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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 JonERP.com SAP SCN Podcast Page.
The Impact of Retail@BPX - Podcast Transcription Print E-mail
Article Index
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Podcast Transcription:
The Impact of Retail@BPX: An SAP Community Network Podcast with Mohamed Amer, SAP Community Manager and Verlin Youd, Senior VP, Global Trade Sector with SAP
Hosted by Jon Reed of JonERP.com
Podcast Interview Date: June 15, 2009

Jon Reed: Welcome to this SAP/BPX Community podcast. I'm your host, Jon Reed, of JonERP.com and joining me today is Mohamed Amer, Community Manager with SAP and Verlin Youd, Senior VP, Global Trade Sector with SAP. We're here to talk about the Retail at BPX Community, how the Retail at BPX Community impacts SAP's Retail Solution and the kinds of conversations taking place right now on Retail at BPX.

Mohamed, let's kick it off with you. Tell us about your role at SAP and your involvement with Retail at BPX initiative.

Mohamed Amer: I have been a Vice President with SAP for the last six years and am very familiar with the industries and solution management. I have interacted with development, consulting, sales, customers and partners. My official title and role as of January 1st of this year is Community Manager for Trade Sector. BPX is a major component of that, and a lot of the focus is around the retail industry.

On the external side, I have been working on having a wiki, on the forum structure, the blogs, articles; and internally, looking at making BPX and Web 2.0 tools part of the solution manager's toolbox and getting them into the whole BPX stream of things.

Reed: Verlin, tell us about your role at SAP and how you think vertical SCN communities like Retail at BPX have changed the interactions between SAP and its customers and partners.

Verlin Youd: My role here at SAP is to guide the company's strategy, product and solution set across what we call the trade sector, which includes the entire retail supply chain from the back door of the manufacturer through transportation, logistics, wholesale distribution and retail. Our job is to make sure that good products and services successfully get in the hands of consumers like you and me and the billions of others around the world, and that the businesses participating in that value chain are best run businesses and profitable and able to deliver on the value they promise to their customers.

How do these kinds of forums and tools impact us? In my 20 years in the solution space in these industries, I have always been a huge fan of leveraging the benefits of customer communities and partner communities to best impact the products and solutions we bring to the market. This is really the next generation of those kinds of communities: the ability, in an online forum using Web 2.0 Tools, to have an ongoing, interactive conversation with customers and with partners rather than having to focus on some kind of transaction-driven discussion or deal-driven discussion - or what happens most often, some scheduled meeting-driven discussion.

We can now have an ongoing dialogue with thousands of customers and partners around the world at any given time. That has huge benefits of scale to us and allows us to better and quicker integrate that feedback globally into our products and solutions.

Reed: Mohamed, this idea of the participation and discussions on Retail at BPX having an impact on SAP's product functionality sounds good, but if I am going to participate in these forums, I want to know that it's not just marketing talk. Could you give us an example or two of how discussions on Retail at BPX have actually implemented and affected a product?

Amer: Certainly, it's not marketing talk. We have really started to get our toes wet last year as a retail organization in BPX. This year we took on, as I mentioned with my new role as of January 1st, a focus around community management: how we can leverage BPX, bring that into the organization and communicate with the community at large. So, this year there's a much broader effort across the key Retail Solution areas.

Although it's not really a pure BPX example, we have actively engaged with a POS user group with CIOs from about 9-10 different retail companies earlier this year. In the two days of meetings with them, there were a lot of good ideas about our products, how these impact their businesses and a good exchange. We came out of that saying we've got the BPX page, the forum, the wiki, and let's leverage that to continue this conversation; we invited them to use the forum and get them signed up.

Their input is directly driving our next prioritization for the next POS release, and that's something very concrete. Our efforts are really motivated by real customer demand for collaboration and sharing of the platform with them, and hundreds of other customers can also benefit from that same effort.

I am encouraging our product managers, our solution managers, to have regular reviews of what they're seeing in the forum - the patterns, what's being said about our screens, transactions, documentation - and bring that back into the solution in consideration with the next set of releases.

Reed: Verlin, there are two concerns we often hear about in terms of participating in vendor-sponsored forums. One is that the discussion is a bit stifled because companies don't feel comfortable about being honest about their business issues, maybe because vendors view the forum more as a marketing tool than a place for unfiltered discussions. The other point of skepticism might be that it doesn't make sense to participate unless the vendor's own product managers are actively listening themselves.

How do you see these concerns addressed at Retail at BPX?

Youd: It's great to see that we actually thought of those concerns as we designed our participation in Retail at BPX, as well as the other communities we engage in. First off, from a marketing tool point of view, we absolutely view these capabilities and this tool as a consistent point of contact for our customers to get awareness of our products and solutions as they stand today. If providing that awareness and providing education for our solutions is marketing, then I guess we're guilty, but we think there is real compelling value in that alone: having a single place that customers can get that information on a consistent and real-time basis.

On the second concern, whether we really have the right people from SAP engaged and motivated to be part of these discussions, the answer is an unqualified yes. We have actually made this a specific assignment of our product managers to be engaged in this discussion using this tool and to ensure that we have real valuable content from a product manager perspective going into these discussions on a real-time basis.

Reed: Verlin, what would you say to a company that was interested in getting involved in Retail at BPX but just wasn't sure about how to get started or may be a little concerned about sharing their business problems in an open forum?

Youd: It's like any other networking forum: you can take it one step at a time. We're not forcing anyone to jump in head first from the get-go. First off, put your toes into it: register, spend some time looking around, see what's on the wiki, see what's on the forums, see what kinds of information is available and what kind of discussions are going on.

Really, I guess that's what would be termed a "lurker" in the vernacular of the social networking world, but you're observing; you're seeing what value could be there. As you become familiar with that capability, you can decide to what extent you want to engage. You can start with something fairly non-threatening, with things that you would consider very non-competitive then determine how and where you take the conversations from your own point of view from there.

We are absolutely committed to making sure we've got the right people engaged to respond from an SAP point of view, but what's more important is that it's customers and partners responding to each other and seeing the input and information that each other can put on these tools and not be limited by SAP monitoring or managing the discussion overall.

Reed: Mohamed, do you have anything to add to that as far as lessons learned about getting involved with Retail at BPX?

Amer: I think Verlin said it very well. Maybe I would just emphasize it's really a question of balance for the customers - a balance for what they're willing to start talking about, what they're willing and able and ready to pull from BPX. That will take a little bit of time for them, but when they do they'll find that sweet spot for them and how to accrue that value.

Youd: What's interesting is that we have some good experience with not these exact tools, but very similar forums in our user groups and such. What we've found in our councils and user groups is that people take very much the same approach. They put their toes in and quickly discover that what's competitive is a very small part of the discussion compared to the total discussion that could be had. In physical meetings it quickly turns into a rich, very much information-sharing discussion, and we expect that will take place here on Retail at BPX as well.

Reed: You both brought up the user groups issue. Mohamed, one issue that I run into when talking to SAP customers about BPX communities, like Retail at BPX, is that they may conflict with the interest groups already being fostered by ASUG. They wonder about the time investment and the conflicts between them. Do you see a conflict, or can these communities work together to serve SAP users?

Amer: I definitely do not see a conflict in that; I see them as complimentary. Any interested party can join SAP's BPX, whether it's a college student interested in information technology or someone who wants to learn more about SAP or a PhD student looking to do research. Of course, there are also SAP customers, consultants, and the full range from established companies to boutiques, individual contractor partners and customers of all sizes. There's just one level of membership and the platform is designed for 24/7 operations.

ASUG is the largest SAP user group in the world, and we are very strong partners with them. They're independent from SAP with governance for and by the user community, and it's an amazing educational value. With the sheer number of members, they have a real say in the direction of SAP products through their influence council. So you have a tremendous sense of community.

Each year also is the annual conference with Sapphire. What I like is how they come together: you have the virtual community, and once a year you can meet face-to-face at Sapphire and ASUG. You can build on the BPX Community and the relationship, and you can build on the ASUG relationship that you have built. To me, it's a virtuous circle.


 

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