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If you've no direct connections in the UK or not planning a visit any time soon then you’re probably not very aware of the fact that certain parts of the country are currently going through a hellish time with flooding and inclement weather.

While Europeans wonder at the extraordinary weather in places like the Midwest USA with snow storms and Asia with hurricanes and Tsunamis the drama unfolds here on Europe’s doorstep and it is having a profound effect on systems – particularly those running on SAP.

Many of the UK’s largest utilities and local authorities run SAP and of course when the weather is off, utilities become even more crucial. SAP is depended upon for the smooth operations of organizations running power generation systems and also providing safe and consistent water and sewer reticulation services.

This week I had the privilege of talking to a Winshuttle customer that has been using Winshuttle with SAP for some years now. For a time they tended to downplay their dependence on the tool, perhaps in part because of the fact that it simply does what it was bought for, but also in part because like so many customers, the only time we ever really hear from them is when things are going wrong.

Fortunately this conversation had a completely different agenda. We were to talk about an upcoming presentation that this individual will be giving at the European Winshuttle User Group Meeting in Brussels in May 2014.

This particular speaker will be talking about how they have used Winshuttle with SAP to move their finance back-office operations forward in the handling of crises related to the current flooding in various parts of the UK.

Just as for Wales and West shared services, quickly and deftly raising transactions in SAP in times of crisis needs to be done in a timely fashion with accurate data.

This is only realistically achievable through self-service but self-service doesn’t suit all business scenarios. You can achieve this though, when the hand-off from the originator right up to the posting into SAP has as little manual handling and rework as possible.

This concept is referred to dually as being in pursuit of “First Time Correct” posting as well as being supportive of empowerment. By using familiar and relatively intuitive artifacts like Excel templates with controls in SharePoint, shared services operations and the finance back-office can serve multiple masters simultaneously by servicing field requests, responding to and servicing customers and suppliers and still adhering to ITSEC and Audit by only using approved methods to integrate with SAP that are robust, reliable, secure and legitimate.

User group meetings like ASUG, VNSG, AFSUG, UKISUG, the WUG and the EMEAWUG serve several purposes. Not only are they a place to learn about how to do things and how others are doing things, but they are also a place for you to network with your peers in the industry and establish contacts that ultimately may serve you better in your career.

A further side effect of user groups is that they are also a forum for you to vent or provide feedback on product features and capabilities.