History of the Configuration Workgroup
The Configuration Work Group was founded in the Fall of 1993, under the name of the "American Configuration Work Group," (ACWG) as a consortium of manufacturers working together to influence thedevelopment of a standard, best-of-breed configuration solution. What they all had in common included:
- Each were manufacturers of products while manufactured discretely, were sold and installed as systems.
- Each company had already developed sophisticated configurators of their own and were seeking to replace them with a standard solution, and
- Each were SAP customers having standardized on SAP as their enterprise software solution.
Although the SAP consulting and development organizations were participants, the "American Configuration Work Group" was an independent organization. While it was clear that the ACWG's preferred solution was a best-of-breed configurator fully integrated with SAP, it was not clear that the requested configurator had to be an SAP developed solution. The relationship between the "American Configuration Work Group" and SAP was therefore, often challenging, sometimes tense, but always fruitful, and tinged with a visionary character.
In the first requirements document submitted to SAP early in 1994, the primary resistance offered by the software manufacturer was that they were insisting on a single, all-encompassing, monolithic application program and the ACWG was demanding that the configurator be:
- Standalone, capable of running anywhere outside the enterprise system,
- an engine, addressable through an Application Programming Interface, and therefore capable of supporting any customer-specific user interface,
- fully object-oriented, and therefore capable of supporting systems or network configuration problems,
- fully integrated, to the back-end enterprise system, and
- easily maintained, through an easily accessible product modeling environment
SAP rose to the challenge. In a series of scheduled monthly workshops during the Winter and Spring of 1994, the Configuration Work Group, now with manufacturers from Finland and Switzerland, worked with SAP to create a high-level conceptual design for what was eventually to be implemented as the SAP "Internet Pricing and Configurator (IPC)."
It was more than a year before SAP took the fateful step of committing to developing the first of what eventually became a suite of individual mySAP.com components. By this time the Configuration Work Group had been taken under the umbrella of the SAP High-tech ICOE (Industry Center of Expertise) and had grown to include virtually every high-tech company in the SAP customer base. Nevertheless there was then, as there are many now, a core group of customers working intensively with SAPon the detailed conceptual design and later the testing and implementation, of the "Sales Configuration Engine (SCE)."
The result was the delivery, in late Summer of 1997, of the first version of the Advanced Mode Configuration Engine. It had its productive deployment in the Spring of 1998, which was about the time that SAP announced the purchase of Kiefer & Veittinger, which launched them into the world of component software. Since then the Configuration Work Group has continued to be active in the role it had from the beginning, influencing definition. Some of the issues remaining today had their genesis in the early years and not completely addressed yet and include:
- Fully integrated, to the back-end enterprise application
- Easily maintained, through an easily accessible product modeling environment
The Configuration Work Group is an essential forum for SAP customers with product configuration requirements to find out if, when, and how their requirements will be addressed. Its SIG Groups are the single place where, once requirements are prioritized, customers have the opportunity to work with SAP on the design of their solutions and it is one of the best places available to get advance knowledge of new SAP development directions and initiatives.
CWG Conferences became an annual event with meetings held the same time that the America's SAP Users Group (ASUG) held their annual conferences and the focus was primarily on providing feedback to SAP and prioritized requirements from the member companies. Then the CWG began their own conference planning that was focused on SAP customer issues. This started with the first European conference in May 2000 and the first conference not to coincide with ASUG in North America was held in a very crowded room at SAP in Boston in the Fall of 2000. The start was small with about 40 people attending each conference.
The first CWG European conference was held in Berlin in 2000 and followed by Lisbon in 2001. From 2002 through 2005, European Conferences were held in the Walldorf area near SAP headquarters (St. Leon-Rot). These were 2-Day sessions. The attendance and interest was growing and European CWG conferences moved to Salzburg, Austria for 2006 & 2007 with about 140 attending and expanded to 3 Days. Berlin was the location for the 2008 and 2009 Spring conferences. Attendance was very good even during the economic downturn. In 2010, Vienna, Austria was the venue and had good attendance despite the Icelandic volcano disrupting travel on the continent. After Prague in the Czech Republic in 2015, the most recent European CWG conference was held in Berlin again in 2016 - which was the most succesful Conference ever.
North American Conferences
The North American conferences moved from the one room Boston conference where there was standing room only to SAP America's headquarters auditorium in Philadelphia for three years. After several years in Florida, we started moving, the same way as in europe, to different locations across the country.
Each conference now have 40+ presentations from many sources including: SAP, customers and partners over a full 3-Day schedule with multiple tracks on the 2nd day to learn about what is coming from SAP, what customers are doing with their configuration applications and partners have become a staple with new product offerings and sharing some ideas on implementations and Best Practices.
With the CWG drawing more interest and attendence to the conferences, it has become a mainstay for the organization and now is expanding to local chapters for those that cannot attend the conferences in Europe and North America. The focus is returning to influencing SAP and gaining knowledge through education, presentations and networking. The upcoming years will be a challenge for the organization that has grown to 2,900+ members and 500+ companies.