In February of 2012, SAP announced that it was replacing the defunct Development Request (DRQ) process, which had long been ineffective, with a new ASUG support Customer Connection Program. The programs goal was to allow customers to submit smaller improvements, and assuming they got the minimum support of five other customers, that SAP would review, approve or reject, and deliver the accepted ones six to seven months later. While I was initially skeptical given my previous experiences with the old DRQ program and the fact that I knew SAP had some major work efforts coming in 2012 and 2013 with the integration of SuccessFactors, building out of Employee Central and HR Renewal project but thought I would give SAP the benefit of the doubt.
In total, customers submitted 152 ideas many of which addressed minor and sometime major pain points I have seen first-hand at other customers. SAP announced this morning that it had delivered the first six via a customer notes which you will need a SAP Marketplace ID to view.
While I have been vocal in my praise of SAP in the past for working with customers via their Co-Innovation Program, I find several things troubling about this “new” program.
Speed – We constantly hear about how SAP has improved their speed of delivering new software but to take over 1 year to deliver six very simple changes does not showcase that very well. I believe SAP can and should do better.
Commitment – What I didn’t mention above is out of 152 customer ideas, SAP rejected 141 of them several of which had the support of 15 or more large customers. It would be hard pressed to assume that many customers would support an idea that wasn’t a valid business issue or gap in the software.
False Expectations – The inability for SAP HCM customers to get changes/gaps delivered by SAP in a timely manner has been a major issue for many years. I remember putting in requests on-behalf of multiple large Fortune 500 companies over a 10 year period prior to SAP delivering the W2 on ESS in 2012 for example. Programs such as this set the expectation that SAP is supporting this initiative with both dollars and resources which does not appear to be the case given the delivery to date.
Mixed Messages – When you see articles like this talking about how the “focus topics for customer requests include SAP OnPremise eRecruiting (already has 64 requests) and SAP OnPremise Enterprise Compensation” when it has been clearly stated that most future innovation will be on the SuccessFactors offerings it sends a mixed message to customers. The bottom line is there is some overall confusion in the market about SAP HCM and SuccessFactors and items such as this only cloud that picture.
Awareness – Most customers and consultants that I have spoken with were not aware that the SAP HCM group had released this new program and it was the preferred method of collaborating with other companies to address gaps in the SAP product offering. How does SAP and ASUG plan to promote this program in the marketplace so there is broad awareness assuming there is long term support by SAP? How many of you reading this know of this program? On a side kudos to James Barron and Jeff Wible who both went out of their way to drum up support and awareness for this initiative.
Limited Scope – It appears that Personnel Administration, Organizational Management, Time Management (including ESS/MSS aspects) and recently eRecruiting are part of the program but it is interesting there is nothing for Payroll and some of the other key areas. I heard today from Sharon Newton that a new "Focus Topics" must go through an approval process and that is currently in process with SAP LSO. I am surprised this is not a global HCM initiative across all supported product lines with a budget allocated to each based on number of licensed customers or some other formula.
Platform – I heard from several customers that they found registration painful and wondered why it simply couldn't have been opened up for anyone with a SAP Marketplace ID though in a perfect world I would question why ideas should require any registration since there was already a process to ensure that it was voted on by five customers in place. They also found navigation within the site tricky as both the Idea Place and Customer Connection shared the same website.
SuccessFactors – While not part of the program above, I have asked the SuccessFactors analyst relation team multiple times how many of their quarterly changes come from customer requests with either no response or “a lot”. I believe there is a delicate balance of working with customer requests versus working on new functionality customers don’t know they need/want yet it is still not clear to me how well SuccessFactors is doing in the “listening to customers” aspect which is very important. Update Aug 5, 2013 ->Great to see SuccessFactors provide some insights into how they are working with customers in the August quarterly release.
It is always important that customers listen and stay informed as to not only what their vendors are saying and announcing but the follow through and what they are delivering. When customer purchase software they need to know that their vendor is going to continue to not only support and enhance the offering it but work with them where there is a common gap across multiple customers and deliver in a reasonable period of time. While SAP has delivered some solid new functionality around the HR Renewal and has big plans for HCM HANA, I am disappointed in where the HCM Customer Connection sits 16 months after its announcement. While I am 100% in support of the Customer Connection program it is important that it has the proper budget, resources and oversight to deliver on its promise if SAP is really committed to it.