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How Do They Do That in Japan? New SAP Global Customer Community Brings Best Practices to User Group Members Around the World

by Stefan Kneis | SAPinsider

October 1, 2007

In this global economy, where businesses are constantly evolving to account for customer needs, industry trends, and changes to IT infrastructures, many turn to SAP user groups for collaborative opportunities to help them keep pace. In this article, Co-founder and Global Head of SAP’s Customer Community Program Stefan Kneis explains SAP’s initiative to help user groups collect and share their best practices and lessons learned through the new SAP Global Customer Community Office.
 

Stefan Kneis
Global Head
SAP Customer Community Program
SAP AG

SAP customers consistently tell us that change is the only constant in their business; industry trends, customer needs, and IT infrastructures are always evolving. In turn, SAP's user groups — 38 in total around the globe — are providing members with comprehensive educational, networking, and influence opportunities to help them keep pace.

But the lessons learned through these user group forums can only be fully realized if they are shared. That's why SAP has launched the SAP Global Customer Community Office — to replicate best practices from ASUG and other SAP user groups worldwide to help member companies get more value from their SAP systems. Learn about this new global initiative from Stefan Kneis, co-founder and global head of SAP's Customer Community Program.

Q: What are SAP's goals for the SAP Global Customer Community, and what are its major benefits for SAP customers?

A: The SAP ecosystem continues to thrive, and so do its user groups. The Global Customer Community is SAP's way of helping our user groups around the world — and the member companies they consist of — share experiences and take advantage of each other's best practices, which will lead to more efficient implementations and maximum return on their SAP investments.

We have nearly 40 SAP user groups worldwide. As you might imagine, there are a lot of opportunities to strengthen these groups by leveraging what each has learned in serving our customer base. One of the ultimate goals of the community is to serve as a breeding ground for developing and strengthening programs that drive value for our customer base.

The Global Customer Community is SAP's way of helping our user groups from around the world — and the member companies they consist of — share experiences and take advantage of each other's best practices.

Q: When was the SAP Global Customer Community launched, and what role does SAP play in joining the user groups together?

A: We launched the program in August 2007, and it's already making great progress. By the end of the year, we hope to have three pilot user groups — the Americas' SAP Users' Group (ASUG), the German-Speaking SAP User Group (DSAG), and the Japan SAP User Group (JSUG) — working closely together, with the other 35 groups joining in soon after (see sidebar on the next page). SAP is dedicated to this project; I lead the SAP Global Customer Community Office and work closely with Marco Valencia, Director of the ASUG Influence Program, to coordinate the program.

Q: Which programs and topics will the SAP Global Customer Community focus on?

A: While each user group is different and offers its own programs, the groups do have several similar and overlapping program areas. The idea is for each group to share best practices with its peers around the globe to better serve its members. For example, let's look at some of ASUG's programs and the best practices they'll share in these common areas:

1. Education

ASUG member companies consistently cite access to focused educational opportunities filled with industry and solution-specific content as one of the chief reasons they join the user group. In 2006, nearly 20,000 ASUG members took advantage of ASUG education through regional chapter meetings, Special Interest Group (SIG) Webcasts, the ASUG Annual Conference, and ASUG's industry-focused fall events. Combined, these events include more than 1,700 educational sessions filled with members helping other members save money, save time, and realize more value from their SAP systems.

Each year, ASUG conducts a thorough research study to ensure the topics it covers and its education delivery methods are aligned with what its membership needs and wants. This study is an example of a best practice that all user groups can benefit from.

2. Membership

User groups can use many tactics to drive membership. ASUG's membership efforts are not cyclical, but rather are a year-round process. The organization is constantly marketing to both new prospects and current members to secure a strong membership base. For example, ASUG consistently tries to leverage the relationships that SAP account executives (AEs) have with their clients. By keeping its offerings at the forefront of AEs' minds, ASUG ensures that AEs will serve as year-round evangelists for the value the user group can provide our customers.

38 SAP User Groups Worldwide

• African SAP User Group (AFSUG)
• Americas' SAP Users' Group (ASUG)
• ASUG Argentina
• ASUG Bolivia
• ASUG Brasil
• ASUG Colombia
• ASUG México
• Belgian User Group (SAPience)
• Caribbean SAP Users' Group (CaribSAP)
• Chinese SAP User Group
• Danish User Group (FSD)
• Dutch SAP User Group (VNSG)
• French-Speaking User Group (USF)
• German-Speaking SAP User Group (DSAG)
• India SAP User Group (INDUS)
• Israel SAP User Group (ISUG)
• Italian User Group (CISS)
• Italian SAP Users and Prospects (GUPS)
• Japan SAP User Group (JSUG)

• Korea SAP User Group (KSUG)
• New Zealand User Group (NZUG)
• Norwegian User Group
• Portuguese SAP User Group (GUSP)
• SAP Australian User Group (SAUG)
• SAP Finnish User Group
• SAP Indonesia User Group (SIUG)
• SAP Thai User Group
• SAP UK and Ireland User Group
• SAP User Group Hong Kong (SUGHK)
• SAP Users' Group Middle East and North Africa (SUG-MENA)
• Singapore HR User Group
• Slovakian User Group
• Spanish User Group (AUSAPE)
• Swedish User Group (SAPSA)
• Swiss Romande User Group (SAPUSRom)
• Swiss HR German-Speaking Group (SAPUS)
• Turkish User Group (TURKSAP)
• Users of SAP in the Philippines (USAP)

3. Influence

With a variety of virtual and face-to-face avenues available to them, member companies can communicate their current needs and business requirements through numerous opportunities:

  • The ASUG influence program allows members to share customer experiences, discuss challenges and pain points, and exchange ideas about future SAP development plans1

  • Influence councils and usability activities allow members to provide their feedback to SAP on areas and products of interest

  • Executive exchanges, held via face-to-face and virtual meetings several times a year, allow C-level executives to give their feedback directly to SAP2

The new SAP Global Customer Community gives us the opportunity to replicate ASUG's influence program activities on a worldwide scale, which will help formalize the ability for all user group members to have their voices heard.

4. Benchmarking

The ASUG/SAP Benchmarking and Best Practices program allows participants to learn about current and emerging best practices and quickly adopt ideas that fuel excellence at world-class organizations. Participants submit comprehensive surveys that examine, in great detail, the value their organizations place on specific best practices — and to what extent they have actually deployed these best practices. Participating in the ASUG/SAP Benchmarking and Best Practices program offerings is free for ASUG installation members, and participating companies receive a complimentary summary report that highlights key findings and results.

The program continues to grow. In the past six months, the ASUG/SAP Benchmarking and Best Practices program expanded with the launch of three new benchmarking initiatives — for a total of 12 topics ranging from business intelligence to supply chain management and TCO. The program has received more than 600 total survey submissions representing over 400 participating companies. The findings generated from these benchmarking surveys have enabled participating companies to determine where their organization excels, to identify areas for improvement, and to quickly adopt best practices in their company's systems and processes.

5. Year-Round Community

ASUG works continuously to educate its members, facilitate networking among other colleagues and SAP experts, and influence future SAP product releases and direction. To accomplish this, ASUG offers its members a robust calendar of opportunities, from on-demand Webcasts to face-to-face educational events to virtual meetings between Special Interest Groups (SIGs).

Q: Are there any upcoming events for those interested in the SAP Global Customer Community?

A: This October, SAP Insider, SAP, and ASUG are joining together to present the Global SAP Environments 2007 conference in Miami. Experts from SAP, leading consultants, and experienced customers will provide practical advice on the best ways to build and manage global support teams, standardize multinational configuration and compliance initiatives, and meet unique business, legal, and cultural requirements using existing SAP functionality (see sidebar).

8 Considerations for Managing Global SAP Environments

The SAP Global Customer Community provides a forum for worldwide user groups and member companies to discuss key topics, including:

  • How to design, roll out, and support SAP systems on a global scale

  • Managing SAP country versions and templates

  • Catering to local needs while still managing a global business

  • Data governance and compliance with local laws and regulations

  • Unicode conversions

  • Managing global projects, teams, and communications

  • Global maintenance, testing, and change management activities

  • Supporting multiple currencies, time zones, and languages

Drill down into these subjects and more at Global SAP Environments 2007, October 22-24, in Miami (www.globalsap2007.com/asug).

As obstacles to globalization topple at an unprecedented pace, companies are taking advantage of SAP software to provide the integration and functionality necessary to achieve and maintain optimal performance. But global deployment of the software is only part of the story. Successful, global application environments depend largely on the adoption of and adherence to best practices in the design, rollout, upgrade, and support of distributed SAP environments. So, it's more important than ever to create meaningful links between the user groups around the world to help them create value for their member companies. Global SAP Environments 2007 is the ideal forum for this much-needed collaboration. Interested readers can find more information about the Global SAP Environments 2007 event at www.globalsap2007.com/asug.

Borrowing a best practice from user groups worldwide, ASUG will continue to provide educational opportunities, such as the Global SAP Environments event, to assist our customers in building the strongest SAP global community.



1 For more information about ASUG's influence program, read "ASUG's Influence Model: Ensure Your Voice Is Heard in Shaping SAP's Future"
by Rick Lloyd in the October-December 2006 issue of SAP Insider (www.SAPinsideronline.com).

2 The article "Influence at the Highest Levels — ASUG's Executive Exchange Program Brings SAP Customer Voices Straight to the Top" in the April-June 2007 issue of SAP Insider (www.SAPinsideronline.com) offers detailed information about ASUG's executive exchanges.

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