The Little Known Avenue of Influence: The Customer Broadcast Series
A few months ago, I received an invitation to participate in the Customer Broadcast Series. Having never heard of the program – and, unless you or your company have participated, I’m guessing you haven’t either – the message indicated that I was recommended to present by Jens Koerner. Jens had recently heard me present my company’s story of our SAP BusinessObjects Planning and Consolidation (“BPC”) implementation at the ASUG Fall Focus: Roadmap to ROI event and thought I’d be a good candidate to participate in the program.
What I came to realize through the email invitation, as well as the link provided above, is that the Customer Broadcast Series is yet another way that you can “positively influence product direction based on your implementation experiences, use cases and plans for future use”. As such, it’s another feedback mechanism that provides direct access to SAP’s Solution Management and Product Development teams. Other avenues of influence include CIO Councils, Influence Councils/Focus Groups, Usability Activities and participating in Ramp-Up for given products, but those tend to require longer-term commitments or travel to conferences in order to participate. Of course, the latest avenue of influence—Idea Place—is still in beta, but BPC is one of the products for which ideas can be submitted and Idea Place doesn’t require much beyond simply posting your suggestions for improvement.
The great thing about the Customer Broadcast Series is that SAP customers (and not just big, well-known customers) get direct, one-on-one exposure to SAP employees for the length of the webcast, which is typically 45-minute presentation and a 15-minute question and answer session. Customers aren’t required to invest any additional time or dollars other than time spent on developing the presentation. Since the webcast is only open to SAP employees, customers also don’t have to worry about being completely open about their implementation experience at the risk of sharing secrets with competitors or sounding overly critical in front of other customers if things didn’t exactly go smoothly during the implementation.
The Presentation Itself
After receiving the invitation to participate, I asked Jens whether I should just give the presentation that I delivered at Fall Focus, and his response was that it was my forum to talk about “the good, the bad and the ugly” of our implementation. Given that insight, and coupled with the instructions in the invitation, I used the bulk of my existing presentation which covered such items as our implementation timeline, resources utilized on the project and how we integrated BPC with our existing BW system; however, I added some results from our recently completed internal questionnaire that our BPC users completed, as well as some pain points of our solution and some ways that we envision using BPC in the future. I’d say that I didn’t spend more than a few hours in coming up with the presentation that I’d deliver.
As far as logistics go, SAP handles sending out the invitations and setting up the webcast environment so that all I had to do was to login to the webcast software a few minutes before the presentation was to begin. The session was even recorded and posted to SAP’s internal portal so that those interested in viewing the presentation but unable to participate in real-time can watch when they have an opportunity.
The presentation itself was pretty much a breeze for me (although it’s more difficult than I’d thought it would be to sit in a room and talk at my computer for 45 minutes and not be able to see heads nodding or people dozing off), as I’d delivered the bulk of it several times at various ASUG events and internal training sessions. Some of the participants on the call had some thoughts on some potential solutions for a few of our paint points and I fielded a few questions from the participants and, for the most part, I’d like to think that the webcast went off without a hitch.
The Hidden Benefit
About a week or two after the Customer Broadcast, I was greeted with an email from James Lim of the BPC RIG team as he wanted to inquire further about one of our product (rather than process) related pain points. After exchanging a couple of emails and speaking on the phone, I was able to convey our pain point (not being able to either sort or search for a particular dimension member when utilizing the EVDRE: Insert Member function in our BPC input schedule) in as much detail that James needed to take back to the development team. While I don’t believe that we’re the only customer who has expressed the desire for this functionality (based on conversations that I’ve had), I’m happy to say that a change is coming in a future BPC Service Pack that will solve our issue.
If you’re looking for an easy way to draw some attention to your implementation and are willing to share “the good, the bad and the ugly” of your experience with SAP, the Customer Broadcast Series is a great way to provide feedback and help drive the future of the products that you’re using. Who knows, maybe you can get some of your pain points resolved as well.