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In case you were wondering, yes, I was heavily influenced by Jay-Z and Alicia Keys and their 2009 hit song “Empire State of Mind”, when choosing the title of this blog.  I must admit, I had the song on repeat for quite some time!  While the song was written as a tribute to both artists’ hometown of New York City, I have chosen it as a title and tribute to our 2018 SAP Higher Education and Research Advisory Council (HERAC) annual meeting, and the SAP Higher Education and Research User Group (HERUG) annual meeting held in New York at the end of April.

A week of some great higher education and research thinking and discussion started with the HERAC on the 52nd floor of SAP’s Hudson Yards offices (view in the picture above!).  31 SAP higher education and research customers convened to hear from SAP and share their thoughts on the company focus of moving from the “transactional to the intelligent enterprise”.  I would argue that enterprises across all industries need to explore how they can harness the power of technology to make their business more intelligent (read this blog on how to “Realize the Intelligent Enterprise”), and it should be no different for universities and research institutions – even if the pace is slower in comparison to other industries.  The goal should be to become not just a digital enterprise, but an intelligent enterprise.  Hence, creating a path to the intelligent enterprise was the theme of the HERAC.

While there is always room for more open discussion, I must say the level of energy, forward-thinking, and conversation during the networking breaks was nothing less than inspiring.  This was triggered in part by the presentation topics including – but not limited to:

  • University administration and the digital economy supported by SAP S/4HANA portfolio (and the SAP Cloud Platform)

  • Student success and SAP Student Activity Hub

  • Student engagement and SAP Hybris

  • Supporting the university workforce of the future and SAP SuccessFactors

  • Innovation and next-generation student experience with SAP Conversational AI

Thank you to all our speakers particularly our customer speakers from MIT, Purdue University, and University of California, San Diego, and a separate thank you to our partners – Epi-Use, itelligence, and LSI – for their contributions.

The second day of the HERAC was held on the 48th floor of our New York offices in one of our four SAP Leonardo Centers (with more coming this year!).  SAP Leonardo Centers act as a “front-end” for customers and partners to accelerate their digital innovation journey utilizing design thinking and the capabilities of SAP Leonardo – our digital innovation system.  The Centers showcase SAP Leonardo with IoT, Machine Learning, Blockchain, Big Data, Analytics, Data Intelligence and SAP Cloud Platform as key ingredients for digital transformation, making “digital” tangible.  They provide a space for innovation to jointly explore the digital future.  And exploration is exactly what we did!

Led by 8 talented and energetic design thinking coaches, we all took part in exploration workshops to develop uses for the intelligent university enterprise.  The collaboration between participants and the ability to share challenges and opportunities was nothing short of impressive.  Thank you for providing feedback - we look forward to sharing the outputs of the workshops with you!

For the second half of our week in New York, we moved to the Upper East Side of Manhattan at Weill Cornell Medicine – our 2018 SAP Higher Education and Research User Group (HERUG) meeting host.  For those of you who are new to the SAP family, the HERUG is a user group for all higher education and/or research institutions who are using SAP software in a productive environment.  The HERUG provides its members with the opportunity to share experiences and to network with other SAP HER customers around the world.  It also enables members to interface directly with SAP executives and product development contacts to gain information updates on new functionality, and to have influence on the future development of SAP software.  Over 200 attendees gathered for this year's HERUG meeting.

Again, this was an opportunity to engage in open dialogue on a range of topics to help support the mission of higher education, and individual institutional goals.  In his keynote entitled “Running (SAP) With Purpose”, Malcolm Woodfield – Global VP of Higher Education and Research at SAP – made an interesting comment about the famous “I Have a Dream” speech by Dr. Martin Luther King.  We did not hear Dr. King say “I have a roadmap”, rather he said, “I have a dream”.  While roadmaps are of course important and of interest, it’s really the dreams they are helping customers to achieve that is of greater significance.  We understand that our customers must run the business using SAP technology – hence the interest in roadmaps – however, there is also a pressing need for innovation, and it is the dream and overall strategy that drives innovation and the move to the intelligent enterprise, rather than the technology.

The HERAC and HERUG meetings are an excellent way of sharing these dreams and innovations.  The notion of an individual “a-ha” moment is as old as sliced bread, yet experience tells us that collaboration is the driving force for purpose and innovation.  More collaborative innovation is a much-needed disruption in higher education.

Collaboration spurs innovation because bringing together groups of people who have different ideas, approaches, experiences, and areas of expertise creates a fertile environment for generating new concepts and methods.  Sharing insights allows ideas to be refined and improved.  Challenging a group with developing a promising idea incentivizes the group—not just a single individual—to commit to its success and paves the way for trusted collaboration.  Just as the HERAC and HERUG meetings are a forum for SAP to communicate development, initiatives, and strategies for feedback from its customers, it is just as much (if not more!) a forum for customers to share implementation experiences, best practices, and lessons learned for mutual benefit.

It’s a wrap for this year’s HERAC and HERUG events, but we look forward to continuing the conversation beyond the “concrete jungle”, and welcome any feedback and thoughts you may have for future events!