ASUG Member: When a Long-Time ASUG Volunteer’s Thoughts Turn to Influence

January 10, 2017 by Craig Powers

As a long-time ASUG member and volunteer, Jennifer Cofer has been actively engaged with the Americas’ SAP Users’ Group for the past seven years. However, it’s only recently that she’s also become involved with participating in ASUG Influence Councils. We were interested in hearing about what precipitated that move.

Cofer is currently senior BI developer at a major Seattle medical center. Her career in business intelligence includes positions with end-user organizations in Seattle such as a well-known outdoor recreation retailer and prestigious public university medical system along with stints at specialist software providers and consultancies. She was the first BI analyst hired at that outdoor recreation retailer and started an SAP BusinessObjects user group at the company. Cofer also served in the U.S. Navy for five years.

Her work has typically called on her skills in team creation and management as well as providing enterprise report and BI thought leadership. She has also often played the role of bridge builder between IT and business teams to foster collaborative BI work.

Evangelizing ASUG

###pBI special interest group (SIG), Cofer has helped set up (but not participate in) Influence Councils, coordinate webcasts and conferences, notably the annual ASUG BI and Analytics event. In October 2016, the ASUG BI + Analytics Conference
took place in New Orleans and, for the first time, included a strong
focus on business users of BI and analytics as well as IT users. Cofer
and her BI SIG colleagues are already planning for the 2017 event
located in Nashville, Tennessee, Aug. 7-9, and renamed as SAP-Centric BI + Analytics Conference. She is also a chair of the ASUG Health Sciences SIG.

As a consultant, Cofer became an ASUG member, and frequently evangelized the work of the user group. “Every time I’d go onsite as a consultant to a customer, I would pitch ASUG as a great source of education,” she says in a phone interview with ASUGNews. “I’d also encourage my clients to submit projects as abstracts to conferences where we’d co-present together. It really got them invested in the [BusinessObjects] product.”

Cofer even created her own PowerPoint presentation aimed at introducing organizations to ASUG. She would then walk employees through the ASUG website and point out webcasts of direct interest to them. “I’d get one or two involved and invested in ASUG and they’d bring on the rest of the group,” she adds.

On leaving the consulting world and returning to working for end-user organizations, it took a while to get her employer involved in ASUG. However, her persistence ended up in the company first sending speakers, and then sending staff as attendees to the ASUG BI + Analytics conference.

Influencing SAP

In terms of getting involved with Influence Councils, one issue for Cofer has been timing. “I used to have so many roles in ASUG, I had no time to do anything else,” she says. Since limiting some of those other roles, she is now starting to participate in two councils—the ASUG SAP Predictive Analytics Influence Council and the ASUG SAP Web Intelligence Influence Council.

“Influence Councils are important,” Cofer says. “They do influence the product direction.” For instance, ASUG members may discover and then alert SAP to pieces of charting that just don’t work and need to be fixed. ASUG members may also identify integration work which needs to take place within individual SAP products as well as between different products, whether SAP-to-SAP or SAP-to-third-party software, such as popular data visualization tool Tableau.

While Tableau is popular within her current organization, Cofer is starting to use SAP’s Lumira data visualization software. “It’s kind of cool,” she says. “Lumira’s already hooked up to the SAP BI universe, but to make the Tableau view available to end users takes a lot of work on the back-end to make it happen.”

For Cofer, there are several reasons for getting involved in the ASUG Web Intelligence (Webi) Influence Council. “There are more and more directions I’d like the product to go in” she says. “It’s also about how we make sure that all the wonderful features SAP has already put time and effort into are known about.”

“I’ve been using Webi for 12 years and it’s changed a lot,” Cofer says. “In working with Pascal Gaulin, [Webi product expert at SAP], we discovered a lot of things in Webi that just aren’t documented. We are planning to put together an abstract on Webi charts tips and tricks.” Gaulin takes part in the ASUG BusinessObjects Web Intelligence Influence Council as an SAP representative.

SAP Is Listening

“SAP does listen, but since they’re such a large company, they can’t move very quickly,” Cofer says. For instance, she notes the significant improvements in the look-and-feel of BusinessObjects, comparing version 4.2 to 4.0.

“SAP did a really great job in saying that not everyone is going to like the new look-and-feel and be receptive to it,” she says. “They put a switch in there so you can have the old look-and-feel or switch over to the new Fiori interface. When you’re ready [for the new look], you can switch it up.” This willingness to accommodate a variety of different user preferences is a big change for SAP and one which users welcome, Cofer adds.

“I’ve always told people when they complain about SAP or ASUG that you’re only going to get back as much as you put in,” Cofer says. “If you sit on the sidelines and complain and bemoan that there’s nothing there for you, that’s on you. If you’re not communicating and actively participating [through ASUG SIGs, Influence Councils, and ASUG events], SAP doesn’t know what you want or want you need.”

Why and How to Get Involved

To learn more about ASUG Influence programs, check out asug.com/influence. Those interested can reach out to influence@asug.com to get connected to a program in their desired product area. ASUG members can also propose new Influence Councils by filling out this form.