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7/31/2006
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In Focus: Q&A With Rodney Masney, SAP User Champion

SAP users: Does your ERP system need an SOA/BPM twist? User group champion Rodney Masney says "yes."

Rodney Masney

As president of the Americas' SAP Users' Group (ASUG) and Global Information and Technology Architect at packaging giant O-I (formerly Owens-Illinois), Rodney Masney stays on top of long-term opportunities and current pain points surrounding ERP deployments. Here's his take on some of the hottest topics among ASUG's 1,700 member companies.

Doug Henschen: ASUG does in-depth surveys among its members to identify performance benchmarks and best practices. To what extent do these apply to all companies rather than just SAP users?

Rodney Masney: I think they reflect companies at large for the most part. We do study the depth and breadth of each survey participant's SAP deployment, but much of the data we generate is KPI-based and focused on the business. For instance, the human capital management benchmarks touch on supporting tools and technologies, but they also look into trends with respect to how HR is staffed and the cost of different models. As an example, the survey indicates that there's a much lower cost per employee for the shared services approach to HR structures versus decentralized structures.

Which benchmarks have been the most popular or useful?

ASUG's Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) benchmark has been very revealing. One company I know of that participated in that benchmark survey looked at how [the best performing] companies have applied specific tools to reduce the number of monitoring and system management tools by leveraging their SAP investment. They quickly saw that they weren't doing very well by comparison. As a result, they applied resources to things like Solution Manager within SAP, they consolidated the number of systems and tools they were using, and they were able to cut millions of dollars in system monitoring infrastructure cost.

Member companies tend to zero in on TCO key metrics such as cost per user in the context of different types of ERP deployments. There's a significant difference between a one-location, simplified approach versus deployments in two locations or three or more locations; the costs per employee are much higher in the multi-location approach because you face added infrastructure cost and challenges related to synchronizing data across multiple locations. The same cost differences apply when you're cranking out a lot of code to create customized ERP solutions rather than doing vanilla, out-of-the-box deployments.

Any recent surprises in ASUG's topical best-practice surveys?

My company participated in the Enterprise Services Architecture (ESA) adoption survey [editor's note: ESA is SAP vernacular for service-oriented architecture (SOA)]. As an enterprise architect, ESA is near and dear to my heart, and I wanted to know whether I'm behind the curve, in the middle or at the head of the pack. I was surprised to see just how many participating companies were moving forward with ESA adoption and could cite specific examples of where they had used enterprise services to enable business processes.

Aren't companies embracing SOA and business process management (BPM) largely to avoid heavy coding in ERP?

It's clear to me that enterprise services will provide the rapid application development platform of the future. If you can look at your business processes and use enterprise services to compose applications very quickly, that will create a competitive advantage. One of the fastest growing communities within ASUG is focused on enterprise architecture and ESA. We're fostering a community where members can exchange services and ideas, and we want to provide good benchmarking and best practices data that will help them understand their progress toward ESA.

SAP and other leading ERP vendors have embraced SOA and process management approaches, but do companies really need an ERP vendor to help them with SOA or BPM?

I want my ERP vendor to provide those capabilities because there are many things that go along with building business processes leveraging enterprise services--things like data integrity, reliability and security, and other assurances we've grown to rely upon from our ERP vendors. We need to guarantee that transactions are performed with high integrity, so I want my ERP vendor to provide enhanced services capabilities across the top of something that I've grown to trust.

Are there any areas in which ASUG has challenged SAP to improve?

In the area of ESA, our enterprise architect community is pushing SAP to help us with adoption and we're collaborating very well. Another area where we're collaborating is Sarbanes-Oxley compliance, which members ranked as a top priority for our next round of best-practices surveys. I think SAP's recent acquisition of Virsa is a testament to hearing our membership's voice. Virsa was a niche player in providing technology to help companies audit and proactively monitor their security and control systems to meet compliance demands. I can't say ASUG can take all the credit for that deal, but our influence programs identified the need for that technology as a strategic priority.

Outtakes

Favorite activity with your kids? I have three very active teenagers, and going to their activities--marching band, orchestra, volleyball, basketball, softball and track--is a source of pride and enjoyment.

Who do you most admire? My admiration for my Mom and Dad continues to grow. I think of all the things they went without to provide opportunities and life experiences that supported my growth and future.

Where are your roots? I grew up in Shippensburg, Penn., and I attended Penn State, so I'm a true blue (and white) Nittany Lion. There is nothing better than a sunny Fall day in Happy Valley when the Penn State football team brings home a win!

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