How ASUG Lost its Way and Sold Out to SAP

What This Article Covers

  • ASUG’s Low-Quality Articles
  • The Origins of ASUG
  • How ASUG Changed Over the Years
  • How ASUG Poses as a User/Customer and SAP Mediator
  • ASUG’s Conference Take Over by Consultants

Introduction

Problems with ASUG have come to my attention which is the combination of articles I have reviewed from ASUG along with the feedback I have received from many people that are ASUG members, speak with ASUG employees and attended ASUG conferences. I have critiqued ASUG in several previous articles such as ASUG’s Biased and Inaccurate Coverage of SAP Indirect Access. However, ASUG’s articles now always must be read with a grain of salt due to ASUG’s pro-SAP bias.

I spend a lot of time analyzing the media output of entities in the IT space. My observation of ASUG’s media output is the following:

  • ASUG’s material seems quite familiar, that is quite traceable to SAP’s marketing message. ASUG essentially uniformly repeats SAP’s marketing messaging.
  • ASUG appears to have no independence from SAP whatsoever.
  • ASUG writes false information about SAP.
  • ASUG does not provide authentic information to its users. The material is highly sterile and with a consistent positive slant.

All of this is strange for what is ostensibly a user group. This article will explain what has happened to ASUG.

The Origins of ASUG

ASUG was founded in 1991 as a user group. At that time SAP customers were in need of a forum to share their stories, concerns, feedback to SAP, etc… One should also remember that this was still relatively early in the development of the Internet, and nothing like the ability to share and consume information existed at that time. For many users, ASUG was the primary avenue for obtaining information about the reality of SAP implementations, and it actually added quite a lot of value.

I have not performed a detailed review of people that attended ASUG events or consumed its media at that time, and this time also preceded by involvement in SAP by about 6 years. Yet, what I can ascertain from interviewing various people who have participated with ASUG for some time is that ASUG actually did a good job of meeting the needs of its user community and that it also did serve as a mechanism to provide feedback to SAP.

How ASUG Changed Over the Years

It is difficult to pinpoint the exact time when it happened, but ASUG over time in some shape or form became captured by SAP. SAP has powerful ways of corrupting any entity if it wants to, and ASUG has been no exception. Changes at ASUG have demonstrated a nearly continuous encroachment into ASUG’s agenda to meet with SAP’s needs. Examples include the following:

Changes at ASUG have demonstrated a nearly continuous encroachment into ASUG’s agenda to meet with SAP’s needs. Examples include the following:

  • SAP Sales Influence on Presentations: Frequent presentations that are ostensibly designed to keep customers up to date on what is new and coming down the pike from SAP have turned into sales presentations. However, ASUG events did not start out that way, but as time passed, sales presentations have become much more prominent. SAP always had SAPPHIRE and other events to present their new products, or to promote current products, but now SAP performs what are clearly product pitches disguised as “updates” at all the events, with ASUG being no exception. Consulting companies are also thick on the presentation docket at ASUG events.
  • False Testimonials: It is interesting to see users/customers at ASUG events presenting things they accomplished that are not possible to accomplish. This includes SAP applications being implemented that could not support the workflow that the user states it supported or entirely unrealistic implementation timelines. This is something I faced in particular while performing research into S/4HANA implementations. ASUG has several false testimonials about S/4HANA at their website. However, the false testimonials have become so extreme that I have developed a term that I hope catches on called conference monkeys. Conference monkeys will say anything at conferences and mislead other users in order to improve their career or their relationship to SAP. SAP has a way of making it “worth their while” to exaggerate or otherwise mislead on what was actually accomplished.
  • Censored Presentations: In addition to the presentations being strangely positive in their outcomes, cost, and timelines, ASUG is now actively censoring presentations that are given by users that did not get the memo that they are only supposed to present positive information. All issues with SAP software must be framed as “challenges” rather than problems or things that simply did not work. For example, apparently, Johnsonville Sausage broke the rules and presented on their S/4HANA implementation experience, which turned out to be quite problematic. ASUG did not put this particular presentation on their website. (Surprise surprise.) However, if ASUG is truly a user group, why would it censor negative information about SAP? Wouldn’t it want its user community to know about problems so that other users could learn from them? And this is the problem ASUG faces. If they are responsive to users, then they upset SAP. And SAP can apply pressure on ASUG behind closed doors to keep the ASUG events “upbeat.”
  • Infested with Consultants and Sales People: The ASUG events were originally for users/customers. And in the early years, they tended to be limited to those people. But today, ASUG events have become infested with consultants and sales people. As an SAP consultant, I have frequently been told to attend ASUG events and even try to present at ASUG events. One sales person I know was frequently made to go to ASUG events by their boss. The idea being that ASUG events are a good place to get business. Yet, again, that is not what ASUG was originally intended to be. This means that users that are interested in getting information from other users will spend more time in the company of consultants and salespeople than other users. All while these salespeople and consultants are trying to fill their quota at a “user conference.” At a recent event that was attended by a contact of mine, they estimated that 90% of the attendees were either salespeople or consultants.

Many of the How ASUG Poses as a User/Customer and SAP Mediator

ASUG does not criticize SAP, or state things that SAP should change, but when topics, such as indirect access arise, ASUG promptly papers over any conflict by discussing coming to amicable resolutions, but invariably these resolutions are on SAP’s terms. ASUG also understates the frequency with which problematic issues actually arise on SAP implementations.

In this way, ASUG is actually working against the interests of its users because it is posing as something it is not, which is either an independent entity (which it is not) or an advocate for the user/customer (which it is certainly not!). What this means is that ASUG is lying to its members, and strangely, the members actually have to pay to be an ASUG member. So how strange that even if you pay ASUG, you can’t rely upon ASUG taking your side.

For example, on the topic of indirect access ASUG has published articles that promote users to reach out to ASUG to gain access to their indirect access “expertise.” However, by doing so, the customer may be exposing themselves to SAP. ASUG is not under any obligation to not simply share the information that is shared with ASUG with SAP and given where ASUG’s loyalties lie, that seems actually like a likely scenario. If I were a customer, I would be concerned about sharing any type of information with ASUG. ASUG can’t help users with something like indirect access because it is opposed to the interests of SAP. And ASUG’s first loyalty is to SAP.

If I were a customer, I would be concerned about sharing any type of information with ASUG.

Conclusion

What began as a user group, isn’t really a user group anymore. Sure, ASUG user members do meet at ASUG events, but the entire focus of the event has shifted away from users and their concerns and onto how to help SAP meet its sales objectives. ASUG members pay for membership, but ASUG no longer represents their interests versus SAP.

SAP has capture ASUG to the degree that ASUG is primarily about “making SAP” look good. This is pure and simple corruption. ASUG is misleading its members by presenting itself as a user group. And that is the reality of what ASUG has become.

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