VNSG’s Strong and Lively Network

Léo Apotheker, co-CEO of SAP, delivering his keynote at VNSG Congress (Photo: VNSG Congress, Frank van Dam Fotografie)

This spirit of moving beyond borders and expanding networks is still alive and strong in the Netherlands today, so it’s only fitting that the theme of the 2009 VNSG Annual Congress was “Without Borders”.

But it wasn’t just physical borders that the VNSG (Vereniging Nederlandstalige SAP Gebruikers, or Association of Dutch-speaking SAP users) had in mind when it chose the conference theme. The current economic crisis underscores how borders are increasingly blurred in a global economy, with once strictly regional developments now rapidly impacting today’s global business networks.

Strengthening collaboration

Established in 1988, the VNSG is the oldest SAP user group. Its annual congress is a highly anticipated event among its member base and truly exemplifies the spirit of collaboration. VNSG chairman Tonnie van der Horst kicked off the 2009 congress with a keynote that emphasized the importance of user groups, calling upon VNSG members to further strengthen their collaboration in light of the current economic climate.

“It’s time to share ideas,” he said. “We must work together and cooperate”.

A new business reality

At the start of his keynote, Léo Apotheker, co-CEO of SAP, pulled no punches in delivering the news that, with the current economic downturn, we are facing not just a temporary crisis. We are facing a new reality of global business, where responsible business practices will be a global imperative.

According to Apotheker, this new reality will be defined by three global challenges:

  • the need to manage systemic risk (financial risk, compliance);
  • an ecological crisis of dramatic proportion (natural resources, climate change);
  • and societal challenges (aging workforce and consumer base).

But then he added: “The good news is, IT is here to help.”

Apotheker pointed to the transformation of SAP’s portfolio in recent years. The best example of this transformation is the SAP Business Suite, the flagship of SAP’s SOA-enabled portfolio with end-to-end processes. He spoke of the delivery in February 2009 as a new milestone in the evolution of the suite.

SAP Business Suite 7 and BPM road map were big draws

SAP Business Suite 7 was a hot topic at the congress, with the SAP Theater dedicated to it at the event. The three parallel sessions were among the conference’s biggest draws, each one examining the core features of SAP Business Suite 7 – insight, flexibility, and efficiency. A further highlight was the presentation by Maastricht University, which examined the difference between upgrades and Enhancement Packages.

Business process improvement was cited by Gartner as the number one priority for CIOs, so process owners within organizations need to be aware of the latest tools, training, and methodologies that SAP can provide to enable them to adapt business processes to better align with their strategy.

To that end, Lazaros Lazaridis, business development manager, SAP EMEA, led a session entitled “Business Process Management: The SAP Road Map”, which focused on the five deliverables of SAP’s road map to business process management (BPM): governance, methodology, technology, training / certification, and community. This session was very well attended and received by attendees. With BPM, organizations can complete revision cycle process management, from process design to monitoring and optimization.

Debut of SAP Demo Jam

A perennial high point of the annual SAP TechEd events, SAP Demo Jam made its VNSG debut at this year’s congress. By round of audience applause, Apollogic was voted the winner for its demo TCO Planning with Adobe Air and SAP CRM 2007. Using the customer case of Philips, the demo showed how an Adobe Air application on SAP CRM helps sales people define and direct the cost implications of projects.

New BI focus group

Among the key achievements cited by the VNSG during the congress was the recent creation of the business intelligence focus group. The Business Objects user group, previously known by the jaunty acronym BONGO, has been incorporated into the VNSG and will have a formal kickoff on May 28 as the focus group dedicated to business intelligence.

Spirits high despite downturn

Angelique de Vries, Managing Director of SAP Netherlands, cited the direct impact the crisis has made on the Netherlands in general and on this year’s VNSG conference in particular. “We see it all over Europe, and definitely also in the Netherlands. To give a concrete translation of the effects, last year there were 2,700 attendees and this year it’s a little less than 2,200. Which is not so bad – 2,200 people attending is still a good result, but it’s a 20% decrease.”

But despite the economic downturn, there were no outward signs of dampened spirits. The energy level was high, and the networking and knowledge sharing continued unabated. Tonnie van der Horst commented:

“Our members are closely linked and know each other, mainly because this is a small country. The VNSG network is very strong and lively. There are people who are sharing a lot of things with each other, a lot of information. It is an annual tradition to reinforce that with this conference, and that actually helps us to maintain a very stable base of people who are contributing to it, people who can exchange information – – people who are willing to go that extra mile.”