Online Community Benefits

The University Alliances Community (UAC) is a major addition to SAP’s traditional global education initiative, the SAP University Alliances program (UAP). Bob LoBue, Vice President of Global University Alliances at SAP, speaks to about the ideas behind the new online community, its benefits for members, and his vision for its future.

Dr. LoBue, before joining SAP in the summer of 2008, you were a business school dean at Reutlingen University in Germany. Did you have experience with SAP then?

Well, when you teach business courses, there is no way not to mention SAP. SAP is a market leader, so having students work with SAP products helps them to acquire skills that may set them apart later in the job market. And that is one key goal of the UAP.

The SAP University Alliances Program (UAP)

More than 900 universities in 40 countries are members of the UAP. They benefit from access to the SAP Business Suite family of solutions, including SAP ERP software, which is used to teach students business, accounting, IT, and other courses in a hands-on environment. More than 175,000 students gain valuable experience with SAP software each year.

What was behind the decision to establish this new community?

For one, we had very limited web presence for academics. Sure, the UAP has reached 900 schools, but the institutions had learned about us only through physical meetings with SAP. We started publicizing our new site at the end of February and have already more than 40,000 registered participants from all corners of the world.

But the community is more than a Web site providing information, right?

It’s much more! The UAC is also a multidimensional mechanism that allows for content deployment, discussion, and collaboration. It’s an extension to the existing program, but it also empowers students and professors who are not members of the program. Anyone can register for free to become a member of our community. Professors, for example, can then download materials and demos of actual SAP products to enhance their lectures and give students some hands-on and visual experiences.

What about the students?

They get access to a wealth of great resources via our portal: There are white papers, academic-style articles, and references to academic publications. There are case studies and success stories, which are rich in real-life examples of how companies have implemented SAP software, thus saving money and time or improving customer relations. Going forward we will provide more content and support related to careers in the SAP ecosystem.

Getting access to all this is great. But a community is mainly about collaboration…

Yes, exactly, and this is where we have laid our main focus. Via the UAC, students can connect with each other and maybe even do research projects together. In the Faculty Club, which is geared toward professors, we have established “thought leadership forums” that facilitate discussions on key IT and business topics. Students and professors can also establish contacts with SAP customers, partners, user groups, the SAP HR department, SAP Education, and other SAP groups.

So the UAC is also involving the greater SAP community?

Very much so. We decided to include the UAC in the SAP Community Network, which already comprised several groups:

  • the SAP Developer Network community,
  • the Business Process Expert community,
  • and the SAP BusinessObjects community.

With the UAC as part of this network of 1.5 million users, we can now connect all of these developers and business process experts with our professors and students. The potential for collaboration is huge.

How do students get connected with these experts?

When you register, you can pick the communities you would like to join. And that means you can go into the forums or blogs of these communities and you can start to participate.

So you’re putting students in touch with actual professionals.

Yes, and students will certainly benefit from that. They might meet people in the Business Process Expert community, for example, and impress them enough to find a job opportunity or pose a question that helps with a research assignment or a thesis.

Students and professors should get a kick out of this community. But how does SAP benefit from it?

Professors are recognized influencers. When professors don’t talk about a product, people won’t take it seriously.

…so you are influencing professors to influence markets.

Yes, exactly. And there is a second benefit. In order for our partners and customers to grow, they need to know that there is a population of qualified professionals they can hire. If we’re not dedicated to growing that population on their behalf, they are less interested in what we have to offer. So we are contributing to the SAP ecosystem by helping give rise to the next generation of IT and business leaders.

Let’s talk about the next generation of the UAC. Are you planning any new features?

Of course. One exciting feature we are designing is a job board to be incorporated in the community’s career resource center. It would list job and internship offers for students, graduates, and young professionals, and would be connected to all the other communities. That means that anyone offering or looking for a job in the SAP ecosystem will have an opportunity to use this resource.

We would also like the community to become an attractive place for customers and partners to participate in. I know that there are a lot of professionals that would enjoy giving a lecture at a university, meeting students and contibuting to their education and career development. We envision the UAC facilitating that as much as possible.

You know, I used to be a business executive in Silicon Valley, which I left to become a professor. My job at SAP combines these two aspects of my life – in addition to benefiting SAP’s growth; I know that we are also benefiting higher education. And that makes it very exciting to be involved in this new online community.