The UK & Ireland SAP User Group (SAPUG) is urging its members to sign up to its recently improved SAP Customer Connection programme after a number of changes to simplify the registration process.

The programme allows users of SAP’s products to engage with the software giant and provide feedback on where modules need improving, through its Customer Influence portal.

However, due to the complexity of the legacy system the number of members currently participating in the programme stands at just 180 (out of a possible 6,000 in the UK and Ireland). This is despite the possible improvements that could quickly be delivered to companies’ software modules.

Chief executive of the UK & Ireland's SAP User Group Craig Dale explained that the Customer Connection programme provides a transparent way for members to assess how their input is being put to use by SAP.

“Four or five years ago the way this worked was that our special interest group chairs would take improvement requests from the members, put them into a development request system, and discuss them with SAP,” said Dale.

“Then hopefully three years down the line we might see the improvements implemented. It didn’t work for the customer, it didn’t work for SAPUG and sometimes it felt like requests just fell into a black hole.”

He added: “However, SAP was of the same opinion that the system wasn’t fit for purpose and we launched the Customer Connection programme in 2011.”

Since its creation at the start of 2011, the Customer Connection Program has accepted 93 different focus topics, during which time 35 have been completed. This has in total delivered 314 product improvements to customers so far. However, Dale recognised problems with the system and has since delivered improvements, which have been tested since the beginning of the year.

“The feedback we got from our members was that the registration process was very complex – we found that there was a real barrier to entry. The Dutch User Group had similar concerns, which we took to SAP, and they improved it. We are now in a position where it is easy to register on the Influence platform and we want to encourage our members to participate as much as possible,” said Dale.

Dale said that the system now allows members to track and monitor the progress being made on their requests, and SAP is now able to turn around the improvements in just nine months.

“This is now a timed process – from a focus topic going live to the election of the improvement requests, which are inputted by our members, rather than having to go through the special interest group chairs,” he said.

“Members can also see what other user groups are putting into that topic area. Each stage of the process is transparent to the member involved.”

He added: “I would really love to see at least 1,000 members involved. The more focus topics that our members are putting through, the more benefit they are going to see from it.”

The current focus topic roadmap includes HCM (eRecuiting), Global Trade Services and BusinessObjects Web Intelligence, all of which are currently collecting improvement requests. Other upcoming planned focus topics include Retail, HCM (Compensation) and CRM.