SAP users seek to benchmark performance

One of the world’s largest SAP user groups is preparing to conduct a series of surveys among its Canadian and U.S. members to establish benchmarks of how enterprises make use of the German software giant’s business applications.

The Americas SAP User Group (ASUG) has been doing benchmark surveys for some time but will expand the program to include areas like the use of human capital management (HCM) and supply chain management, its president told ComputerWorld Canada.

ASUG recently completed its annual elections, in which voters put Rod Masney back in the leadership position for a second term. ASUG represents about 1,700 companies in North America with 50,000 members.

Masney said ASUG’s focus has historically been on member-to-member education and sharing best practices. The benchmarks are based on surveys that are sent out electronically over the course of a week. The results are tabulated and distributed to members to see how their SAP deployments compare with those of their peers.

“The idea is to give them an understanding of where they are in the continuum and where they can seek additional value opportunities,” said Masney, who is also director of IT infrastructure at O-I, a manufacturer of packaged goods based in Owens, Ill. “You’ll have a sense of whether you’re at the upper quartile of performance. It also points out areas where you may want to investigate opportunities to enhance performance.”

Benchmarks include areas such as total cost of ownership for SAP products. Masney gave the example of one member who realized they could get more out of their SAP deployment by using SAP Solution Manager.

ASUG also seeks to influence the product development of SAP’s lineup, which means a healthy relationship with its executive team. Although the user group includes one representative from the software vendor, Masney said the departure earlier this year of Shai Agassi, president of its product and technology group and architect of the NetWeaver middleware platform, left a considerable void.

“Shai Agassi was a friend of ASUG. We worked very closely on areas where there was some strategic opportunities to influence SAP’s product. I was very sad to see Shai go,” he said, adding that the group still meets with its SAP sponsor twice a year and has met with SAP chief executive Henning Kaggerman as well. “We’re developing a relationship with (SAP executive board member) Leo Apotheker. And Bill McDermott (president of SAP Americas) is really our field advocate.”

Masney said ASUG has also met with Doug Merritt, who was recently named the head of SAP’s business user group. Merritt, who recently appeared at a SAP Canada customer briefing in Toronto, said SAP would be bringing out a corporate performance management (CPM) system later this year that integrates products from acquisitions such as Pilot Software and OutlookSoft. This blend of business intelligence and front-end software is key to the company’s strategy, Merritt said, because SAP recognizes its reputation for being difficult to use.

“Part of the problem was the previous generation of systems in this space tried to bring structure to a process that, by its very nature, is unstructured,” he said.

Merritt added that SAP’s CPM suite would assist in areas such as profitability planning and consolidation of assets. “The way people plan is through the tools they’re familiar with.”

Masney said the CPM should find acceptance among SAP’s user base. “There is an outcry from ASUG members to harmonize your platform as the most efficient way for IT organizations to deliver services to their companies at the lowest delivered costs,” he said. “When you have to look at other products to consolidate your financials, you’re adding costs and additional complexity. If you’re deploying tools to the office of a CFO, there is a potentially good business case for moving from other tools that are used for those kinds of capabilities to an all-SAP solution.”

Other areas of education at ASUG over the next year will be helping organizations transition their mySAP platform into a services oriented architecture.

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