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SAP User Group Opens Up to Attract New Members

ASUG officials look to draw more customers in the U.S., Latin America

By China Martens
February 27, 2006 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - The normally secretive Americas' SAP Users' Group is opening its doors a crack in an effort to attract more SAP users to its ranks.

"We're definitely in growth mode," Mike Perroni, president of ASUG, said in a recent phone interview.

The user group, founded in 1990, has been more guarded than others in recent years, with officials generally unwilling to comment publicly on SAP issues.

Perroni, who is also vice president of IT at energy services provider Halliburton Inc. in Houston, said the group decided to speak up in the hopes of boosting membership.

ASUG counts more than 45,000 individuals and over 1,300 customer and partner companies among its members, according to Perroni.

"The user group has always been the best-kept secret in the entire SAP ecosystem," said Rod Masney, executive vice president of ASUG. Masney is also global information and technology architect at Owens-Illinois Inc. (O-I), a glass packaging company in Toledo, Ohio. On the Right Track David Dobrin, an analyst at B2B Analysts Inc. in Cambridge, Mass., applauded ASUG's effort to be more vocal and try to attract more members. "ASUG has been a reasonably effective organization," Dobrin said last week. "They've been able to balance all the conflicts pushed onto it in an OK way." However, he did note that users should be more aggressive in their efforts to get vendors to meet their needs. "Customers of application vendors are the most supine and forgiving," Dobrin said, noting that, in general, ERP and CRM users put up with vendor behavior that consumers wouldn't tolerate, particularly the delivery of poorly tested, buggy software.

The top concern of the independent, nonprofit, volunteer-run entity is ensuring return on investment for SAP users and that the vendor provides strong support services, ASUG officials said.

Perroni said another of ASUG's primary missions is to help customers decide when to update installed SAP software.

In Halliburton's case, an update from MySAP 2004 to MySAP 2005 is planned for 2007, Perroni said. Halliburton has one of the largest global installations of SAP's enterprise applications, with 30,000 users at 350 field operations in more than 100 countries.

O-I, meanwhile, has started work on a global rollout of MySAP ERP 2004. It is starting in Europe and moving to the Asia-Pacific region, where it has been using the older R/3 4.6 ERP application.

Mover and Shaker The user group has long been a prime mover in influencing SAP to continue supporting older releases of its software so users aren't forced to "rush off" a particular version, Perroni said. "You don't hear much noise [from users] about moving to the next release," he said.

ASUG isn't always happy with the speed at which SAP releases certain components of its software, according to Perroni, but he ranked that failing as a "pretty minor" criticism.

User group members also fueled a move to collocate ASUG's annual user conference alongside SAP's Sapphire 06 U.S. event in Orlando starting May 14. ASUG members had raised concerns over the timing of the individual events, which are typically held about a month apart.

Martens is a reporter for the IDG News Service.

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