I love attending these events because they bring me back to reality. While we squabble in the IT press over the market’s innovation via the cloud and mobile devices, customers’ challenges in the trenches are considerably more prosaic and perhaps, even more challenging.
I heard the same theme from attendees there that I’ve heard over and over again at SAP shows – “our board doesn’t think we’re getting the ROI from our SAP installation that it counted on.” And, “folks are going off and buying software to do things that we could probably do in SAP, if they’d just ask us.”
I’ve heard many times that one of the major problems with SAP is that the person who championed and launched the SAP system is long gone. Now, a new IT manager is in place, and charged with proving the ROI of a system that he or she didn’t advocate for in the first place.
Abiomed CIO Sharon Kaiser was tackling a similar problem when she was hired by the company, which manufacturers heart support and recovery products. She was gracious enough to invite my colleague Barney Beal and me to her offices, where we discussed her efforts to get more from Abiomed’s SAP applications. Among her initiatives:
1. Build subject matter expert teams from each functional area. She has employees master their own functional area by taking additional training. They then share that information with their department through mediums like “lunch and learns” dedicated to particular processes -from how to enter travel and expense report to how to look at different budget views.
2. Encourage users to take a close look at their own problems in the system before running to IT. Deep-dive trainings in different modules are a big part of this. For instance, Abiomed hosted a five-day intensive training for users of the FICO modules, which covered everything from what the icons meant to budget reporting.
“The overall goal is to really learn the system and then learn the capabilities of the system,” she said. “Then, we can expand its use at Abiomed.”
You can watch the video interview here.
The challenge of getting users into the system, getting them comfortable with it and getting them to think about the possibilities for extending its use is no small order. But organizations like Abiomed are proving there are simple steps you can take to get there.]]>
That sentiment jived with a survey we recently conducted on SAP priorities on SearchSAP.com. Most of our readers said they weren’t using SAP’s GRC applications, either because they weren’t aware of them or they didn’t need them.
But Caldwell’s clients are finding that managing everything in Excel leads to “spreadsheet chaos,” he said. Therefore, he’s seeing more interest in buying one platform to automate these processes.
And to that end, they’re looking for something to manage both Enterprise GRC and IT GRC. Enterprise GRC software automates the process of collecting data related to risk and compliance. IT GRC applies controls around the infrastructure and validates the controls enabled by these applications are working properly.
SAP isn’t ready to meet all of their needs, but it took a step in that direction last week with a partnership announcement with CA.
SAP has steadily been boosting its GRC platform, Caldwell said. Last year, SAP enabled integration between the compliance management piece (controls and testing of controls) and the risk management piece (risk assessments are a very important part of planning and scoping where put compliance efforts)
Now, SAP’s looking at how improve the visibility and integration of both audit management and the policy management, Caldwell said. SAP’s doing the development work now, and the software should be in ramp-up by the end of the year sometime in 2011.
With CA, SAP plans to sell customers integrated tools to manage IT GRC and Enterprise GRC.
In turn, the partnership with CA is not exclusive – and that is a good thing. SAP customers already have other products to manage IT GRC — such as Symantec and McAfee — and SAP needs to make it easier to integrate with those products, Caldwell said.
Yet it’s still playing catch-up – vendors such as Oracle and best-of-breeds like OpenPages still lead the way.
But SAP’s making headway here – including against its “next largest competitor,” according to a blog by Michael Rassmussen.
“To date, Oracle has had the broadest ala carte GRC offering. But customers regularly complain to Corporate Integrity about the lack of integration between the breadth of Oracle GRC solutions. SAP and CA offer a deeper suite of GRC solutions but have already demonstrated interesting integration between critical products. If you consider SAP’s additional partnership with Greenlight Technologies – SAP extends into the Oracle environment for managing GRC.”
Rymer writes that SAP’s biggest chance for success is selling software to its enormous existing customer base.
With this in mind, allow me to beat a dead horse, or perhaps resurrect him. SAP’s working on a bunch of innovative things to keep its customers coming back for more- mobile, in-memory, on-demand. But if SAP’s future is based on making its existing customer base happy – let’s revisit something that made them extremely unhappy – the infamous maintenance and support fee hike.
One of the ways that customers expressed the distaste for the new maintenance and support policies was by not spending with SAP on discretionary projects.
“I think they were listening to their sales channels, and the people who processed purchase orders from customers who had nothing to do all year,” Duncan Jones said to me in a previous interview on why SAP caved and offered two-tiered support. “I think it was the impact on license revenue as much as the vocal complaints.”
I.e., because customers didn’t buy stuff, SAP caved and offered two maintenance and support options.
But is the issue really resolved? SAP mentor Jon Reed and I chatted the other day about the fact that while SAP sort of won the PR war on this issue, there really isn’t much of an option at all. Inflation and fees for extended support on releases older than ECC 6.0 will bring SAP Standard Support close to the cost of SAP Enterprise Support eventually. Dave Dobrin penned an excellent blog post on the topic. We’ve covered the Standard Support issue as well.
Could renewed attention on the maintenance and support issue be one key to keeping customers with SAP? And just as SAP is embarking on an “Apollo project” with in-memory, on-demand and mobile, isn’t the same boldness of vision needed in the maintenance and support question?
Reed said that “the whole support issue suffers from a failure of imagination.”
The KPI program with SUGEN could be called imaginative. SAP said it was a “model for the evolution of software support.” User groups sang its praises. And then, suddenly, when SAP re-introduced “options,” it was gone. SAP blamed it on the program being too difficult. My understanding is that tracking the KPIs relied on heavy use of Solution Manager, and many companies hadn’t configured it for the task.
But there are still ways SAP could revolutionize the maintenance and support model. SAP constantly touts SDN, and with good reason. SDN/SCN is one of SAP’s crown jewels, and one of the most “innovative” things a vendor long criticized for not being all that innovative has fostered.
Many customers are looking to their peers through SDN to solve their support issues. Some in the market have suggested that, in some way, participation levels on SDN could be leveraged toward maintenance and support contracts. Perhaps eventually the same model could be applied for user group forums.
You’ve got to start somewhere.
“The maintenance cow that all these vendors have milked is going to become a little skinny goat. And the more you hold onto it, the more in the end you’re going to lose,” Reed said.]]>