In 2022, ASUG spearheaded a major research initiative involving its members together with those of the German-Speaking SAP User Group (DSAG) and the Japan SAP Users’ Group (JSUG). The unprecedented project, with identical surveys, was designed to help the organizations and the greater SAP community in many ways, yet especially to understand the following
- · How member organizations keep up with the changing business, technology, and social climates
- · The longevity and job satisfaction of members
- · How well SAP is serving organizations’ businesses and technology needs
- · Details about the SAP role in their sustainability efforts
The results showed considerable common ground across the three groups’ members’ perceptions and experiences, as well as some noteworthy differences.
This analysis, the first of two, looks at some result highlights specific to ASUG members. A follow-on perspective will look at how the three groups converge and diverge on issues that surfaced in the survey.
Rapid and often unpredictable change in all aspects of life is the norm, and ASUG members, like all organizations that use enterprise software, are in a struggle to keep up, according to the SAP Global User Group Research: The Pace of Change and Role of SAP Solutions. Just under 70% are “somewhat” able to keep pace, while 13% said they are simply unable to keep pace. Only 18% of respondents feel they can completely stay on top of change.
You can see how ASUG members finesse never-ending complexity in how they focus on a set of relatively pragmatic strategies—the data indicated. These strategies included maintaining flexibility in response to the pace of change, limiting customizations in IT landscapes, and looking for incremental improvements in landscapes, as opposed to favoring complex, “big bang” projects.
This pragmatism is seen more succinctly in data related to plans for new technologies and offerings that could help organizations keep pace. The three technologies favored by over 50% of respondents—cloud, dashboards and analytics, and automation/RPA—aren’t necessarily leading-edge technologies. The cloud is an obviously reasonable choice, as virtually all innovative technology and business practices today are cloud-based. This is particularly true in the SAP ecosystem, as innovation is focused on cloud properties like SAP S/4HANA while on-premise ECC will reach end of life within five years, according to SAP’s current schedule.
Pragmatism and Incremental Improvements Rule
Dashboards and analytics are a similarly pragmatic choice: whether managing the status quo or trying to keep up with the pace of change, these are foundational, required technologies. Meanwhile, automation/RPA represents a class of technology that is newer, but still a highly pragmatic option. Automation and RPA are increasingly being used by companies to fill in the technology gaps by automating formerly unintegrated or largely manual processes without incurring a massive technology expense or complicated change management process. While automation can be used to support net-new, leading-edge innovation, it’s often part of incremental improvement, as noted earlier.
On the other end of the technology spectrum, the relatively low response rate for technologies that are seen as leading-edge, such as AI/ML, low code/no code, IoT, and smart manufacturing, reflects a similar pragmatism among the ASUG respondents. Each of these technology paths were rated as important by one-third or less of the participants. Other technologies, namely composable/modular applications, conversational UI, open networks, AR/VR, and blockchain scored even lower, and only 8% of respondent see the use of digital twins in their future.
The survey revealed some important reasons for this pragmatism. When asked why they are unable to keep up with the pace of change, budget scarcity, personnel, and the time needed to effect change topped the respondents’ list. Personnel issues are interesting in so far as respondents also noted that their dependence on external resources also limited their ability to keep pace, despite external resources typically help fill internal resource gaps. If this strategy is currently a constraint, it may be because SAP partners at times deploy talent that lack skills and experience—a common problem in m any SAP projects.
Importantly, the ASUG research showed organizational issues at the forefront of the barriers, including general aversity to change, internal process bottlenecks, and a lack of management vision and strategy. On the technical level, respondents said excessive customizations in their IT environments also limited deployment of net-new technologies to meet the needs of a changing environment.
These organizational factors were mirrored in the specific factors holding back the IT department. Respondents from IT reported that a set of issues (including cost pressures, landscape complexity, personnel issues, legacy technologies, and a dependency on external resources) represent significant barriers to keep pace with change. To a lesser degree IT also grapples with data migration issues and cybersecurity as it seeks to manage change.
The prevalence of heterogeneity in the IT landscape is another interesting issue common across the ASUG community. Over two-thirds of the ASUG member participants reported the use of Microsoft solutions as highly important, while one-fifth tagged Salesforce.com solutions as similarly important.
Responses related to cloud heterogeneity show an interesting shift away from heterogeneity. While non-SAP cloud solutions are currently slightly more important to respondents, they also indicated that future IT landscapes will rebalance SAP and non-SAP cloud solutions in SAP’s favor.
With the focus on personnel and skills in today’s economy, it’s important to note that the survey showed a high rate of job satisfaction among ASUG member respondents. This augurs well for organizations’ ability to navigate management and technical barriers when delivering more pragmatic solutions. A solid 75% of respondents were either very satisfied or satisfied with their jobs, whereas only 9% were either unsatisfied or very unsatisfied.
This rate of job satisfaction is reflected in the job tenure found in the ASUG member data set; 46% said they have been with their organization for 10 or more years. There were also strong rates in skill matching, with 47% of respondents saying they “strongly agree” with the statement “I am properly skilled to do my job,” while another 38% said they “agree” with the statement.
The ASUG-specific survey results indicate how the community tackles the problems of complexity and change by limiting the use of net-new technologies and focusing on incremental improvements to their existing SAP technology base. The good news about this strategy is that the skillsets of the respondents make them ideally suited for this challenge.
Equally important is that, despite the talent, skills and hiring challenges in the current economic climate, the data shows strong job satisfaction. This bodes well for organizations’ efforts to make good on the pragmatism noted in the survey. Regardless of whether customers are moving as quickly into new technological domains as SAP marketing efforts would like, the fact remains that however customers chose to respond to change and complexity, SAP remains a key strategic partner for ASUG members in times of rapid change and unwavering business complexity.
Joshua Greenbaum is Principal at Enterprise Application Consulting.