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Author's profile photo Suranjan Paul

Customer meets Development 2.0: Igniting collaboration

When you need to innovate, you need collaboration“- Marissa Mayer

Reducing the distance between the engineer and the end user: This sums up the theme of the “Customer meets Development Day”(CMD) and I was overjoyed to pen down my thoughts; this being my first time!

On the 5th and 6th of July 2018 a very curious group of people assembled at the premises of SAP Labs Bangalore to participate in the event hosted by the SAP S/4 HANA Procurement Product Development team for the second year in a row. Invitees got to experience the latest in Industry technology which was showcased by a very enthusiastic team of innovators. This event was a unique opportunity for our customers and partners to again interact with the development teams directly. Customers and partners got to understand the current applications better and to provide feedback; also, to get a sneak peek into the future developments, all at the same time. This year we had the pleasure of hosting approximately 41 delegates, from 15 customer and partner companies.

How did it all commence?

The enthusiasm was palpable, the excitement was electric and so was the key-note!! Himanshu Sewalkar, Lead of APJ Customer Office for S/4HANA Procurement drew a parallel between a third umpire in cricket and Intelligent ERP attracting cheers from the audience. He explained how decision support for umpires is a game changer in cricket. Similarly, when it is blended with machine learning and AI it can really empower the enterprise user, which hitherto was beyond the reach of many. He clearly outlined that this event provides a common platform for customers to interact face-to-face with development to provide feedback and to influence future developments with valuable inputs.

This was followed by a brief yet comprehensive overview of the SAP S/4 HANA Procurement roadmap and a vision of the cutting edge offering by our Area Product Owners; Ankur Goyal and Kannan Kumarak Thiagarajan. The allusion of Natural Language Processing (in the form of Co-Pilot), Machine Learning and Central Procurement turned a few curious heads. Participants were informed that they could leverage the deep-dive sessions, which were carefully crafted for them.



What’s in it for the attendees?

As always, the attendees brought in a lot of inquisitiveness into what’s in store. Discussions ranged from intricate technical details to a high-level overview and everything in-between.

We had an eclectic mix of audience. They ranged from consultants to business users to developers within the domain of the procurement and logistics.

One of the delegates expressed his excitement to be able to experience some innovative technology first hand. A Fiori enthusiast pointed out that our apps are intuitive and provides adequate guidance for ease of use.

How was the schedule arranged?

An assorted range of sessions were scheduled for this diverse group of participants. There were lecture sessions, collaborative and usability sessions and even live demo sessions. A specific slot was reserved to just network one-to-one with the Product Owners, Architects and Developers. Usability tests for both S/4 HANA Procurement and S/4HANA Legal Content Management were scheduled on both days. This year there was a specific usability and info session for User Assistance (also known as “help documentation”) too.

How were the sessions designed?

Throughout the event, participants delved deep into topics like Analytics, Central Procurement, Legal Content Management, Machine Learning, Natural Language Processing (in the form of Co-Pilot), Workflow management, and Situations.

In the collaborative sessions, we received extremely resourceful perspectives into the expectations of our esteemed partners. A delegate from an Indian IT company who has immense experience in the legal contracts domain, gave a lot of insights into how the legal world is mostly paper based and expressed the need to move to a digital environment for accuracy and transparency. Customers were more than happy to share their experiences and day-to-day pain points and we were very receptive of the feedback too.

After all, “Feedback is the breakfast of champions.” – Ken Blanchard.

During the usability tests, customers were given realistic scenarios and tasks that an end user might come across during their day-to-day operations. They were asked to use the applications to complete the tasks, with minimal guidance from the moderators. This year’s attraction was Co-Pilot, where, customers could communicate with our digital assistant and also provide us with feedback on the same. Most of the participants were enthusiastic about the possibilities of the products and expressed interest of collaboration in the future. Some customers liked the applications from a usability perspective, and yet others opined gaps in functionality which could be remedied. When asked about the quality of the Fiori documentation, a participant said “You provide more than enough in a standard package. We couldn’t ask for more”.

The lecture sessions were more of a dialogue than a monologue. Upcoming features were not only shared, but some were showcased live and explained in detail, which drew a lot of questions and suggestions from the audience. One of the major interests expressed was Ariba integration and Central Procurement related developments, which would harmonize some of the erstwhile tedious tasks. Our product owners were more than happy to answer the questions and take back their suggestions to the drawing board.

What’s next on the menu?

The cherry on the cake was yet to come! A prototype and a concept model for Image based search and Blockchain, was showcased; which was like hot off the press!! Both these sessions drew a sea of audience, mainly because these are the critical requirement of the modern industry. While customers found out that the image based search application was promising, there were definitely a few improvement points. Though the Blockchain offering was showcased more in terms of a conceptual model, yet, arguably it drew the largest crowd owing to its possibility of revolutionizing the procurement and supply chain domain by bringing in transparency to every possible consumer of FMCG.


Hasta La Vista!

We wrapped up the tech gig with the promise of more such collaborations. In his closing speech, Tarun; Product Owner for S/4 HANA Procurement mentioned that CMD began in Waldorf and then spread to other locations like Bangalore and Singapore. This was already the second edition of the CMD in Bangalore and third in APJ, seventh globally. This was only possible with the immense support and turnout of participants, the heart and soul poured in by our team at SAP and the crew supporting this event. Deepa V, Development Manager and PO, began the thank-you note by quoting Hellen Keller, “Alone, we can do so little, together, we can do so much”. This is so apt for us at SAP. Participants were updated about future events, and a lot of them expressed interest to registering for those as well. The participants were requested to pen down their feedback on a board on their way out.

I was overjoyed to see the resounding confidence of our customers and partners in us and my sense of pride and happiness being associated with at SAP increased multifold.

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