User group conferences are always great places to test the pulse of what's happening in the real world. While wandering the halls of the SAP UK and Ireland User Group annual conference this week, I came across customer representatives prepared to openly share their experiences. While there are gripes aplenty, alll I spoke with believe SAP will help them to achieve value. Eventually. That is in marked contrast to 2008 when the mood was more somber and where concerns were almost exclusively focused on the maintenance price issue.
That topic is still current and I was heartened to learn that customers are far more aware of the need to consider negotiation, along with supporting their user group leaders in discussions with SAP. However, that doesn't mean contract issues have evaporated or that SAP is considered to be playing the partnership game as well as it could. I still managed to find customers who had not undertaken a detailed assessment of contract clauses that might be reviewed, others who were not fully aware of third party maintenance options or, in one case, that they had any sort of choice.
On the other hand I found a user group more at ease with itself and making genuine headway with SAP in gaining access to senior SAP executives and development teams. Alan Bowling, chairperson UK&IUG said: "SAP still develops stuff that only five people will ever use and then tries to drop it on us. We can now get in early and tell them that some things are either irrelevant or might be better if approached from a different angle. We're gaining access to advanced roadmaps that would have been kept from us. These kinds of change are welcomed and a sign that SAP is becoming much more customer focused."
That doesn't mean that all is rosy in the SAP garden. Colleague Ray Wang delivered a keynote on innovation that must have sent shivers down some SAP execs spines. Calling out five 'failures' in adoption/communication, I could see the delegate heads nodding in tacit agreement. (see video above)