SAP Users Seek Proof of Support Plan's Benefits

Many still question the vendor's move to force them to use the Enterprise Support program.

Some users are calling on SAP AG to back up its claims that its new Enterprise Support program provides significant advantages over the less-expensive offerings it is replacing.

The software vendor announced in mid-July that it plans to force its users to replace their Standard and Premium Support programs with the new, costlier Enterprise Support program.

"Supposedly, we're going to get more value. I haven't seen it because I haven't been shown it," said Michael Davidson, CIO at Apotex Inc., a Weston, Ontario-based pharmaceutical firm.

Though Apotex won't immediately feel the effects of higher costs because an existing deal is still in effect, Davidson noted that "we need to look at a longer term of what that level of maintenance is and ask quite honestly, 'Are we getting business value?'"

The Americas' SAP Users' Group (ASUG) last week began a series of Web seminars designed to provide its members with information on the new program.

At the initial seminar, an SAP marketing official provided an overview of the Enterprise Support offering, according to an ASUG statement. Other seminars are slated to be held Sept. 24, Oct. 16 and Nov. 12, the user group said.

In a separate statement, ASUG said that it plans to evaluate the Enterprise Support offering to find out "what works and what needs correction [and] thus leverage our considerable member base to influence SAP to either change the costs or change the offerings as appropriate."

In an interview, ASUG CEO Steve Strout noted that the group has already managed to convince SAP to gradually phase in the increased fees for the new program.

The SAP UK & Ireland User Group, which lodged a strong initial protest against the vendor's plan, "is continually engaging with SAP regarding the support issue," a spokesman said.

Meanwhile, Deutschsprachige SAP Anwendergruppe e.V. (DSAG), the German-speaking SAP user group, said in a statement earlier this month that it "cannot support the compulsory replacement of Standard Support with Enterprise Support at this time." The DSAG's membership includes 2,100 companies in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

DSAG board member Andreas Oczko said in an interview that feedback from the group's members, "especially from small-to-medium-[size] businesses, is that they have very simple landscapes and are familiar with their systems. They don't see at the moment why they should need enterprise support."

SAP officials said earlier this year that the company is implementing the policy to help smooth users' transition to the next generation of SAP applications, which will incorporate its SOA-based NetWeaver middleware technology.

The company has started to gradually phase in the program for current customers, who will begin to see higher prices in January.

The price increases will eventually reach 22% of a user's software license fees in 2012. The older support packages were priced at up to 17% of license fees.

New customers can only choose the higher-priced option with the 22% fee.

The Enterprise Support package, unveiled in May, includes the installation of SAP's Solution Manager portal at customer sites. The portal will provide the vendor's services personnel with a real-time view of operations across distributed systems.

The package also gives customers access to the Run SAP methodology, which was created to better manage service-oriented architectures.

SAP has so far given no indication that it plans to change the support plan. "While customers are saying they never like to pay more money, they see the additional value," contended SAP spokesman Bill Wohl.

He repeated SAP's earlier claim that the move was made to help the company deal with increasingly complex customer implementations and not simply to drive revenue.

Ray Wang, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc. in Cambridge, Mass., suggested that SAP users work together to determine the value of the new service.

There's a "broad consensus" among Forrester clients that they may have to offer "some concessions" to SAP, "but it's also important to understand what value they may receive," Wang said. "That's a fair discussion."

Kanaracus is a reporter for the IDG News Service.

This story originally appeared in Computerworld's print edition.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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