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Hopefully you have heard of influence processes and usability studies.  I'd to talk about some of my recent experiences, a few longer-term ones, and also some upcoming opportunities.

First, here are links to my recent blogs on preparing for SAP TechEd08 EMEA.


In my recent trip to the ASUG Operations Optimization conference, I attended an SAP Usability Study session.  While I've tried to make time for these before, this is only the 3rd time that I have been able to get connected.  If you have the chance, there are definite benefits to this program.

Non-disclosure agreements prevent me from giving any details on the nature of the software research/development that I test drove (so to speak), but I can discuss the technology and organizational structure.  Software developers have a prototype (sometimes working, sometimes a mockup, and sometimes a story board).  They will have a cookbook of tasks to be accomplished, and are interested not only in how easy it is to complete the task, but other observations.  I think I'm a good candidate for this, as I'm candid.

This year, unlike the last time I ran one, I was videoed for later analysis.  While note-taking is essential, having a tape to run over again can verify timings, communication gaps, and subtle ergonomic like eye movement for screen identification, analysis and interpretation.  You're encouraged to describe your thinking process when making decisions or completing forms, which takes some getting used to.  It's like articulating your inner monologue while simultaneously attempting to get work done.

More sessions will be available in 2009 at the ASUG Annual Conference at the same place as Sapphire.  The more diverse input and opinions SAP gets early in the development process the more robust and representative the ramp-up product is likely to be.

Influence process

There is a formal influence process.  At SAP TechEd, EMEA, I don't see any specific Influence Councils meeting (thought I did, but I don't now).  You can attend Influence Council sessions year round through virtual meetings.  If you are an ASUG member, see our web site.  If you're in another global user group, ask your peers for help.

Influence is one of the 3 key components of our user group, along with networking and education.  Education might be part of the official goal of SAP TechEd (like, Technical Education), but the other 2 parts are equally critical.


Software development

Here's another topic I'm constrained by non-disclosure agreement to detail, but I'll talk about related concepts so as not to reveal confidences.  I spoke to an SAP executive after getting a referral from one of the SAP/ASUG liaisons.  He's in the UK, so may not be fully up to speed on our Americas Users Group.  A couple areas struck me - the first being the existence of a formal influence process, where customers are encouraged, recruited, and assisted with ways to get problems fixed.

The other concept was rewards for customer participation in influencing SAP software development. In some cases, I would work on software because it is a challenge.  But if I do this at work, I need to let my management know the payback for our company.  attendance at events, user training credits, and consulting assistance are all possible ways to offset the time spent in testing and helping SAP improve software.

One term I heard that I really liked was "quality gates."  Like a software slalom. 

Hands On

You are allowed to attend 2 hands-on sessions during TechEd.  In prior years, I have found these to be marginally useful, as the content is typically on a version either beyond our current level, or even beyond what is generally available.  But think of these sessions from the flip side: SAP is trying out new material with you as first time users.  Do your full-time users a favor, and ask a lot of questions and point our any obvious flaws in the work flow, while still allowing the majority of the class the ability to continue their education.  Even if the presenters are not the development managers, your comments will matter, especially if fellow attendees echo your sentiments.


The Collaboration Workspace is going to be the place for future influence processes to be documented.  I've blogged that it's not ready for prime time, though I maintain an open mind. One of the evangelists of that space, Andre Fonseca is speaking with [original link is broken] [original link is broken] [original link is broken] [original link is broken] [original link is broken] [original link is broken] on "Enterprise Virtualization Map – Your Guide Through the Virtualization Jungle" in session LCM300.  See Roland's blog from the Las Vegas TechEd on The specified item was not found.. This promises to be a thought-provoking 2 hours - you should drop in!


I've been in the SAP Mentor Initiative program for about a year, and have been given unprecedented access to SAP management, community development plans and increased respect (though not yet in the reporting tickets).  During TechEd next week there will be a number of opportunities for you to meet other SAP Mentors, so I'd encourage you to view their profiles to find one with your interests.  



What can you do to increase your satisfaction with SAP software, and thus increase your job satisfaction.  Here are my tips:

  • Open tickets on usability problems, not just faults or bugs.  Document clearly, including screen shots, when you see opportunities for better working conditions.
  • Join an Influence Council.  See the ASUG website or for more details.
  • Meet people at TechEd and share your ideas. 

"Be seeing you!"