New Leadership, Same Key Issues

Alan Bowling (L) and Philip Adams (M) talking with Tim Noble (R), managing director of SAP UK and Ireland (Photo: SAP AG)

After “detouring” to Birmingham, England in 2011, the UK & Ireland SAP User Group (UKISUG) returned to Manchester for its 2012 conference. The key issues, however, were the same as last year: Users would like greater clarity as regards SAP’s corporate strategy, plus road maps for the acquired companies and their product integration. And let’s not forget that perennial favorite in Great Britain: dissatisfaction with SAP’s licensing policy.

Complicated licensing

The licensing issue continues to be a hot topic: A recent survey, for example, found that 95% of all UKISUG members felt SAP’s licensing policy was too complicated. 89% said they would like SAP to reduce license complexity by offering software that is only limited by one license, regardless of whether that software was used in the “traditional” manner or via the Cloud. Users also desired greater flexibility and more appreciation for their business situation in view of these tough economic times. Because when business shrinks, so does the number of licenses used. “Of course, we don’t expect SAP to take back these licenses and refund the fees paid by customers,” says Adams. But he would really like it if companies didn’t have to pay maintenance fees for these “parked”, unused licenses. Tim Noble, managing director of SAP UK and Ireland, however, clearly rejected this appeal. “We have been working very hard on this issue for a long time now, as has the global user group network SUGEN. But it’s been difficult – for us and for SAP,” states Adams. Indeed, the acquisitions of Business Objects, SuccessFactors, and Ariba have only made things more complicated.

Next page: Strategic realignment necessary

SAP’s acquisitions and their benefit to the customer was the second area of focus at the event. The British and Irish customer base appears to be lagging behind users in other regions where benefits are concerned. For example, customer feedback is quite positive in the German-speaking area, where users enjoy and look forward to more cloud technology, yet users in the UK and Ireland still seem to be struggling with the effects the Business Objects acquisition has had on their data centers.

Strategic realignment necessary

Ray Wang, managing director and principal analyst at Constellation Research, agreed, but pointed out that there’s no way of getting round these new technologies. He called on companies to avoid joining the “wait-and-see” crowd and finally start developing their own strategies instead. According to Wang, “the old silos are breaking down and the industry is going through big shift. The transactional world alone is no longer the be-all and end-all.” Of course, no one should just throw out their transactional systems. Instead, we need to enhance and improve these systems so that users can process and use data more efficiently and explore the “new worlds of experience” they have come to expect. The industry buzzword: Consumerization of IT.

Which bring us back to SAP. Business departments are the new masters of IT – by involving them in its new product strategy, SAP hopes to support companies on their road to the future. That road seems longer in the UK and Ireland than anywhere else.

New leadership

Alan Bowling, UKISUG’s chair, was overjoyed about the record turnout this year: 800 delegates and exhibitors had convened to attend a variety of lectures and workshops and to share information with their peers. Bowling then announced that he was stepping down as chairperson after six years, and immediately took the opportunity to introduce his successor: Philip Adams, head of Group IT at Mercury Engineering in Ireland, will steer the user group as of March 2013. Adams made it clear that he would continue Bowling’s growth strategy (UKISUG currently comprises more than 600 companies) and remain a “fair but critical observer” of SAP. is the Conference’s official media partner.