The End of Borrowed Prosperity

Spain's Deep Crisis Overshadowed the AUSAPE Meeting in Valencia
Spain's Deep Crisis Overshadowed the AUSAPE Meeting in Valencia

On June 1 and 2, around 400 people from 130 companies converged on the Spanish city of Valencia for this year’s annual forum of the Spanish SAP users’ group AUSAPE. The focus was very much on the working groups, where representatives from SAP, its customers, and its partners got together and discussed a total of 11 key topics, including financials, human resources, healthcare, and logistics. President of AUSAPE Susana Moreno from the Corporación Empresarial ONCE corporate group stressed this particular significance: “The groups are what drive our organization. They ensure the necessary exchange of information and form a direct line between customers, the software provider, and partners. For me, we’re like a family – and our common DNA has three letters: SAP.”

Moreno and the participants all agreed on one thing: Currently, the main task of IT in Spanish companies is to reduce costs and concentrate on the most important core business issues. The economist Santiago Becerra from Ramón Llull University in Barcelona explained the reasons in his provocative keynote address. He talked of the “2010 crash” and compared the current economic situation with the Great Depression of 1929. According to Becerra, we are not facing a temporary recession that can be tackled with economic rescue packages.

Instead, the whole system is in crisis: “There’s no going back – because it was the previous situation that triggered the problems. We need to get away from our dependency on debts, cheap loans, and consumerism.” Particularly in Spain, the result of such policies is a “disaster” with high unemployment and “borrowed prosperity.” Despite bleak forecasts, Becerra insisted that we must get on with overcoming the causes of the crisis. As a new guiding principle, he suggested the trio of productivity, efficiency, and value orientation. “Companies should concentrate on necessary, reasonably priced, and sustainable products and services – and should become more productive by cooperating with each other,” he said. He believes that the IT industry has good prospects here, because IT can be used to streamline structures and directly link up the players in the value chain.

More productivity and cooperation

Analyst Toni Macià also picked up on this approach. He emphasized that the future belongs to flexible companies that cooperate with networks of external specialists. “We no longer need hierarchies. We now need more courageousness and strength of execution. As a result, the IT department has to know exactly what the user departments need – because if it doesn’t, the user departments will do their own thing,” Macià said. Fermín Peleteiro from SAP Spain outlined how SAP software supports enterprises. “We will provide many more tools for cross-company cooperation and we are also going to integrate mobile end devices. Harmonized user interfaces and integrated solutions increase user productivity, while embedded analysis functions ensure that decisions are made fast,” Peleteiro explained. Furthermore, he announced that, in the future, software updates for the entire SAP Business Suite will be possible through enhancement packages. “This method has proven its worth and combines rapid innovation with stability,” he added.

The AUSAPE working group on service-oriented architecture (SOA) showed how innovation can be worthwhile in practice. It used the forum as an opportunity to award its first prize for successful SOA projects in Spain – to the Hospital Clinic in Barcelona. At the hospital, SOA enabled the integration of all information that is gathered during the care of a mother-to-be, from the recording of patient data, through examinations during pregnancy, the birth itself, and then postnatal care. The new architecture links the hospital’s central SAP solution with clinical applications.

While it used to be necessary to transfer information manually – for example, results of examinations or risk factors – all data is now available in a standardized front end. At the same time, the information is displayed in line with the needs of doctors and nursing staff. What’s more, the hospital will be able to use the Web services developed in the award-winning project for other medical tasks.

At the end of the forum – and for the first time in the event’s history – the AUSAPE working groups put forward their most important requirements for SAP software in a plenary discussion with representatives from SAP.  Faster responses, for example, for pilot implementations in Spanish payroll, were a central request. Furthermore, the participants discussed the question of making SAP learning opportunities even more extensive for AUSAPE members in the future. “We have a good relationship with SAP,” said Moreno. “But that doesn’t mean that we can’t work together to an even greater extent and get to know each other better. That’s what this forum is for – and that’s why I’m looking forward to our next meeting in 2011.”