Unnecessary red tape is hampering SAP’s newest programme for getting feedback from customers around its short-term plans and current products, according to the UK & Ireland SAP User Group.
The longer standing customer councils about influencing the long-term future direction of products and the customer engagement initiative around what SAP does in the medium term work relatively well, said Alan Bowling, chairman of the UK&I SAP User Group.
The customer connection programme launched earlier this year, however, is just far too complex and bureaucratic, he told Computer Weekly.
Even registering for the programme is fraught with challenges, said Bowling. “If only SAP’s customer engagement were as slick as its latest technology innovation,” he said.
The objective and intent are brilliant, he said, but the delivery is just not there yet because of all the unnecessary complexity around something that should and could be simple.
It is in the interests of both SAP and customers to make these connection programmes work, said Bowling, and while the process is still too clunky, he said the situation is retrievable if existing processes are replaced with sensible, collaborative good practice.
While the long and medium-term engagement programmes are about strategic direction, the short-term programme is tactical and therefore has to be more detailed.
“We have to find an easier way of getting things done faster without being encumbered by myriad time-consuming interim steps and tonnes of paperwork,” said Bowling.
Despite frustration at the failure of the customer connection programme to deliver benefits quickly, he concedes that, in general, SAP is improving the way it interacts with customers.
Although SAP is viewed as one company, Bowling said in reality it functions like a federation, but the message regarding customer engagement is beginning to come through from the top leadership.
“Particularly in the past two to three months, we have started to see serious engagement from SAP in the UK and Ireland,” he said.
The merger between the SAP and Business Objects user groups has also helped spur this change, says Bowling, as collectively, they now represent around 620 user organisations.
In the year ahead, the UK&I SAP User Group would like to see SAP continue down the path of engagement, especially with companies at both ends of the spectrum.
There is a fair amount of communication in the mid-market, said Bowling, but relatively little is being done for the largest and smallest organisations that use SAP.
The software maker needs to think more about what channels it uses for communication, he says, and to recognise that established SAP customers need a different kind of communication from prospective or new customers.
“SAP’s communication is still too much as the level of the flashy brochure, but for existing customers this has to come down to a more practical level about things like how to get more out of their investment,” said Bowling.