you have some expert ... or passion about. But as time went on and, you know, again, just to kind of ... Dovetails nicely into what you're doing with ASUG, right? That was the next big thing, was to start to build that network within ASUG, right? So going to either local events or participating with online forums or going to conferences, I can't tell you the amount that ASUG helped my career just in terms of networking alone.

Matthew Harmon:

You know, I often joke, it's funny, we ... A number of organizations I've worked at have been max attention customers with SAP, right? So we've had total quality managers and things like that. And you know if I run into an issue or have a question or need to put a service together, for example, you know, often I'll go to my TQM and say, Hey, I want Aaron for this service, or I want Aaron for that service. And they come back to me, they're like, how do you know all these people, right, within the SAP organization? But it's through ASUG that's happened, right? It's not ... If ASUG wouldn't have existed or, you know, I don't know if I would've ever built those relationships as [crosstalk 00:11:58]

JIm:

That is just [crosstalk 00:11:58]

Matthew Harmon:

I'll say, as, as effectively as I have.

JIm:

As an employee of ASUG that is just great to hear.

Matthew Harmon:

[inaudible 00:12:00]

JIm:

Out of curiosity, is there a particular ASUG event or anything that you've been a part of that you found to be a favorite of yours or something that you found to be giving you the most amount of insights or networking opportunities? Okay. Yeah.

Matthew Harmon:

I mean, honestly, just Sapphire, right? I think Sapphire has been the one. I mean, it's, I can't tell you know, how many years that I've been, you know, in terms of, again, really just having that face to face, you know, contact with folks. Back in 2017, I was at one of the Sapphire events when I heard, for example, the influence council for ASUG was looking for a new chair for solution manager. So I, again, right place, right time, volunteered. And I've been a co-chair of that influence council ever since, you know? So again, really deepening that network within SAP with other peers, colleagues, right. And really what it's grown into is then that ability to influence SAP, right?

Matthew Harmon:

To really come out with tangible, actionable results that not only benefit me as a user, but everyone as a user, right. In terms of, you know, having ideas or opportunities within the application, and being able to work with product owners and say, "Hey, if you only did this, this would help me so much more here." And then to be able to say, "Yeah, you know what? We never thought about it that way. That's a great idea. We'll have that in the next upgrade." You know what I mean? And to be able to really, to bring that and see that come to market right, to me is just so cool. And again, I think Sapphire was probably been the biggest venue to be able to do that, because again, you know, three or four days together, you know, to be able to sit down and talk through things, talk through problems or opportunities, I should say.

Matthew Harmon:

Right. The other one that actually, that was a direct outcome of Sapphire was the solution manager influence, I'm sorry, the solution manager education summits in north America. I know I worked with Mark Teer from SAP, Paul Kurchina from ASUG at the time, right. We were brainstorming at a brainstorming event at Sapphire. And, you know, we were putting different stickies up on the wall, around, you know, either application, you know, I'll say issues or opportunities, you know, but one thing I stuck to the wall was deep knowledge, right, was one of the stickies I put up. And Mark Teer said, well, what do you mean by, what do you mean by that? What do you mean by deep knowledge? Well I said you know, I see an opportunity here in the US, at least that, you know, we have a good functional understanding of the application, but just kind of that next level down that real deep understanding.

Matthew Harmon:

And he said, you know, he said, that's interesting you say that because I've been talking to other people about this. And in Germany, for example, they had an annual education summit for solution manager. And he said we always were curious and tried to figure out why there was a much deeper adoption, right, and deeper understanding of solution manager in say, in Germany than there was in the US, for example. And he said, one thing we narrowed it down to was this education summit. And he said, you know what, by the end of this year, we're going to have that in the US. And he did, right. So we're talking, May we had that discussion, by September, October, they had a full on education summit available in North America for solution manager experts. Right. Which was, again [crosstalk 00:16:15]

JIm:

[crosstalk 00:16:15] That is so great to hear, Matt. Thank you so much for kind words [inaudible 00:16:17]

Matthew Harmon:

Attributed to ASUG, attributed to Sapphire. I don't know if that conversation would've ever happened otherwise.

JIm:

[crosstalk 00:16:20] members derive so much value from what we do every day. I do want to get back to, you know, your career specifically your work at W.L. Gore, when we had first met to sort of talk through what we wanted to talk about in this podcast. You did promise me that you would sort of talk us through your S/4 implementation. But just to sort of set the stage for that, can you tell us a little bit about W.L. Gore, the customers you all served and then your current role there?

Matthew Harmon:

Yeah. So W.L. Gore has many different areas that we service, right. Everything from aerospace, all the way through medical, through clothing. Most people would know us through the brand GORE-TEX right. Which is the fabrics that we make, but really we've got a very deep understanding of many different industries. So yeah, so Gores, it's definitely a great place to work. I've been there just a little over a year and joined last February as part of the S/4 implementation. It is a Greenfield SAP implementation for Gore and we're kind of in throws of it right now. We're in that, you know, the project and getting everything prepared and ready, we're actually kind of turning the corner to that testing phase, which everybody's getting really excited about. But really, yeah, it's really, you know, again, looking at how SAP can take Gore to that next level from, again, I always go back to that word insight, right? So how can SAP provide insight for information, insight for decision making?

JIm:

Yeah. Are you all in the cloud or on prem?

Matthew Harmon:

And like I said, taking the company to that next level, which is really cool.

JIm:

Yeah.

Matthew Harmon:

Heck. So, it's heck managed, so cloudish, right, I call it. But it is managed through SAP, but we do have some [crosstalk 00:18:24] cloud environment specific applications as well. So we're working through that too.

JIm:

[crosstalk 00:18:26] And why Greenfield? I'm always interested to hear from organizations why that was the best ... Why the implementation strategy they took was the best for not only their organization but also their data and their IT environment.

Matthew Harmon:

Yeah. No, absolutely. Because it, honestly, they were coming off of an old legacy system that's being retired. So it was really a chance to, you know, to kind of relieve some of that, I'll call it technical debt and just kind of start with a clean slate.

JIm:

[crosstalk 00:18:58] What's your specific role in the implementation [inaudible 00:19:02].

Matthew Harmon:

And the decision was made to go with SAP to do that. So that's where that strategy came from.

JIm:

I should have seen that one coming.

Matthew Harmon:

So big surprise. So solution manager, so. Right? Exactly. I was brought in just to lead that team, a very talented team of people with this, for the solution manager initiative perspective. But what's interesting, you know, in a Greenfield, you know, a lot of the times because here's the reality, right? I'm just going to say it, solution manager didn't always have the best reputation. Right. It wasn't necessarily the, you know, I'll say cutting edge application, you know, that was delivered from SAP. I will tell you that it has come a long, long way from those earlier versions, right? From the 3.1's And even the 7.1's. They've had a tremendous advancement in terms of how it works. So how that relates to our project, was really leveraging the project to start again from zero, right?

Matthew Harmon:

A lot of times a solution manager, like when I joined my previous employer, I was at Goodyear for a number of years, you know, they had been on SAP for 20 years. So when I joined Goodyear, it was really to bring solution manager in to start to go back and re document things that have been there for a very long time, right. Or to reintroduce change management or, you know, test management, all those things. Where with Gore, it's a great opportunity because we don't have any of those ... That technical debt, if you will, from an SAP perspective, right? Again, it's a clean slate, which is great. So we're able to get in at ground zero and not have to go reverse engineer anything. We're able to start and do the things that we've always said we've wanted to do, given the chance, you know, we're able to do that at Gore. Like I said, it's a clean slate. We're able to go in with a blank solution manager. [crosstalk 00:21:00] And really start doing this the right way which is really exciting.

JIm:

[crosstalk 00:21:00] so you started, it sounds like, in February of last year? The project, correct? Okay. Great. So obviously [crosstalk 00:21:13].

Matthew Harmon:

[crosstalk 00:21:13] I started at Gore. The product had kicked off a little bit before I got there, but yeah I started at Gore last February.

JIm:

I assume that some of the [inaudible 00:21:17] remote, correct? Yeah.

Matthew Harmon:

Yeah. I mean, it's primarily remote, right? For me anyway, you know, but yeah. The teams did start out remote. You know, there's some going back to the office a little bit. Right. We're starting to phase that in, but honestly, you know, even when I was a Goodyear and when I started a Goodyear, we were a global team anyway. So we had folks in Germany, you know, Latin America, Asia PAC, north America.

JIm:

Sure.

Matthew Harmon:

So to me, honestly, working, you know, remote, it's just kind of what it is. And even when I joined Gore again, you know, I have a team, you know, resource out in Phoenix, you know, somebody in the Maryland area and then I'm actually in Ohio still. We haven't yet. So planning to, but just haven't got there. So again, having that remote mindset I think is just a way of the future in my mind. It's just kind of how we work. It was interesting ...

Matthew Harmon:

Kind of a side story. When the pandemic hit, you know, a couple years ago when the kids were sent home, you know, to do remote learning, I'd often get an email from their teachers and they would immediately start off apologizing. I'm so sorry it has to be like this, and I'm sorry this, you know, this didn't work out or that, and I'm like, look, stop apologizing. This is how I work every day. You're teaching them, you're giving them life experience, you know, in fourth or third and fifth grade. Right. I mean, it's not, you know, is it optimal? No. You know, but we've got to be resilient. And this is honestly it's in my mind, it was a great, it was a great life lesson, right. To teach resilience and to also to really see how dad does it every day. Right. So it was honestly, it was kind of cool. [crosstalk 00:23:18].

JIm:

Every day is take your child to work day.

Matthew Harmon:

Now they're back in school now, which is great. And with their friends and everything, but again, I just took a positive out of it. You know what I mean? Yeah.

JIm:

I'd love to know going back to the S/4HANA implementation project you all are in the middle of, what it would you say is the biggest lesson you learned from the project? And what advice do you have for other IT professionals like yourself, other ASUG members or colleagues you would've seen at Sapphire who are either thinking about starting their S/4 journey or are really like on the brink of starting it?

Matthew Harmon:

Well, that's a great, great question. You know, I think really, to me, it's all about the people, right? The technologies, in my mind, is the easy stuff. You know, I tell my team a lot, you know, really it's connecting with people, right. I think if you have those relationships, if you build that trust, you know, communication of course is so incredibly key. But if you really make it about the people, the technology's going to come along with it. I think that's something. And again, you know, being that kind of that life long ASUG member looking back over the years and being able to connect with people at the end of the day, I think that's what drives my success. Is to really be able to connect with people.

JIm:

That's so funny because I would say that's ... [crosstalk 00:26:00] connecting with people is what I would say is the thing I bring to the table the most too.

Matthew Harmon:

And if you have those relationships, like I said, the other stuff really just comes along with it.

JIm:

And I'm on the editorial creative side of things, you know? Such an ...

Matthew Harmon:

Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. And the reality is being in IT, we kind of like to not, you know, deal with the people. Right? But, so I guess, I guess I might be a little bit of an anomaly, but yeah, I think to me, that's where the magic happens, right. Once you build those relationships and really start to trust people and to, you know, to kind of set those goals and work towards those things. And, you know, again, like I said, the technology [inaudible 00:26:38] cool stuff comes along with it. But like I said, yeah, the people's the coolest part of it.

JIm:

[crosstalk 00:26:39] Well, Matthew, I think I'm going to end it right there. Thank you so much for joining us and giving us your perspective. I really appreciate it. All right.

Matthew Harmon:

Awesome, Jim. No, it was my pleasure. Thank you.

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