Laura Tibodeau, ASUG Board Director, attended executive leadership meetings at the DSAG (SAP German-Speaking User Group) annual conference and at SAP Headquarters in Walldorf, Germany. She was among the traveling group that included current ASUG board members and ASUG staff senior leaders. Tibodeau, Global Digital & Transformation Innovation Leader for Ascend Performance Materials, agreed to recap her experiences and impressions from the journey for the ASUG community in the following commentary.
This was my first trip to Germany representing ASUG. I departed Houston for Leipzig, Germany, the location of the 2022 DSAG User Group Conference and the first stop on a whirlwind trip focused on collaboration and sharing with DSAG leaders, SAP leaders, and across the ASUG group itself.
Given European social distancing practices, this was the first DSAG conference held since early 2020. We initially met the DSAG leadership team over dinner on Monday evening and learned that their issues and concerns strongly aligned with their North American counterparts. The list of challenges discussed included: increasing maintenance fees; the looming 2027 SAP S/4HANA date; ever-increasing skill shortages of SAP talent to execute imminent S/4HANA transitions; understanding the value of RISE with SAP; and integration challenges with third-party enterprise software suppliers.
On Tuesday, we attended the DSAG 2022 JahresKongress at the Leipzig Congress Center, a large conference center to support the 3,500 attendees. The day was packed with content delivered in German. Jens Hungershausen, DSAG Board Chair, delivered the keynote, followed by remarks from other DSAG Board Members, Christian Klein, SAP CEO, and Thomas Saueressig, SAP Executive Board Member, Product Engineering. Attendees also had a chance to visit with SAP partner companies at booths in the exhibit space.
Notes and Google Translate
To understand the proceedings, some ASUG attendees used Google Translate for real-time translations. Others relied on translations from local German speaking professionals. I truly appreciated the personal insights provided by Norbert Nowak from SAP, who serves as ASUG liaison. At day’s end, the group dined at the Ratskeller Leipzig, a home-style Germanic restaurant near the historic city hall.
Taken together, the meetings and conference attendance promoted collaboration with DSAG and will undoubtedly help both organizations solve current, common challenges.
Wednesday was a travel day to Heidelberg and included afternoon preparation sessions for Thursday meetings. In that action-packed day, the ASUG group met individually with several SAP leaders, including Sebastian Steinhaeuser, Chief Strategy Officer; Juergen Mueller, Executive Board Member and Chief Technology Officer; Peter Maier, President, Industries & Customer Advisory Board; Karl Fahrbach, Chief Partner Officer and Member of the Senior Executive Team; and Saueressig. The SAP Leaders candidly shared their thoughts, views, and perspectives.
SAP leadership genuinely wanted to understand SAP strengths and opportunities from the Voice of the Customer–ASUG. The discussion topics were many and varied dominant themes including Cloud adoption strategies; importance of integration; a commitment to return SAP Sapphire to a 2019-style event; the strategic value and importance of SAP Business Technology Platform; sustainability; playing to win in strategic software segments; and customer challenges in adopting SAP S/4HANA.
Time with Christian Klein
On Friday morning, our ASUG delegation met with CEO Christian Klein. Klein clearly articulated the SAP vision and goals; discussed how SAP intends to support worldwide sustainability pursuits; and shared how SAP will further enhance customer value. It was clear he is keenly interested in SAP customer success, strengthening SAP corporate culture, and advancing innovation to support the digital revolution. We also learned that Klein meets with world leaders and policymakers on digital government, international trade, and sustainability.
Klein intently listened to inputs from the ASUG Board Members, assigned action items, and committed to a follow-on session to review progress on key initiatives.
We concluded Friday with visits to the SAP Experience (Innovation) Centers to see how SAP Cloud solutions can be utilized to holistically run digital enterprise.
Focus on Rise with SAP, BTP
This trip uniquely allowed ASUG the opportunity to share key observations and suggestions with top SAP leadership to advance SAP from a product and customer experience perspective. Significant focus was given to RISE with SAP and SAP BTP offerings. In return, SAP leaders vetted their vision and strategies with some of their most strategic customers. The conversations were collaborative, positive, and highly productive. I am truly appreciative and grateful for the opportunity extended to represent our ASUG membership on this trip.