New this year, Steve Strout will head up the Americas' SAP Users' Group (ASUG) as chief executive officer. In this SAP Insider interview, Strout shares his vision for the group and his ideas for
providing even greater value to ASUG members. Strout's main goals? Fostering better communication among members, continuing to provide enriching educational events, and amping up ASUG's
technology and Web site.
Q: This is the first time ASUG has established a full-time CEO; what will your responsibilities include?
A: One thing that I will be responsible for is streamlining the decision-making process. Prior to this year, decisions had to pass through the board of directors and various chairpersons first. Now, we can make business decisions and move important issues through the pipeline more quickly — a huge value-add for ASUG members because we can be more proactive and more responsive to their requests.
|We want our members to find and add more value to the ASUG community than they ever imagined. We want to be the center of that ecosystem.
To match SAP's projected growth, and to keep pace with our own — ASUG is on track to grow its membership to 75,000 by 2010! — we simply must be more nimble. We have to react quickly — both to changes in technology and to market fluctuations.
Q: Where will your focus be in the upcoming year? What goals do you have in mind for ASUG and its members?
A: For starters, we're going to provide improved social networking opportunities. We have more than 50,000 members across North America, and more regular communication among them is a sure-fire way to incite knowledge sharing and innovation.
For ASUG to really facilitate this communication — to truly get our installation members, our associate members, our university alliance partners, and the rest of the communities talking on a regular basis — we need stronger technology in place. So we're investing in our technology infrastructure to achieve these goals. We also must continue to be a wellspring of information for our members, available around the clock to answer their most fundamental questions.
Accordingly, last month, we redesigned our Web site, www.asug.com. The revised site includes a new look and feel for more intuitive navigation, a more robust content management system for easier searching, and a new online networking tool to help members manage and expand their network of ASUG contacts. Later this year we'll be adding an integrated connection to the SAP Developer Network (SDN) and the Business Process Expert (BPX) Community.
We're also encouraging our members to rethink their definition of a "user group." ASUG is so much more than that. We want our members to find and add more value to the community than they ever imagined. We want to be the center of that ecosystem.
Q: Where do you see ASUG assisting its members with their day-to-day operations?
A: We want every member to take advantage of ASUG every day, no matter what their SAP landscape looks like — whether they're implementing new
systems or decommissioning old ones. This is why we are mapping educational content and influence activities to where people are in a product's life cycle:
- Pre-purchase: We have tools and experienced members that can help an organization figure out what to research, whether to buy, and who can help with the next phases.
- Implementation: We want members to learn from others who have real-world experience under their belts so they can implement solutions faster, cheaper, and with better quality. We are modifying the content mix of our fall events to include customer experience stories and skills training, along with usability and demo labs to give customers a more complete picture of how they can be successful with their SAP solutions.
- Stabilization: Once an application is implemented, the next step is to optimize both processes and their related configurations. Our education programs are designed to assist individuals with this optimization. This stage is also where members can provide input to influence the product suite.1
- Sunset/transition: As applications come to their end of life, we have educational content and
networking opportunities to help members learn about upgrades and move to their replacement application. For example, we have an SAP ERP Info Center on www.asug.com and we've run a series of successful SAP ERP Upgrade Symposiums to help members answer their upgrade questions.
Q: Does this mean, then, that ASUG has a new product and service portfolio?
A: I should clarify that we don't really have a "new" portfolio; rather, we are making some small, but
critical, changes to many of our products to provide better value for our members.
For us, 2008 is about revitalizing the organization — really building and improving upon what we've already got in place. Specifically, we are changing our fall educational events to better address — and dive more deeply into — what our members want and need to know. For example, we're adding the ASUG SME (Small and Medium Enterprise) Annual Conference specifically for those working with the SAP Business One product.
In addition to these changes, we recently put together two new products. The first is the ASUG Advantage Series. Here, we are bundling benchmark data, best practices, hands-on education, a discussion forum, and targeted workshops to give customers actionable information and a concrete roadmap to becoming a market-leading business. This product line includes three releases of benchmarking data per year, best practices for interpreting and
acting on that data, and customer reviews of
consultants who help companies implement these best practices.
The second product is ASUG Edge. It is a forum for members to review and rate consulting companies, as well as individual consultants. This then allows other members to identify the best consultants for
a specific type of implementation or consulting engagement. You can take a look at ASUG Edge by visiting www.asug.com/marketingplace_Edge.
|By keeping communication with our members at the core of what we do and capitalizing on our past successes while focusing on innovation and change, ASUG continues to support our members and their work.
Q: It sounds like ASUG has some ambitious plans for 2008. How will you measure your progress and success?
A: We'll keep tabs on our progress based on a series of reflective questions pertaining to alignment, integration, capability and efficiency, and benefits.
Regarding alignment, we'll ask ourselves: Are we doing the right things? Through surveys, networking, and feedback, we ensure that we are providing the right products and services. Our direct connection to members is what validates our alignment; this is how we stay on track.
We'll also consider integration: Are we doing the right things the right way? Continually reviewing how things are done is important for all organizations. We don't want to get to the point where we do something "because we have always done it that way." We always want to be implementing best practices and then figuring out how to improve them.
We'll be taking stock of our capability and efficiency: Are we getting things done right? We will have measures built into everything we do to make sure we are as efficient and effective as possible.
And lastly, are members getting the benefits? Ensuring that we are continually providing benefits and value to our members is why we're here. Throughout the year, we have a number of touch points with members to get their feedback on how we are doing.
In these ways, we'll have measurable markers of how well we're serving our members, ensuring that they're getting the most out of their relationship with us and with SAP. By keeping communication with our members at the core of what we do and capitalizing on our past successes while focusing on innovation and change, ASUG continues to support our members and their work.