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ASUG Volunteer Jeffrey Wible recalls receiving an email from another ASUG member that wasn’t at all unusual. The fellow SAP customer was looking for help in facilitating a small development request—some changes to SAP’s FMLA Workbench—and wasn’t clear on how he could accomplish this.
Facilitating and pushing through these types of smaller SAP development requests for products in mainstream maintenance—the type of improvements or changes that are delivered through notes or support packs—has long been a black hole in the development process, customers say. There are clear processes for bigger improvements delivered through enhancement packages and bigger projects via channels such as ASUG Influence Councils and SAP’s co-innovation program, but for incremental improvements, the path hasn’t been clear.
Now, SAP and ASUG are working together to bridge that gap with a program called SAP Customer Connection. It will replace the defunct DRQ (Development Requests) process, and customers will be able to submit smaller improvements, given they have a minimum of five fellow customers willing to implement the change. The improvements will take, on average, six to seven months to deliver. The key difference between this process and the old DRQ is that ASUG is working closely in partnership with SAP to deliver ideas when SAP is ready to invest in developing them.
“We have high hopes,” Wible says. “But we want a process where we can say: We have a request and here’s what we’re going to do.”
That process for ensuring that ASUG members can engage in these activities is on its way to being defined. It’s likely that small working groups within ASUG special interest groups (or SIGs) will be responsible for identifying these less onerous development requests, refining them, and marshaling customer support to move priorities forward within SAP.
“The strongest ideas are going to be the ones that are vetted and discussed,” says June Keszeg, director of Influence programs for ASUG. “We need to make sure we’re not sending [customers] out into the SAP wilderness alone. We work best in community.”
For instance, Wible published the information about the FMLA development request on ASUG Discussion forums and SDN, and communicated it through a direct email from ASUG to HCM customers to get the necessary five customers to push the change to SAP. It’s now under review by SAP.
As ASUG members begin to work together, these requests will be entered into the SAP Idea Place, a website through which SAP is capturing and prioritizing development requests for delivery. As the Customer Connection evaluation process progresses, SAP will determine whether it’s a bigger request that needs to be developed and delivered in an enhancement package.
“Even though an idea might not be taken as a Customer Connect project, it doesn’t mean it gets lost,” Keszeg says. “No good idea that has member support gets left behind.”
SAP is planning to start by reviewing development requests centered on a few focus areas—PLM, Environment, Health and Safety, Retail and Warehouse Management—in the first half of 2012.