Business Objects users angry over online support shift by SAP

Log-in snafus leave some customers of acquired BI vendor unable to access SAP's site

Some customers of Business Objects SA, the business intelligence vendor that was acquired by SAP AG earlier this year, are steaming mad because they aren't able to access SAP's online support site.

SAP, which bought Business Objects in January for nearly $7 billion, switched the BI vendor's online product support processes to its own system on July 7. But SAP acknowledged this week that some problems have occurred. The company said that it is working as quickly as possible to resolve the issues and that phone support is available for all Business Objects customers in the meantime.

But SAP can't fix the problems fast enough for John Sanzone, a BI and data warehousing specialist at a large U.S.-based IT services provider that he asked not be identified. Sanzone said he has been trying without success to get a usable log-in for the online support site since the July 7 changeover. "This is not the service I was expecting," he said.

A database administrator, who works at a hospital in the U.S. and asked to be identified only as Wayne H., said that SAP apparently sent a letter with the required new passwords and log-in information for the support to a woman on the business side of his organization. But she no longer works there, he said, adding, "This is just a mess."

But the support hang-up isn't causing any serious problems for the DBA at this point. "For the time being," he said, "I'm able to support our company's needs."

Many other Business Objects users also are reporting problems accessing the SAP support site. For example, a discussion thread about the support snafu on an independent bulletin board for Business Objects users was stretching across 10 pages as of 7 p.m. EDT on Wednesday.

Frank Scavo, president of IT market research firm Computer Economics Inc., said in a post on his Enterprise System Spectator blog last Friday that SAP — which also plans to convert all of its users to its highest-priced support offering by next January — may have made a serious miscalculation on the Business Objects support changeover.

"It sounds like a deadline-date-driven migration for which SAP was not prepared," Scavo wrote. "If SAP is going to make major strategic acquisitions in the future, it is going to have to learn how to make them painless for customers."

An SAP official said that the software vendor thought it had covered all the required bases before making the switch and that it is doing everything it can to correct the situation. "We didn't go into it knowing we were going to cause pain, but having made the decision to go forward, going back is not an option," said Andy Cobbold, group vice president of global customer assurance at SAP.

SAP moved more than 50,000 Business Objects customer records — including any open support issues — into its system beforehand, Cobbold said. But he acknowledged that not every affected customer has received a log-in to the SAP support site.

Cobbold said SAP, which agreed to buy Business Objects last October, didn't have e-mail records for some customers and contacted them about the support switch by regular mail. "We sent everything out," he noted. "But unfortunately, not every customer received their IDs, for whatever reason."

More than 80% of the Business Objects customer base can now use the SAP support portal, according to Cobbold. "Every day, we are making good progress," he said, detailing steps that include increasing staff levels at the company's call centers so more customers can seek support by phone.

Even with the improvements, though, thousands of users still can't access the support site. The launch "hasn't been as smooth as we would have liked," Cobbold admitted. "Obviously, we'll be conducting a post-mortem to make sure we learn lessons from this."

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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