As president of the Americas' SAP Users' Group, ASUG, Rod Masney heads up the world's largest customer-driven community of SAP professionals and partners, representing more than 45 000 individuals and 1700 companies. He spoke to us about their prime concerns: upgrades, the mind shift required for successful enterprise SOA, and the forthcoming A1S suite.
Q: What issues are at the forefront of SAP users' minds at the moment?
A: Existing members are focused on two points: enterprise SOA and how to get business value, and how to position themselves through the upgrade. At the top is how to get to mySAP ERP 2005 because that positions you to take advantage of enterprise SOA.
2005 is the go-to release until 2010. It is the enabler, it is fundamental to enabling innovative business processes. You want innovative business processes across core business processes and enterprise data, you do not want islands of data. The ability to innovate across the top is really valuable. Islands give you islands, but you want to correlate it.
Q: And the main challenges?
A: How to make the business case. The challenge is to justify to the CFO and CEO why you want to make an investment in a technology upgrade when you cannot put on paper the total spend and cannot say what the revenue upside will be. 95% of companies are doing a like-for-like technical upgrade but just doing the upgrade does not deliver business benefit. The business value comes after the implementation - the business processes, the life cycle, TCO, managing the information assets. You have to manage the information factory like you would a manufacturing plant, where you would not think about installing machinery without considering [things like] oil, but people do not create information factories in that way.
Q: So companies need an holistic approach to application implementation and life cycle?
A: What is interesting is not the day of implementation but the ongoing life cycle and that is the mind shift. Members understand it because they are engaging beyond the implementation. They are thinking about investment over the life cycle. You have to look at the TCO, and not just for one project. That is a mind shift, especially for companies where each project is measured on its benefits.
Q: Companies will struggle with how to apply the new TCO approach, so what is the ASUG doing to help?
A: We have a TCO benchmark. We collect information about the IT environment and provide information back on your maturity level against your peers. We are seeing companies with centralised applications realising better TCO. It really helps understand how you compare with your peers. When we get enough data we will slice by industry.
It is fact-based - facts in, facts out, with no bias [and] the information you get out is incredible. We offer best-practice surveys where you answer a questionnaire. It takes 20 to 30 minutes to put the information in, and you get a snapshot of your position against your peers. It is low effort, high reward. Companies make big dollars through benchmarking, but it is a member benefit with ASUG.
Q: What strategies are proving to be successful?
A: Continuous upgrades - being in for long haul versus a one-shot [approach].
Q: SOA requires a major shift in mindset and technical skills, is the SAP community aware and prepared for the necessary scale of change?
A: Our fastest growing special interest group is the enterprise SOA group and the architecture community. Architects get it, they understand the challenge, how you build governance around it and how you start. The Enterprise SOA group is helping developers get after it. For technicians it is how you compose applications using SOA. ASUG and SAP's challenge is to educate the business in what it takes, not just the technology, but the things around it like documentation, processes, and governance. You need a governance model in order to know where to use enterprise SOA or the old-fashioned ways.
Q: Is there any concern among your members that A1S will offer new customers low-cost access to SOA, while they have to pay a higher price?
A: Large companies have more diverse business processes that need to be enabled. SOA by Evolution helps enable those different business processes and complexity in a way small business do not need, to start with. ASUG has previewed the product. It is for small and medium business and SAP is going to make sure it is successful.
As time goes by I think it will extend to larger customers. What is interesting is that at end of day it uses the same fundamental technology, enterprise SOA, and that appeals to large companies as well as being an enabler for the smaller customers SAP is looking to recruit.