Case Study: ASUG—Americas’ SAP Users’ Group

Assessment Helps Association Reorganize to Better Serve Growing Membership

asug logoWhen a membership organization outgrows its association management company, restructuring is a necessary but onerous task. As the world’s largest independent community of SAP customers and providers, the Americas’ SAP Users’ Group has spent the last 17 years providing education and peer networking and serving as the collective influential voice of customers shaping the future of SAP solutions. At 50,000 members and growing, the ASUG board of directors knew it was time for a change.

Since its inception, ASUG had been managed by an association management company. But in recent years, its board had begun to feel it was time for the booming organization to have its own leadership and staff. To help define and evaluate options and determine the best structure for the revamped organization, the board chose to hire an outside consulting firm. After evaluating proposals from several firms, the board chose Pearson Partners International to perform a comprehensive organizational assessment.

As a first step, the Pearson Partners team conducted a thorough benchmarking study of similarly sized associations. Then, the Pearson Partners team attended the ASUG Annual Conference and interviewed ASUG board members, representatives from SAP, and many ASUG members and volunteers to gain first-hand insight into the opportunities and challenges the organization faced.

“It was clear we were not ready for continued growth in membership, and we needed to change something,” says Michael O’Dell, current chairman of the board for ASUG and chief information officer for Pacific Coast Companies Inc. “We knew what we wanted and what our organization needed, but as part-time, unpaid, volunteer board members, we didn’t have the bandwidth to make it happen. Pearson Partners came back with a philosophy and proposal that mirrored what we thought we needed to do.”

O’Dell was impressed with the proposal’s thoroughness. It included an assessment of ASUG’s organizational aspirations, current strategy, performance targets, funding model, organizational skills, human resources, systems and infrastructure, organizational structure, and culture. The report also included the benchmarking data that Pearson Partners had gathered, along with an analysis of each aspect’s strengths and weaknesses. The report recommended that ASUG hire its own chief executive officer, then allow that leader to decide what additional staff members were needed. The assessment outlined additional, phased organizational and structural changes that would need to be considered as part of the transformation, including those modifications that the board would need to make.

“I thought the assessment was comprehensive and on point, and in the end, we went with Pearson’s recommendations,” O’Dell says. “One of the reasons we did that is because the recommendations were fairly specific and easy to implement. For example, one of Pearson’s benchmarks was that an organization our size typically spends 35 percent of its budget on human resources, while we were spending 49 percent. Addressing that benchmark is now one of our CEO’s strategic goals.”

ASUG retained Pearson Partners to place the new CEO – a search which ultimately filled the job with an existing board member. Today, ASUG has both executive and lower-level staff members in place. “I think everyone is pleased with the direction we’re going,” O’Dell says. “In general, we’re significantly better off now than we were before.”

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