SAP.info: Mr Mitsui, Influence activities play a major role in the Japanese SAP User Group? What is the main goal of these activities?
Kazuo Mitsui: The key principle is to develop a relationship of mutual trust and understanding between SAP and JSUG, and hence Japanese customers as a whole. This is the ideal starting point for productive discussion and goes hand in hand with improving customer satisfaction. JSUG Influence activities bring the voices of Japanese users to SAP.
Transparency and direct dialog are integral to this process and JSUG needs to be kept aware of SAP’s customer strategy, both at SAP Japan and SAP as a whole. We need to know what steps are being taken to improve customer satisfaction within the organization. At SAP Japan, there’s a dedicated team that deals with these issues, called the Customer Satisfaction (CS) Improvement Team. It’s crucial we understand their role, strategy, and future plans. This way, if there are any issues that need to be discussed or modified, we can tackle them together.
Through the CS Improvement Team at SAP Japan, employees from different SAP lines of business come together with JSUG members for open and honest discussion on the importance of customer satisfaction and how to improve each line of business. These viewpoints are also passed on to other SAP employees so that everyone is aware of JSUG issues and what can be done to address them on a day-to-day basis. With these kinds of forums in place, I think SAP has great potential to improve customer satisfaction in the future.
SAP.info: How are JSUG’s Influence Activities organized? Do you have regular meetings with the CS Improvement Team?
Kazuo Mitsui: Yes, we have monthly meetings with the team. This process is working extremely well and we’re very satisfied with our collaboration with SAP. We decide on activities at a joint Influence/CS Meeting in the first month of each quarter, where we check the status of the CS survey and any JSUG surveys from the previous quarter. If there are issues, we discuss them together and identify appropriate actions. In the second month of the quarter, we meet with representatives of each line of business at SAP Japan for a more detailed discussion on improving customer satisfaction in that area. In the final month, we look at activities from the whole quarter and gather everything together in the Influence/CS report, which is distributed throughout JSUG and to all SAP Japan employees.
We also have monthly meetings with Garrett Ilg, president of SAP Japan, as well as the CS Improvement Team and SAP Active Global Support. This is important for transparency, as all stakeholders get to see what’s going on.
SAP.info: What are the main issues that customers raise?
Kazuo Mitsui: The introduction of SAP Enterprise Support has had the biggest impact on JSUG members in recent times and many users were surprised by the announcement last year. The JSUG leadership has taken the lead in improving communication between SAP Japan, SUGEN, and JSUG in order to grasp the true goals of Enterprise Support for SAP. JSUG has also joined the SUGEN KPI benchmarking program for Enterprise Support to gain an even greater understanding of its strategy and aims.
SAP.info: What impact do you have on SAP development when it comes to local or industry-specific requirements?
Kazuo Mitsui: JSUG has industry-specific special interest groups, or SIGs, so if there are any industry-specific development requests, these groups come together to make a business case. Last week, for example, a meeting of the Automotive SIG with Elena Ordonez, head of SAP Globalization Services, brought to light the need for a special industry function called temporary pricing. This SIG request will be released in the next enhancement package in 2010.
Cross-industry topics are also covered by SIGs. International Finance Reporting Standards will be a major issue for JSUG members in the future and again the relevant SIG will make a business case for any new requirements. There’s no direct development going on in Japan, so these activities are crucial in terms of our influence on future releases.
SAP.info: Do you feel that you are able to exert sufficient influence on SAP development and new solutions?
Kazuo Mitsui: We have certainly laid an excellent groundwork through the Influence/CS Meetings, more open dialog with SAP, and interaction with SUGEN. Undoubtedly there’s still a lot to do in the area of Influence Activities and right now the most important issue from the customer standpoint is getting more value from their SAP solutions. Greater value equals greater customer satisfaction. This is not so much hinged on influencing product development directly but on getting feedback across to SAP.
In this regard, Enterprise Support is the ideal medium for our users because of its direct impact on TCO and business value, not just IT. Of course this is dependent on whether the customer can enjoy the full functionality. The true value of Enterprise Support has only emerged through our discussions with SAP and Active Global Support, and really shows how Influence Activities can work both ways.
SAP.info: Do you think that SAP could align its long-term product development better with customer needs? How can JSUG contribute to this?
Kazuo Mitsui: Influencing the long-term development strategy of SAP is important to JSUG. We all run mission-critical SAP systems and need continuity and stability from SAP. So, yes, closer alignment is an issue. The question is whether JSUG alone is the right forum to discuss these issues. We are a voluntary group and don’t necessarily represent every company’s long-term strategy. The roles of individual JSUG members are just too diverse – ranging from IT managers to the CIO level.
SAP Globalization Services deal with country-specific requirements and development requests for each subsidiary. We are also working on a process with SUGEN whereby SAP AG development teams communicate directly with the different user groups. But again the responsibility for the market has to lie with each SAP subsidiary. As users, we can support the SAP subsidiary with feedback, but cannot make universal comments on the strategy of each of the companies in our organization. A new regional forum run by SAP might be an answer to this – some way of combining customer voices with those of industry and market specialists to create business cases for SAP.
SAP.info: You mentioned your work with SUGEN. To what extent do you cooperate with the network?
Kazuo Mitsui: Currently we’re participating in the Enterprise Support charter, which works in collaboration with SAP to consolidate the voice of the customer. The goal is to gain a clearer understanding of the value Enterprise Support offers. Our goal for the future would be to enhance our relationship with SUGEN and better define our cooperation. To do this, we need to find a way to overcome difficulties with language and time zones, perhaps by identifying a dedicated person to represent JSUG at SUGEN activities.
SAP.info: In which direction do you see JSUG Influence Activities going? What are your future goals?
Kazuo Mitsui: First and foremost, we would like to strengthen our relationship with SAP and develop our strategic partnership in a common direction. The decision to use SAP systems to support core business processes is not a short-term one for our members. They choose SAP as a long-term partner.
We are also in a time of financial crisis and the situation in Japan is very tough. The Influence/CS activities, which started last year, came at just the right time and can only strengthen cooperation between the global customer communities and SAP. The ultimate improvement in customer satisfaction can only be a win-win for SAP and the customer. We need to understand SAP’s strategy and SAP needs to know what the customer is thinking.