In this webinar, academics Colin Drake and Dr Scott Bingley talk about our Graduate programs in Business Analytics & ERP.  

Colin Drake

Welcome to Victoria University's Graduate Online Information Series. My name is Colin Drake. I'm a Senior Lecturer in the VU Business School and tonight with me, I have Dr. Scott Bingley. Scott is an experienced researcher in the field of information systems, and also Director of SAP Next-Gen Lab. Beyond all of those titles, he's also the Postgraduate Course Chair in the Masters of Enterprise Resource Planning and Business Analytics. Perhaps, without any further due, I'll throw over to you Scott. Tell us a little bit about what brought you to Victoria University and your interest in this field?

Dr Scott Bingley

What brought me here was I did my undergraduate here. I did my PhD here, and my first real academic job was at Victoria University. I love the environment. I love being here and that's why I've been here since probably, 20 years, I started my undergrad here at the university. I've just stayed here because I love working here, other than the odd year or two in the industry, working in there.

Colin Drake

Tell us a little bit about the role of ERP and business analytics in the contemporary business environment.

Dr Scott Bingley

We'll have to explain what ERP is. It's a bit of a term people hear, but it's basically a computer system. It's a type of computer system. We have CRM systems people hear about, customer relationships, supply chain, accounting systems, HR systems, manufacturing systems. ERP is just one big system that encompasses all those. The advantage of this one is that you have one data database connected to it. Instead of having all these little modular systems that have their own database that may not talk to each other, it's hard to get data to each other and reference across departments, everything's stored in one place.

Therefore, you can run big reports to go across departments. You can see infantry in real-time, and sales in real-time. Now we have a bit of a butterfly effect where sales will make a big sale, all of a sudden, manufacturing sales in real-time, accounting sales in real-time. Therefore, we can set up real-time and get real-time insight into organisations. Generally, large organisations have these big systems, and therefore they can run better, they can run more agile. With the current climate of COVID-19 knowing what your customers wants, knowing how much stock you have on, knowing what actually works, running analytics, all coming out at one spot, makes it very attractive.

What brought me to this field is, love working with computers, but I'm not super technical as well. That's why I'm in the business area. I can speak both languages, computers and a business one. The very essence of an Information Systems person, it's all about getting the right information. to the right person at the right time. Using ERP is amazing because you don't have a lag in data. You don't have to wait for the systems to update overnight. Therefore, you have the ability to make these decisions based on data.

Colin Drake

I understand that SAP is one of those big proprietary companies in the ERP. You've been heavily involved in setting up the Next-Gen Lab. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Dr Scott Bingley

Yes. SAP is just a software company that make ERP. They make lots of other software, but one of their big flagship ones is the CRP solution they produce. We have an ongoing partnership with SAP. We've been using them as our practical component for our degrees since 1997. They're one of the big software companies in the world. They have 440,000 customers across 180 countries, therefore they're everywhere. 98% of the world's most trusted brands use SAP or some of their systems. Therefore, the opportunity is there for our graduates to work anywhere. We have Australia's only SAP Next-Gen Lab, and we're very lucky to have that.

We've been upgraded to a chapter as well. There's only three chapters that run Next-Gen Labs in the world. We use this to do some research out of which we're continuing to do, but also, we use it for our capstone project for our master students. In there, they'll work on a real-world industry project, rather than, say a research report which is quite common for masters. We've had many clients from O-I Glass who are the world's biggest bottle manufacturer, to electricity companies, infrastructure companies, to car leasing companies, all giving us real-world problems.

Our students are there to find a creative solution for these organisations. Once so with the electricity company, they wanted us to analyze their data, and find a way of predicting what would break in the electrical nodes out in the field before it broke, and fix it. It's a predictive maintenance algorithm sort of thing, but they didn't want to spend lots of money because they've got to tighten the budget a it. They gave us 30 years' worth of data to go through. The data wasn't great, but I told the students that's industry, that's what it is. We developed a balanced scorecard which had some regression analysis based on that and introduced some other factors as well, which affected this stuff. Those are the projects our students work on as their capstone project.

Colin Drake

Do you think that that's something that the students value in terms of putting on a CV, or talking to potential employers about the fact that they're using real-world data and coming up with solutions?

Dr Scott Bingley

Yes. I'm actually marking their reflective pieces this week. I'm reading all about how it's developing their soft skills, developing their more creative side for business, they're improving their communication skills, but also, they're developing something from the ground up. They've got to develop a business plan. They've got to be able to put a project proposal together. They've got to take all their great ideas they've got, and actually make it happen and implement it. That's the difficult part.

You can have as many ideas as you want, but having the skills and the ability to implement it is difficult. Our students are doing this from the ground up. It's consulting but you're still in the cozy embrace of a university as well.

Colin Drake

The best of both worlds, really.

Dr Scott Bingley

Exactly, they're still guided by experts, but they still work with some of our industry partners, find out all the problems they deal with. They're a bit pampered with nicely tailored academic problems during the university, so it's good for them to get this insight.

Colin Drake

We've talked a little bit about some of the employability skills that come from your course. Perhaps have you got success stories of people that you've taught over the last few years in this course, and what roles are they likely to find out there in industry?

Dr Scott Bingley

I love keeping in contact with the students. My LinkedIn account is full of our students, I encourage them to link up and connect with me, so I can just see where they go. We've got lots of students who have gone through the SAP pre-sales and induction phases. We've got a number of students at the big four, Ascensia. Also, because SAP is used in a lot of organisations they can go work at those companies as well. Australia Post have it, Kohl's have it, Bureau of Meteorology have it. We've got one student who just started or just finished the capstone project with the Next-Gen Lab, and that's all they spoke about for the interview. She's very happily employed there at Bureau of Meteorology. I catch up every now at the SAP user group conference as well. It's good to see the students go on.

Colin Drake

You mentioned SAP is a critical element of this particular masters course. Do you have other industry partnerships? Perhaps if you can talk about the internship that I know you're heavily involved in.

Dr Scott Bingley

SAP is our major focus. We try to use as much SAP in there as well. We have the latest and greatest applications for our students to work on. That really sets them apart because they're not competing against people who have spent 15 years working on the old applications. They're actually in front of them when they graduate. There's a interesting date coming up 2027, and this is when SAP will stop supporting the old version of SAP. Our graduates, it's going to be an interesting time coming up. It was 2025, now it's '27. It's going to be an interesting time when our graduates start graduating, get to experience that's you kick on.

Our program does offer an internship. We work with a lot of organisations in the northwest of Melbourne. A lot of this is around financial modeling, [unintelligible 00:09:06] with the NDIS to see if the numbers stack up for these organisations. Electricity companies again, same from buying electricity, very volatile rights, trying to even it out and bring those models together, and order healthcare providers which have been super busy recently as well.

Colin Drake

I can imagine. One thing that we spent a lot of time on is talking about ERP. We haven't spent so much time talking about business analytics. Explain to me, principally the difference between the two, and the Masters in Business Analytics. What do you do differently than ERP?

Dr Scott Bingley

ERP, the graduates work for a company that has an ERP system in there. Whereas business analytics can be more generalist, you want to put it up there. Even though they've got skills that use SAP, they also can fit into an organisation where they speak IT, IS, and also business as well.

They can start finding solutions to problems, or they can start finding maybe problems in the system that other people can't see. That's the major difference in it, but we also have a graduate Certificate in ERP and Business Analytics.

I think that's a really good one right now, it's four units. If people are looking to update their skills, particularly using the older versions of SAP four units, they can use the new versions and up-skill themselves during any breaks they have.

Colin Drake

I imagine that with a four-unit, that's a bit of an entree into the masters, they can convert those four units into a masters program at any stage in the future.

Dr Scott Bingley

Yes, correct. We've also got a Graduate Diploma, which is eight units as well. You can convert those into the masters. We've got a 12-unit masters and a 16-unit masters as well.

Colin Drake

Tell me, what are the career opportunities like for your graduates at this moment in time?

Dr Scott Bingley

Very good. Having an ERP or a successful business analytics sort of area in an organisation it's really showing them how good processes are particularly with COVID. If they're a very well-run organisation, they can look at their data, see how they can maybe pivot during these times, and therefore change what they do. With our graduates, there'll be able to fit in that quite successfully because those businesses are getting bigger. Supply chain companies are getting bigger. Supermarkets are getting bigger, Kohl's run SAP. Because of that, put the 2027 dates on top of that, and all of a sudden, it's a very exciting time to be in this space.

Colin Drake

Tell me do you have full-time and part-time students or are they predominantly one or the other?

Dr Scott Bingley

Well, we get a mixture of both. I would say that predominantly would be full-time students, but we do cater to part-time. We try and alternate lectures and tutorials to be one semester at nights, next semester during the day, and with a lot of options.

Colin Drake

Just to go into that in detail, do you find that there's a gender balance in your classrooms? Are you having more males attracted than females, or do you have a mix of both in your classes?

Dr Scott Bingley

I would say it's probably 60/40 females without any problem. With the NextGen Lab, there'd be easily 60% women doing that. It's great to see. We have an SAP career mentor as well as part of the NextGen Lab. He'll come in, talk a bit, he'll give some one-on-one mentoring, he'll give a few presentations about what they need to do to succeed, what a consultant does during the day, and what a typical week would look like, and the opportunities they have. We’ve also at the start of the year launched an FQ Lounge. It's The Female Quotient Lounge.

This is to empower female prospective or future female business leaders to learn from female mentors, tap into the vast network of the FQ Lounge. We've got one of those in Melbourne. It's had to take a little bit of a back step with COVID at the moment, but that'll be up and running properly again, when we resume.

Colin Drake

That’s really quite an exciting initiative and one that's quite welcome. IT generally hasn't had a fantastic scorecard in terms of gender equality or moving women into the C-suite. That's probably a really good step in the right direction.

Dr Scott Bingley

We try to make sure all our students, female or male, that they get involved with the industry. We make sure we have guest lecturers come in. We make sure we have an SAP career mentor talk about projects. We do industry projects. Therefore, they actually will quit to just walk into a job and hit the ground running.

Colin Drake

That's fantastic. Scott, we're going to have to wind up there, but we might have a few questions from our audience. Just before I let you go I'll just check to see whether we've got any particular quick questions. Just bear with me for a moment. What is the difference in terms of time commitment from the Graduate Certificate to a Masters program?

Dr Scott Bingley

Well, if you do the Graduate Certificate full-time, it's four units for one semester. If you do the masters full-time, you could still do four units one semester, but you just do that either for three semesters or four semesters.

Colin Drake

Depending on part-time or full-time, depends on how quick you can get through the course, but technically if someone, for example, through COVID was retrenched out of their job, they could literally pick up a Grad Cert in the space of six months?

Dr Scott Bingley

Yes, correct. We run some of these units over summer as well.

Colin Drake

That's good to know. Lastly, is there anything further that we need to know about the Masters of Business ERP or Business Analytics that we haven't touched on so far, do you think?

Dr Scott Bingley

I don't think so, our goal is our Dean's goal. I think most of that's come to fruition is that we want to be the most industry connected business school in Australia. Therefore, we make sure we have a connection to industry, our industry is SAP, particularly in the ERP space. Therefore, we do have guest lecturers come in. We do have entry points into organisations through internships. We are fairly active with the SAP user group in Australia. I've presented at their conference for the last couple of years and also with the NextGen Lab as well. We're really trying to make sure our students are well-equipped with those technical and soft skills.

Colin Drake

Excellent. Well, thank you, Scott, once again. Thank you for being part of the Graduate Online Information Series. If you want to talk to Scott, one-on-one either via email or Skype or Zoom, we have appointments that you can register for after the end of this presentation. Thank you once again. We look forward to seeing you at VU soon.

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