ASUG volunteers are the engine that drives this community forward, with 203 active volunteers currently playing a key role in helping industry professionals get the most value out of their SAP technology investments. Advocating for the voice of the end user, developing educational content, collaborating with SAP points of contact, and dedicating their time and energy to ensuring that ASUG members can network with purpose, volunteers act as ASUG's ambassadors to the SAP customer community.
From new volunteers to those who have been working side by side with ASUG staff for many years, each member of the volunteer community is an admired and integral part of the ASUG family. Throughout her 16 years as an ASUG volunteer focused on business intelligence, data warehousing, analytics, and data strategy, Joyce Butler has embodied all the values of a model ASUG community member. A leader by definition, Joyce is the first to raise her hand and offer it in assistance to others. She is a true collaborator, emphasizing connection and teamwork.
Organizing influence councils, serving on leadership teams, sharing stories at conferences, and attending Chapter meetings, Joyce has contributed to ASUG in many meaningful, lasting ways. “Joyce is the definition of join-together when it comes to our ASUG values,” says Amanda McGathey, Manager, Community Alliances and Volunteer Services at ASUG. “She is constantly helping her peers make connections and has become a pillar of the ASUG technology community. It has been an honor to work with her.”
This fall, Joyce concludes her time as an ASUG volunteer, finishing her last term as the Education Lead for the ASUG Business Technology Platform (BTP) Community Alliance. In celebration of her years of service, ASUG sat down with Joyce to reflect on her tenure as an ASUG volunteer.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Q: Can you walk me through the beginning of your career?
A: I started as a cost analyst with International Paper, where I was asked to help with an SAP implementation project. They wanted somebody who understood what was being used in financial planning and analysis (FP&A) reporting for the business, who could help them design analytics to go along with the SAP project. This was supposed to take two years, but I ended up staying there for nine. My team implemented a greenfield SAP Business Warehouse (SAP BW) system and the reporting to go along with it. It really did turn into a large project for International Paper, and it continued for three years after I left, spanning 12-14 years.
Q: Was that when you first became involved with ASUG?
A: International Paper was already an ASUG member at that time, and I was encouraged to get involved. I went to my first Chapter meeting in New Orleans, and I immediately saw the value of networking and talking to other people who were in the same boat that I was in. At the time, SAP BW was not a widely accepted data warehouse, and being around people who were trying to do what I was trying to do was just fantastic. I felt this immediate camaraderie, having people to talk to and call. It was very much a turning point in how I thought I could get through leading a brand-new team, designing a data warehouse that nobody had ever used at International Paper, and using SAP. That's what got me started with ASUG, and shortly after I was asked to get involved as a volunteer. People were very welcoming, and we were committed to helping each other.
I became more involved with the ASUG Analysis and Design Studio influence councils later, presenting at conferences, focusing on advanced analytics and predictive analytics. People at that point wanted to know what SAP BW was, and we had the experience to explain it. Tons of people came to our webcasts, and the influence councils were heavily attended. People were using the product and had definite opinions about it. We were all part of the SAP ecosystem. Being successful in SAP means that you embrace the ecosystem and make the most of it, because SAP isn't easy, not for any company, though it has been successful for the companies I've been involved with.
Q: What are some of the proudest moments of your career?
A: Once, I was in front of an executive team, presenting a demo on reporting for SAP. It was the first time the executive team had seen soup-to-nuts reporting. And the senior vice president who was there turned around to the people that were in the room and said, “This is why we implemented SAP. This is what will help us move forward at International Paper.” I don't think I could have been happier.
We'd struggled through four years of standing up this system, and he saw within 45 minutes of the demo how he could use it. He immediately absorbed the data and challenged people in the room to start using it. We do not implement SAP because of the software; we implement SAP because of how the businesses use that software for the good of the company. That was my beaming moment, and I just stepped back and listened as they went back and forth.
As for ASUG, I’m proudest of the networking. ASUG has given me plenty of recognition, and they gave me the opportunity to give recognition myself. I could talk about people I’ve worked with and how they’ve impacted me. I started at ASUG just absorbing information, but then people started coming up to me, and I realized I could help people. To embrace the SAP ecosystem, you must be willing to share your story. When you move from being the one absorbing information to being the one telling somebody else how you overcame the challenges you’ve faced on the business side, it really benefits you.
Q: How did you overcome the biggest challenges in your career?
A: SAP is hard to sell to the business side of the company. You end up doing so many demos. Because it exists more on the back end, it’s not like you’re a salesperson discussing how it will improve sales by one percent. The biggest challenge I have experienced is trying to get more money to do more with SAP, because you see where it will help even if it can be difficult to get the business to see your perspective.
Still, you never do anything in a vacuum. The fulfillment I've found is in putting teams together and building relationships. I was fortunate to build teams at International Paper and at Cameron International. It’s great to get people together, starting from scratch and finding ways that you can succeed together.
Q: What do you think is the key to a happy and fulfilling career?
A: Always stay curious and be open to new things. Technology changes, society changes, and you have to remain open to that. Being a good team player is an important key to being successful, to be able to talk to people in a room and be open to listening to them. Relationships can be hard to build, but you can't do any of this by yourself. And you need to have fun with it!
Q: What have been some of your favorite moments from ASUG events or conferences?
A: I've been to so many events since 2010. At the conferences, what I remember the most are the keynote speakers. We have seen Steve Wozniak and John Sculley, and so many others. It is amazing to be in a room with those speakers, to be able to listen to keynotes and then go behind the scenes and speak with them. I credit ASUG with always finding people who are interesting to listen to and who have relevant content on either how to succeed or how to use technology.
Q: How else would you describe your time as an ASUG volunteer?
A: When it comes to volunteering, you get what you put in. If you're willing to put more in, you'll get a lot back. I really needed what I got out of influence councils from a business aspect. Over time, I became more comfortable presenting and being around people. I’ve found it uncomfortable to talk about myself, but I do enjoy talking about data warehousing. I enjoy talking about analytics, how to look at data, and why you look at data in a certain way, and what it means to the company.
I enjoy discussing these things, and ASUG helped me achieve the level of comfort I needed to do so. I already knew the subject matter, so I just needed a little push to put myself out there. My daughter was really impressed with me. I once went to a conference in Orlando and was able to bring her with me; she went to Disney while I was working. And when I came back and said I was talking about SAP BW in front of 400 people, she was impressed. ASUG was there to support me, so it was not as if I was by myself. Still, I was stepping outside my boundaries.
Q: In your opinion, how are ASUG members experiencing BTP?
A: SAP Business Technology Platform is so broad that we're still struggling with trying to get people to see how they fit into the alliance and with presenting the data and content they most need to see. Some questions I think about are, “What is BTP, and what does it mean to the members? What will it mean in two years, in 5-10 years? How do you chop it up to make it consumable?”
Q: Why should members consider volunteering with ASUG?
A: Networking! If you’re getting into a big project with SAP, you need to be involved with ASUG influence programs. Having those SAP points of contact is so valuable. Even the little bits of information they share can make your year. Even if they can't answer your questions, they're always able to lead you to someone else who can.
Q: What are you most excited about in the upcoming years?
A: I’m ready to travel. My husband is from Hungary, so we’re going to go to Europe and do a Danube cruise. I’m also planning on relaxing, catching up on things, and planting flowers in my garden. It’s the way I decompress.
All of us at ASUG relay our deepest thanks and fondest well wishes to Joyce as she moves onto her next adventure in life. Mary Kate Scammahorn, Coordinator of Peer Group Programs at ASUG, contributed to this report.