Mr. Gamboa, tell us a bit about your users’ group. How do you support your members?
Ricardo Gamboa: We want to create and maintain value networks for our partners, mainly by providing meeting venues, training areas, and opportunities to share experiences. We also do educational trips, for example. We have visited the three most important cities in Colombia: Bogota, Santiago de Cali, and Medellin. In this environment, we give our associates the opportunity to exchange information on best practices and successful implementations of SAP products. We also have a Web site, www.asugcolombia.com, where our members can post their questions regarding SAP products in different forums.
And experts from other members of your community then answer these questions?
Gamboa: Yes, exactly. They do so by sharing their own experiences of similar situations. We also organize congresses – we have organized nine so far, most recently in August 2008. We invite representatives from SAP, SAP partners, and of course our associates and SAP customers in Colombia. At the congress this August, we had two excellent days of exchanging experiences on SAP software.
Do you also have a chance to influence SAP’s product development?
Gamboa: Yes. We are the only official channel of communication between SAP and its customers in Colombia. When these companies need something special such as new features regarding taxes or human resources – two issues that are a bit special in our country – then all the companies file a request with us to adapt SAP’s development for these kinds of applications. I collect our members’ opinions and present a unified official request to SAP. SAP then helps us by developing a localized solution.
Of course we follow up on any updates to help our members: When an application is released, we try to provide training and expertise. As a users’ group, we are aiming to become an education center – something we are currently working on together with SAP.
What are the main topics that customers in Colombia are dealing with at the moment?
Gamboa: Right now, most of the companies are upgrading to SAP ERP 6.0. We are working together with our member companies, SAP, and all the consultants regarding the upgrade process, which I think this is the most important topic in Colombia right now.
What feedback have you received from your members regarding the rate at which SAP is launching new products?
Gamboa: I believe it is important for SAP to make more information about new releases and developments inside SAP available. Some companies don’t understand or aren’t familiar with SAP’s road map. I have already addressed this issue with Clara Montenegro, SAP Colombia’s business development manager, and she agrees. We are working on strategies to improve that situation.
How do you cooperate with ASUG in the United States, the largest users’ group in the Americas?
Gamboa: Actually, we don’t currently have any relations with ASUG in the United States, but we are working to change that through officials from the SAP headquarters, who are helping to establish the connection. We are also trying to connect with the users’ group in Spain by drafting an agreement with them – we share a common language, after all. Additionally, we intend to expand our relations with users’ groups in Brazil and Argentina.
What are your personal goals for ASUG Colombia?
Gamboa: We drafted a ‘2010 vision,’ which includes several strategic objectives: One is member relationships. We want to create, maintain, and enhance relationships with our members, with SAP and its partners, and with other associations and users’ groups. Number two is service. We want to create a portfolio of products and services for technical support and training, and to foster the exchange of knowledge, experiences, and best practices among associates.
Number three is our corporate image, where we want to consolidate ASUG Colombia’s image to SAP, partners, and other potential associates and different kind of associations around the world. Finally, our fourth strategic objective is ‘finances.’ We want to achieve self-sustainability and profitability, and grow in numbers.
Going even further, we have a greater vision still. We are recognized in the Andean region as the leading SAP association in generating value for its members. That’s why we are looking to extend these services to the entire region, because neither Venezuela, nor Peru, for example, have their own users’ groups. We are trying to work with these countries to establish a bigger community, an Andean association, so to speak.