While ASUG is an independent organization, it maintains a strategic collaborative relationship with SAP. The customer-driven group influences the further development of SAP products by discussing them with SAP product managers in face-to-face meetings, forums, and symposiums. It also exerts a strategic influence at management level, with managers from both sides discussing topics such as return on investment, security, and benchmarking models.
A platform for exchange and exerting influence
Rod Masney, past-chairperson of ASUG, describes the SAP user community as “the best kept secret in the SAP ecosystem.” The group – which has been in existence since 1991 – is, he continues, a platform for members to exchange best practices between themselves and know-how with SAP. Masney believes this must be better publicized in the SAP world. He considers the opportunity to influence the future of SAP developments to be a unique advantage – one that ASUG has offered its members for years: “We have the unique opportunity here to actively shape SAP’s road map for its products and services. ASUG offers members a mouthpiece to communicate exactly what they need to solve their business problems.” Such requirements are raised in Influence Council meetings, which take place throughout at the year.
ASUG has also launched a number of initiatives to identify its member’s most pressing problems. The “Voice of the Customer” program and ongoing membership studies on topics such as the total cost of ownership of IT, upgrades, and enterprise service-oriented architecture (enterprise SOA) form the cornerstones of understanding the evolving needs of the user group members.
How ASUG works
The ASUG Board of Directors comprises ten board members, a CEO who works full time in this role, and a representative of SAP. The board is responsible for determining the organization’s strategy and direction. It works closely with SAP to generate growth and new opportunities.
ASUG focuses on programs that help its members get the most from their SAP investment. ASUG’s 39 chapters across the United States and Canada hold more than 100 meetings a year. There are also more than 80 Special Interest Groups (SIGs) that focus on particular technologies, processes, and industries. They use tailored educational offerings and events to pursue their own specific agendas. As one of the leading online resources for SAP customers and partners, the Web site asug.com plays an important role here. In addition to the many virtual educational programs, ASUG hosts several face-to-face –for its members every year, including the ASUG Annual Conference which is co-located with SAPPHIRE.
The regional chapters also offer local touch points and regular opportunities for members to network and share information and best practices.
Cooperating with SAP: the “Walldorf exchange”
“If you want to establish a strategic relationship like the one we have with SAP, both sides must really want to cooperate with each other,” explains Masney. First, the partners have to overcome their differences and then set to work on realizing their joint objective. “This is the phase we are in now. The relationship is developing fantastically at a strategic level; the open dialog and the mutual feedback are extremely helpful and constructive.”
Stefan Kneis, head of Global Customer Communities for SAP and executive liaison for ASUG, adds: “The regular communication between top management representatives on both sides – the ‘Walldorf exchange’ – reflects the strength of the cooperation. The way we get involved in our initiatives now is very different to how it used to be a few years ago, when our meetings were purely about networking and maintaining contacts.” Today, Kneis continues, the Walldorf exchange is highly regarded by SAP’s top management as an opportunity to get valuable information from a group of customers that are enormously significant on a global scale.
Kneis stresses that ASUG is more than just a meeting place for unsatisfied customers. Throughout the year, the group offers training programs to increase added value, networking opportunities, and the chance for members to actively shape SAP’s future product and service portfolio.
Objectives for the future
Masney believes ASUG’s main objectives are twofold: to win new members and to establish itself as a thought leader in the SAP partner network: “ASUG must grow with SAP. It’s well known that SAP is developing at a rapid pace in North America. We have to keep up with this growth and win new SAP customers as members.”