If you’re paying attention, you know that technology is advancing at a rapid pace. There’s no shortage of conferences and summits designed to help us keep up. But what makes SAPPHIRE NOW and ASUG Annual Conference the one event you shouldn’t miss?

Lori Foster, senior director, business enterprise center of excellence for Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals talked to us about her experience as a first-time attendee and first-time presenter at the 2018 conference. She has spent the last 24 years working in various roles in supply chain management and completed her first SAP implementation in 1996. She explained, “I signed up with ASUG in 2017 to take advantage of the user group connections and the vast amount of education and customer stories available to its members.”

Lori Foster, senior director, business enterprise center of excellence for Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals

Connections, coupled with education, are what set the ASUG Annual Conference apart from all other events you can attend this year. We sat down with Lori to ask her about her personal experience at the event. Here’s why she thinks you should attend:

Sharon: Lori, can you tell us a little more about your background and your work with SAP products?

Lori: I completed my first implementation of an SAP system, which was the ERP Central Component (ECC) R/3, in 1996 as the team lead for a manufacturing plant. After that implementation, I went into various supply chain leadership roles where I was an SAP user for another 10 years. In 2009, I led a large SAP transformation project as the global procure to pay lead. That project lasted two years as we implemented SAP and numerous bolt-ons in 36 countries. For the last two years, I was the program director for two separate SAP projects, which included an upgrade to SAP S/4HANA as well as a greenfield implementation of SAP S/4HANA.

Sharon: You’re already an SAP veteran. Why did you decide to attend the 2018 SAPPHIRE NOW and ASUG Annual Conference?

Lori: I wanted to attend in 2017 but couldn’t due to an SAP launch I was working on. I did, however, watch the live stream as much as I could. In 2018, a colleague and I decided that even though it was only a month after our greenfield SAP S/4HANA implementation, we would sign up to present our story. I had never attended before, but I heard so many people say how great it was. I wanted to take part in that experience.

Sharon:This was a completely new experience for you. Did you have any hesitations or concerns? How would you describe what it was like?

Lori: It honestly wasn’t until the first day of the conference that I realized the magnitude of it all. When I rode the escalators down to the main hall, I was in awe of the event. As a first-time attendee and presenter, I couldn’t have had a more amazing experience. It was everything from the vast amount of information that was available, to the supplier booths, the ASUG presentations, and most importantly, the ability to present. All of it was part of something that you can only get by being there in person.

The ASUG portion of the event was so well done. Aside from having the opportunity to present, which was great in and of itself, hearing the stories and use cases that other companies shared was phenomenal. What I heard most from other attendees was their deep desire to learn from their peers. Peer learning and benchmarking are what make the resources and connections you gain from ASUG so valuable. These can really help you be successful.

ASUG News: Can you share more about the peer learning experience?

Lori: Peer learning is the key to avoid mistakes. Someone will always go first. Sometimes they make mistakes and sometimes they are successful. We need to learn from both. It could be a tiny nugget of information shared that makes the biggest difference.

I made some great connections with peers at last year’s conference. Those connections have opened doors to engaging with industry leaders and presenting at other conferences. I also learned that so many companies are facing the same challenges. There is no sense in going at anything alone. ASUG provides a network and forum that is extremely valuable. I know if I am ever stuck with an issue, I can reach out and find someone with the answer.

ASUG News: Aside from peer learning, what were some other takeaways for you?

Lori: The conference provided me a platform to learn about emerging technology. Businesses are going to be challenged to adopt new systems. This is the arena to learn about what’s coming next and have the right conversations with the right people.

ASUG News: What would you tell first-time attendees to do to prepare for the conference?

Lori: Use the app and abstracts to help you determine the sessions you would like to attend. It’s a resource, so use it. Try not to go alone. Make sure that others in your company attend and make sure that your business colleagues are going along with the IT teams.

We sent a mix of business colleagues and individuals from the IT department, and because of that, we were able to divide and conquer as much as we could. We would meet at the end of each day and debrief on what we learned. I spent most of my time attending the ASUG tracks because SAP does a great job of recording the others, which meant I could watch them on my own time.

For my second go at this conference, I will be studying the agenda carefully, looking at the abstracts to seek out the best sessions to attend. I usually lean toward the customer story sessions, so there will be many of those on my radar this year. I was so excited about my own speaking experience last year that I volunteered to review content and abstracts for the 2019 event.

Simply put, target areas that are of strategic value to your company, network, and enjoy the experience!

ASUG News: What about those who are considering attending, but haven’t made a decision yet?

Lori: You are missing out if you don’t attend. Even after 20 years of using and implementing SAP products, it was still an amazing opportunity for me. Considering the pace at which technology and SAP are advancing, you need to stay current. This conference not only gives you insight into emerging technologies, it’s a platform to network and learn from your peers.

Save your spot at SAPPHIRE NOW and ASUG Annual Conference. Register today for our biggest event of the year.