SAP is doing a better job of listening to and working with end-users, but more work has to be done in several other areas, says the UK&Ireland SAP User Group.
Successes of the past year and future goals were the theme of the opening session of the UK&Ireland SAP User Group Conference 2010 taking place in Manchester.
Alan Bowling, chairman of the UK&Ireland SAP User Group, welcomed the participation of Jim Hagemann Snabe, co-CEO of SAP.
"This is a great coup for the user group and the first time we've had the company's CEO participate at our conference. To us, it's a great sign that SAP really wants to get closer to its users and values our contributions and thoughts," he said.
Bowling also praised SAP's return to the co-CEO structure, which has worked well in the past.
With Bill McDermott focused on sales, building revenues and profitability is great, he said, as growth will be key to SAP's ability to deliver on our needs, and Snabe looking at development of the product roadmap, is also crucial.
"In our opinion, because innovation and solid products are what SAP is all about. SAP has always been a software development company and we see the appointment of Jim earlier this year as a firm signal that this will continue. So, we welcome these changes and the move back to two CEOs with open arms," said Bowling.
The past year has been a busy with a host of achievements by the user group, he said, with highlights including SAP's re-introduction of standard support.
"The move shows that our voices have been heard and that SAP has really taken our feedback to heart and is making changes to meet the needs of all of its users," he said.
Working as part of the international executive group, SUGEN, user groups have continued to gain influence with SAP, with the company starting to open up its roadmaps.
"A working group has been formed between SUGEN and SAP to make it easier for you to get involved at a much earlier stage in the product development process," Bowling said.
He confirmed that the user group next year plans to run an event next year for members to directly input into the SAP development process.
Bowling said research has shown that 83% of IT directors wanted better foresight into product roadmaps from their IT vendors because a lack of access was impacting organisations' ability to plan their IT strategy.
He congratulated SAP on progress in this regard, saying it is the only supplier to have addressed this issue and become more open.
"Considering this work involves SAP sharing highly confidential information, this is a huge step forward and we are so pleased that SAP sees the value in sharing the roadmap and allowing us to give early feedback," he said.
Bowling said user groups had also made great strides in terms of getting a two-way conversation going with SAP and opening up new avenues of providing feedback.
Despite these success, he pointed out that only 12% of customers are using Business Objects and SAP together.
"This has to change if we as users are to benefit from the acquisition. SAP must help and take responsibility for making it much easier and cost effective for organisations to get benefit from the combined portfolio," said Bowling.
SAP also needs to focus on making sure the needs of the Business Objects community are met as 38% of the survey respondents did not feel SAP is meeting their needs, he said.
"Our goal over the next year is to demonstrate how SAP users can get more out of Business Objects and how Business Objects users can get more out of SAP so that everyone can see how to extract the most value," said Bowling.
The survey also found that pricing, support and licensing are the three most pressing concerns for SAP Business Objects users.
With pricing, the feedback from users is that there needs to be greater clarity, said Bowling.
"Our message to SAP is clear - users want greater clarity and transparency around pricing," he said.
Bowling also called for greater simplicity in licensing. "Customers need a clear picture of what their pricing and licensing options are; it's fundamental to their budgeting process, but also without this clarity SAP could run into problems with adoption of their off-premise on demand hybrid solution," he said.
In the year ahead, SAP needs to look at easy and true integration between Business Objects, Sybase and SAP, said Bowling.
"Our challenge to SAP is: deliver on the promise and show us the value, both practical and commercial of using SAP wall to wall," he said.
Finally, Bowling called on SAP to let the user groups know who their customers are or send communications to its customers on behalf of the user groups.
"We need to work together, we need to bring your users together, but we can only do this if you help us identify all those customers that have yet to join our community. I hope at next year's conference I can stand up and say that SAP has helped us to communicate to its entire customer base," he said.