Customers Improving SAP Software

August 13, 2013 by Christoph Zeidler

Photo: jd-Photodesign – Fotolia.de

This must have happened to just about everyone at some time: You’re sitting in front of your computer using software for either private or business purposes and you wonder why precisely the functionality that you use regularly can only be reached with bizarre workarounds or why some button or other is hidden exactly where you don’t expect to find it. Or you’d like to see more features in some places so that complexity can be reduced elsewhere. “What could the software developer have been thinking?” you often ask yourself, forgetting that different users have different focuses when working with the software.

Precisely to find this out – to hear from as many users and companies as possible about where there is room for improvement – SAP offers its customers the chance to give feedback directly to the development departments. It’s known as Customer Connection.

Developed according to customer needs

This program, which was devised in close cooperation with the German-speaking SAP user group DSAG and the SAP user groups involved with the SUGEN network, has already led to almost 400 product improvements that were triggered by customer requests and that are currently used by more than 6,500 customers worldwide. One example is the improved CAD integration in SAP PLM, which was the result of a suggestion from Carl Zeiss AG.

Next page: Communication between customer and developer

“One of the strengths of the program is the direct contact between the customer and the developer,” says Ralf Katzer from Carl Zeiss. “The ideas where the developers took advantage of this contact and really understood the application scenario at the customer were perfectly implemented.” For example, a new “eyeglasses” pushbutton was created to display non-CAD originals directly from the CAD desktop, and performance was improved for the loading of assemblies. “The improved usability, the addition of previously lacking functions, and the performance improvements most definitely increase the effectiveness of our CAD users’ work,” Katzer says. This represents progress not only for Katzer and his colleagues at Carl Zeiss, but for everyone who works with CAD data in SAP PLM.

Customers who want to suggest an improvement can do this using the SAP Customer Influence Platform. There, they will find a folder of predefined key topics, which were already identified in advance in cooperation with SAP user groups and which are worked on collaboratively, like a project. The scope and duration of each individual Focus Topic has already been described for the customer at the start of the project, and the assignment of development capacity by SAP is also clarified. Milestones – with which customers are involved as the project progresses – are part of the standard process that each project follows.

Harnessing the power of users’ ideas

Customers post their ideas about the individual Focus Topics on the SAP Customer Influence Platform. These ideas are then assessed and discussed by the other users. If at least five customers think an idea makes sense and if they say they would implement a solution provided by SAP, the idea is passed on to SAP Development to be evaluated. Once the assessment phase is over, customers receive feedback about whether and how the idea will be implemented or a reason why the idea cannot be realized in the current project.

Next page: From idea to implementation

The customer suggestions implemented as part of the Customer Connection Program are developed within approximately six months as a rule and, after validation by the customers involved, are shipped as a SAP Improvement Note and as part of a Support Package. This means customers can quickly use these improvements – and they are free of charge. This graphic shows an example of how cooperation works in Customer Connection.

Functions of the Customer Connection program

Customers can therefore use this platform specifically to:

–          Submit improvement requests

–          Discuss and subscribe to submitted improvement requests

–          Track the status of the improvement requests relevant to them

–          State whether they want to implement improvements, and if so, which ones

Next page: Improving software and increasing customer satisfaction

“The Customer Connection Program has helped SAP to prioritize product development and gives us as users greater transparency about the current status. That’s a big step forward,” says Craig Dale, chief executive of the UK & Ireland’s SAP user group, who recommends that members actively participate in the program. “This is the most direct way to make suggestions. And because the SAP portfolio is constantly being developed further, it is important for users to have a say,” he adds. The fact that this codetermination leads to greater user satisfaction pleases not only the customers and the user groups, but also SAP. “From our regular customer surveys, we know that customers who get involved in Customer Connection are even more satisfied than those who are not yet familiar with the program,” says Yasmin Awad, who is based in Walldorf and is responsible for relations with SAP user groups globally. “For us, it is very important that we get such feedback – because it’s the only way we can make our software even better.”

By the way: For transparency about what improvements have been made, all you need to do is go to the SAP Improvement Finder, which enables each customer to find all the improvements delivered through Customer Connection by using a simple Google-like search function. Along with the SAP Solution Browser, which informs customers about the enhancement packages available according to release, customers can see at any time which improvements exist for the solutions they deploy. Thanks to the Customer Connection Program, SAP offers an interesting way for the installed base to actively influence SAP products. Furthermore, these continuous improvements give customers the opportunity to perfect their SAP products free of charge. Finally, there’s no denying the success of the program and the fact that it boosts satisfaction – because many customers who have experienced the improvements so far have said so.

How to help improve SAP software

For more information about SAP Customer Connection and an overview of all the ways you can influence SAP product development, go to www.sap.com/cc. If you have any questions, please contact customer-connection@sap.com.

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