Last Monday, I attended the 11th Annual ChemWeek IT Forum in King of Prussia, PA. 

Unfortunately, the attendance was light for the conference, but the presenters all hung in there and delivered quality content.  The presentations are posted here for your review.  Reading the slide decks won't be the same as being there, but you should get a good understanding of the topics discussed.

I enjoyed Michael Boster's (CIO of Vertellus) talk on IP protection.  He provided a nice framework for addressing IP protection, and shared a real story that drove the point home.  Understandably, some companies are hesitant about sharing anything related to IP protection.  But real stories advance real understanding of what can happen and it benefits the community as a whole.  Michael did a nice job with this topic.

Andrea Kirk also did a really nice job on the knowledge management story at Rohm and Haas.  Her presentation style added some much needed energy into the room.  One of her themes was to simplify the IT environment.  Simplification makes it much easier for the users to know where to get work done and store documents, and it makes it much easier for IT to apply standardized governance and compliance controls on key information.  The Microsoft approach for this is called infrastructure optimization.

Colin Masson and I presented ways which chemical companies innovate off of their IT foundation.  Many of the large chemical companies have a solid ERP implementation - likely on SAP.  With this foundation in place, we are seeing investments shift away from core ERP back into other areas including manufacturing & engineering, supply chain, sales & marketing and R&D.  Most of the analysts would agree on this shift - though there is certainly some debate over how much is flowing into the different buckets.

Regardless, Colin and I talked about the new focus of investment, mainly in maximizing the value of the ERP implementation.  This includes capabilities such as collaboration, mobility, unified communications, business intelligence, and performance management.  This is a layer the global chemical workforce (no matter which functional discipline you are in) demands to allow easier access into business and technical systems, and easier access to work with each other.  At Microsoft, we call this role-based productivity - bringing people together with processes and other people in a seamless way to be more productive.

In addition, we also shared our point-of-view on the dual ERP strategy.  It is not a new scenario, but one that has some momentum behind it, as chemical companies continue to reshape their portfolios - adding and subtracting businesses, and entering into joint-ventures. 

The need to have a flexible business management platform is that much more important in this environment - and sometimes in contrast to the model of single-global instance.  Your ERP strategy should align to your business strategy, and we are seeing large chemical companies benefit from the flexibility of having a secondary ERP standard (in our case Dynamics AX or Dynamics NAV).  Check out the presentation for more information, but I've included a slide about this below.

Dynamics Dual

-Brian