SAP CEO gets backing of customers at user group conference

SAP clients at the UK user group’s annual conference in Manchester have responded warmly to co-chief executive Jim Snabe’s speech at the event yesterday.

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SAP clients at the UK user group’s annual conference in Manchester have responded warmly to co-chief executive Jim Snabe’s speech at the event yesterday.

SAP professionals at the event said the presentation was beneficial for their IT planning. However, a number highlighted more room for improvement in their interactions with SAP itself.

Speaking to Computerworld UK at the SAP UK & Ireland User Conference in Manchester, delegates said they were pleased at Snabe’s presence – with his scheduled speech seen as a major coup for the user group – and what he had to say.

During the speech, Snabe detailed SAP’s on-premise, on-demand and on-device strategy.

“I thought that Jim was very direct, and that what he said was useful, instead of it being like a sales pitch,” said David Greenfield, project manager at Burtons Foods. “It was quite a surprise.”

Lewis Carpenter, chief executive at application interface firm WinShuttle, said: “I think SAP recognises that it’s important to get users together, and to address them.” Snabe’s appearance at the event was “important” for the supplier as much as it was for its users, he said.

Carpenter added that other vendors would be wise to follow suit, but noted that SAP’s user group was “one of the best”.

He said: “It’s important to engage with the community – if you don’t, then issues can get out of control.”

SAP faced one of its own such issues last year, when licensing became a heated topic among users disappointed in pricing changes. SAP eventually backtracked on the higher charges following extensive talks with user groups.

An SAP change team leader at one of the UK’s largest utility firms said he would have liked “to have heard more” about the licensing issue and how it is being resolved. A optional higher support charge will be introduced next year, and SAP is contacting clients to demonstrate the potential benefits.

“I think they could have got the message across a bit better about how the licensing issue is progressing,” he said. But he added that he was pleased the question was still being pursued by the user group.

John Glanville, IT director at boilers and heating firm Ideal Stelrad Group, agreed. He said it was good the subject of licensing was raised, but added: “Perhaps there was a bit of a missed opportunity to detail more on what’s happening there.”

Nevertheless, users said they recognised the importance of Jim Snabe appearing and acknowledging client concerns.

Users also said they were pleased that Snabe recognised the importance of SAP informing customers of product roadmaps, following a key agreement between SAP and user groups earlier this year. At the event, SAP roadmaps were revealed to users according to their speciality.

Carpenter at WinShuttle said the roadmaps are “really necessary when you’re making the sort of investment you have to for an SAP system”.

Conference attendees said the breakout sessions, focused on specific SAP technology and specific verticals, were beneficial. “I think it is useful to get more depth like that,” said Gabriele Logan at Compass Software Group.

But he added: “There’s so much to talk about, I think we would like more time with each session – we want more technical details.”

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