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Sapphire 2008 Analysis - by Jon Reed of

After each major SAP show, Jon Reed issues a series of articles and podcasts evaluating the key trends of the conference, with special attention to how these trends affect the demand for SAP skills. This page will contain many of the articles that Jon has written on Sapphire 2008. Webmaster's note: we have moved an important part of the JonERP Sapphire 2008 coverage, Jon's article on the "Competing for ERP Talent" panel he appeared on, into the Hot SAP Skills section.

Note that in addition to the articles listed below, there are some more features to check out, including Jon's piece on the SAP skills gap. You can see this piece on his own career blog, or check out the version of it on BPX that includes comments from BPX users. You may also want to check out Jon's "pre-conference buzzwords you need to know" that he issued right before ASUG 2008.
Wyeth's SAP Portals Strategy for Increased ROI Print E-mail

It's All about the User:
How Wyeth's SAP Portal Stategy Increased User Adoption and ROI
by Jon Reed,

Jon Reed notes: One of the great aspects of Sapphire is getting a chance to interview end customers about their latest SAP innovations. I thought Pete Lagana of Wyeth had one of the best customer stories at the conference because of the intersection between Portals innovation and user acceptance.

Pete Lagana from Wyeth has an amazingly simple mission - get as many employees (and customers) to use SAP as possible. But here's what makes Pete's team a little different: out-of-the-box GUI tools weren't enough for them. If it's not a perfectly intuitive GUI, it's not good enough for Pete. Without active users, SAP's deep functionality is useless. Pete's challenge? Design a great user interface, or lose his employees to software alternatives, diminishing the potential of Wyeth's massive SAP investment.

lagana.jpgOn Monday, May 12, 2008, unveiled a new SAP-based customer portal at, designed by Pete's team to meet the high expectations of Wyeth's users. And Pete, Director of Wyeth's SAP Center of Excellence and eSolutions, has learned that increased user adoption has a very tangible benefit: increased ROI. When users like what they see and can navigate services easily, revenues follow.

At Sapphire, I sat down with Pete (pictured right) to identify the keys to his winning SAP Portals strategy. "I have one rule I adhere to: if we don't keep it simple, it's not going to work," said Lagana. When Pete's team customized SAP's Portal, they didn't use the standard Web Dynpro tools. I could see Pete biting his tongue, because he didn't want to criticize Web Dynpro. Pete has nothing against Web Dynpro, but for his SAP user community, the standard GUI options were not going to do the trick.

But Pete already knew that. From his first days at Wyeth in 2001, Pete was exposed to the power and the limitations of Wyeth's SAP system. His first response? "Wow, there's a ton of information in this back end system, but unless you're a power user, you're not going to be able to get much out of this - we're not going to be able to extend this out to the masses." I wanted to make the front end as powerful as the back end. To me, this is an extremely powerful combination for any company that wants to make Information Technology a competitive advantage.

But then, Pete discovered the solution to charming Wyeth's users into using SAP: customized SAP Portals. He started working on SAP Portals with eCommerce technologies on top - a solution Pete rolled out to 28,000 worldwide HR users during an ESS/MSS (Employee Self-Service and Manager Self-Service) project. "It occurred to me very early on that the success of what I was doing depended heavily on adoption, and not annoying any of the end users," said Lagana. "I accepted the challenge of making the user experience extremely visually appealing."

And in some cases, that meant moving beyond the standard customization options. Pete quickly found that the standard SAP components did not provide a lot of flexibility in the look and feel of the product. However, once he got a better sense of how he could customize the NetWeaver stack to adjust the UI experience via the Portal, a very different user experience became possible.

Though Pete's team did not use the standard out-of-the-box custom GUI options, they also did not have to alter any NetWeaver source code to accomplish their goals. Pete compiled an optimal mix of internal and external resources skilled in Java for the technical specifications, and they made all the alterations using standard NetWeaver APIs.

Pete knows that next-generation technology workers are only going to embrace systems that are exceptionally easy to use. And no matter how effective the underlying software is, if users aren't flocking to it, it's not going to get the job done. Pete derives part of his inspiration from the success of online social networking communities, where ease of use has played a major role in the explosion of user-created content. On the flip side, the ease of the social networks has created a demanding user base that won't settle for a substandard interface.

As the Portals and eSolutions rollouts continued at Wyeth, Pete faced a stern challenge from his marketing team regarding They told him: "If you can make SAP look exactly as we want it, we'll use it. If not, we're going to use something else." Pete's choice was brutally simple: he could either pull it off or the lack of user adoption would be attributed to his team coming up short. "Here you have hundreds of millions of dollars invested in SAP," said Lagana, "and we have the potential to lose our own people because we can't create a fine user experience for their business line."

It was all hands on deck. Pete's team pulled in creative designers, developers, usability specialists and architects, and they figured out how to transform the SAP NetWeaver Portal into something that worked for Wyeth users. Today, you can see the end result on

So is this user adoption stuff just happy talk, or does it have measurable benefits?
"We went from a few hundred email addresses two years ago (of customers and doctors who wanted to do business with Wyeth) to over 120,000 today," said Lagana. "We've been able to support the Wyeth brand and roll out separate product marketing strategies, each with their own color-branded template." (For some examples of this targeted template scheme, see,, and Needless to say, this expanded audience has led to increased revenues as well. Each brand team realized they could leverage this platform to align with their existing marketing tactics.

Pete remains hopeful that SAP will make it easier for customers of all sizes to alter the look and feel of SAP without coding - even when third party eCommerce products are part of the equation. But in the meantime, Lagana has shown that with creative vision, and the right people, you can turn SAP into a dreamy user interface that even the fussiest users will embrace.

Jon Reed is an independent SAP analyst who writes on SAP consulting trends. Jon is the President of, an interactive web site that features Jon's take on SAP career trends. Jon is also the author of the SAP Consultant Handbook, and he serves as the career expert for's "Ask The Expert" panel. Jon Reed was recently named an SAP Mentor, a highly selective program which recognizes those individuals who are making an outstanding contribution to the SAP community.


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