With the tagline “working together is success,” the SAP UKI User Group Conference on November 23 and 24 had a sporting theme and was opened by former athlete Kriss Akabusi, who was a member of the British 4 x 400 meter relay squad that won the World Championships in Tokyo in 1991. According to Akabusi, “Motivation, teamwork, and striving for improvement together” are fundamental to success in the world of IT, as well as in sport. He encouraged the more than 500 participants to continuously focus on their personal development, drive their business forward, and get the industry as a whole in good shape for the future.
First visit to Manchester
Alan Bowling, chairman and director of the SAP UK & Ireland (UKI) User Group, was evidently proud that his organization has staged the country’s biggest SAP conference and was looking forward to more sponsors, more exhibitors, and more participants than ever before. “We represent the interests of SAP users in the region very successfully and address issues directly to SAP, such as SAP Enterprise Support services,” he said. In this respect, Bowling and his colleagues in the SAP User Group Executive Network (SUGEN) are continuing to work on the agreed key performance indicators and benchmarks.
“We are providing the most benchmark participants in Europe,” Bowling said.
Tim Noble, managing director of SAP United Kingdom and Ireland since June this year, took the opportunity to introduce himself to the users gathered and promised to continue investments in customer care. “Since SAP acquired Business Objects, we at SAP UKI have been working hard on becoming an organization that you all profit from. Through stringent account management, effective support, and open communication, we want to help you become even better. And we will be completely transparent and accountable,” he said.
IT must add value
Chakib Bouhdary from SAP was a guest speaker at the SAP UKI User Group event for the first time. As chief value officer for SAP, it was no surprise that he addressed the topic of value. What is value? Who creates it? Who is responsible for it in a company? The answer was clear: IT is an important player, which – according to Bouhdary – keeps the wheels of business turning. From shared services and optimization of the value chain to integrating new technologies, “without IT, there is no innovation,” he explained.
“And who understands the processes across the areas of a company better than the CIO?” Bouhdary asked. The world is developing at a tearing pace, he added, and IT must understand such changes, take them seriously, and provide the technology for them. Companies that integrate new trends in their business model will emerge from the global financial crisis as winners. “It’s not enough to just cut costs. You don’t get to be successful by making savings,” he said.
SaaS and cloudsourcing on the rise
R “Ray” Wang, analyst and partner with Altimeter Group, has had a finger on the pulse of the IT industry for many years and named some of the latest trends. “Companies that aren’t open to new ideas will ultimately lose,” he said – and claimed this can start with small things like Twitter: “Twitter has a tremendously wide impact. You should all tweet, because if you don’t, your competitors will.” But of course, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Companies need to integrate social media elements with their corporate strategy, thus linking IT with people within and outside the company. They need to profit from “the wisdom of the masses” – in other words cloudsourcing or crowdsourcing. “The future is up in a cloud, in software as a service. In the long term, no one will need to run large solutions on site themselves,” Wang said. Mission-critical processes will be operated by companies themselves, with everything else farmed out, Wang predicted.
According to Wang, technology is changing so quickly that CIOs are no longer in a position to dictate what is done, but rather are led by the market. “Change is the only constant,” he said. Technology now dates faster than ever and CIOs must be pioneers of change, instead of clinging on to outdated technology.
How innovative is SAP?
The same applies to SAP. “Customers no longer see SAP as an innovative company,” Wang said. Despite the large sums that SAP invests in research and development, very little innovation finds its way to customers. “When did you last hear of Duet – and do any of you use it? And what about SAP Business ByDesign? Who really uses SAP NetWeaver as middleware?” Wang asked.
Awkward questions for SAP, and for some of the users. Wang claimed that SAP is an innovative company and has potential, but in many cases, innovation doesn’t reach customers. “There are great examples of innovations that SAP is working on, but many customers haven’t heard of them,” he said. Often, Wang claimed, new products don’t reach the market because internal wrangling slows things down. Wang advised customers: “Work together with your user group, find out what is already available, look at the product road map, and keep pushing SAP!” Just like in the sporting world, you sometimes have to increase the rate of strokes to make it to the finishing line.