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SAP SCN Podcast Transcripts

Starting in December of 2007, Jon began a multi-year series of podcasts with the SAP SCN Community team. Many of these have their own transcripts, which you can view here. If you want to check out all the SAP SCN podcasts and download them, go to the SAP SCN Podcast Page.
The Launch of PLM@BPX - Podcast Transcription Print E-mail
Article Index
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Podcast Transcription:
The Launch of PLM@BPX: A BPX Community Podcast with with Sudhanshu Srivastava, Senior Director of SAP PLM
Hosted by Jon Reed of
Podcast Interview Date: November 13, 2008

Jon Reed: Hi, I'm your host, Jon Reed, and joining me today is Sudhanshu Srivastava, who is responsible for the PLM at BPX initiative for BPX in his role as the Senior Director of SAP PLM. We're here to talk about the PLM at BPX community and how the PLM product can be an important source of innovation for SAP users.

Sudhanshu, PLM is one of SAP's better-kept secrets, and PLM has also overcome some earlier challenges to become a key solution for SAP. Can you tell us a bit about the evolution of PLM and why PLM has become such an important part of SAP's Business Suite?

Sudhanshu Srivastava: PLM is definitely one of SAP's better-kept secrets. Whenever someone talks about SAP, the first thing that comes to their mind is ERP. Traditionally, for the last 30 years or more, SAP has been pioneers of the ERP solution and applications. Obviously, ERP is one big part of the puzzle, but if you look at the product's life cycle and any process industry or manufacturing industry, there are a lot of areas where the product touches many aspects - and SAP has other applications like CRM and SCM, you name it.

The PLM becomes the aspect of product designing until it goes to manufacturing or to ERP systems. That element of the product life cycle is actually coined as PLM. It's not the entire thing, but that's how the market has coined it, and SAP in the last 10 years has slowly ventured into this application.

Initially, it was definitely very challenging for SAP because of the fact that not only internally but also externally, we were always perceived as ERP vendors. In the last five years, we've made the PLM one of the key elements of our Business Suite applications, so it's actually one of the pillars. Slowly, it has overcome the challenges of usability and those kinds of things which were traditionally okay with ERP vendors, but when we got into the PLM market, we found that we needed to change.

Now I think we work very closely with customers to actually change the various elements, and we provide some of the best capabilities right now on PLM sites. We still have a lot of things to do, and we are working very closely with customers. We have many forums and ways to interact with customers, and I am really excited that people are going for PLM solutions; they have been adopting the solution very well, and we have a huge community out there and a customer base that is using our application.

Reed: The issue in the back of most people's minds right now is the economic downturn. I wanted to ask you how you think an increased focus on SAP PLM can help companies innovate in this time of so many uncertainties.

Srivastava: Actually, that's a very good question. Today, there is an economic downturn. There are people who are cutting costs everywhere: everyone is looking at their bottom line. At this time, customers are becoming very picky; people are looking at spending their dollar wisely. They're also looking at competition - it's definitely becoming very, very intense. The risk is very high, everyone is watching Wall Street and every company. Whenever these things have happened in the past, it's been a time for people to come up with ideas, to innovate.

One of the enablers of innovations as the key contributor for customers, or anyone, to become leaders in products and services is SAP PLM, which actually helps them do that. Whenever the innovation piece comes, PLM is one of the fundamental building blocks for that. Whenever you would like to get a product in service leadership, this becomes a fundamental building block one more time. I think SAP PLM becomes a very good choice for you to adopt at this time because this is the time when you would like to focus on something which is your fundamental building block rather than something which is an overhead.

You will see the customers are actually doing that: they are focusing on working with us closely to give us feedback on our products and say, "Can you fix these things?" because they are the things which will cut and lower the cost of ownership for them. We are also focusing on our product to provide exactly what gives value to the customer, and the SAP PLM team has been very focused to provide this type of capability. Currently, I would encourage people to look at the capabilities of SAP PLM; this is the best time for them to adopt this.

Reed: I'm really glad you mentioned the customer involvement part because one thing that has impressed me about the PLM solution is that you didn't just create a solution and bring it in to the customer: you really brought them in through the customer engagement council. How do you think SAP customers have impacted the PLM solution? How do you see this conversation continuing online now at PLM at BPX?

Srivastava: Traditionally, SAP has been a company who drives their products through customer input. This is a fundamental - a business 101 - that you should do what customers are looking for, whatever is the biggest value for them. We have various forums and channels by which we access information from customers and get input - we are very up front about what we can do and what we cannot do. I think that openness really helps us and our customers.

SAP has various forums, the Executive Customer Council, where we have some small to large enterprises of each application, a mixed bag of customers providing input and driving our products to a large extent. They become part of our specification reviews, they become part of our testing of the product, and they drive much of our roadmap.

Then there are forums like the Customer Value Network, especially for PLM, which is for all the SAP PLM customers so they can interact with customers. One customer can talk to another customer and understand what is going on, how they implemented things, what the challenges were, and how they overcame those challenges. Together, they can give some feedback into SAP.

Then we've got forums like SAP user groups, which is all over the world, so there are many forums out there. What we didn't have was a forum for all, for anybody to use, which was kind of a social networking environment. With the evolution of Web 2.0 and all these technologies, people are becoming very savvy with blogging and forums and wikis and the like, and I think adopting BPX is a very natural step for us to raise awareness of SAP PLM.

So with SAP PLM I look at a community, I look to enhance and continue these kinds of interactions with customers and prospects and partners, getting input, giving them the latest information and, again, being completely open about it. This is what we have, this is what we are planning, this is what we are thinking and if you agree or disagree with us, give us input right here in the forum or in a wiki or in a blog.

Reed: Speaking of which, the PLM at BPX community formally launched just this week. What are your goals for this community?

Srivastava: Our PLM management team has been looking at different ways to bring awareness. One of the things that is very important for any application is to not only bring awareness but to provide the right content at the right time and to the right set of folks. I have three goals: one is short-term, one is long-term, and the other is in between.

The overall goal is actually to bring the BPX community both outside and inside. I would initially focus in the short-term within SAP because SAP is a huge company with 50,000 employees. What I want to do is to bring awareness among various application members, have people know what PLM can do and what we have done, and I want the entire PLM team to own this community so that a solution manager immediately responds to a blog which comes in his area of ownership. I want to bring that, and I have seen very good response. The last four or five days, we have gotten emails that this particular piece is not correct because this is how you do it, and can you put this white paper on the web site - so it's great, this is definitely going forward.

My second goal is to take it outside and bring customers and partners and all the other folks who are looking for information. The long-term is to make it the de facto standard or de facto place, like Yahoo! or Google, for finding information about PLM. That's my goal for this community, and if customers can actually think of BPX as an information-seeking place on the web and they come to us before, I think I have met my goal.


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