SAP.info: What is the primary mission of the UK & Ireland SAP User Group?
Alan Bowling: Collaboration – that’s what the user group is all about. It’s about bringing knowledge together and facilitating useful exchanges. We’re also starting to act as the official mouthpiece of the regional member organizations, which number around 620 following the merger with the SAP BusinessObjects User Group UK, or BOUG.
Can you tell us about the merger of the UK & Ireland SAP User Group and the Business Objects User Group UK?
Alan Bowling: The merger got the nod from the BusinessObjects User Group UK last October, but there were legal issues to work out in what was essentially the merger of two companies. We spent the last few months handling those issues, and as of January 1, 2012, it’s official.
The Business Objects User Group will operate as a standalone group within the UK & Ireland SAP User Group – a user group within a user group, if you will. The BOUG will continue to provide a community and services to members using Business Objects and run the special interest groups, whether or not they use other SAP products.
Craig Dale: It’s an exciting time. Coming together benefits both sides of the table. For the UKISUG, the merger brings in a lot of Business Objects expertise. Members can network with Business Objects users, affording them a deeper understanding of the Business Objects toolset and how it can benefit their business.
On the BOUG side, the merger will provide administrative support, enabling members to enhance their knowledge and understanding, and give them a say in product development for the first time through working with SUGEN (SAP User Group Executive Network), which has access to the product development side of Business Objects as well as the mainstream SAP products.
Turning to customer-specific issues and the market situation: SAP is talking a lot about big data, cloud, and mobile. Is that really what you’re hearing from your members about what’s topping their agendas?
Craig Dale: I think the most common concern is extracting business value. Members are saying, ‘I’ve got my investment in SAP, how do I make better use of it? How can we make it cheaper to run SAP, and then use the money we save by running it more efficiently to capitalize on the innovation piece?’
Alan Bowling: From my perspective, the message customers are sending to SAP is: recognize the existing customer base; they want to do things better. Make sure that dialogue is happening, and happening in a way that recognizes that customers already understand what SAP does. We don’t want a lot of marketing blur, we want real, in-depth, focused product delivery support.
Where are your members, the customers, in terms of implementing Sybase?
Craig Dale: I think that a lot of customers don’t quite understand what the Sybase platform is, or if it can help them. We brought a mobile track into the user conference this year to try and help remedy that. More education on Sybase for our members, and I suspect, all customers is needed.
What are the next steps for the User Group?
Alan Bowling: First off, we want to continue to do what we’re doing. We also want to grow, bring more people into our user group. BusinessObjects will be a focus, cementing that integration, ensuring it works for the members, and growing it. It’s got massive potential, but we need to get it realized.