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ASUG's Influence Model: Ensure Your Voice Is Heard in Shaping SAP's Future

by Rick Lloyd | SAPinsider

October 1, 2006

To ensure SAP customers can derive the maximum value from their SAP implementations, ASUG’s influence model gives its members a voice in the future development of SAP products and services. Rick Lloyd, ASUG’s newly elected influence program director, explores the channels of influence ASUG members can use to offer feedback and shape SAP’s current, near-term, and long-term development plans.
 

Rick Lloyd
Manager,
HCM Implementation Readiness,
DuPont

This spring ASUG elected Rick Lloyd to be the new director of its influence program. Lloyd is the manager of HCM Implementation Readiness at DuPont and is responsible for managing the corporate relationship between SAP and DuPont, a relationship that goes back to 1985.

According to Lloyd, his ASUG duties are to set and manage the strategic direction, scope, and priorities of the ASUG influence program in a way that develops and supports working relationships with SAP liaisons so that the software maker understands and responds to its customers' needs and interests. Lloyd also works to ensure that ASUG member companies — DuPont among them — can take advantage of all the opportunities SAP presents to drive business growth and reduce TCO.

SAP Insider spoke with Lloyd about his new role, where he believes the ASUG influence model is headed, and how SAP customers can get involved and ensure their voices are heard.

Q. Most of SAP's customers, regardless of whether they are ASUG members or not, are aware of ASUG's major programs aimed at education, especially its conferences and networking opportunities. But the influence programs are less well-known — why do you suppose that is?

While the ASUG influence model may get less attention, it is an initiative that's growing rapidly. We have a very active influence program that gives SAP customers a voice in the future development of SAP products and services. Regardless of whether we're talking about the next release, those releases in development, or even SAP's future strategy, the ASUG influence model is a way to get SAP to hear our members' voices, both collectively and individually.

Last year more than 460 of ASUG's 1,300 member companies participated in this program. As a direct result of that effort, we were able to document 120 ASUG-influenced changes made to 36 different SAP projects and services for the benefit of our members (see a sampling of these changes in Figure 1). From my perspective, equally important is the help we give SAP, which SAP can use to fine-tune its future strategy to better reflect its customers' needs.

Sample Outcomes from ASUG's Influence Model (2005)
ASUG-identified functionality gap in SAP product or service SAP action taken Benefit to SAP customers
SAP Solution Manager — Customers needed clarification to better use and understand SAP Solution Manager SAP Solution Manager scenario
documentation, based on a customer's situation (i.e., new customer, existing customer with new project), is now
available on the SAP Support Portal
Customers can better decide which
SAP Solution Manager usage scenario
is most suitable, depending on individual needs and situations
Security — Customers needed extended length and case sensitivity for SAP system passwords As part of SAP NetWeaver 2004s, SAP implemented password enhancements that include more length, flexible history, case sensitivity, and the SHA1 algorithm Customers have more flexibility and stronger password rules
Production Planning and Detailed Scheduling — Customers needed more user-friendly planning and scheduling functionality With mySAP SCM 2005, SAP improved the user interface in Product Planning Table and Product View as well as Detailed Scheduling Planning Board Through a new UI, customers have
easy-to-use planning and scheduling functionality that can improve their
business productivity
Figure 1
A sampling of the ways ASUG members influenced SAP in 2005

Q. How, exactly, does ASUG exert this influence on SAP?

ASUG has four main channels of influence: executive exchanges, influence councils, usability activities, and, indirectly, the SAP development request system, or DRQ. Each channel provides feedback to SAP for its products and services in the short, near, and long term (see sidebar).

For example, ASUG started the executive exchange program two years ago as a way to influence SAP's long-term development plans. In this way, ASUG has been able to shape SAP's strategic direction, helping the software maker with its look ahead 18 to 36 months down the road.

Influence councils, by comparison, provide feedback to SAP on its near-term development objectives. The councils give SAP the opportunity to explain products and services it will release over the next 12 to 18 months, and enable SAP to get feedback from interested customers during development. When products are much closer to being released, ASUG's usability forums give SAP the chance to put customers' fingers on the keyboard to explore functionality and provide feedback with regard to usability and user interfaces.

For customers looking to add enhancements in the next release, the development request (DRQ) system can be handy, as it allows ASUG members to submit suggestions and detailed requirements for the next SAP product releases.

Channels of ASUG Influence

1. Executive exchange — The ASUG executive exchange offers member companies a structured and supported process to partner with SAP strategic decision makers. ASUG hosts meetings between senior executives of ASUG member companies and senior SAP management to share strategic business information, influence long-range development plans, and gain insight into the vision for future SAP solutions.

2. Influence councils — ASUG hosts these interactive online forums, which focus on a particular business process or SAP product, to communicate pressing business needs directly to SAP. Influence councils are designed for developers and solution managers. Participants have the unique opportunity to review SAP products currently in development and provide feedback to help SAP design products that are tailored to ASUG members' needs.

3. Usability activities — SAP usability activities give ASUG members the opportunity to test new and existing solutions and provide on-the-spot feedback to SAP developers, product managers, and usability experts. The feedback and ideas go directly into the development of SAP user interfaces or design concepts.

4. SAP development request system — This online tool within the SAP Support Portal enables ASUG members to submit suggestions and requirements to enhance specific functions for future SAP product releases.

ASUG channels of influence provide feedback to SAP in the short, near, and long term

Q. As ASUG's new director of influence, what changes or additions would you like to see?

The influence program has been tremendously successful. We've come a long way, and I don't want to revamp it so much as continuously improve it. SAP's support has been outstanding, and we want to continue this rich exchange.

One of the areas I want to expand is our efforts directed at customers of SAP's small and midsized enterprise (SME) solutions, such as SAP Business One. SMEs have their own concerns and development interests, so by providing greater outreach to that market, we can bring them together with SAP.

Another area I want to look at is the executive exchanges, which up to now have been heavily IT-focused. CIOs and IT directors are almost always in attendance. I would like to find a way to extend this participation to include senior business leaders whose perspective may provide additional insight for future partnering between SAP and its customers.

DuPont has been a key SAP customer since 1985, and that long-standing relationship naturally provides more opportunities to make sure SAP understands my company's interests. But for companies that are either not as large or are relatively new to SAP, the ASUG influence model offers the perfect vehicle for getting your voice heard by SAP.

How to Get Involved

ASUG's influence model is available to all ASUG installation members. To participate, register at www.asug.com and indicate your areas of interest on your myASUG preferences. Also, contact your ASUG community facilitator or special interest group (SIG) chair with any SAP product or service concerns. ASUG will direct you to upcoming activities in your interest area, or identify to SAP the need for discussions on that particular product or service.

For more information on upcoming influence activities at ASUG events or as part of the online ASUG community, please visit www.asug.com/influence/events.cfm.

SAP: We're Listening

by Marco Valencia, SAP America, Inc.

Marco Valencia
Director ASUG Customer Advocacy,
SAP America, Inc.

SAP wants to deliver products that best meet its customers' needs, and ASUG members want to influence SAP's development of products and services to meet their unique business requirements. That's why we have been working closely with ASUG to formalize the influence model for the benefit of both organizations. This desire goes all the way up to SAP senior management; Claus Heinrich, SAP Executive Board Member and ASUG Sponsor, and Shai Agassi, President of the Product and Technology Group and SAP Executive Board Member, are behind our efforts.

SAP listens to every single one of its customers. Each request for new functionality, expanded service,
or new products is weighed, considered, and prioritized. When it comes to considering these requests, there is strength in numbers, and the ASUG influence model presents the pulse of the ASUG membership and the most pressing needs of the North American market to SAP in a consolidated fashion.

Our commitment to ASUG is not only to listen, but also to report back where these influence activities have made an impact. We provide influence update sessions at every significant ASUG event. Every year SAP, in conjunction with ASUG, publishes the results of the previous year's influence activities. The annual Closing the Loop report demonstrates to ASUG members where their influence has changed, enhanced, or expanded SAP's development efforts.

For SAP, the ASUG influence model is a major contributor to how we better our products and services. It has become a significant way for SAP to capture the collective voice of its customers in North America.


 

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