SAP is starting to listen, says user group

Product roadmaps are getting clearer but work remains on software licensing

Product roadmaps are getting clearer but work remains on software licensing

SAP is getting better at listening to customers and is becoming more open about its product roadmap. But challenges remain, including making its licensing simpler, according to the software giant's user group.

Chairman of the UK & Ireland SAP user group Alan Bowling told that while the user group community and SAP have had a difficult few years, things are now looking up.

Last year the user group warned that SAP needed to communicate more with customers about the products being developed.

On top of this, the software maker was still trying to move all customers to the more expensive Enterprise Support, which was causing tension between SAP and its users.

But the Enterprise Support plans were later withdrawn by SAP, and Bowling in his keynote speech to the SAP user conference in Manchester said this move "shows that our voices have been heard and that SAP has really taken our feedback to heart and is making changes to meet the needs of all of its users".

"If we have a problem, we now feel we can talk about it and they listen. We're getting into a much better place," he told, and stressed SAP users need to engage with software company: "[SAP] is starting to listen but you have to have a voice," he said.

UK & Ireland SAP user group chairman Alan Bowling addresses delegates at the organisation's conference in Manchester

UK & Ireland SAP user group chairman Alan Bowling told delegates that firms need to be kept informed about future directions
(Photo credit: Danielle King)

Bowling said in his keynote speech that companies with strategic investments in SAP need to know what's coming down the line so they can put plans in place around upgrades and implementations and build them into longer term technology strategy.

SAP recently made its product roadmaps available online while a working group has been set up by the SAP User Group Executive Network (Sugen) to allow customers to provide input into future SAP product development.

"SAP is the only vendor I know to have addressed this issue and become more open," Bowling said in his speech.

In addition Sugen set up its customer engagement programme in April this year, creating a list of topics on which the company would like customer feedback.

Discussing customer engagement programme, Bowling said SAP has learned that it can't always know what's best for customers without getting their feedback. "SAP knows a lot but that isn't necessarily the best for everybody," Bowling said.

Bowling attributes this greater openness to the appointment of co-CEOs Jim Hagemann Snabe and Bill McDermott, and said: "There was listening in principle but not in practice - that's moved on now. I think the move to the new CEOs has had a marked effect."

However, Bowling admits challenges remain for the user group and SAP. One of these is making licensing simpler, especially with the company touting a mixture of on-premise, on-demand and mobile technology.

"I think there's a challenge there - the challenge we're putting out there is make it simpler. It's a bit of a no-brainer," Bowling said.