SAP Watch

Jul 9 2010   2:03PM GMT

Where’s the innovation around SAP maintenance and support?

CourtneyBjorlin Courtney Bjorlin Profile: CourtneyBjorlin

This piece by Forrester’s John Rymer was blowing up my Twittersphere Thursday morning. Don’t write off SAP, Rymer contends, because, among other things, SAP is the worldwide IT foundation of so many organizations.

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.

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