Each day, SAP customers turn to the software provider’s products to manage and run huge areas of their business—everything from HR to the supply chain. These customers become experts in the products they use and understand what works (and what doesn’t) better than anyone. To tap into this hands-on expertise and give customers a voice to enhance the technologies they rely on, SAP and ASUG host customer influence programs and initiatives dedicated to collecting customer feedback to inform the software development process.
“This is all about the power of one voice,” said Tammy Powlas, a utility company professional, ASUG volunteer, and a participant in ASUG Influence Councils. “Customers share their experiences and you can learn from them.”
SAP Customer Influence Opportunities
SAP currently has five major customer influence programs. While each of these initiatives accomplishes specific goals, they were all created to engage customers and incorporate their feedback into SAP products.
“Customers benefit from a close collaboration with SAP development when they get involved with customer influence programs,” said Kristin Albright, VP of SAP America’s customer adoption management and global head of SAP early adopter care services. “They have the opportunity to shape future solutions so they can maximize their business value.”
SAP Customer Engagement Initiative
SAP Customer Engagement Initiative (CEI) gives customers a peek at new developments and upgrades to SAP software. Interested customers can apply to participate during three cycles that take place throughout the year. The current session is running through June 19, 2020.
This particular initiative allows customers to see the software developments SAP is working on and provide crucial feedback to these forthcoming innovations. Customers can apply their work experience to help build a better solution. This program is best for SAP customers who have ideas about how to improve and innovate the software they use and want to network with other customers.
SAP Beta Testing
While the SAP Customer Engagement Initiative gives users early insights to upcoming developments, SAP Beta Testing actually puts upcoming releases and products into users’ hands. The main draw of this program is that users actually get access to software to test-drive it.
The process can take between two weeks to three months. Customers can bring their own data or install the software in their company’s technology landscape, giving them the full experience of using the new or updated product and to test any necessary integrations. This is an opportunity to figure out how to deploy new software and upgrades in your organization. It’s best for SAP customers who want to better understand how upcoming SAP products will fit within their IT infrastructure.
SAP Early Adopter Care
When a new piece of SAP software is released, it can be difficult to immediately implement it into your business and IT infrastructure. The SAP Early Adopter Care program makes that process easier. Customers participating in this program gain early access to new SAP solutions. They are assigned a dedicated “project coach” who will assist with the transition and offer support.
SAP also designates a “back-office” lead to be the main contact for technical issues. This makes implementing a new piece of software easier and gives customers direct access to SAP during the process of adopting new software. The SAP Early Adopter Care program is perfect for customers who want to implement new SAP software, but also need help integrating it into their business.
“The primary benefit of working with SAP during beta testing and with the SAP Early Adopter Care program is the close contact to SAP development to help mitigate risks and gain insights to best practices from other customer projects,” Albright said.
SAP Customer Connection
While the other SAP customer influence programs focus on new or upcoming solutions, SAP Customer Connection gives customers a voice in enhancing SAP products they are already using. SAP Customer Connection lets customers suggest improvements to on-premise products. The program is typically conducted through SAP user groups and special interest groups. Through these networks, customers can hear from their peers and colleagues who are also using the software and then collaborate as they workshop product enhancements together.
SAP Continuous Influence
SAP customers can submit improvements to cloud products with the SAP Continuous Influence program. Like SAP Customer Connection, this program gives customers a voice when it comes to updating, upgrading, and maintaining already-released solutions. While many of the customer influence programs take place at predetermined frequencies, SAP Continuous Influence takes place throughout the year. Requests are submitted to SAP development teams through an open channel. You can track down public enhancements using the SAP Improvement Finder.
ASUG-Led SAP Customer Influence Councils
In addition to these SAP customer influence programs, ASUG hosts influence opportunities available to its members.
“ASUG’s primary and most formal influence program is via our year-round ASUG Influence Councils, but ASUG often influences in many more informal ways,” said Danny Pancratz, director of product development at ASUG. “A lot of customer advocacy and influence happens through our ASUG Executive Exchange program, our board of directors, in conversations of our leadership team with SAP, as well as more grassroots conversations that happen at our chapter meetings and other others. I like to say that any time you get a group of customers together, there’s likely to be feedback and ideas that come from their conversation.”
The main way ASUG facilitates customer influence is via ASUG Influence Councils. Spanning 19 different topics, these groups of about 20 ASUG members regularly meet to workshop improvements to SAP products, network, and discuss the ways they are effectively using SAP software at their organizations.
“These are all about making your voice and ideas heard,” said Pancratz. “ASUG Influence Councils help amplify your feedback by combining it with your fellow customers and routing it through a long-established channel ASUG has with SAP. In addition to the feedback channel, participating in Influence Councils offers insight into how other customers are using the same SAP products, the challenges they have, as well as the solutions and best practices they’ve developed. By understanding the needs, challenges, solutions, and ideas of peers, customers often find inspiration to use in their own work.”
The Influence Councils meet digitally and have SAP support. Members collaborate on suggested improvements to SAP products, and submit them through the company’s numerous customer influence programs.
“Networking is a key benefit but being a collective voice with other customers gives you a ‘leg up’ on what is coming up,” Powlas said.