May 12th, 2009 by Christopher Musico

I had the opportunity to speak to a couple of great people after the morning keynote and press conference here at SAPPHIRE ’09 in hot, humid, and, sometimes wet, Orlando, Fla. A key theme here this year, especially after the keynote by co-chief executive officer of SAP Leo Apotheker, is one of clarity in the enterprise — but also sustainability.

In this aim, he is hitting on key needs of the Americas’ SAP Users’ Group (ASUG) membership base as well, which partners with SAP each year to put on this flagship conference. Sustainability — despite the recession — is top-of-mind for ASUG users, Rodney Masney, immediate past chairperson of ASUG, told me. “Sustainability is not a flavor of the month,” he said.

Beyond assumed moral or social obligations to make the Earth a cleaner place, Masney explained that his membership base is focusing more on green information technology (IT), and where their companies are at in terms of sustainability roadmaps. “There is an immense amount of energy consumed with IT, as well as disposal of electronic waste,” he said.

He rejected the notion that short-term economic pressures are going to hamper the green sustainability initiative. Why? He argued it is more a part of global culture today than ever before. “It’s becoming ingrained in our DNA; we don’t have to demand people to be more green-friendly as we had to five years ago,” he insisted.

That said, the economy — and how they can better utilize the investments they have already put their time and money into — is still an issue with ASUG members. “People want to get more value out of software today, and, in particular here, where SAP is going with its technology,” Masney said.

In this aim, Masney said that ASUG’s participation in the SAP User Group Executive Network and recent news of determining key performance indicators will help elucidate how SAP will help ensure its customers are getting the most out of its software with SAP Enterprise Support.

In other SAP partnership news, Cognizant, a global IT and business process outsourcing services provider, just inked a global services partnership in an effort to deliver increased business value by streamlining engagement and responding quickly to ever-changing needs of customers. Fresh from a meeting with Bill McDermott, president of global field operations for SAP, Ashish Mahadwar, vice president of Cognizant, told me that this enhanced move will help his company’s customers deal with managing change more effectively.

“How can they, while their budgets for IT are flat or falling, optimize resources in a global delivery model yet still create headroom for day-to-day operations?” he said, giving an example of a problem facing his customer base today.

Especially in the target industries of life sciences, consumer goods, retail, hospitality, and media, Mahadwar said the global partnership will help extend its footprint in those markets while it also looks to establish a foothold in the Asia Pacific and Japan region. “We’re very excited and believe that this will help take us to the next level,” he said.

While everyone at this conference has to do in some way with either ASUG or SAP, the question of business priorities must be answered by everyone. What are your thoughts on sustainability? Is this an initiative you are still striving to deliver upon despite the economic recession, or have you tabled efforts until more immediate, short-term business problems are solved first?

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