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Author's profile photo Achim Voermanek

It’s Always Better When We’re Together!

Imagine a situation in which companies are forced to abandon or change their business model due to external events they have no control over. With little guidance, insight, or knowledge, they have to adapt to stay afloat, or relevant

Unfortunately, this is a situation we don’t have to imagine. It is one we are all too familiar with as we continue on the path of recovery following the pandemic. But company survival has always been a big topic, even before the pandemic. If we look at the Fortune 500 companies, the turnover is incredible. Half of today’s list will be replaced over the next 18 years.

I joined Dawn Tiura, CEO of the Sourcing Industry Group (SIG) and Geoff Scott, CEO of Americas’ SAP Users’ Group  (ASUG) in a recent podcast where we discussed the power of communities, and their role as key value drivers for companies as they adapt to unfamiliar territory and other challenges.

Here’s a little background on the incredible communities run by both Dawn and Geoff and their respective teams.

Sourcing Industry Group is the world’s largest association representing procurement, outsourcing and third-party risk, and its buy-side members have 17 trillion U.S. dollars of spend under management The community is 100% non-commercial and has over 55,000 members who support each other daily.

Americas’ SAP Users’ Group, on the other hand, exists over 30 years and is the largest customer community representing North America. ASUG helps their 135,000 members be successful with their SAP investment.

Throughout their own journey of digital transformation, companies were planning to adapt or abandon business models, with many turning to their communities for help. When the external forces of the pandemic and supply chain disruptions heightened the urgency of these transformations, the communities became even more important as a guide and source of insights. I was intrigued to hear Geoff and Dawn speak about some of the challenges they saw, in particular in the last two years..

Geoff shared how some of the largest SAP customers had to procure things they had no experience with. For example, they had to buy tents so they could test people before they entered the manufacturing plant.

Other companies had to look at different options to change their supply chain strategy because the pandemic caused countries to go into lockdown in order to avoid transmitting the disease across the borders. This caused many struggles as they also needed to make purchases within very tight time frames.

Dawn highlighted other unforeseen challenges which included the requirement for personal protective equipment (PPE) and the shift of certain goods, that were previously categorized as indirect goods, into the direct spend category, or how companies were learning to adapt to a remote working model.

Pre COVID, most larger companies provided colleagues the ability to work remotely as part of a hybrid working model. However due to the pandemic, many companies of all shapes and sizes had to adapt to a 100% remote working model to continue running their businesses. This led to endless questions surrounding how they might send laptops, monitors and other office equipment out to their staff, how they can lead and motivate a team that have never worked remotely before or understand the best methods of collaborating virtually.

Communities like ASUG – Americas’ SAP Users’ Group and Sourcing Industry Group (SIG) became that platform where companies came together to ask questions, get answers, share advice and lessons learned, which not only provided ideas to help companies keep their business running, but also provided emotional support because all businesses endured the same pain.

Dawn referred to the role communities played during the pandemic as “therapeutic for us to be able to come together and solve problems that everyone was facing. Everybody needed each other to get through it.”

In a nutshell, this is the value of communities like ASUG and SIG. They provide an incredible sounding board that helps us stay focused on what’s important for our customers. Working together with powerful and well-established communities like SIG and ASUG, where we can stay closely aligned on community goals, intent, etc. helps SAP to bridge the gap between us and our customers, making it possible to engage with them, listen, and get feedback. This in turn, helps us make our products more adoptable and adaptable for those that use them.

By engaging these communities, we can engage the professionals and experiment with technology to kick start deep strategic conversations, garner shared perspectives and advice, and identify opportunities to create products across industry value chains.

The power of cross-pollination between experts and leaders across industries and organizations allows for fresh perspectives and finding common themes that no single company can have by itself.

Taking this a step further into the individual career development, with access to such a network, SIG has introduced SIG University with the motto “If you’re not learning, you’re falling behind.” It educates modern day sourcing professionals and helps them build successful careers in the industry. This certainly directly benefits the corporate members as they continuously look for fresh expertise in the market.

While digital community engagement exploded as a result of the pandemic, we are also now returning to the face-to-face engagement, which continues to be irreplaceable. As Geoff mentioned, “there is a magic that happens when people see each other for the first time in a couple of years” and we are beginning to return to that magic”,, particularly when it comes to joint ideation and creative collaboration. I believe the key to a successful community strategy is to strike the right balance between digital community engagement and in person onsite events, and ensure they complement each other. This hybrid working model is here to stay, and customers appreciate the balance between online and onsite.

Metcalfe’s law originally only covered the value of a technical network in relation to its nodes but has now been widely accepted to apply to social networks and communities as well. As more people become members of communities, the value of those communities increases, bringing more innovative ideas, more answers, and further opportunities for success. Our role at SAP is to bring these communities together, and to the customer at the point of question.  These can be product questions that can be answered by the community “in situ” i.e. deeply integrated into the product, or business questions that can be answered with insights into the products, for example with comparisons to industry benchmarks.

Across our SAP Spend Management solutions we have rolled out our in-application guide SAP Companion across many products and have already seen positive outcomes in answering questions and providing in application guidance. We are also providing active market and community business insights and best practices in our Guided Buying and Guided Sourcing solutions and we will be placing an increased focus here as we look to the future of communities. I am excited about what is ahead, and how we will continue to evolve and deliver increased benefits for our customers, together with our partners such as SIG and ASUG.

Dawn and Geoff, thank you for your incredible partnership. It really is better when we’re together!

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