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Personal Insights

Winds of change

I have been a big critic of SAP not listening to the market sufficiently on how its products are percieved, and incorporating that feedback into their products and solutions. And I was not alone – do a google search and you will find many others had / still have this opinion. Well, that is changing – certainly for me at least.


It started like this today morning – Ruks  Omar, A Solution Marketing expert from Netweaver BPM group reached out to Marilyn Pratt to find who she can talk to amongst SAP mentors to explore how BPM is percieved. Marilyn pointed her to Dipankar Saha and Somnath Manna, and they provide some valuable insight to her. Next, Somnath pulls me into the conversation – and I add my 2 cents. ( Somnath, Dipankar and I are colleagues at IBM too, and we now have a fourth mentor in our midst – Abesh) Few minutes after I replied, I am already trading emails with Ruks and we agree to talk on the phone. It was already evening in Waldorf, but she called me promptly.


I absolutely enjoyed the conversation – she had great questions, and respected my opinions (which admitedly were not all positive) and patiently lets me explain my thoughts. She also followed up with an email with a link to the use cases for BPM , which is awesome


This was the third time in last few months that I got to involve directly in providing feedback to SAP.


A good friend of mine from SAP Labs in Walldorf moved from CRM development to the Solution Manager group. Once he ramped on his new role, he reached out to me and few others and was eager to get some feedback on what the market thinks of Solution Manager product.  And exactly like Ruks did – he followed up with more questions and clarifications.  When he was an Architect in CRM, he used to do exactly the same – he was always open for a good idea, irrespective of the source. At that time – I used to think he was an exception at SAP 🙂


And then there is Ingo Hilgefort – the living legend on Business Objects tools.  Not only can I get direct answers to any question I can throw at him – he is very good at seeking feedback. Currently I am reviewing his latest book . I will be posting my review here very soon.


All this is on top of the countless opportunities Mark Finnern provides SAP Mentors to give our feedback to SAP. Also, there has been an increased presence of SAP employees in SCN asking for community input. I especially liked the one on Order Management.


The three people I mentioned above are from three parts of SAP – and one is in Solution Marketing, another is in solution management  and the third is from group product management.  This tells me that SAP has made a great start in making this part of their corporate culture. There are a lot more things they can do, but I now firmly believe that one day soon, they will cover most of it.

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  • Hi Vijay,
    Glad that Ruks spoke with you as indeed you provide incredible BPM insights.  Her request was to speak to folks with high functional experience, little BPM activity and high mentoring activity.
    I guess you can’t avoid being thought of by me as someone with BPM-expertise.  I think she was looking for consultants who are more functionally focused and wanted to try to understand why BPM is not part of their day job.  Folks like yourself, Dick Hirsch, Owen Pettiford, John Harrikey, Paul Taylor, Twan, Wout, Caspar, are already deeply enmeshed.  The responses of Dipankar and Somnath were exactly what I thought she was looking for: ie. we don’t really do that stuff.  I assumed she wanted to understand why?
    And Ruks is indeed awesome.  Thanks for highlighting the great work she is doing in the wiki.
    • Hi Marilyn – I got your rationale as soon as I spoke with Ruks. Dipankar, Som and I have very different roles in IBM – and I clearly told Ruks that what I am telling her is just what I see in the industries I support – and not any kind of generalization.
      • Just to clarify – one reason I directed Ruks to Vijay is because he being in US and his varied role (project/program manager, techno-functional architect) probably has seen more engagements in which BPM is in the plate. My role as a Functional Consultant in a project being delivered from Offshore Global Delivery Center is restrictive unless the client is ahead of the curve playing with BPM. Also I think the client industries and size matter – hi tech, retail, utilities where industries themselves thrive on business innovation seek the same in IT whereas traditional commodity focused industries tend to take a more conservative wait-and-see approach.
        My 2 cents based on little of what I have seen.
  • I’m glad you had such a positive experience with this but perhaps it is possible that this has been the case in the past but it just wasn’t as visible.?.?  Just because SCN wasn’t around 10 years ago and blogging wasn’t around 10 years ago (at least in the SAP cummunity at large) doesn’t mean that SAP solution management, development, product management, et al didn’t reach out to customers for input.  I say this because I know that they have.  In my opinion one of the differences (others being market pressure and a maturation of their core customers and the products they use) is just that SCN is so visible and active that maybe… just maybe…  SAP is making a more *concerted* effort to reach out to others like yourself.  That’s all positive but it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen in the past either.  Maybe the differences is just that you are in the right boat now.
    • Perhaps true – and I have no reason to doubt that you had such positive experiences earlier than I did. I started in SAP around 1997 I think – and despite many attempts to proactively provide feedback in those days, I was not able to – and I hadn’t known too many people at that time who was able to do that either. I know that SAP always had opportunities for customers to provide input to product management teams – but I personally have never heard of any one from SAP development doing that till very recently. And I still doubt if even 20% of development staff get access to the field.

      Thanks to SDN, of course I am more visible now. But from an SAP relationship point – I have always been a consultant in some big sized SI or another who all enjoyed partnership status with SAP. So the boat itself didn’t change for me, but maybe I got a better seat in the front 🙂

      • I wasn’t really referring to me…  just highlighting the fact that SCN, blogging, Mentors er al just make relationship building with SAP a bit easier and the back-n-forth dialogue more public or visible. 

        In their defense, how is a software company supposed to reach out to 30k customers back in 1999?  There only option would be a user group and SAP was involved there.  Here in the US I know that members of product management were consistently involved in the various interest groups at ASUG…  constantly presenting and speaking to customers.  I just think that it’s far easier for SAP (or any of us for that matter) to communicate globally now…  actually, the bigger benefit is to just find the right people.

          • Kaching! Steering the boat in the right direction, up front, good viewing seats.  Really listening to SAP Mentors, Top Community Members, ASUG leadership, perhaps not at all a “new thing” but definitely a more transparent thing.  It isn’t just that technology makes it easier and cheaper, in some ways it even reinvents and creates new possibilities. 
  • more clear example where communities make a difference. At the end of the day we are all in the business of making money (the degree varies). So for product management, sales or service management folks, key, unbiased and unfiltered inputs are something that didn’t come for free in the past. However, with communities (disciplined and regulated at that), the business sees a great opportunity of pro-active feedback and I guess this is something what we are seeing more and more today.
    • Indeed – I agree that communities are key to the increase in this trend. But I understand from Nathan G that this was always happening, but just that some of us didn’t know till more recently.
  • Ingo Hilgefort.  We had an ASUG meeting this weekend and we got to work with him – he provided invaluable feedback to us ASUG volunteers.

    He also asked me for feedback on his excellent book.  I marvel how he does it all.  He is extremely responsive.  My only regret is that I forgot to ask him to sign the book.

    I liked the living legend comment…

    I’ve had positive experiences too with NetWeaver Product Management; I missed last year’s TechED but the year before, the NetWeaver Product Managers held strategy sessions and answered all my questions.

    Thanks for the BPM links; I confess I haven’t spent much time there and look forwarding to reviewing.

    Thank you for another great post.