SAP users wary of ‘digital transformation’ marketing hype

sap user group chairman

‘We don’t need buzzwords’ says UKISUG chairman, Philip Adams

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The focus of this year’s UK and Ireland SAP User Group (UKISUG) conference has centred around digital transformation, reflecting the investment many businesses are making in overhauling and modernising both front and back office processes.

But the message from a user survey published today was that SAP customers have becoming wary of vendor marketing hype as part of a ‘digitisation’ trend.

And, in a blow to SAP specifically, only a small proportion of its customers see the software firm as leading innovation around digital projects.

The survey of 107 SAP user organisations showed that 58 percent of respondents believe vendors and service providers create “too much hype” around the concept of digital transformation.

At the same time, 80 percent said they felt some vendors wilfully repackaged existing products to fit the ‘digitisation’ concept, while only two percent felt that products aimed at supporting digital strategies delivered on promises.

Speaking at the annual event in Birmingham, Philip Adams, chairman, UK&I SAP User Group said that customers need to be able to cut through the marketing jargon.

“Our feedback has indicated there’s a lot of buzzwords, maybe a bit of hype, around the whole concept of digital business,” he said.

“Maybe people feel it is a repackaging exercise, but that doesn’t mean that users don’t believe the vendors or community have value to add. We fully believe that you’re critical to our success."

He added: “Our message is plain and simple: we don’t need to hear the buzzwords, we just want to work with you in practical ways to help define that business case, to understand the process design, the hands-off transformation advice you can give us so that we can define our strategy and start implementing these projects.”

The survey showed that many SAP customers (30 percent) have begun digital transformation strategies within their organisations. A further 36 percent said that there are areas of their business where digital transformation is underway, though there is no overarching strategy.

Cormac Watters, managing director of SAP UK&I, acknowledged there often considerable hype around digital ("and we all fall foul of it in lots of aspects"), but said it should not put customers off embarking on new projects.

"There is now an acceptance that there are aspects of this digital transformation that are real - so you have to get past the hype and look at which bits are there and how can I use those," he said. 

"That is why there is more interest now from the customers about it now - it is more than hype - the hype is actually hindering the deployment of digital transformation."

But while there is clearly a desire to invest in digitising process at most organisations, many SAP customers are not convinced of the vendor’s capability to lead change.

Just over half (53 percent) of respondents said they were working with SAP as part of a digital strategy. But only a fifth perceived the German firm as a leader in this area, while even less (18 percent) saw it as an innovator. The majority saw it as ‘following’ (51 percent).

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