ASUG Fall Focus on Business Management

Feature Article | November 21, 2008 by Sarah Z. Sleeper

From keynotes to closing panel, the plummeting economy stole a fair share of the spotlight. Doug Merritt, executive vice president of SAP BusinessObjects, titled his keynote, “Maximizing Performance in an Under-Performing Market,” an apropos theme in light of the recent stock market crash. Conversation in the hallways between sessions was also financially focused. “We had to lay off 20 percent of our employees,” one ASUG member said. “We’ve taken a hit.”

Still, ASUG CEO Steve Strout said that the economy didn’t seem to affect attitude or attendance. Some 1,650 people from 800 companies came to the three-day event and gave him plenty of positive feedback.

Spend wisely in tough times

“People told me they got more out of these sessions than any other event they have attended,” Strout said. “While I understand that some people think education and networking are discretionary funds, history shows that in tough times companies that spend wisely can generate substantial returns. By taking advantage of ASUG events, members can access information and network with people that can help them run their businesses better. ASUG can provide big benefits in a down economy.”

Two events provide more

The educational content of this year’s ASUG meeting was unique. The event ran concurrently with the Global Business Objects Network User Conference, highlighting the strong ties between SAP and its newly acquired business.

Strout said many people attended both events. They picked from hundreds of targeted sessions. Topics ranged from analytics and reporting to business intelligence and enterprise performance management. There was a bustling Partner Showcase, a set of ASUG Influence Councils and usability activities, and access to the in-demand ASUG benchmarking program.

SAP and Shakespeare

Despite the gloomy economy, many of the session speakers infused their comments with humor. Most notably, Joe Larocque of the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat got big laughs in his presentation, “Everything I Know about SAP I Learned from William Shakespeare.” He quoted from Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice” to describe the disruption to users when companies do an SAP upgrade: “To do a great right, do a little wrong.”

Idea exchange

Just hours after the conferences ended, ASUG launched a two-day CIO/CTO Executive Exchange, a program designed to stimulate high-level discussion among corporate officers. “We come together to offer strategic information to ASUG and SAP executives,” said Don Whittington, CIO of Florida Crystals, who chaired the exchange. He opened the session by saying he hoped it would be a means for ASUG members to shape SAP’s decisions.

Money well spent

Strout said that this year and every year ASUG offers a big bang for its’ members’ bucks. Many ASUG activities are free of charge, such as chapter meetings, which take place quarterly in cities across the nation. When asked why members should pay the price of admission to an ASUG event, even when money is tight, Strout said, “It’s money well spent. Through ASUG you can establish long-term, valuable relationships.”

The lowdown on upgrades

In the sessions “Getting the Lowdown on an Upgrade”, a panel of speakers shared their experiences on SAP upgrades.

Andrea Benson from Tarrant County said the county recently did a technical upgrade to its SAP system. She stressed the importance of communication to help avoid glitches, including communication between technical staff and business users as well as between outside consultants and staff.

Van Davis of American Airlines said that his company is in the midst of an SAP upgrade. Because the airline took a “no impact implementation” approach to its first SAP deployment, he said, it has more work to do now. “I can definitely recommend that you not take that approach,” Van Davis stressed, because it led to about 6,000 customizations that need to be maintained or upgraded.

Tarrant County’s Steve Horn and IBM’s Jennifer Soloway offered to share their key upgrade learnings with any interested ASUG attendee. And SAP’s Harry West spoke about SAP’s own upgrade. “We are like any other customer. We have customized many things,” he said. He noted that SAP uses its upgraded system for worldwide training, Sarbanes-Oxley compliance, e-recruiting, and many other tasks.

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