Last week, I traveled to Texas to attend the annual ASUG Best Practices: SAP for Oil, Gas & Energy conference. It was the first time I had attended this conference since joining ASUG last year as its Chief Operating Officer, and I’d been told in advance to expect a lively, engaged, and particularly high-energy group—no pun intended.

Held at the Hyatt Regency Dallas from September 13—15, the event brought members of the ASUG community together in person to learn, connect, and grow through discussing the future of energy and addressing business challenges faced by today’s oil, gas, and energy industry customers, from digital transformation to data analytics and sustainability.

Such challenges present valuable opportunities for oil, gas, and energy companies to modernize, building resiliency and flexibility into the core of their operations to sustain the growth and revenue their businesses require. “This is an industry undergoing profound change,” one attendee told me of their reasons for attending. “This is a great way for us to keep pace and get ahead.”

One of the distinguishing characteristics of an ASUG event is its open-forum structure for fostering meaningful connections, in addition to the presence of educational content in its array of keynote and session speakers. To welcome attendees and get conversations flowing, ASUG members assembled on Wednesday night for speed networking and a ‘Cheers with Peers’ happy hour—a fun and casual way to warm up for all the insights to come, giving attendees a chance to meet one another and in many cases reconnect.

ASUG Women Connect

I started my Thursday by attending the ASUG Women Connect breakfast, sponsored by PwC and reliably an excellent way to interact with current and future industry leaders. A panel discussion held at this breakfast was an early conference highlight, featuring Susan Cattozzo, Oil and Gas Advisory Principal at Deloitte; Alyson Preston, Managed Services Managing Director at PwC; Lori Ehardt, Controller at Continental Resources; and Kelly Smith, Vice President of Sales at SAP, in a discussion moderated by Indrayani Parsodkar, Senior Manager (Cyber, Risk, & Reg) at PwC.

Discussing a variety of leadership topics, from insights on embracing rapid change to technologies transforming the industry, panelists also spoke more personally about treating intentional networking as a professional development activity and leading teams by example in both managing hybrid ways of working and establishing macro- and micro boundaries for a healthy work/life balance. ASUG will continue such critical discussions year-round.

The Future of Energy

During a Thursday keynote panel discussion on the future of energy, attendees at the conference were introduced to Stephane Lauzon, newly installed as Head of Oil, Gas, and Energy for SAP. Lauzon facilitated a stimulating, wide-reaching conversation on the industry’s key role in the global push for energy security and carbon reduction; on stage, he was joined by industry leaders including Stephan Klein, SVP, Global Head of Services for the Energy and Natural Resources Industries at SAP; John Downie, Senior Managing Director at Accenture; and Rodrigo Gonzalez, Manager of Digital IT Corporate Business Solutions at Phillips 66.

As the panelists reflected on their companies’ ongoing technology journeys and their perspectives on the future of energy, all agreed that the world needs reliable, available energy sources. Given this, they asked, how should we evaluate our businesses and make decisions about where to invest in existing and renewable energy sources for the future? For leaders in companies’ IT organizations, especially, another question emerged: How should businesses assess the near-term and long-term benefits of significant competing priorities?

Also in focus was the value of enterprise operations, and the critical need to bring all their capabilities together with integrated value chains. Finally, the panelists discussed the importance of giving end users the ability to look across an enterprise’s data in one view, with the help of enterprise resource planning (ERP) platforms. Providing that wide-scale visibility to business leaders and users alike, the panelists agreed, enables the kind of empowered big-picture decision-making that can drive sustainability and profitability side-by-side, from improving operational efficiencies and reducing overall costs to unlocking previously unforeseen revenue streams.

Unleashing Transformative Potential

Following the keynote, conference attendees self-selected sessions on hot topics such as simplifying the complexity of business operations, building data-driven organizations, and optimizing purchasing processes. SAP executives and ASUG members aligned to present partner perspectives and customer stories, both of which offered insights into automation and innovation challenges. In smaller sessions throughout the conference, participants had a chance to hear about challenges encountered and solutions adopted by various industry leaders, to ask questions, and to learn from each other’s experiences.

One standout session, from my perspective, was Mustang Fuel Corporation’s “The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly: A User’s Experience with SAP Software.” With an evocative lead-in title such as that, I knew immediately that we were in for an informative session with some humor sprinkled in—and Mustang’s team delivered the goods.

As Kyle Hobbs, Controller, and Jimmy Nummy, Assistant Controller, discussed their organization’s cloud migration journey from SAP ERP Central Component (SAP ECC) to SAP S/4HANA, zeroing in on the challenge of learning how to utilize age-old instances and new implementations most efficiently, both of the speakers illuminated the vantage point of the business user. In doing so, Nummy and Hobbs created space for the open exchange of ideas between themselves and the audience. Such a dialogue is exactly the type of exploration that ASUG exists to enable, in which everyone learns from everyone else. (You can read more about Mustang Fuel’s journey in our exclusive ASUG News + Views interview with Hobbs and Nummy.)

Energy transition was top of mind for many attendees, and the conference’s second day allowed them to dive in, engaging with peers and gaining insights into the critical role that sustainability has to play, from supply chain to manufacturing, in unleashing the transformative potential of today’s energy industries. Amber Krummes, ERP Product Manager for Chevron, discussed Chevron’s recent go-live implementing a fit-to-standard, enterprise SAP S/4HANA solution called Digital Core, touching upon all the efficiencies unlocked for end-user teams as well as lessons learned for future releases.

Elsewhere, attendees heard from Anitha Swaminathan, Supervisor of SAP Reporting & Analytics at Pembina, on how the energy transportation and midstream service provider leveraged SAP BW/4HANA and SAP Analytics Cloud to unify data across its operations. This initiative empowered end users at Pembina by establishing a common and accessible business platform, one that can provide enterprise-wide reporting and enable self-service capabilities. With this focus on driving value to end users, Pembina is breaking down silos and becoming a more intelligent, data-literate organization. (You can read more in our interview with Swaminathan.)

ASUG’s mission is to help people and organizations get the most from their existing and future investments in SAP technology. I cannot wait to see how such conversations as the ones I witnessed in Dallas will continue to evolve across these dynamic, vital industries, as we come together and emerge better-equipped to tackle fast-evolving technological challenges.

ASUG Best Practices: SAP for Oil, Gas, & Energy provided just one opportunity to engage with the greater SAP user community and to gain a deeper understanding of industry best practices, customer success stories, and lessons learned. ASUG pledges to support such discussions year-round, to empower our members throughout their growth and innovation journeys.

Carolyn Dolezal is ASUG’s Chief Operating Officer.

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