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SAP improves communication skills

The results of an exclusive SearchSAP.com survey show that SAP has improved its communications skills, but some users are still straining to hear the SAP message.

SAP has improved the way it communicates its global image but still has to better explain its products to customers,...

according to a recently published Gartner Inc. research note.

The report, published last month by Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner, said that one of SAP's greatest remaining challenges is to improve relations with its current customer base at the field organization level.

However, the company has shown marked improvement in some areas, said Derek Prior, a Gartner analyst based in the U.K. who specializes in SAP.

"The message they're giving out is much clearer," Prior said.

In an exclusive survey of 275 SearchSAP.com readers, a majority rated SAP's communication skills for new products as fair or good. Still, more respondents believed SAP failed than excelled when it came to clearly communicating its new product strategy.

Nearly 70%, or 189 respondents, rated SAP's communication of the features and benefits of R/3 Enterprise as fair, or good. Only 7.7%, or 21 respondents, rated the company's communication on the renaming of its core product as excellent. In contrast, 13.1%, or 36 respondents, rated SAP's performance as poor. Another 10% said they didn't know how to rate the company's efforts to communicate its R/3 Enterprise message.

When it came to SAP's new strategic platform, NetWeaver, SearchSAP.com readers expressed confusion.

When asked how well they understood NetWeaver, nearly 40%, or 109 respondents, said, "not at all." At the same time, 40.7%, or 111 respondents, said "a little." Fewer than 20%, or 53 respondents, said they understood NetWeaver "moderately" to "very well."

Prior said he believes SAP's field service representatives are more interested in selling new software than keeping the company's 20,000 customers informed about the changing significance and business value of newly introduced products and initiatives.

"With the full NetWeaver architecture, it's been very difficult, with such product breadth, for people within SAP to be able to understand and articulate everything that's included," Prior said.

"At the senior levels at the company, they are improving their marketing message. At the global level, they have made big strides, but they still have work to do at the field level."

The SearchSAP.com survey solicited SAP professionals who identified themselves as project planners, senior managers, consultants and directors of technical services. Respondents were surveyed on customer satisfaction issues such as presales support, integration and upgrades. The results of the survey will serve as the basis for an SAP Report Card presentation at SearchSAP.com's user conference, a three-day invitation-only event that begins Wednesday in Chicago.

Wisconson-based consultant Christopher Carter is a SearchSAP.com survey respondent who attended SAP's Sapphire conference in June looking for information on NetWeaver and other new SAP initiatives.

Carter, whose company runs SAP R/3 4.6, said that although SAP has improved its communication with customers, the company has to work on immediacy.

"When they launched the NetWeaver piece of the puzzle, it was a little gray, but they eventually were able to clear the clouds for me," Carter said. "With certain aspects of their message, they come across well and are very in tune in regards to what the individual SAP users are looking for. But sometimes they miss the mark."


FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Check out the SearchSAP.com conference Sept. 24-26 in Chicago.

Check out the SearchSAP.com conference presentations.

To provide your feedback on this article, contact Robert Westervelt.

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