“It can be a real eye-opener.” That’s how Gretchen Lindquist, lead analyst, SAP Security team, for Halliburton’s Energy Services group describes her experiences with the Americas’ SAP Users’ Group (ASUG). As program coordinator for ASUG’s Business Integration, Technology & Infrastructure (BITI) group, as well as program chair for the Houston, Texas, chapter, she has a direct link to SAP and thousands of other SAP users.
Over the last five years she’s been both student and teacher at ASUG events and annual conferences. She had her own eyes opened by other ASUG members who shared their innovative answers to business and technology problems. And by sharing Halliburton’s SAP experiences she’s been able to help others too.
“No matter what your level of expertise, there’s someone in ASUG who’s doing what you’re doing and is looking to network with you. You learn from one another at all levels,” Lindquist said.
Long and deep ties
Halliburton has a long and deep relationship with SAP and ASUG. Certified as a Customer Competency Center (CCC) by SAP in 2003, Halliburton supports one of the largest global SAP instances in the world. It has more than 33,000 users in 350 field locations and 100 countries. Mike Perroni, a vice president within Halliburton’s Information Technology group, is president of ASUG for 2006.
Lindquist says her involvement in ASUG is a benefit to Halliburton. For example, Halliburton can spend less money on consultants. Instead, when Lindquist or others at Halliburton have a question about production support practices or technical questions about security reports, tables and utilities, they can tap into ASUG’s many free resources.
Those resources include Influence Councils with a direct link to SAP executives. They include Special Interest Group (SIG) meetings with other ASUG members who are working on topics of interest to Halliburton. They also include educational Web casts and blogs, and of course, networking sessions and conferences.
“Through ASUG I have a wonderful network of people coast to coast,” she said. “I have learned from many companies. A presentation by Hershey Foods on its Sarbanes-Oxley Act compliance roadmap was very helpful to me as a point of comparison to our SOX project experiences, as was a presentation by Microsoft on achieving controls compliance.”
And over the years Lindquist herself has presented many well-received sessions on topics such as security administration production support practices and security role redesign to improve internal controls.
Security questions and answers
Lindquist also participates in ASUG’s Security SIG and the related Influence Council, which focuses on SAP NetWeaver security. Like other ASUG Influence Councils, it offers an avenue for SAP users to give feedback directly to SAP product managers and developers.
ASUG tracks improvements to SAP products and services as a result of Influence Councils. For instance, because of input from the Security Influence Council, SAP has begun improvements to Central User Administration (CUA) functionality to improve its technical performance and usability. That is of particular interest to Halliburton because the company recently implemented CUA.
SAP also created password enhancements for SAP NetWeaver because of council feedback. The enhancements give more flexibility to customers for control over password parameters such as length and flexible history. And it has a new and ongoing process of creating application-specific security guides after getting input from the council.
“There’s a lot of give and take in the Security Influence Council. It’s very exciting to know that enhancements are coming down the road based on our input,” Lindquist said.
Sold on ASUG
She says she was sold on participation in ASUG from the first time she attended a conference in 2000. Struck by the obvious benefits of user-to-user sharing, she signed on to be a speaker in 2001 and hasn’t missed an event since then. She says a valuable difference between ASUG events and SAP events is that ASUG gives members direct access to other SAP customers.
“Any SAP person or a consultant could stand up on stage and talk about what could happen ‘in the ideal world’ or tell the audience to ‘envision it being this way.’ But a user who’s actually been there, done it, deployed it, and learned from it can speak at such a different and more useful level,” Lindquist said. “I became sold on that concept.”
Direct link to SAP
As a result of her involvement with ASUG Lindquist has a good relationship with the SAP security product manager. She’s in close contact as well as others from SAP and many other ASUG volunteers. She fields calls and e-mails about ASUG and helps solicit volunteers for the organization. She’s heavily involved with planning ASUG’s 2006 annual conference in Orlando. It’s taking place in conjunction with SAP’s annual SAPPHIRE conference.
A longtime SAP customer, Halliburton runs mySAP ERP, SAP Business Information Warehouse, SAP Global Trade Services and SAP NetWeaver Mobile component, in addition to CUA. In the future, Halliburton plans to further consolidate its SAP solutions so that the entire company runs on the same mySAP ERP instance.
When that happens, Lindquist will be responsible for security support, Sarbanes-Oxley compliance and control activities, and many other aspects of the ERP integration. She says she’ll rely on ASUG for data on how others have done similar deployments. For example, she leveraged her network to discuss lessons learned from the deployment of a compliance monitoring toolset with other ASUG members. “ASUG focuses on both large and smaller companies. I continue to be inspired by learning how others have done things,” she said.
And Halliburton’s Perroni sums up ASUG’s value this way: “Unlike SAPPHIRE, which concentrates on the future of SAP products, ASUG events and networking provide insight into existing and new products. And it does so from a customer perspective, which can be put to use immediately. Participation with ASUG lets members work directly with SAP and with other customers on common issues. ASUG’s Influence Model and our combined customer voice let members directly influence SAP products and services. It a unique and important tool for both SAP and SAP’s customers.”