Kristin McMahon, Director, Enterprise Information Management Solution Marketing at SAP BusinessObjects Division

What event could be so intriguing that someone would choose to visit Wisconsin in November?  Was there a U2 concert? Was Bon Jovi in town? Unfortunately, neither of those, but what did take place on November 1-2 was the first ever EIM Customer Forum at the LaCrosse, Wisconsin based SAP office. The office holds close to 200 employees whose focus is on SAP BusinessObjects Data Services development and customer support – which made it an ideal location for this event. The Customer Forum was designed to bring together Enterprise Information Management (EIM) customers and key EIM product developers to have an open dialogue about hot topics like the future of information governance, SAP’s customer support initiatives, and EIM product strategy and roadmap. Yet, the most important thing that happened at the event was the personal connections made and how those will live on well beyond the final presentation.  

So, what happened at this event that has already set in motion the planning of the next EIM Customer Forum? First, the event kicked off with a very special welcome from Steve Lucas, Senior Vice President, Business Analytics Center of Excellence. Mr. Lucas, who has a passion for all things EIM, emphasized SAP’s commitment to EIM customers and how being together like this is one of the best opportunities to garner feedback, share ideas, and foster collaboration. Being a self-proclaimed ‘techie’ guy, Steve resisted the urge to demo something (anything) EIM solution oriented on his Apple iPad – and instead unveiled and discussed his new plan for building successful EIM customers.

Steve Lucas, Senior Vice President at SAP kicks off the EIM Customer Forum.

The day continued with discussions on the EIM portfolio overview and investment direction, SAP BusinessObjects Data Services 4.0 release preview, and new initiatives involving the customer experience program. At the conclusion of Day 1, the 30+ EIM customers and the SAP EIM product team shared a dinner together, which produced (in addition to lively conversation and personal stories) a real dialogue about pressing data management issues. For example, one customer who works within the quality assurance group at her company, described how the challenge for her is no longer about matching Rob, Robert, or Bob in a name field per se, but instead creating business rules for the newer naming conventions that include symbols such as the name “ La-a”, pronounced “La-dash-a”.  

After a well-received Day 1, the next day proved to be a great deal of idea sharing, listening, and brainstorming on all things data management – and it also brought about a mini-family reunion. Let me explain. One of our customers mentioned that over the five years of owning some of our data quality products in the EIM portfolio, she has formed relationships with the customer support team, however, she has only talked to them over the phone. Needless to say, we arranged the face-to-face reunion and all were grateful to finally meet. That was one great example of making connections. Other connections made were created over discussing various topics that are or have affected some of the customers  such as how to get the IT or Business to share ownership of data quality to the tough yet rewarding road of locking down an executive sponsor for information governance.

Customers and Customer Support team meet in person for the first time after years of only phone dialogue.

This event was indeed unique and enriching mostly due to the diversity in the attendees.  Customers came from all different types of industries from manufacturing to healthcare and from all different size teams and organizational roles. Many things happened over these two days, but we hope what everyone walked away with was a renewed sense of assurance that SAP’s in completely committed to building the best EIM solution portfolio in the world.

Finally, as I mentioned, the next EIM Customer Forum is being planned for the first half of 2011 at the LaCrosse, WI EIM office (preferable after the snow melts)! If you are looking to be part of a future forum or if you attended this event, I encourage you to post a comment below. I’ll leave you with one quote a customer wrote on the whiteboard which, for them, is a living, breathing mantra in their organization. “Quality of the data remains long after the cost of it goes away.” To find out more about EIM solutions from SAP, visit www.sap.com/eim.