I’ve been back in Australia for just over a week now and am finally taking some time to put down my thoughts on the inaugural Mastering Supply Chain & Procurement with SAP conference that was held in Johannesburg, South Africa earlier this month. I was fortunate enough to have been invited by the awesome guys from the eventful group to attend this event and speak on the topics of real-time supply chain and my experiences in mobilising an SAP process. This trip coincidently was my first trip to South Africa.

I should also firstly point out that a great novelty to this event, was that the eventful group put together a great mobile app (for all major OS’s) that allowed attendees to keep track of upcoming sessions as well as get information on the speakers and make good use of social media by allowing them to tweet live, right from the app!

Day 1 of the conference was kicked off by Richard Howells from SAP, where he announced the new SAP supply chain strategy through a presentation titled “Evolving from Supply Chains to Demand Networks”. This strategy rests on four pillars that are:

  • Supply chain monitoring
  • Integrated Business Planning
  • Demand driven supply networks
  • Logistics & order fulfilment

This was then followed on by Dan Harmon who asked the question “Are you really ready to start your SAP project”. Dan discussed many aspects of a theme that was prevalent throughout the conference, and largely also echoed by Jason Sprunk: OCM (Organisational Change Management) is a key component of any project and will largely dictate if your implementation is going to be crowned with success or failure – too often is OCM an after thought.

Unfortunately I then had to prepare for my presentation and missed out on what I have been told was an eye opening presentation delivered by Karen Ramith titled “The African Renaissance”, where she shared through factual statistics the often underestimated value and opportunity that the African continent represents to global supply chains. I recommend reading Richard Howells blog on his thoughts on this presentation.

The day 1 conferences were as usual closed off by a motivational speaker. That speaker was Alex Harris, an adventurer who talked about his achievements – climbing to the top of Everest and performing the first unsupported crossing of the Arabian Desert. Delivered with much humour, it reminded us that humans are truly able to achieve great things.

One of the highlights of the eventful conferences are the networking drinks organised at the end of the first conference day. Once again, this did not disappoint. The eventful group catered for a whole army and under a fading sunlight, the scene was set for very interesting networking opportunities and discussions around my favourite topic : Transportation Management.


Day 2 was kicked off by Tim McLain who did a great presentation talking about Big Data. An interesting point that he made  was that the amounts of data that we generate, store and need to analyse are creating new professions, namely Data Scientists.

This presentation was then followed by Stephen Donovan from SABMiller. Whilst being a local, his presentation was on truly global challenges when he talked about the integration points across the supply chain from planning to distribution.

Peter Kerr, from Argon talked about recommended and best practises in the implementation and deployment of EWM. It was interesting to hear his experiences and compare them to ours, here in Australia. It was also interesting to talk to conference attendees on this topic to gauge their appetite for moving to the SAP SCM suite of products.

Later in the day, just before the closing keynote I went to Kgomotso Lebele’s presentation which focussed on SAP Transportation Management. Once again I was happily surprised to see the number of attendees at that session as well as the questions and interest that it obviously generated.

The conference was then closed by Jason Sprunk who relayed his war stories, when as a change guy, he decided to lead a technical team and be the F’nNG (that’s Fun New Guy!) and again stressed the importance of change management.

From the great discussions I had with some of the attendees, my take away is that South Africa, like many other countries exhibits extremes as far as SAP maturity is concerned. Some organisations are still trying to reap the full benefits of the investments they have made in core ERP, and are trying to understand how they can best leverage what ERP offers. This means that consultants with ERP skills are still sought after. Some organisations have gone past that stage of maturity and are wanting to embrace the great tools the SCM suite has to offer (TM, EWM, SNC….) but are waiting for others to make the jump first and lastly some are already there – they are making the jump to the SCM suite and I am sure that we will very soon hear of many more TM and EWM implementations.

Whilst we were all there to talk about supply chain related topics, some courageous souls, namely Richard Howells, Joseph Grobbler and Sean Elliffe  took the time to raise awareness and donations by taking the ALS ice bucket challenge, which was with their consent immortalised on film.

Here is Richard doing it:

Here is Joseph and Sean doing it (Joseph it was great seeing you again):

In closing, I feel truly humbled to have been invited to be part of this inaugural event and I would like to once again thank all the eventful crew that took such good care of us – I cannot name them all but of particular note were Thirusha, Andrea, Lauren and Peter. Thank you.