As 2023 drew to a close, leaders from three global SAP users' groups—ASUG (Americas’ SAP Users’ Group), DSAG (Deutschsprachige SAP-Anwendergruppe), and UKISUG (UK & Ireland SAP User Group)—gathered virtually to discuss research conducted on the SAP ecosystem, as well as major points of focus for their organizations and members in 2024. 

During a Dec. 20 webcast hosted by Marissa Gilbert, ASUG Research Director, ASUG CEO & Chief Community Champion Geoff Scott joined Paul Cooper, Chairman of UKISUG, and Jens Hungershausen, Chairman of DSAG, to analyze the current state of the SAP ecosystem. (The full webcast replay is available for ASUG members; register here.)

Conducted collaboratively between the three user groups and JSUG (Japan SAP Users' Group), the research surveyed 1,108 respondents—including SAP employees, partners, and customers—to gain insights into the relationships that exist between SAP, its customers, and user groups.

“This was an incredibly eye-opening research project,” Gilbert said. “The collaboration between our four organizations gave us and our members a deep understanding of some vital dynamics in the SAP ecosystem. I’m so glad our four user groups could collaborate to produce this insightful research.”

During the hour-long conversation, Gilbert and the three leaders discussed the alignment between SAP strategy and customer needs, the growing skill gap, and SAP Business Technology Platform (BTP). Here are three highlights from the webcast and research.

SAP Skill Sets in User Groups

One of the main focuses of the research was SAP-specific skillset proficiency. For the most part, respondents reported their workforces are equipped with the tools and knowledge necessary for success in leveraging SAP technology. Most respondents (61% from ASUG, 67% from DSAG, and 58% from UKISUG) reported their companies' employees were either fully or mostly proficient with SAP. Average proficiency among workforces was reported by 30% of ASUG respondents, 23% of DSAG, and 34% of UKISUG.

At face value, these numbers are encouraging, but as long-time SAP experts near retirement the SAP skills gap will widen. “Our core demographic is starting to look a little greyer,” Scott said.

To combat this gap, all three user group leaders encouraged organizations to make learning opportunities a priority. “Continuous learning and training is required [of IT professionals,] and not only in the SAP space,” Hungershausen said, noting that many DSAG members are long-time SAP users and that his organization is committed to SAP knowledge development opportunities, including events and training courses built in collaboration with SAP.

Scott further underlined that technology innovations—including AI, cloud computing, and SaaS offerings—further necessitate continuous education opportunities. “We need to make space for learning,” Scott said, warning that professionals who do not carve out this time will miss opportunities to leverage new technologies as they emerge.

SAP and Customer Alignment

Another topic of discussion was the importance of alignment between the current SAP roadmap strategy and customers’ needs. The research indicated that, while some user groups consider themselves aligned with SAP, others sense a disconnect. 

About one-third (29%) of DSAG members who are SAP customers indicated they are in lockstep with the software company, compared to 75% of ASUG and 61% of UKISUG members. The results looked similar for user group members in the SAP partner community; 74% of ASUG members in that camp indicated they consider themselves aligned with SAP, compared to 61% of UKISUG and 41% of DSAG members.

While discussing these results, Cooper brought up that SAP customers in these three user groups fall into two distinct categories: long-term, invested SAP users, and recent adopters who leveraged greenfield implementations and more recently joined the SAP community.

“It's incumbent on us to help those organizations that have been around a lot longer—and are used to how [their own businesses] work—to understand the direction and speed of travel” of SAP innovation, he said. Cooper also reminded attendees that “different populations have different learning requirements and experiences.”

Collaboration with SAP

Scott, Cooper, and Hungershausen also covered the three user groups' collaboration with SAP on particular projects. According to the research, consensus among the three organizations’ members points to overall satisfaction with their SAP partnerships. About three-fourths (73%) of ASUG members, 65% of UKISUG members and 53% of DSAG members indicated they were satisfied with their SAP collaborations.

Discussing how SAP can improve its collaboration with DSAG members, Hungershausen indicated that transparency and more information around product pricing strategy were vital. He suggested that SAP include “customers and partners in the development process.” According to Hungershausen, DSAG is involved with SAP development, especially as it pertains to incorporating legal requirements into its solutions.

Looking Forward to 2024

During the webcast, the three user group leaders also celebrated the notion that business operations are beginning to resemble pre-pandemic norms, with each referencing their groups’ in-person annual conferences.

“We got together again in person,” Scott said, reflecting on a year that included not only ASUG Annual Conference but the launch of ASUG Tech Connect, a new in-person event for the North American SAP developer community. Both events will return in 2024. 

“We got this feeling that we could proceed from where we were in 2019 and move forward," Scott added. "That was a huge win for the community.”

Cooper, meanwhile, reported that the UKISUG annual conference was the group’s best-attended event, topping attendance numbers for pre-pandemic events.  And increased participation in physical events “underlines how important personal interactions are for our members,” Hungershausen added.

In 2024, Scott, Hungershausen, and Cooper are all looking forward to more collaborative events and opportunities for their organizations. As Scott reflected, “Why go alone when you can go together?”

To watch the entire webcast, "Global User Group Research: Insights on the Collaboration in the SAP Ecosystem," register here

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