Vesta Partners Employees Help Veterans Start SAP Careers
By: Nick Cecil, VP of Business Development for Oil & Gas and Chemicals.
Returning to the civilian population is often a challenging task for veterans. Not all of them make it—someone who has been in combat hasn’t learned a supply chain skillset, for example. They struggle to find what type of job is out there for them.
That’s why St. Michael’s Learning Academy trains veterans to get their TERP10 SAP Certifications. The certification gives those veterans a kick start to their post-military career.
Last year I met Christine Aboud from St. Michael’s Learning Academy, after she presented on the SAP certification program at an industry event. After learning about what St. Michael’s does, I wanted to help.
St. Michael’s asked if Vesta could help review some of the course curriculum and support the interview process for the potential candidates. Denise Powell and I supported the initial review of curriculum and made recommendations on how to incorporate more advanced training into the program. Additionally, I traveled to Fort Hood with another coworker and Army veteran, Nevin Gamble, to interview veterans applying to the program.
These interviews were educational in nature. We’d sit down with the program administrators afterwards to go over what went right, what could have been done better, and give suggestions on how to continue preparing the veterans for job interviews.
Getting the TERP10 certification is a first step in building a new life for St. Michael’s graduates. After that, it becomes about marketing their newly-acquired skillset to employers.
I have started working with several of the veterans to help them prepare for interviews, provide input on their resumes, and help improve their LinkedIn profiles. I help the veterans get acclimated to the job search process by having them send me a resume and a LinkedIn request, which I follow up with feedback.
At an ASUG event in June, I helped conduct job interviews at a job fair for the St. Michael’s graduates and again provided constructive feedback. I also stress the important of post-interview follow-up—reaching out to companies and taking the bull by the horns.
Keeping Skills Fresh
The SAP ecosystem is always changing with new products and new technologies driving businesses. It’s important for St. Michael’s alumni to stay up-to-date on these changes, because they are sure to come up at prospective companies.
With that in mind, I went back to Fort Hood in July to give a presentation to the future SAP professionals. I discussed my own background of coming from a life as a diesel mechanic in underground mining to an SAP career. If I can make that transition, surely a military veteran with strong process discipline and leadership skills can do the same.
My presentation also covered where SAP is heading in the future—giving a quick look at topics such as SAP S/4HANA, Internet of Things, Asset Intelligence Network, predictive maintenance, Design Thinking, and user experience. Vesta Partners provided lunch, then I conducted more interviews in the afternoon.
Since that workshop, I have received a number of resumes from veterans looking to return to the civilian workforce. I have identified several for future Junior Consultant roles at Vesta Partners when the opportunity arises.
Additionally, I have discussed the St. Michael’s program with many of Vesta’s clients who have military recruitment programs. If I can’t find them a job at Vesta, I still want them to find success somewhere in the SAP ecosystem. These veterans have made great sacrifices and we owe them some support.
Military Veterans Find Career Success, Culture Fit at Vesta Partners
When military veterans return to civilian life in search of new careers, like any other jobseeker they are looking to find an employer who is looking for their skillset and a culture that will match their own personality and comfort zone. At Vesta Partners, many in our core leadership are former military including CEO Noel Fagan. We have the SAP IT services roles and culture in which many veterans can excel—especially those who have served in operations previously.
That’s the case for Nevin Gamble, Eddie Varnellis, and Carson Reed. All served in the armed forces in operations at some point in their careers. Gamble, who came to Vesta as an Analyst, finds familiarity in the company’s culture.
“Vesta Partners has a very family-oriented culture and I wanted to be part of a tight knit group, like I was in the military,” says Gamble. “Soldiers in the military have different personalities and as a leader I had to learn how to motivate and gain their trust. This relates to the consulting world in which it is imperative to build trust between you and the client.”
Reed, who also joined Vesta as an Analyst, found early on in the interview process that the Vesta culture would work for him, saying it was completely different than anything he had experienced at other organizations.
“Interviewing felt like talking to new friends instead an awkward tribunal. Many other companies had a laundry list of selling points but seemed incapable of helping me understand whether or not I fit their company’s culture,” explains Reed. “The Army and the military as a whole is a ‘team of teams;’ everyone’s codependent on each other and trust between disparate elements is vital for success. Consulting at Vesta is similar.”
The major appeal for Varnelis was the broad range of opportunities he could find as a Vesta Consultant. He liked the scope of industries, such as Utilities, Oil and Gas, and Rail. He finds that IT implementation is a great way to expand and complement his operations experience.
“The most important aspect of my military experience that set me up for success is leadership. People are always at the core of any organization and knowing how to manage this aspect helps both with clients and internally,” says Varnelis. “I was staffed on a custom IT application project and it has been a great learning experience so far. I get to see IT product implementation from start to finish while driving some of the design myself.”
Gamble says his roles have been diverse and eclectic so far, from consulting on best practices, developing functional unit test and test cases for integrated training cycles and his current task of configuring an SAP S/4HANA system for a major electric power generation utility.
Similarly, Reed has found three distinct project roles since joining Vesta, each building on his previous experience. First, he was sent to an electrical utility in Nebraska to start learning the basics of SAP and the consulting business. Months later at the same project, he found more responsibility and a more defined role. He was then sent to a larger project in Louisiana with a broader role that allowed him to continue learning SAP while simultaneously expanding his responsibilities.
Vesta has both a culture that fits for veterans like Gamble, Varnelis, and Reed, and diverse opportunities that enable them to expand their skillset. A company-wide expectation of excellence also pushed any employee to be at their best.
“I am learning every single day, interacting with client and project team, and being responsible for certain solutions is a healthy and enjoyable challenge that continuously pushes me to be better,” says Varnelis.
How SAP’s Two Mobile Apps for Asset Management Differ
Going mobile is a key piece of asset management strategy for many companies. SAP has two mobility options—the classic SAP Work Manager app and the newer SAP Asset Manager. Both are intended to provide workers in the field with easy access to necessary information they’d otherwise need to access in the office. However, the two apps are different in their functionality and deployment options.
First, functionality in Asset Manager is not as robust as Work Manager. This is largely a product of Work Manager being a mature solution with many years of development, while Asset Manager has a limited feature set in comparison. Both will see increased capabilities in future releases.
The Mobile SaaS Experience in Asset Management
Where Asset Manager may be appealing to customers is that it is a software-as-a-service (SaaS) product (Work Manager can be deployed cloud and on-premise) that has been designed to integrate with modern technologies such as Internet of Things (IoT) and predictive analytics. Asset Manager is also designed specifically for modern devices—right now just iOS but an Android app is coming.
Work Manager works on iOS, Android and Windows devices currently. It also has back-end support for both SAP ECC and SAP S/4HANA. Asset Manager does yet have support for SAP ECC, but that is expected to happen soon. Development on Asset Manager is done with a mobile development kit, while development on Work Manager through on SAP Mobile Platform or SAP Cloud Platform
Why does it matter that Asset Manager has been designed specifically for modern iOS devices? That means a more user-friendly native interface. That’s a huge asset—pun intended—for adoption. The easier an app is to adopt; the more likely workers are going to use it.
As for purchasing the two apps—Asset Manager is a subscription-only service, while Work Manager can be acquired via subscription or with more traditional on-premise licenses.
Map View in SAP Asset Manager.
SAP Work Manager Isn’t Going Away
When SAP introduces one app that looks as if it may be intended to replace another app, it’s natural for customers on the older solution to wonder if they will lose maintenance and updates. That’s not the case, according to Karsten Hauschild, EAM Solution Manager at SAP, who spoke at the ASUG Rail SIG event in Orlando during Sapphire Now.
“SAP will continue to invest in Work Manager as long as customers use it—it is not a dead product,” says Hauschild.
So, if you are using Work Manager and you are happy with it, don’t feel like you have to move to Asset Manager just to avoid losing mainstream maintenance and updated functionality from SAP. Instead, look at what your business needs in a mobile app to find which one is best for you.
SAP Leonardo for Discrete Manufacturing Looks to Bring New Options for Purchasing Major Assets
Industries such as Utilities, Oil and Gas, and Rail rely on supply chains from discrete manufacturers to build or supply the parts to maintain key assets. Traditionally, those assets are highly capital-intensive, with large investments required in equipment in order to run a business. At Sapphire Now, SAP launched SAP Leonardo for Discrete Manufacturing, which seeks to have the same impact on the discrete manufacturing business as the cloud has had on enterprise software.
The “as-a-service” designation was largely popularized by “Software-as-a-Service” or SaaS—where software is purchased via subscription rather than a license. In SaaS, the infrastructure is offered via the public cloud, so the company doesn’t need to make the initial investment in physical assets such as servers. This has revolutionized the way enterprise software is purchased, particularly in line-of-business units.
SAP is hoping SAP Leonardo for Discrete Manufacturing can have the same impact on the buying and selling of industrial equipment that the cloud has had on software.
How SAP Leonardo for Discrete Manufacturing Works
The data collected from the Internet of Things (IoT), particularly sensor-based data on industrial equipment, has the potential for huge impact on not only the way companies maintain their assets, but operate their businesses in general.
SAP Leonardo for Discrete Manufacturing is an industry innovation kit that seeks to guide manufacturers toward a pay-for-outcome model—meaning a shift from selling major assets to providing them as-a-service.
One customer example SAP has often pointed to in this sector of a company in the air compressor industry. By using sensor data, that SAP customer changed its business model from selling air compressors to selling air-as-a-service. That means its customers only paid for the air they used, rather than buying and maintaining air compressors. The air compressor company had the best insight into keeping the compressors in working order, so it took that burden off the customer.
With this new SAP Leonardo innovation kit, SAP plans to help customers help calculate risk and identify strong potential customers through machine learning, asset intelligence, and predictive maintenance capabilities. The solution will use IoT data and other contextual business information to help determine project costs and revenue to ensure fair pricing and quotes.
Finding What’s Best for Manufacturers and Industries
At Vesta Partners, we specialize in the Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) space, so we have many of the same customers as discrete manufacturers in industries such as Rail, utilities, and oil and gas.
For our customers, if SAP Leonardo for Discrete Manufacturing does what it intends, then the purchase and maintenance of major assets may be greatly impacted—going from large capital investments to pay-per-use on industrial equipment.
However, what is important to remember here is that this SAP Leonardo solution is only designed to identify those discrete manufacturing customers that are the right fit for an as-a-service offering. It may be the case that a Rail or Utilities or Oil and Gas customer finds it more cost effective to continue purchasing, rather than subscribing to, equipment.
Other times, it may prove beneficial to pay for equipment as-a-service. If that’s the case, then that’s a good thing for all parties. The important thing to keep in mind for customers of discrete manufacturers is that these changes are coming, and technology like SAP Leonardo for Discrete Manufacturing is helping to usher in that new era.
SAP Leonardo Innovation Tools: Design Thinking, Lean, & Agile
SAP has incorporated design thinking as one of the key aspects of SAP Leonardo as an avenue to implementing new technologies, such as Internet of Things, Machine Learning, Blockchain and Advanced Analytics. This incorporation of a new way of solving problems goes a long way to fulfill the vision of SAP Leonardo as a way to “navigate the digital renaissance” rather than just a go-to-market strategy for new technology buzzwords. But be mindful that design thinking isn’t the end of the story. Instead, it is the beginning of a journey.
Design thinking is an excellent practice and mindset all about exploring problems and looking at the emergent solutions. In design thinking, every stakeholder is a designer and participates in creating the future. You don’t start with a preconceived notion of the solution, instead you start with an open mind and end up with something that is potentially unexpected and often great by successive refinement.
Finding inventive solutions is vital but design thinking can only get you so far. For a truly successful outcome, you need to not only come up with an innovative solution, you need to be able to deliver it.
Complementing Design Thinking
This is where other complementary practices—lean and agile—come into play. Lean thinking originated with the Toyota Production System created by Taiichi Ono, which put Toyota in the top ranks of auto production. Lean is a cultural mindset and practice that emphasizes experimentation and evidence to improve processes and outcomes using the Plan, Do, Check, Act cycle.
Agile is a mindset that originates in software development although it can be applied to other domains as well. In the late 1990s, software development had a problem: projects were failing at an alarming rate. At the time, projects were managed through waterfall project management that has distinct and successive steps for analysis, requirements development, design, development, testing and deployment. Each step had to be completed before moving on to the next one.
A Strategic Shift
That approach changes with an agile strategy. Agile emphasizes values, principles and behaviors that lead to successful outcomes instead of “one true way” that requires strict adherence to a linear process (see the “Manifesto for Agile Development”). Agile has proven to be a successful approach with strong adoption across many companies and industries because it enables better outcomes for complex projects.
Using lean techniques to test and evaluate new solutions quickly and efficiently though prototyping and customer review goes a long way to ensuring ideas that come out of design thinking are the ones that maximize value to all stakeholders. Applying lean is an efficient way to make sure you are building the right thing. Once an idea has been evaluated using lean experimentation, agile will help you build it right. The design thinking, lean and agile mindset truly enables enterprise innovation and success—and that’s why they fit so well with the new technologies attached to SAP Leonardo.
I’ve spent 16 years at SAP, the last seven of which I was responsible for its global enterprise asset management (EAM) business. Throughout that time, I’ve most enjoyed helping customers get value out of their SAP investments. Now, to be in even more direct contact with customers and serve them even better, I am excited to join Vesta Partners as President of Vesta Europe.
Dr. Achim Krüger, new Vesta Europe president.
First off, you may be asking, why Vesta specifically? Well, from my point of view Vesta is not your typical IT consulting firm—these people live and breathe EAM, and from leadership on down Vesta is stocked full of people with years of experience in asset management. This is not some big consulting firm that specializes in all and nothing at the same time—they are keyed in on EAM in a holistic way.
This experience and expertise is important as SAP EAM customers face a technology crossroads. With the rise of SAP S/4HANA, IoT and IT/OT convergence, GIS integration and SAP HANA Spatial, SAP Leonardo, and many other new topics, software roadmaps are getting more and more complex and dynamic. That’s why I want to take my experience from the SAP side and leverage that to help customers directly.
As President of Vesta Europe, I will certainly seek to grow our business in Europe—we currently have strong practices in Benelux and the UK. However, I will not be limited to European customers when it comes to imparting the knowledge I’ve gained over the past years in the EAM space—so my role will be global in that sense. I will be working with customers to capitalize on existing and emerging technology wherever I can.
It’s an important time for EAM, and I am thrilled to be in a role that will put me face-to-face with more customers as they embark on journeys to not only transform their technological landscapes, but their businesses as well.
This post was written by Achim Krüger, President of Vesta Europe.
AI Overlords, or Assistants? SAP Bots are Here to Help
Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning have a great deal of potential to change the way people work. Understandably, there is great concern about the robots stealing our jobs. However, one of the first real applications of AI is to help humans work better. We see glimpses of intelligent robots helping us all the time on commercial websites like Netflix and Amazon in the form of “if you liked this, you might like that.”
These recommendation engines are driven by machine learning and are very accurate (at least for me). Although the recommendations can be unsettlingly on point, they are a big improvement in the user experience by reminding us of things we are interested in that we may have forgotten about and keep us engaged on those sites.
An AI Conversation
It is not a big stretch to see how machine learning can be leveraged in enterprise user experiences as well. In fact, SAP Leonardo features conversational AI as a way of interacting with enterprise software through the natural language capabilities of SAP Leonardo Machine Learning Foundation. Based on this foundation, you can build your own digital assistant or bot that can assist with the completion of tasks. For example, a conversational interface that helps create a new maintenance notification where the system helps a person define and resolve the problem as illustrated below.
Interacting with natural language in the form of voice or simple text commands is much easier for casual users and allows for a dramatic improvement in user satisfaction by providing individual and contextual communcication. To that end, SAP introduced CoPilot in the 1705 release of SAP S/4HANA Cloud and continues to invest in bot technology. In fact, SAP has recently purchased a French company called Recast.AI to further drive the development of conversational chatbots. Considering the benefits of AI-driven software in the workplace, instead of fearing our new robot overlords, maybe we can welcome a new and more human-centric way to interact with enterprise systems.
What’s the business case for SAP S/4HANA? That varies by company of course, but those with a vested interest in SAP Enterprise Asset Management (EAM), there are some clear benefits in making the leap from a legacy system to SAP’s latest ERP innovation.
From the user experience, to analytics and the ability to extend with SAP Cloud Platform, there are key differences in S/4HANA from its predecessors. There are challenges in moving to SAP S/4HANA, though. That’s why Martin Stenzig, Rizing CTO, took to the podium in front of a packed room at SAP-Centric EAM in Austin, Texas to discuss those key topics that SAP customers should keep in mind when considering the leap to S/4HANA.
Combining Mobility and Usability
EAM isn’t commonly something that happens on one laptop or in a single location. For many industries, maintenance is done by field employees, making the challenge of entering and accessing data a challenge—and one that requires mobile capabilities.
However, simply providing mobile capabilities to field maintenance workers does not guarantee adoption. Employees have to be encouraged to use mobile applications, and the best way to do that is by providing a simple user experience that makes work easier.
“The discussion is changing. It’s not anymore about mobility and usability—it is a combination of both,” says Stenzig.
For SAP customers, Stenzig points to the SAP Fiori user experience in SAP S/4HANA as way to take traditional SAP transactions that were tougher to access in SAP GUI and put them in a more user-friendly interface. Fiori is browser-based, which means it is can be accessed on many different operating systems, allowing a field employee conducting on a mobile phone or tablet to see the same screen as their colleague back in the office who may be scheduling the maintenance.
SAP itself point to the Fiori user experience as a key differentiator in asset management on S/4HANA versus asset management on legacy SAP ERP systems. However, Stenzig does warn that a key question to ask when considering Fiori Launchpad—it does require connectivity–as an access point for employees in the field is whether or not they will have access to WiFi or mobile internet.
An important piece of SAP’s plan for how customers deploy S/4HANA is utilizing the SAP Cloud Platform as a way to augment systems that would be considered vanilla by past SAP ERP standards.
“How SAP envisions SAP Cloud Platform is to keep core S/4HANA fairly static and with a sidecar approach transfer tables you need into the cloud,” says Stenzig. “If you want to build add-ons to SAP systems, do it out there (in SAP Cloud Platform).”
Stenzig explains while this strategy makes logical sense, it’s not necessarily easy to accomplish. It’s important to have a stakeholder drive the development on SAP Cloud Platform, because if so the time to innovate is reduced dramatically.
“If you don’t do anything with [SAP Cloud Platform] right now, that’s fine, but you need to get versed on it,” he adds.
Stenzig said the biggest lesson that SAP EAM customers considering a transition to S/4HANA should consider is the importance of training SAP Basis teams for the move. Their tasks change with S/4HANA, going from not just working with the core SAP ERP system, but to previously optional components such as Enterprise Search. Basis teams must also consider working with SAP Fiori, which means different browsers and different security certificates. There’s also the integration with SAP Cloud Platform—these are all things that Basis teams need to know.
“The challenge we see is that Basis organizations simply aren’t trained—that’s not their fault, it’s normal while going to S/4HANA to underestimate that part,” says Stenzig. “Either contract somebody, train individual people, or make it part of the contract that you already have. As a partner, [Vesta Partners] is making it a contingency to make sure your Basis people can do what is required.”
Taking EAM ‘Out of the Stone Age’
Why make all this effort to move to S/4HANA? Well first, Vesta Partners EAM Codex can make the process easier and faster, but aside from that moving to S/4HANA is part of laying the technological footprint that can enable companies to take advantage of new technologies. That means SAP Leonardo and that entails—Internet of Things, blockchain, Big Data, advanced analytics and more.
“You want to get to the point where you can talk about predictive maintenance or digital twins, but you’ll never get out of the Stone Age until you change the foundation,” concludes Stenzig.
The Difference Between Asset Maintenance in SAP S/4HANA vs. SAP ECC
SAP S/4HANA® is SAP’s next-generation ERP, but here’s a little secret: Transactions in legacy SAP ERPs—such as SAP ECC—can be just the same in S/4HANA. Does that mean running asset management with S/4HANA is the same as running it in SAP ECC? Not quite, and the fact that S/4HANA is optimized to run on the SAP HANA database is a key differentiator.
“I hear comments that S/4HANA asset maintenance is the same as ECC, but SAP HANA is why certain things are only possible in S/4HANA,” says Karsten Hauschild, Solution Manager at SAP, who spoke at the SAP-Centric EAM conference this week in Austin, Texas.
The SAP Fiori Impact
Hauschild points to S/4HANA’s user experience, which is driven by SAP Fiori applications such as Request Maintenance and SAP GEO Framework. The former drives maintenance request notifications, while the latter taps into SAP ESRI to run SAP plant maintenance transactions via maps.
“The user experience from a workflow/work order perspective is vastly different from SAP GUI (SAP’s transaction code-driven user interface),” says Hauschild. “That’s from feedback we’ve gotten from current customers—that SAP GUI is ugly.”
There’s also a S/4HANA-specific maintenance scheduling application which is meant to replace SAP Multi Resource Scheduling (MRS) for scheduling individual technicians.
The case for an improved user experience is about expanding the number of employees that can access the data in the SAP system, Hauschild adds. SAP GUI screens that aren’t part of Fiori apps have also been updated to look more like Fiori.
Beyond an interface that is prettier to look at, S/4HANA is also utilizing its in-memory database to drive embedded analytics and what SAP calls “Enterprise Search”—a keyword-based search function. The embedded analytics provide visualizations directly on S/4HANA transaction screens, while also providing automatically calculated KPIS.
Enterprise Search allows users to find transactions and information within the SAP system regarding a term—rather than looking up by transaction codes or work order numbers.
The Same, But Different
As an example of the similarities between the two ERPs, Hauschild says all plant maintenance transactions that exist in ECC are in S/4HANA, and have been since its launch. Overall, an SAP customer moving to S/4HANA from ECC doesn’t have to change business processes, it’s just the way SAP supports those processes from a user experience and analytics point of view—with Fiori, embedded analytics and enterprise search—that is different, he explains.
Now, that doesn’t mean that it will be a guaranteed breeze for customers to move old transactions onto S/4HANA—that process can still be arduous. Fortunately, that’s where Vesta’s EAM Codex solution comes into play, to speed up that transition to modernized SAP enterprise asset management.