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Taking SAP Expertise to a New Level: Learn from Your Peers Through ASUG's Member Communities

by Paul Kurchina | SAPinsider

July 1, 2007

ASUG prides itself on providing its members with a strong connection to SAP, but also recognizes the importance of information sharing among its own members. ASUG Director of Communities Paul Kurchina discusses ASUG Special Interest Groups and Communities of Interest, two initiatives dedicated to connecting ASUG members with their peers based on common interests and areas of expertise.
 

The Americas' SAP Users' Group (ASUG) is dedicated to connecting its members not only with SAP, but with fellow members who share similar interests and challenges. This kind of connection lets participants discuss topics of interest, stay up-to-date on current activities, and share road-tested experiences.

To this end, ASUG has set up Special Interest Groups (SIGs) and Communities of Interest to offer its members focused educational, networking, and influence opportunities. These two programs enable SAP customers to connect with others working in similar industries, business processes, or technologies — not only virtually, but face to face as well.

With access to more than 80 SIGs and Communities of Interest, ASUG members have an abundance of networking opportunities at their fingertips. In this interview, Paul Kurchina, ASUG's Director of Communities, discusses why these communities were launched, what makes them successful, and how members can get involved.

Q: What's the motivation behind ASUG's Special Interest Groups and Communities of Interest?

A: A sense of community has always been important to ASUG, so we're constantly looking for new ways for our members to connect. Originally, ASUG members associated only at a very broad level, in large communities of individuals with similar technology and solution interests, such as product lifecycle management (PLM). As the depth and breadth of SAP's solution offerings increased, SAP user roles became more specialized. When our members subsequently voiced their need to connect in a more focused way, we launched the Special Interest Groups program to make member interactions more relevant. In the last few years, we also launched ASUG Communities of Interest to provide a more informal venue for members to meet and address specific new topics in the industry (see Figure 1).

ASUG Special Interest Groups (SIGs) ASUG Communities of Interest
Business Processes (including Human Capital Management, Supply Chain Management, Services and Support, and Small and Medium Enterprises) Power Generation
Enterprise Portfolio and Resource Management
Technologies (including Business Integration, Technology, and Infrastructure; Enterprise Architecture; and Enterprise Portals) User Experience
SAP Solution Manager
Industries (including Retail, Mining, Utilities, and Aerospace & Defense) IT Application Standards — Quality Assurance and Quality Control Practices
Customer Care and Services (CCS)
For a complete list of ASUG SIGs, visit www.asug.com/2007communities. For related questions, contact communities@asug.com or call +1 312 321-5142.
Figure 1
An at-a-glance look at some of the more than 80 Special Interest Groups and Communities of Interest that ASUG members can get involved in

Q: So how do Communities of Interest differ from SIGs? What's the unique value of each?

A: Communities of Interest promote the discussion of hot topics not currently represented by an ASUG SIG. These communities arise more frequently than SIGs and are flexible and easy to start.1 A typical Community of Interest launch will include an introductory Webcast and an ASUG discussion forum. Think of a Community of Interest as a launching pad for a SIG; as the Community of Interest grows and matures, it has the potential to become a permanent community.

Each year, ASUG evaluates our roster of Communities of Interest to determine which could become a SIG, and which have served their purpose and should end. Most Communities of Interest with the potential to develop into a SIG do so within one year. The SIG leaders then work with ASUG Headquarters to schedule year-round educational, networking, and influence activities, including Webcasts and face-to-face meetings. These extra venues really set the formal SIGs apart from the more casual Communities of Interest and give members more opportunities to interact directly with SAP.

What's important to note here is that these ASUG groups are community-driven. Members choose the topics and drive the content and agenda. It's a very hands-on opportunity for SAP customers to rally support around a given issue.

Join Thousands of Your Peers in ASUG Communities

Members that want to get involved in a SIG can opt in by updating their member profile at www.asug.com/profiles. The average SIG has approximately 1,750 participants, but each SIG can range from 150 to 6,000 participants, depending on where the SIG is in its life cycle.

Communities of Interest, by their nature, are informal communities in which members can participate when a need arises, so they rely mainly on online discussion forums to communicate with interested members. It's an easy way not only to get involved and stay updated on a particular topic, but to get your questions answered quickly by your peers.

Q: What can ASUG members gain by joining and participating in an ASUG community?

A: ASUG has a varied user base, with different areas of expertise and interest. ASUG is committed to bringing educational and networking opportunities to all of our members by providing SIGs and Communities of Interest as vehicles to ask questions, discover solutions, network, and influence SAP.

Every SIG has a designated SAP point of contact who works with volunteer ASUG leaders to recruit SAP content experts for the interest group's educational Webcasts. This interaction provides a forum for ASUG SIGs to directly influence SAP and see results. ASUG publishes a "Closing the Loop" report every year to document the changes and success ASUG members have made through influencing SAP.

With so many topics that ASUG SIGs can cover, the groups aren't limited to focusing on a process solution or
a specific industry — the opportunities are limitless.

Q: What new SIGs and Communities of Interest have recently been introduced, and what success have they had?

A: The past year has been one of strong growth for these programs. In response to member needs, we introduced the New Product Development and Introduction (NPDI) and Enterprise Service-Oriented Architecture (Enterprise SOA) SIGs last year; each now has more than 700 members. ASUG's newest SIG is the Mining Industry Community, which even before its official launch date had over 150 members.

ASUG Communities of Interest have also seen tremendous growth. Our newest include the SAP Solution Manager Community of Interest and the IT Application Standards: Quality Assurance and Quality Control (QA/QC) Practices group.

In the last year, several Communities of Interest gained so much support that ASUG decided to make them SIGs. For example, the Customer Competency Centers (CCC) Community and the Global Trade Services (GTS) Community developed into SIGs, and the CRM Sales Community merged with the existing SAP Customer Relationship Management SIG.

Q: What's next for ASUG SIGs and Communities of Interest?

A: ASUG will continue to monitor hot topics in the SAP ecosystem and listen to our members' needs. We will launch Communities of Interest as emerging technologies develop, and we'll continue to evaluate the success of our current Communities of Interest and promote them to the SIG level as necessary. We anticipate that ASUG members will help launch 10 to 12 new communities in 2007; in fact, they already launched two new Communities of Interest at the ASUG Annual Conference and SAPPHIRE.

The beauty of these programs, though, is that their success is based on what ASUG members want to make of them.

Q: What can readers do to find out more?

A: I encourage all members to update their membership profile at www.asug.com/profiles to accurately reflect their areas of expertise and to request updates on SIG and Communities of Interest happenings. All ASUG members should take advantage of this benefit. SIGs and Communities of Interest are great opportunities for members to hold leadership positions in their area of expertise.

To learn more about ASUG's communities, visit www.asug.com/2007communities.



1 Members can locate all start-up processes and proposal forms for SIGs and Communities of Interest at www.asug.com/2007communities.


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