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10/22/2010
07:58 AM
Bob Evans
Bob Evans
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Global CIO: SAP Shares Corporate Treasure With Customers

SAP's turning its massive database of customer best practices into a rich knowledge base for customers looking to turbocharge the performance of their businesses.

One of the fastest-growing pieces of SAP's global business doesn't involve applications or middleware or maintenance fees or upgrades, but it's nevertheless becoming one of the cornerstones of the company's aggressive new strategy.

SAP calls it Value Engineering, and the basic premise is to aggregate the best practices and hard-earned knowledge and experiences of SAP's 100,000+ customers and then share those accumulated insights back with the company's global customer community.

While every IT company always promises to some extent to do similar things, most of those promises turn out to be primarily marketing fluff with fancy-sounding names that don't amount to much more than a handful of 3-year-old lightweight case studies tucked away in the corner of a hard-to-find website.

SAP, however, is into something quite different here, as evidenced by the title of the executive who heads up SAP's Value Management business unit: Chakib Bouhdary is chief strategy and customer value officer, and just this month added on a permanent basis the strategy component to his overall responsibilities.

The value management concept is rapidly winning followers among SAP's customers because businesses in every industry, after decades of stockpiling tens or hundreds of millions of dollars worth of technology, are now aggressively striving to find ways to use all of that stuff to increase their levels of performance, to seize opportunities more quickly, to cut unproductive costs, and to extract more value out of their enormous investments in IT in general and SAP software in particular.

In my opinion, SAP's value management program is the most-advanced effort of its kind and can serve as a template for other leading tech companies to emulate as they make the difficult transformation from IT vendors that sell sophisticated hardware and software to business partners that offer advanced business solutions along with deep-domain expertise and insights.

Of course, CIOs will continue to want and need great technology but beyond that they also want and need from their primary IT suppliers knowledge about how all that stuff can be used most effectively, examples of who's deploying it better than anyone else, and insights into how that advanced technology can help their companies can compete more aggressively and successfully in an increasingly cut-throat business environment.

Bouhdary, who in a past life was CIO of an industrial company and an SAP customer himself, says the broad-based value program within SAP reflects a larger change across the company that has put customers at the center of SAP's efforts, with new products and services predicated on fitting those needs.

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In the past, the opposite model was in place: SAP produced complex and rigid software and by god those customers would just have to conform to the demands of that software.

"Within SAP, every project now includes one question that's asked over and over:

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