Interview with Rainer Failenschmid, Festo AG

Copyright © by Peter Illing

Here is another in a series of CWG member reactions to the conference help in St. Leon-Rot in May, 2005.

This contribution is by Rainer Failenschmid of Festo. He has been driving a configuration project for several years. He is an experienced IPC user, far from being a "newbie", but also not one of the grizzeled veterans.

Here is what he took away from the most recent conference:

First of all I have to say that this 2005 Meeting was by far the most valuable meeting for me. On the one hand this is surely because we currently have ongoing projects (for 'renovating' our current solution).On the other side this is because the structure of the new CWG and the Conference helped to gain more value. You really succeeded in maintaining a theme throughout the meeting.

It started with a brief overview which helped to narrow down the point of focus of the Conference. Important on this day was the 'networking'. Catching up with people doing similar things is always good. A good help would be distributing a list of attendees, so that you can directly contact the people you want to talk to.

The second day had very good presentations. Both SAP 's overview (with a bit of confusion about ESA and all this stuff) and the customer presentations were very informative. It gave a very good view how real life adopts the 'theory' of day one. The variety of different solutions is great and you guys pay careful attention (I'm sure you will) to what will be presented. I mean by this that we, as the audience, get the most value if we see presentations in a variety of implementation areas:

• Mobile Sales solutions (Focus: B to B)
• Online Shop solutions (Focus B to C)
• Logistics solutions (Logistic Execution)
• Modelling solutions (Architechture as well as the Modelling-Process)
• Maybe even solutions in planning or analysis of Variant Products in R/3.

The overview of "what's happening with the CWG" is also a good thing (e.g. Portal,...) and must stay on day two (since day two and three are more relevant for long time CWG goers....)

The third day is the most difficult day. First of all I like the discussions in smaller groups in a workshop format. The problem that I always have with this 'detail-day' is that there is no 'assembly area. You lose the chance to exchange information on the other topics. Every group runs from room to room and there is no real assembly area where you could contiued for more detailed info-exchange. The structure from day one and two is missing.

Nevertheless, at this Conference’s schedule I enjoyed that day three was not so much 'Focus-Group-Centric'. We had the chance to discuss a wider range of topics (e.g. Future of Customs integration / Business Analytics).

In mentioning the Focus Groups we touch now on the most difficult area of the new CWG (in my opionon): To say it a bit drastically: I have the feeling that the current structure of the Focus Groups is somehow outdated. We discuss in great detail which enhancements should be implemented by SAP, but it seems to be difficult for SAP to actually get these enhancements done in their development. The guys from SAP have quite a hard job. There is this very innovative group that wants to have enhancements done, and on the other side there is SAP-Management that controls budget on a much higher level. And these guys sit in between.

In my opinion the new CWG should rethink how we (CWG) can react to this. It does not make much sense that lots of members sit together to define 'Wish-Lists' for enhancements and push them to SAP, when these SAP guys have problems finding someone inside SAP to allocate budget for the enhancements.
In my opinion we should put more focus on SAP's new budgeting model. One good step forward is that we have SAP guys from IBU in the CWG. But I suggest that we need to go further and restructure some or all of the Focus Groups to align them with the currently active SAP 'Business Cases' . My feeling is that this is the only way to get solutions we want to have.

In a way this is just a 're-labeling' of our wish list, but along with our wishes we need to explain WHY we need these things: where is the business value and what is the downside if we don't get them? SAP seems to be more interested in Business Value than in technical solutions. If we would dig deeper, - explaining, for example, why we need to be able to call CU50 with values for reference CHARs - it would probably be easier for the folks at SAP to explain the value to their Management.

Another idea would be to have more project-centric Focus Groups, meaning that they get started at a certain point of time (e.g. because there is business demand from us, or there is an SAP business Case). If it fails to sell its requirements, then we should close the FocusGroup, possibly assigning some of its open issues to another group. What I'm trying to say is that the new CWG can only succeed at influencing SAP's development by paying careful attention to SAP's budgeting.

Another point is that the CWG should not only focus on the Quantity of members. The Quality of members is just as important. And I don't necessarily mean Quality in the sense of technical or modelling experts. I am thinking about a focus on the strategic decision-makers in companies (Management and Top-Management).

Why am I saying this? Simple: lots of the configuration-related development has to do with various other tasks (Online Shop , Logistics, Releases and Migrations,.....) where the specialist for modelling or configuration is simply 'unliked guy' in the company. There are lots of good things in ERP2005 but who will listen if the configuration guy says we need it?

And wouldn’t it would be different if the CRM or SCM guys ask for an update of the system?
Again, SAP makes its decisions at that high level; why should we not try to get high-level people directly involved?

So, I just tried to note down a bit of my personal impressions after three very interesting days at the CWG Conference in Walldorf. I very much enjoyed it, since it’s always very informative and great fun! If we stay on track the CWG will have a great future with real benefits for every member.

Thanks to you all the guys keeping this community together!

thanks for your contribution, Rainer.

Please send comments to Peter Illing, at