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BusinessObjects user group aims to address customer beefs with SAP

ASUG CEO Bridgette Chambers explains how the SAP BusinessObjects Strategic SIG helps BusinessObjects customers address concerns with SAP.

Members of the BusinessObjects user community were having some problems dealing with SAP not long ago and something needed to be done about it, according to Bridgette Chambers, the CEO of the Americas' SAP Users' Group (ASUG). BusinessObjects users -- many of whom have been around since before SAP acquired the business analytics software giant in 2008 -- felt that SAP was trying to dictate how their community should interact and how their software should be integrated. They needed a stronger voice, Chambers said, and that's why ASUG formed the SAP BusinessObjects Strategic Special Interest Group (SIG).

To learn more about the BusinessObjects strategic SIG, sat down with Chambers and ASUG Chairman of the Board Anthony J. Bosco Jr. at the recent SAP BusinessObjects User Conference in Orlando. Chambers discussed how key "influencers" in the BusinessObjects community were elected to join the group and the progress that has been made in the year since its inception. Bosco, who also serves as the CIO of Day & Zimmermann, a provider of industrial and defense-related software and services based in Philadelphia, PA, explained what the core mission of ASUG means at his firm. Here are some excerpts from that conversation:

What drove the creation of the ASUG strategic special interest group for BusinessObjects users?

Bridgette Chambers: I had been taking call after call and received many emails from SAP BusinessObjects customers who were very frustrated with a number of things. What I took from those efforts was that there was [a need] to drive the community forward and there was too much diversity in the priorities of what people were trying to address. [We came] up with this idea of getting together influencers, who  we believed could act as a representation of the larger customer base and identify the top 10 concerns, and then come up with between three and five priorities that we could then [focus on with] SAP.

Could you describe some of the concerns that BusinessObjects users were experiencing?

Chambers: One of the issues in the BusinessObjects community was that they felt SAP was telling them how their community would be shaped [and] how the software would be integrated. [Users] felt that they didn’t have any empowerment or voice.

How did you go about identifying key "influencers" in the BusinessObjects community?

Chambers:  We ran an open nomination process for people to attend an Influencer Summit. People could nominate themselves or suggest someone who influenced them. Through that, we ended up with about 60 people who came to the event. We went through a painstaking process of identifying the top 10 concerns and then drilling into which of these concerns were of such magnitude that we had to work on them now. We then asked this group to identify and nominate leadership [and] attached subject matter experts to [each of the customer concerns].

What transpired at this year's meeting?

Chambers: Fast forward to this year's Influencer Summit, and people were exceptionally upbeat and looking for validation for the work done, which is why we issued the [New Voices, New Influence: A Report on the SAP BusinessObjects Strategic Special Interest Group] whitepaper to quantify what influence means and what it has translated to in the past 12 months. This year we had 130 [attendees], which shows the tremendous growth in [number of members] who felt they were engaged enough to participate. They took ideas from the first summit and built on it.

ASUG has said that one of its key initiatives centers on "Innovation in Core Programs." What do you mean by that?

Chambers: Staying innovative means that [our members] have to have a constant focus and dialog with [their internal] customers about what they need. A great example of that is the [ASUG Leadership 2.0] initiative. Leadership is something you need despite your industry, despite your professional role, if you are business, technical or functional.

Another strategic area of focus for ASUG is on is on "the Integrated Enterprise." Could you elaborate on that?

Chambers: The integrated enterprise is really a knowledgebase [that helps customers] better navigate their way through the SAP strategy of on-premise, on-demand, on-device and in memory. It’s difficult for customers to understand how to get started. When customers think about on-demand, mobility, and certainly when they think about HANA, they have more questions than answers. All of that turns into concern, fear and risk mitigation behaviors that keep companies from being agile and swift back in the boardroom. The knowledgebase isn’t intended to be prescriptive. It’s intended to be a tool that customers can use to understand what other companies in their industries are doing. [This] drives operational efficiency, confidence within the organization and it creates tighter and better integration between thought leaders.

Could you give an example of a user that has done something "innovative" with SAP BusinessObjects software?

Chambers: Disney is a great example of a company that has done this. With Disneyland Paris, it used BusinessObjects software to solve problems it had at the theme park. One of the issues was congestion. They used the software to anticipate where and when the congestion would hit and they were able to shift resources. For example, if an issue occurred, Disney was able to dispatch talent like Mickey Mouse so that people had a better time while they were dealing with congestion. Rather than invest in a specific solution, Disney used its existing software in an innovative way and for that they got a multiplier on their return.

What are some of the challenges that arise as SAP BusinessObjects users attempt to drive innovation?

Chambers: Think about the idea of creating a multiplier on returns because companies are driving some level of innovation. Maybe they’ve created better products, better service or improved communication. The problem is that after they innovate, they’re not measuring it properly, if at all. As a result, they can’t tangibly say what innovation means to them. Next year we’re going to announce some improved calculations that are agnostic enough that customers should be able to use them no matter how they measure value as it relates to innovation.

How do you approach the concept of the Integrated Enterprise at Day & Zimmermann?

Anthony J. Bosco Jr.:  One of the key components in our approach to an integrated enterprise is dashboards and analytics. It’s no longer about just putting in another piece of software. It’s about unleashing the power of all [the information companies collect] and transforming the organization to become knowledge-based. I’ve been in the enterprise world for the last 12 to 15 years and it’s something we always struggle with. We did really well at optimizing our business processes and driving efficiency. But we never did it in concert with data as one overall view because of the struggle to turn data into information.


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