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ASUG CEO Bridgette Chambers on SAP's management shake-up

ASUG CEO Bridgette Chambers has high hopes for Bill McDermott and Jim Hagemann Snabe and said their success hinges on one thing -- listening to customers.

With this week's CEO shake-up at SAP, it's pretty clear that regaining customer trust is among the most important initiatives for Jim Hagemann Snabe and Bill McDermott. But what does that mean for SAP customers, and how should SAP build that trust?

ASUG's CEO Bridgette Chambers shared some of her thoughts on the past week's events and lent some advice to the new CEOs. As CEO of SAP's largest user group, she has some plans to make the group a stronger influence on SAP strategy this year, including efforts around maintenance and support and the BEx to BusinessObjects migrations. And she's confident McDermott and Hagemann Snabe will listen and be responsive to their requests. When Hasso Plattner talks about restoring customer trust, what does that mean to ASUG members?

Chambers: I think what he's talking about is getting back to creating a real two-way channel for both input and results. Enterprise Support is a fantastic example. While it wasn't launched and received the way SAP had anticipated, they certainly did listen to the response and, over the course of time, made some adjustments. What Hasso is referring to is an opportunity to continually sustain that type of [communication] channel with the customer base. What would you like to see from the new CEOs?

Chambers: I think there are a number of opportunities in terms of how they can focus on technology strategy, getting the SAP roadmaps out and complete. I think there's an opportunity to continue to focus on customer successes, either make or drive the cost of TCO or maintenance down, helping to ensure the changes they've made to their maintenance portfolio are well received , that the option period is well understood, and that they deliver on those promises. What can they learn from the mistakes of the past?

Chambers: I think what they really need to keep top of mind, and I have confidence that they will, is that listening is absolutely critical. Again, not trying to overuse the example of Enterprise Support -- but I think it's a fantastic example of understanding the need to listen and understand the impact before they make decisions. Then, as they make those decisions and they fine-tune, there needs to be a constant channel to hear what the customer base has to say and to keep that influence and voice of the customer strong. Do you think ASUG will have greater influence with Bill McDermott and Jim Hagemann Snabe at the helm?

Chambers: Certainly, the relationships that we've got with Bill … with Jim, and -- I would also point out -- with Vishal [Sikka] are going to be critical to our opportunities as a member-driven organization to keep those channels of dialogue and influence strong. Obviously, Bill's experience in the Americas and past experience as a liaison to ASUG gives us a great deal of common understanding to grow from. Are there areas or initiatives that SAP is stressing now that aren't important to users?

Chambers: As you know, we were in Atlanta recently with our top volunteers and they had a great deal of time to share with us what they think about key initiatives that SAP is focusing on – focusing on getting Software as a Service [SaaS] done right, focusing on the efficiencies and the savings associated with cloud computing, really getting into emerging technologies and understanding how that may drive costs down. Those are things that are important and I'd like to see them continue to focus on. Do you think they need to convey a strong vision for SAP, and do you think they'll be able to do so?

Chambers: I do. I think that really getting the roadmap down and completed is, if they will stay committed to that, in the future for them. To the question of competence, we hold out a great deal of confidence that if they are listening, they in fact can rationalize that and make that a success for SAP. And that is, of course, what they need to do to stay competitive in the marketplace.

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