Upcoming business competition simulates real world problems

A German business software is on-demand in the business world, and Central Michigan University is the nation's leader in providing companies with certified students to use it.

The software made by SAP helps businesses manage operations and customer relations. CMU was was one of the first universities to align with SAP, using it to train students in the software and other business skills in fourteen available business courses.

On Thursday, CMU is holding a competition to showcase that alliance. This year will be the fourth annual Enterprise Resourse Planning Simulation competition.

About 190 students in the College of Business will participate in a game simulation designed to test their teamwork and business strategy in working for a fictional company. Meanwhile, 70 representatives from Fortune 500 companies will look on and advise as mentors.

Sometimes students can be recruited to work for the company that advises them, said College of Business Dean Charles Crespy. 

"We have arguably the biggest ERP-related event in America," Crespy said.

Students are broken up into teams of four to five, with each sponsored by a company. The teams wear t-shirts that represent their mentors, have the opportunity to network and ask for advice in between game-rounds. 

Crespy said the event is growing in interest with companies because of the software's usefulness in the real world and the need for trained people to use it.

More than 90 percent of CMU students passed the SAP TERP10 exam last May and received certification, above the international pass average of 65 percent.

Marcus Jackson is taking part in the simulation and going for his Masters in Business Administration. He said his team of five members is sponsored by Volkswagen, which sent five people to advise and hear their strategy.

"We look at it as an opportunity to pull up our dashboards and show off how we can communicate as a team, build relationships and show Volkswagen we can work together," Jackson said. 

Jackson said sponsors like Volkswagen are great motivators and can be helpful in understanding how the simulation relates to the real world.

"After we put forth a fair amount of effort, we came to them with certain problems and they set up a meeting with their logistics people and they were able to tell us how they solved that same kind of problem," Jackson said.

Frank Andera, director of CMU's SAP University Alliance Program, said the intent for the simulation on Thursday is not necessarily just a game with winners and losers.

"The intent is not to teach SAP, it's exercise," Andera said. "Companies are coming to CMU because of our competencies."






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