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Interviews

Architecting Success with SAP: A Conversation with Paul Kurchina

With over three decades of experience working in the SAP ecosystem as an analyst and advisor, Paul Kurchina has dedicated his career to building bridges between SAP and its users. He has built and grown many of SAP’s user groups and communities, including the America’s SAP User Group’s Customer SAP Center of Expertise and the Enterprise Architecture Groups. This has positioned him as one of the world’s leading experts in the evolving needs of enterprise architects. 

We recently sat down with Paul to discuss his upcoming event Next Generation SAP Enterprise Architect Forum, running from February 27 to 29, and why it is critical for enterprise architects facing pressure to update their legacy SAP systems and adopt AI into their processes. 

Q: Why launch this event? And why now? 

A: I originally ran this event in February 25-27, 2020 – luckily, just before the pandemic. The feedback from attendees was awesome, and the connections and conversations made during the event snowballed from there. 

I hosted virtual iterations of that event in partnership with SAP, SAP Americas’ Users Group (ASUG), and SAPinsider in 2021 and 2022. Then, once in-person events came back, I did a series of meetups for enterprise architects across 19 cities in North America. But while these experiences were great in their own right, SAP customers were asking for more and to go deeper. At every city stop, at least one person would comment how much they loved the original event in 2020 and ask when it’s coming back. 

But behind the scenes, my growing interest and engagement with LeanIX, an enterprise architect management software company, led to the re launch of the Next Generation SAP Enterprise Architect Forum. After its acquisition by SAP, LeanIX has become an important part of SAP’s portfolio for SAP customers and of course for enterprise architecture and enterprise architects. 

Many things had to converge together for us to get to this point of relaunching the forum. But it’s clear that now, for many reasons, is the right time. 

Q: You already sold out of in-person tickets. What do you think is driving this demand? 

A: The demand for enterprise architects to get together and share knowledge has always been there, but it’s been heightened lately due to various factors. You have the increasing pace of change in SAP technology and beyond, the growing complexity of business needs due to macroeconomic challenges, the continuous move to the cloud, and the impact of AI underpinning all of that. 

That’s why developing the multidisciplinary skills architects need to survive and thrive in this climate is also a prominent dimension of my program. 

Q: What changes will you make to this event versus its 2020 counterpart? 

A: The original agenda for the 2020 event was very well-received, so it’s definitely the blueprint for the 2024 version. However, even though many of the topics are still relevant, the wider context and solutions have changed a lot in just a few years. 

What’s great about the event this time is that I have crowdsourced topics over the past year, as I’ve taken many iterations of this event on the road. This helped me understand what enterprise architects want to see and learn. I also continuously talk with SAP customers in my added role as an analyst to figure out what they need from a community event, which I made sure is reflected in this one.

Registrants also offered their ideas for the agenda when registering and we adjusted to what we heard. Any trends identified in that process were used to tailor the content. 

Q: You’re one of the most connected people in the SAP universe. How did you decide who to involve in this event? 

A: I’m lucky to be in my position, thanks to the number of people from SAP Customers, Partners and SAP that I’ve been involved with over the years. I’m always on the lookout for the most knowledgeable people in the space, and the benefit of my connections is that I can get to them quickly. 

I’ve purposefully selected people based on the intention that I don’t want this to feel like a trade show where everyone is out to sell something. This is an opportunity for SAP, SAP customers, and SAP partners to come together as a learning cohort that doesn’t contain the usual siloes. 

Q: What are the advantages of hosting this event at SAP offices? 

A: Well, firstly, SAP facilities at Newtown Square are fantastic for the kind of event we’re running. But hosting this at SAP means that there will be several top SAP experts in the room with us, including SAP’s architect team and top experts. 

There will be four “Conversation Corners” at the event covering: Architecture Advisory, AI,  Business Technology Platform and Clean Core. This is basically free consultation for the attendees. They can come together with SAP experts whenever they have questions throughout the event. 

Q: What do you think will be the hottest topics during the event? 

A: AI will be a big one. Not just what SAP plans to do with its solutions, but also how AI can help enterprise architects in their day-to-day activities. I have one speaker flying in from Paris who will walk us through how he’s using AI to save time and get more accurate in his work. 

Another session that I think will be popular is “The Enterprise Architect’s Guide to SAP S/4HANA Success.” A request I received was for a forum to help attendees plan and migrate to SAP S/4HANA Cloud. So, Damien Johnson, Global Chief Architect of Cloud ERP at SAP, agreed to lead some sessions. SAP Business Technology Platform (BTP) will also be featured throughout, as well as automation use cases for migrating to SAP S/4HANA.  

The agenda is a blend of content tracks, combining technological topics that enterprise architects encounter with the human skillset needed to succeed. 

View the full agenda here:  

Q: What should attendees expect to take away from the forum? 

A: I don’t believe in one-off events. Events should be stepping stones that connect people to the next person, idea, or meetup that will help them reach their goals. 

The quality of the sessions is incredible – with a real focus on knowledge sharing, not thinly veiled sales pitches. I’m using AI to produce a playbook from the recorded sessions that everyone can access. In addition, I’ll conduct audience research throughout the event to better understand the best next steps for attendees. 

Fundamentally, the connections and conversations between the most important enterprise architects worldwide will be invaluable. 

The Next Generation SAP Enterprise Architect Forum is currently sold out for in-person attendees. However, you can still register to attend some of the sessions virtually on February 27th starting at 8:30 am ET. This will include the keynote track and track 1 from day one in the agenda.

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