In May 2019, about 100 ASUG Executive Exchange members sat together in Orlando one day before the official start of SAPHHIRE NOW and ASUG Annual Conference to share ideas and discuss their successes and challenges with their SAP investment. Our virtual ASUG Executive Exchange National Summit this year welcomed the same level of enthusiasm, as attendees dialed in from the comfort of their own homes to do the same.

As ASUG CEO Geoff Scott thanked everyone for joining, he noted, “It certainly hasn’t escaped my mind that this is typically the week we would have all been in Orlando. While we can’t be there physically, I am happy we’re still able to come together virtually to discuss the really important things that are impacting our businesses, our trajectories, our supply chains, and our customers.”

More than 100 C-level members tuned in as Scott and SAP CEO Christian Klein kicked things off with a discussion centered on how SAP will change under Klein’s leadership, as well as how he is managing in this unparalleled time of uncertainty.

“SAP was off to a great Q1,” Klein said. “Our pipeline was extremely strong. As many other organizations, SAP was affected by the crisis. “We first were hit in China, then in Europe, and finally in the Americas. But, thanks to our own transformation, we have built an extremely strong foundation. We can support our more than 400,000 customers with 95% of our employees working from home,” he added.

The Analysis of SAP and SAP Customers During a Pandemic

Scott asked how being named sole CEO of SAP will affect previously outlined business priorities, especially those related to solving integration challenges. “Having gone through SAP’s own business transformation and becoming an intelligent enterprise, I know how important it is to start with the end user,” Klein said.

Following the conversation between Scott and Klein, attendees listened in to a Q&A discussion between Scott and Co-Founder of diginomica and industry analyst, Jon Reed. The two noted that it was rare for an SAP CEO to discuss things like licensing or the “end-user.” This was one of the things that makes Klein stand out as a different type of CEO for SAP. “It has to be refreshing for customers to hear that those things are on his radar,” Reed said. At the same time, Reed noted that a lot of what SAP is selling is around the intelligent enterprise and the digital core that it’s based on takes a lot of time to implement. “Right now, customers have very immediate issues, whether related to the remote workforce or collaboration tools, or perhaps better planning tools,” he said. “SAP needs to talk more about non-SAP solutions and being more open to plugging those in quickly.”

In was an interesting exchange that spilled into its own breakout track, “Analysts’ View of New Normal,” where Reed went into a deep dive of current and future plans for SAP.

Klein, however, was very clear on his ambitions, stating: “Customer success has to become part of the DNA of SAP and this is why we also have to continue our own business transformation. Customer success doesn’t end with the point of sale. It’s about adopting the solutions and fast time to value. It’s about helping end users to really understand our applications. It’s about making sure every SAP employee across the value chain understands that our first obligation is to make our customers successful.”

Applying SAP Tools and Actions to the Business Landscape Today

Customers are faced with a variety of obstacles in the face of this crisis. One of the breakout tracks, “Tools for Today” focused on what customers can do right now to help mitigate some immediate challenges within their organizations. “We’re going to address two key elements that are important to organizations, said ASUG Moderator Chris Crone. “Those are money and people.”

During this track attendees heard from Christian Mnich, VP and head of solution management treasury and working capital management for SAP as well as Dr. Benjamin Granger, XM Institute, senior principal at Qualtrics. The two different sessions provided insight on how customers can meet these challenges, but also on how they can identify opportunities where they exist.

Mnich introduced SAP finance solutions that can help customers get comprehensive working capital insights and quickly act on them. “There is a lot to consider as it relates to the finances of your organization and it is so relevant to have the right tools and applications in place,” he said. He shared tips on how to manage and optimize working capital using SAP S/4HANA and its Cash Management, Treasury and Risk Management, and Receivables Management functions.

Dr. Granger shifted focus to discuss the importance of feedback to not only improve employees’ current experience, but also to be better prepared for the future business landscape. “It’s about taking data and all the insight from your employees, or your customers and your market, and then synthesizing it into something that actionable,” he said. “It’s about continuously learning and guiding those that can do something down a path. It’s ultimately about taking control and every organization can do that right now to operate more resiliently.”

SAP Customers Lean on Support During COVID-19

As organizations look to make the right decisions in the current business landscape, they are looking to SAP for support, especially as it relates to cost management for software licensing.

In another breakout track, “Statistics and Support,” attendees dialed in for an open dialogue on how effective management of licensing and support can both save your organization on your software investments and improve the relationship between you and your software and support providers. “Customers are falling into three different buckets,” said Len Riley, SAP commercial advisory practice leader at UpperEdge. “There are organizations that are continuing with their transformation initiatives, or actually accelerating them depending on the industry they’re in; there are those that have put a complete pause on their transformation initiatives; and then there are those that have put things off for the mid- to long-term.” Riley added that regardless of which bucket you fall in, this is the time to have conversations with SAP and have a wholesale review of your product and service portfolio.

Companies don’t typically use all of what they’re licensed for. Now is a good time to clean that up and save some money to prepare for the next wave of transformation. It might also be a good opportunity to assess the Digital Access Adoption Program. “Clients have three key opportunities right now,” Riley said. “You have an opportunity to revisit your executive relationship with SAP. You have the chance to look at utilization and right size. And you have the opportunity to simplify.”

During the second half of the track, attendees heard from ASUG Market Research Manager Carolyn Szczurek. She discussed key findings from the ASUG Pulse Check, which didn’t differ much from the interactive poll taken during the virtual Executive Exchange event. When asked whether they were postponing technology initiatives at their organizations, the audience was in sync with what we’ve heard from other ASUG members that have participated in the survey. Nearly a third were postponing most initiatives while half were postponing just a few. “Way more companies are continuing on,” noted David Wascom, SVP of executive programs at ASUG. “How they’re doing it is changing fundamentally, but they’re still moving forward.”

Looking Forward to a Post-COVID-19 Landscape

As we begin to strategize about what will continue to drive business in a new landscape, as well as the ways in which we can keep the workforce safe and efficient, there are a few things that matter most. In another breakout track, “Looking Forward,” experts discussed how data will be the primary driver going forward.

Data will be an unmatched asset for any organization. The key, however, will be in managing it a way that helps businesses both survive and thrive during uncertainty. Attendees learned about best practices, common pitfalls, and first steps in developing a meaningful, business-outcome-focused data strategy. “Data strategy is part of an overall data program,” said Account Executive for DMR, Melissa Vogel. “Managing your data to outcomes has to be strategically thought. It’s comprehensive. It’s a set of capabilities; not just technology. So, to be successful, you need a program.”

In the second half of the track, ASUG Moderator Paul Kurchina and VP of Application Lifecycle management for SAP, Tim Steuer delved into how to leverage the people, processes, and tools for application lifecycle management (ALM) to provide a cost-effective way to manage the deployment, development, and decommissioning of software assets. “There are two key principles of ALM—implementation and operations—and they both have their own set of steps,” Steuer said. “It is our objective to help you succeed and to automate as many of those steps as possible.” The SAP ALM product portfolio includes SAP Solution Manager and SAP Focused Run, as well as SAP Cloud ALM, which will be released to cloud customers likely at the end of May 2020. “These are the three strategic ALM solutions we have to match customer realities today,” Steuer said.

Executive Leaders Keep a Positive Outlook

ASUG Executive Exchange members found a way to learn from one another and continue on the path of networking in a new virtual landscape.

At the end of the summit, attendees heard from Deloitte Chief Global Economist Dr. Ira Kalish who reviewed the economic impact of COVID-19 while also providing insights on what the future holds. “We know we’re in bad shape. We know we’ve seen a catastrophic drop in the economic activity,” he said. “But we also know that either now or later, we’re going to see some easing on economic restrictions. We will at some point see some suppression of the virus; we’ve already seen it in China, we’re seeing some of it in Europe, and we’re starting to see it in the U.S. We will get a return of economic activity.”

Kalish went on to note that he doesn’t believe it will be a V-shape recovery, but that a recovery is still in sight. “In the long run, we are going to be okay,” he said.

Attendees were invited to stay on and participate in virtual networking. “When the topics of conversation are in sync with what SAP customers really need to know about today, it’s no surprise that virtual networking can be just as effective as in-person networking,” Scott said. “People still want to learn from and connect with other people, and that was on full display during the entire event.”

ASUG members can register for the Executive Exchange Virtual Roundtable: SAP in the Public Cloud on Sept. 29, 1 - 2 p.m. CT. 

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