September 10, 2008
User Group Network
Globalization was a key motivating factor behind establishing the network and a sense of the big picture remains an essential aspect of global cooperation. “First, the user groups’ cooperation with SAP should become more effective and more efficient all over the world,” says Mike Stoko, SUGEN’s president. “Second, the solutions that we find should be available to all our members, not just regionally but globally. Our network complements the work of the regional groups. We help them bring their results to a global stage. That means that we also make a special effort to overcome cultural and language barriers.”
The organization coordinates global topics, such as international product development or service and support, and communicates consolidated customer feedback to SAP.
While the regional user groups address regional problems, SUGEN tackles strategic topics. “Originally, we planned to establish a global user group,” says Matthias Herzog, SUGEN’s vice president. “Fortunately, the plan changed, and we launched an umbrella organization. Together we achieve much more for individual members than we would have if we had just created one more user group.”
Small user groups particularly benefit from this approach, according to Per Högberg, the third member of SUGEN’s leadership trio. “Some user groups have no real infrastructure,” he says. “In Sweden, for example, there are two members that are global players: Volvo and Ericsson. Previously, they didn’t have much of a chance to play a role on SAP’s international stage. For cases like theirs, SUGEN is particularly important.”
Stefan Kneis is one of the group’s contacts at SAP. “SUGEN complements the close contact that we maintain with the 30-plus regional groups, and offers a global perspective,” he says. “Besides, it is more efficient for our chairman or the development leaders to discuss broad-based topics with the umbrella organization than to sit down with each group individually.” That does not mean that SAP plans to replace regional structures and relationships. “It is much more important to us to strengthen relations with as many user groups as possible, especially the ones that are involved with SUGEN,” says Kneis. “We see the network as a platform for developing process standards for user groups.”
Since it was founded, SUGEN has consisted of twelve regional user groups. All have an equal voice within the organization.
“First of all, each group compiles its members’ requests,” says Stoko about SUGEN’s approach. “This data gives us a sense of the overall priorities. The members then discuss the selected problems and give a rough indication of the kind of solution they expect SAP to provide, along with its advantages for both the users and SAP. The board decides which of these proposals we will implement.”
This approach has led to the formation of three special interest groups:
Representatives of the user groups meet once a year. Between meetings, they discuss and coordinate current topics by telephone. The global initiative does not affect the independence of the local user groups.