“Tomorrow’s World: Creating the Future Together” was the theme at this year’s UK & Ireland SAP User Group Conference, held November 24 to 26 at the ICC Birmingham in Birmingham, UK. More than 1,000 people attended this year’s event, which was hosted by the UK & Ireland SAP User Group and organized on its key membership pillars of networking, education and influence. It is the only annual event in the UK and Ireland that is “by users for users” – and it gives SAP customers the opportunity to share with one another their experiences and best practices for maximizing the value of their SAP investment.
“Networking is at the core of everything we do, so that we can learn from each other and share our knowledge,” said Philip Adams, Chairman, UK & Ireland SAP User Group, during his keynote address to delegates on Monday.
Sharing both knowledge and fun
This year’s event program comprised 16 subject tracks, offering delegates a choice of more than 100 knowledge-transfer sessions presented by customers and SAP experts on subjects ranging from SAP HANA, cloud, mobility, supply chain management, user experience, human resources, payroll , financial excellence, and more. A special Senior Executive Forum provided CIOs the opportunity to meet in person with SAP senior executives to discuss strategic challenges in their organizations. Throughout the event, delegates could visit the Exhibition Hall to learn more about the new technologies and partner solutions on display. Interactive booths, like those offering SAP user experience tools or the possibility to take a virtual lap in a (stationary) race car, also gave delegates the opportunity to network through some shared fun.
Next page: Customer influence through organization
One of the the key ways that the UK & Ireland SAP User Group serves its user community is through its ability to constructively influence SAP in its customer-related decisions. In the keynote sessions, some speakers spoke of a deeper engagement with SAP in the past year, due in part to the active role of the group’s executive sponsor within SAP, Guy Armstrong, COO, SAP. The group’s collaborative efforts extend beyond the UK and Ireland to achieve global influence through its involvement with the SAP User Group Executive Network (SUGEN), which provides a conduit to consolidate customer feedback at an international level and channel it to SAP.
As noted by Adams in his keynote, one area in which SAP has made significant strides in its customer focus is in its support services. The introduction of enterprise support as an alternative to standard SAP support was cited in the keynotes as a positive outcome of the user group’s influence through SUGEN. In his keynote, Adams raised awareness for the resources available to customers through SAP Support, and encouraged delegates to familiarize themselves with SAP Support services, many of which are available free of additional charge for customers.
Collaboration with SAP brings good results
In the past year, a key concern for many customers has been licensing. Members of the UK & Ireland SAP User Group have been very vocal about the need for greater transparency and flexibility from SAP on licensing, and have demanded more clarity on the cost of migrations. The recent introduction of SAP’s Cloud Extension policy and its on-premise extension policy have done much to quell customer complaints; however, the user community feels there is still work to be done on this topic and the UK & Ireland SAP User Group says it intends to work collaboratively with SAP to bring more options to customers. Adams said in his keynote, “I believe, working with SAP, we will continue to engage on this topic for the benefit of members.”
Next page: To predict the future, invent it
SAP Co-CEO Jim Hagemann Snabe gave his keynote address at the end of the session on Monday. Snabe congratulated the UK & Ireland SAP User Group on achieving its 25th anniversary and thanked the customers for their trust in SAP strategy. He described SAP’s innovation strategy, based on the company’s decision to expand its core business of applications and analytics with mobile, cloud, and database and technology.
For the customers present, he detailed the benefits of SAP’s cloud offering in terms of bringing faster business processes and a simplified IT landscape that provides greater efficiency and cost reduction. Many customers were also satisfied to hear Snabe reaffirm SAP’s commitment to the core, while emphasizing the ways in which SAP is involving customers in the innovation process and offering them more options in deciding the pace at which they want to implement new SAP technologies.
Even faster innovation ahead
In considering how the next 25 years may look, Snabe said he believe the speed of innovation will accelerate even more. SAP is twice as fast at innovating today as it was in 2010, with the release cycle for a major innovation having gone from 14.7 months to 7.4 months. He said that SAP will work towards helping customers stay on top of new innovations by simplifying the software experience for them so that they can focus on running their businesses while getting greater value from their SAP investment. “I think the best way to predict the future is to invent it, and we are eager to invent it with you,” Snabe said. “I know two things for certain: number one, technology will matter a lot in the coming 25 years, and number two, SAP is eager to be your preferred partner and of course the partner of the user group.”
User experience was a key topic during the conference and a consistent theme in Snabe’s keynote to delegates. The conference Demo Jam also brought the topic to the fore, as contestants showed off their skills with demos that ranged from an immersive, virtual-world solution for field-service personnel to in-application help based on the SAP Workforce Performance Building solution.
In the end, this year’s Demo Jam was won by SAP Mentor DJ Adams from Bluefin Solutions, who showed the audience just how easy it can be to use SAP Fiori to build an app that is both useful and provides a beautiful user experience.
Fast and simple: SAP Fiori
Within the allotted five minutes, Adams had his app coded and running, to the astonishment of the audience. When asked for his advice to customers about SAP Fiori, one of SAP’s newest additions to its portfolio, Adams said, “Embrace it!”
Founded in 1988 by five users of SAP R/2, the UK & Ireland SAP User Group has grown to more than 627 member companies and now encompasses a network of 6,500 professionals.
The group’s membership has grown significantly in the last two years, as it has expanded its offering of Special Interest Groups, which now number more than 70, and has established a permanent office staff fully dedicated to membership activities. “As you get more members, you are able to establish more activities and get them promoted. It breeds a certain amount of success,” says Philip Adams, adding that having a support staff of ten has really made a difference to the group’s ability to offer members more services.
Growth is supported by an arrangement with SAP
Adams also credits the group’s new arrangement with SAP, whereby as new customers come on board, they now receive information about how to join the UK & Ireland SAP User Group. Interested companies can also take advantage of the group’s trial membership for three months before making a final decision about membership.
Next page: Event at Edgbaston Cricket Grounds
To celebrate the group’s 25th anniversary, delegates attended a gala dinner Monday night with live entertainment. The booked-out event, held at the Edgbaston Cricket Grounds, was hosted by Irish comedian and actor Ardal O’Hanlon, best known for his roles in television sitcoms Father Ted and My Hero. A wonderfully entertaining dinner show was planned with performances by Nina Conti, Mawa and the Melo-D, and Lady V Saxophonist.
Looking ahead to 2014, the leadership of the UK & Ireland SAP User Group says it will continue to emphasize networking in the organization and drive new membership, as well as deliver value to current members in the areas of licensing and innovation.
More events to come
Members can look forward to more SIG events, including events designed to deliver maximum value in a single day, such as an upcoming Analytics Symposium. “We’ve had a good year of collaboration with SAP,” says Adams. “Now we want to continue to build on that strength.”