Should Customers Charge Indirect Access Fees to SAP?

Executive Summary

  • SAP charges customers indirect access for connecting to their systems.
  • If SAP can charge customer’s indirect access, then can SAP be charged indirect access for connecting to the customer’s legacy?


Indirect access is when a software vendor charges to access the data that is stored in their system. The concept is still relatively new and tends to only apply to very powerful software companies that have products already installed at companies. SAP customers do not typically find out about indirect access restrictions during the sales process.

Indirect access is presented as if it is copyright protection, but the way it is often treated by SAP, it is an enlargement of copyright protection. Moreover, almost undiscussed in a published form, indirect access is used by large vendors to block out smaller vendors. Indirect access is, therefore, a kind of account control. Moreover, like any technique of account, control, indirect access is designed to point as many IT expenditures as possible back to the large IT vendor.

SAP Charges for Access

I was recently sent this comment from someone that works for SAP.

“If I am connecting to the SAP ERP system and extracting data that the ERP system’s application logic has captured, manipulated and stored then am I not using the fruits of the IP that SAP have developed? I nice, ‘clean’, structured repository of customer data. That data would not exist if SAP IP was not there. If that is the case then I am still using the result of SAP’s IP. If that is the case then shouldn’t SAP be compensated for that use?”

This is from an employee of SAP who in no way sets policy. This is a very good representation of how SAP views the right to charge customer for accessing their data when it is managed by a SAP application.

SAP, the Zsa Zsa Gabor of Software Vendors!

SAP is the Zsa Zsa Gabor of software companies. Zsa Zsa Gabor was a Hollywood starlet and a highly accomplished gold digger.

Zsa Zsa Gabor was one to have famously remarked that.

I am a marvelous housekeeper. Every time I leave a man, I keep his house.
I never hated a man enough to give him his diamonds back.
A man in love is incomplete until he has married. Then he’s finished.

The reason I bring this up is understanding the mind of an entitled gold digger is excellent background to understanding the psychology of SAP. If you speak with many people that work for SAP, you get the distinct impression that they feel they are owed a certain amount of revenues from their customers. SAP is now in the legacy stage of its lifecycle. However, through one mechanism or another, SAP expects its customers to maintain them in the “lifestyle to which they have become accustomed.”

SAP is Successful Because of Good Software?

People who work for SAP tend to be quite confused as to nature or reasons for SAP’s financial success. SAP is in large part successful because of all the software vendors; it was the most successful in corrupting the advisement function of the large consulting companies. SAP figured out early on.

This insulates SAP from competition. This means that now matter how uncompetitive SAP’s applications, IBM, Deloitte, Accenture and many others will fall all over themselves to recommend SAP’s applications to customers. This is because SAP allows their consulting partners to do virtually all of the consulting. SAP’s consulting division represents only around 3% of the company’s revenues.

And it should be noted that no other software vendor is close in this regard.

Oracle is another mega-vendor.

But Oracle does not have anything near the lock in from the major consulting companies than does SAP. Each of the major consulting companies has Oracle practices. However, they are much smaller in revenues and headcount than the SAP divisions within these same companies. For consulting companies generally, there is no other software vendor that you can make as much money on as specializing in SAP.

Advice on Enjoying the SAP Indirect Access Quiz

To see the full screen just select the lower right-hand corner and expand. Trust us, expanding makes the experience a whole lot more fun.


How SAP Controls Accounts

SAP has a tried and tested way of taking control of its accounts. This is explained by the following graphic.


Charging SAP for Indirect Access

SAP increasingly believes that its customers owe it license revenue for only connecting another application to SAP’s applications. Sap does not pay its clients a fee for connecting to its legacy applications. This seems unfair. So what needs to be added to future SAP contracts is indirect access fees to client legacy applications.

Financial Disclosure

Financial Bias Disclosure

Neither this article nor any other article on the Brightwork website is paid for by a software vendor, including Oracle, SAP or their competitors. As part of our commitment to publishing independent, unbiased research; no paid media placements, commissions or incentives of any nature are allowed.

What We Do and Research Access

Using the Diagram

Hover over each bullet or plus sign to see more explanation. To move to a different bullet point, just “hover off” and then hover over the new bullet.


Research Access

  • Do You Need to Access Research in this Area?

    Put our independent analysis to work for you to improve your spend.

What We Do and Research Access

Using the Diagram

Hover over each bullet or plus sign to see more explanation. To move to a different bullet point, just “hover off” and then hover over the new bullet.


Research Access

  • Do You Need to Access Research in this Area?

    Put our independent analysis to work for you to improve your spend.



How To Best Understand SAP as Legacy for Software Companies

Executive Summary

  • It is increasingly evident that SAP has a very high maintenance overhead, and that the new products from SAP are worse than SAP’s ERP system.
  • The new concept for getting value from SAP is to use non-SAP applications with non-SAP infrastructures like AWS and Google Cloud.

Introduction to SAP as Legacy

In a previous article titled SAP is Now Strip Mining its Customers, I laid out why I think that SAP has reached an inflection point in its history and should now be treated by companies as selling legacy systems. In short form, the most accurate way of thinking is that SAP is legacy. There is a lot of background that is necessary to cover to understand why I have come to this conclusion so that I won’t retrace the evidence in this article. But please go back to the original article link above if you have not read it.

The Flaw in the Current Interpretation of SAP

For decades now, SAP has been seen as a software vendor with a broad suite of applications that are at least somewhat competitive. The concept was that SAP would bring out improvements in functionality that was important to its customers.

This way of viewing SAP, which has become increasingly out of sync with the reality of SAP, drove everything from SAP software purchases to companies paying what is now a minimum of 23% in support. Yet, under the construct of SAP as legacy, the question other software vendors have asked me is how they can take advantage of SAP’s new phase. This article is for them.

How Other Software Companies React

For other vendors, you now face a crack in the facade or an opening. Brightwork Research & Analysis is early in this analysis. My article on SAP is Now is Strip Mining its Customers is the first article that presented SAP as legacy, or even associates SAP with being a legacy system or a set of legacy systems.

Almost all the media entities that cover SAP take money from SAP. Therefore, they cannot bring up this point even if they wanted to.

Software Vendors Effectively Following the Wedge

If you are a software vendor reading this, this reality of SAP as legacy does present considerable opportunities.

Yet does your company know SAP to widen that crack?

Let us review two areas to see how software companies that compete with SAP can follow the wedge.

  1. The Software Company’s Understanding of SAP
  2. The SAP Partner Program

The Software Company’s Understanding of SAP

I have spoken to many vendors that compete in my time, and in my view, only a small minority understand how to compete against SAP. Most software vendors are very good at focusing on and presenting their value proposition. But they do so often without any consideration of how the chessboard has already been set by SAP before you get to make your case. SAP sets the chessboard that the other software vendors work on in the following ways:

  • Through Conferences
  • Through SAP Partners
  • Through SAP Marketing Literature
  • Through the Incentives of the IT departments

All of these things are present before these vendors even begin to present their value proposition.

It should be noted that much of the information presented through the mechanisms listed above are false. Yet, they are still useful in shaping the views of the buyers. I can come up with example after example of how SAP stopped competitors by pitting immature products against established and effective applications through promising future growth in what the application could do.

One example of this is in the service parts planning space.

The MCA Solutions Story

Back in 2006, a vendor called MCA Solutions had one of the highest rated applications I had ever tested called SPO. SPO focused on the most challenging problem in supply planning, called service parts planning. SPO performed services parts planning using two sets of advanced mathematics called inventory optimization and multi-echelon planning.

  • *I have an article here which provides an overview of this category of software.
  • *See my book on this topic if you have the interest.

SAP developed a partnership with MCA Solutions and developed an xApp that worked with MCA Solutions. But they eventually dropped MCA as a partner. SAP took a significant amount of knowledge about service parts from MCA and launching its SPP product, which was a stand alone application. (For more detail on the xApp program, see the note at the end of this article.)

For years SAP customers were lulled into going with SPP over MCA SPO because it had the SAP name, would integrate better, etc..

So where are we close to 10 years later?

  • MCA Solutions was eventually purchased by Servigistics, which subordinated SPO to its services parts planning application, and they were, in turn, themselves acquired by PTC. I believe SPO has been all but erased from the marketplace.
  • SPP has bombed at every account it has been implemented, wasting enormous amounts of resources. I published on SPP’s implementation problems back in 2010, as you can see in this article. I paid to attend both the one week SPP classes at the SAP in 2008. Yet, when I tested SPP back in 2008, I found numerous areas of the application that simply did not work. The application had a weak design, and even if its functionality had worked, it still would not have been a competitive application with MCA SPO. Millions and millions of dollars spent and virtually no improvement to the planning of service parts. More money has been allocated to keep SPP applications on life support so that the company can cover up the fact that the application does not work and to protect themselves from the political consequences of being seen as responsible for the error.
  • I currently categorize SPP as one of SAP’s dead applications. At a recent client, SPP was introduced as a potential solution by a member of the client’s IT department with deficient standards of evidence. He showed me a PPT with around ten customer “references.” I was able to recognize at least 5 of the ten references that had already failed with SPP. I was able to find out the real story on 2 of the others on the list, and it turned out they had implemented SPP, but few people were using it. I was not able to verify the other three.

The MCA Application

The end result is that one of the best applications I have ever tested in MCA lost market share to one of the worst I have ever tested in SPP. And here is a critical point for vendors that compete with SAP to consider.

SAP never demonstrated any competence with SPP.

They future sold gullible clients who decided to not do the basic research into the application that I did do.

For competing vendors, you cannot rely upon prospects to do their research on SAP’s products or the overall usage of the SAP products in the marketplace.

SAP’s Problematic or Dead Applications

I have already listed SAP’s dead or problematic applications in the strip mining article. But as a software vendor, you have to raise the issue of the overall success (or lack of progress) of the SAP application. This is because most SAP customers tend to assume that other customers are having success with the application, and they just did not have success because of an implementation failing, poorly trained users, etc.. I am amazed how often I go to clients and they tell me they would like me to fix an issue that is actually a well-known software bug, but which SAP support has hidden from them. There are SAP customers that are repeatedly attempting to bring functionality online that I have already tested and have determined should not be activated and it is not useful.

  • Dynamic Safety Stock (called Enhanced Safety Stock by SAP): SAP’s dynamic safety stock is one example of this.
  • Deployment Optimizer: Companies are still trying to use SAP’s deployment optimizer in SNP (it is a procedure that moves inventory through the supply network) and paying SAP above the standard 23% support to try to get benefit out of it. I have already tested and published on being unable to produce logical and useful output under any circumstances.
  • Best Fit Procedure in SAP DP: The best fit procedure, where a forecast system selects the appropriate statistical forecasting model, is not reliable enough in SAP DP to use in a production environment. Yet consulting companies continue to bill clients for using and tuning problematic functionality that can be accessed far more robustly outside of SAP, with the results ported back to SAP DP.

This is how bad the information sharing is on issues is in the SAP space.

The Problem with SAP’s Flexibility

SAP systems significantly reduce the flexibility of their customers. With indirect access, SAP can control which applications are connected to SAP applications. This dawning awareness of SAP’s inflexibility is highlighted in the following quote from the book SAP Nation 2.0.

“When ERP was in its heyday, CEOs and business executives wanted reliable and integrated solutions, so they seized upon ERP as the way to provide….Business stakeholders still want these same qualities, but now they assume that these qualities will be present in any software solution, and their requirements have switched to the twin concerns of lowering IT costs and seeking increased flexibility. A system that is not sufficiently flexible to meet changing business demands is an anchor, not a sail, holding the business back, not driving it forward.”

How the SAP Partner Program Censors Partners and Reduced Competition

A significant part of SAP’s success, probably the most crucial part is its partner network. There are over 10,000 SAP partners. SAP will partner with just about anyone.

Software vendors that are part of the SAP partner program are themselves guilty of promoting partnerships with SAP as being far more significant than it is in terms of how it benefits customers. Here are the most essential characteristics of the SAP partnership program.

  • The SAP partner program is a primary way that SAP reduces the competition that it faces in the marketplace. The SAP partnership program is never mentioned in the same sentence as competition limiting, but the way that SAP uses it, it certainly qualifies. There are too many dimensions to discuss to fit in this article, as SAP’s partnership program is its own detailed subject. But a lot of underhanded things happen in the SAP partnership program. The partnership program also changes for small market countries, and it differs based upon the size of the software vendor, and along many other dimensions.
  • The SAP partner program is how SAP controls the marketing output of companies that compete against it. Software vendors start off thinking that they will benefit from the agreement, and before they know it, they are being played like a piano by SAP.

SAP’s Leverage Over SAP Partners

SAP has considerable leverage over SAP partners, as the partners often need or believe they need their certification or partnership credentials to sell into SAP accounts.

  • In most cases, the actual certifications are falsified. It is common for a single field to be sent across to SAP and for that to necessarily certify the software company.
  • SAP puts minimal effort into testing the technical validity of a certification, say of an adapter.
  • Simply put, SAP certification is much more about marketing hoopla than engineering.

There are a variety of SAP certification logos that companies that have “become certified” can place on their websites.

This certification can be found on the websites of many software vendors. The SAP Partner program for software vendors is more of a marketing construct. Every software vendor likes to state that they are a certified partner. 

The following are essential characteristics of the partner program.

  • Who Are Partners?: Most vendors that complete with SAP are partners with SAP.
  • SAP Censorship: They are limited in what they can say by their partner agreements.
  • No Referrals: SAP only very rarely refers business to their partners.
  • Second Banana: Most SAP software partners feel they are mistreated by SAP. SAP regularly stabs their partners in the back to push sales over to their applications, even when the fit between the requirement of their customers and the SAP application is either terrible or if the SAP application is not yet ready to be implemented.
  • Lowering Competition: SAP has partnered with any software vendors (almost) that competed with them, and then uses controls gained from the partnership agreement to reduce that vendor’s ability to compete with them. The software vendor becomes normalized to presenting their solution as complementary to SAP rather than competitive with SAP so as not to ruffle any SAP feathers.

There is, in fact, no real partnership. It is a false construct. It is a marketing construct that exists primarily in the minds of buyers. The SAP partnership, with its effect on competition, is an interesting curiosity because it is not willingly entered into by software vendors. It is enthusiastically entered into by these software vendors.

I can’t tell you how many software vendors became partners in part because they thought SAP would bring them deals.

The Importance of Software Vendors Knowing The Limits of Their Knowledge

If you are in senior management at a software vendor, who believed this, you then you did not have enough exposure to or information about SAP to compete against them. And its good to know this so that you can address the issue because addressing the issue has good potential to lead to higher sales.

SAP is a complex beast and cannot be understood with light or occasional exposure. It often surprises me that SAP marketing works not only on customers but works almost as well on competing software vendors. They will often come to assume that many of the fanciful items presented by SAP marketing are, in fact, true.

How SAP Will Deal With its Customers that do Not Comply

If you do not show interest in buying SAP, you will most likely be subject to an audit.

This is described by Ray Wang.

  1. “Open up dormant accounts. After pleasant introductions, new sales reps will use this technique to further deals.  Former sales reps agree this is a shake-down for cash technique.
  2. Drive sales through fear of audits. Audits are used to start the discussion.  Unsuspecting customers who no longer have context about the original contract may fear a breach of contract.
  3. Scare customers into making additional purchases. Threats are used to set expectations.  The vendors often waive the issue if the customer buys additional licenses as a “compromise”
  4. Force compliance into new licensing policies. Vendors use this as a way to drive conformity to new license models.  The move from concurrent usage to named users was one example.
  5. Meet territory sales goals. Unscrupulous sales managers suggest this technique to meet their numbers.  Sales reps are told they are defending the vendors’ license rights.” – Ray Wang, Constellation Research

Inappropriate Constructs in IT Decision Making for Companies Using SAP

Every SAP shop in the world is now following a faulty construct. It is a construct somewhat based upon the past, but which was always exaggerated, and it goes something like this.

SAP is a leading software vendor. We rely upon SAP’s new products to improve our IT capability. SAP’s applications are not always the best, but they connect back to the “mothership,” the ERP system. Therefore, whenever possible we will buy SAP.

This construct has been leading to bad IT software decisions at companies using SAP for over twenty years. The downsides of relying upon this construct are about to get worse. Here is why: 

  1. Post-ERP Applications: SAP’s non-ERP applications have not been value added to companies that implemented them. And we have several decades of data points on this fact.
  2. S/4HANA and HANA: SAPs new ERP system S4 is not compelling, and its new database, HANA, is not differentiated from the competition.
  3. SAP Support Decline: SAP support has dramatically declined in the past ten years and is now mostly outsourced to the lowest cost countries, pushing the maintenance burden to SAP customers. SAP now expects a 90% margin on the 23% basic support that it charges customers.
  4. Indirect Access and Other Trickery: Lacking the ability to meet Wall Street growth demands, existing SAP investments are increasingly a liability. This is because SAP intends to use its power, size, and legal muscle to use indirect access to either receive monies for ERP licenses or arm twist purchases of uncompetitive applications.

This construct is reinforced by companies using SAP by both the IT department within the company. And the consulting company without. As the best decision becomes to migrate or diversify away from SAP, the IT department and the IT consulting companies push in the opposite direction from this.

Many IT departments place SAP above the interests of the business of the company they work for. This observation has come from many years of interacting with IT departments at companies using SAP. I have presented to numerous IT organizations over the years the problems with various SAP applications that they purchased, and I am invariably told that.

“The thing is Shaun, we are an SAP shop.”

Therefore, SAP customers should be on notice that your IT department will, in most cases lack sufficient independence from SAP to represent the interest of the company they work for, and by the way, that pays their salary. How this was accomplished, at least the full story, is still a mystery to me.

  • The IT Department: The IT department and IT consulting companies had somewhat of a role, will now increasingly serve as a barrier as the reduction in investment from SAP begins.
  • Large IT Consultancies: As for the large IT consulting companies. They have hundreds of thousands of SAP consultants and investments in SAP and revenues from SAP. For a large IT consulting company, the only advice they provide is to invest more in SAP implementation. The large IT consultancies have a business model to protect, and it will be protected. These companies are a major liability. Given this environment, what is the value of that advice exactly?

Advice on Enjoying the SAP Quiz

To see the full screen just select the lower right-hand corner and expand. Trust us, expanding makes the experience a whole lot more fun.


How SAP Controls Accounts

SAP has a tried and tested way of taking control of its accounts. This is explained by the following graphic.



SAP has passed into a new phase of its existence and its marketing machine is intense. The term reality distortion field seems appropriate.

The fact remains that outside of SAP ERP, the returns from SAP’s other applications have been extremely weak (something I have covered in my previous articles). Of all software companies, SAP has the most implementations of applications that add little value to their customers. This makes sense as for decades SAP has had all of the major SIs mindlessly shilling for them. Therefore the SAP “garden” is overgrown with “weeds” and various applications with serious problems. The IT departments in these customers often try to defend these bad applications by pointing out the stupidity of the users or denying the problems.

This information comes from two decades of evaluating SAP installations at many accounts. However, you don’t hear this information because the people that now have a financial incentive not to publish this. This is the real story, not the paid off story offered by SAP consulting companies. These SAP applications are vulnerable, particularly after it can be explained that each of them has little in the way of a future. You can only promise the future for so long until it eventually arrives. Well, the future is now here.

Brightwork Research & Analysis published the first article to call out SAP applications as legacy. Although if you read SAP Nation by Vinnie Mirchandani, he says essentially the same thing, without using the terminology of “SAP as legacy.” Realistically, there is no likelihood of SAP bringing out future products that do anything special. SAP still has an ERP system. But outside of that, there is not much to be concerned about, in real rather than perceptual terms.

But now the question turns to what software vendors can do to take advantage of this opportunity.

Note on the SAP xApps Program

Back in 2010, I called for the SAP xApp program to be terminated as it was resulting in a large amount of intellectual property being extracted from software vendors and transferred to SAP. And that companies that were engaging in the xApp partnership were naive to how SAP operated. In my article, I stated it is a program that should have been reviewed by the US Federal Trade Commission. Larger software companies are not supposed to have a program where they promise improved sales that largely never materialize to Hoover up their IP.

I also covered how SAP used a partnership with i2 Technologies to extract intellectual property from them in the 1990s to use as the basis of SAP APO. I covered this story in the early drafts of my book on Discover SAP SCM. This material was censored from the book by the publisher SAP Press, and so it never appeared in the published version. My experience with SAP Press promoted me not to publish books through traditional publishers.

There are no publishers in the SAP space who will publish 100% truthful information on SAP. But unfortunately for me, that is the only information I was or am interested in writing or publishing. SCM Focus Press is my publishing company, where all the books are uncensored.

Financial Disclosure

Financial Bias Disclosure

Neither this article nor any other article on the Brightwork website is paid for by a software vendor, including Oracle, SAP or their competitors. As part of our commitment to publishing independent, unbiased research; no paid media placements, commissions or incentives of any nature are allowed.

What We Do and Research Access

Using the Diagram

Hover over each bullet or plus sign to see more explanation. To move to a different bullet point, just “hover off” and then hover over the new bullet.


Research Access

  • Do You Need to Access Research in this Area?

    Put our independent analysis to work for you to improve your spend.

What We Do and Research Access

Using the Diagram

Hover over each bullet or plus sign to see more explanation. To move to a different bullet point, just “hover off” and then hover over the new bullet.


Research Access

  • Do You Need to Access Research in this Area?

    Put our independent analysis to work for you to improve your spend.



How SAP is Now Strip Mining its Customers

Executive Summary

  • There are facts of the Diageo vs. SAP case that bring up important questions regarding SAP’s logic and what a poor job Diageo did in this case.
  • To understand indirect access as enforced by SAP, it is necessary to connect the topic to CRM and SAP’s concern with Salesforce.


  • In this article, I will cover a change I observed that I think needs to occur on how to interpret SAP correctly.
  • This change will not be accepted by many, particularly those with a financial bias towards SAP. An analysis of multiple data points, observed over several years support this conclusion presented in this article. I have included quite a bit of evidence, as well as links that provide more support into specific details.

Let us begin with the recent Diageo vs. SAP case.

The Facts of The Diageo vs. SAP Case

In the case that was tried in a UK court, SAP just recently won its case against its longtime customer, Diageo. The following quotation provides an excellent synopsis.

“Diageo also licenses SAP Process Integration, which it has used to connect Gen2 and Connect with its core SAP system. Although the applications’ end users don’t directly interact with SAP, the company contended that it was also entitled to named user licenses for those end customers—all 5,800 of them.”Constellation Research

This is a highly controversial case as it deals with indirect access. I covered indirect access as it pertains to HANA in my last article, however right after that article was written, the judgment was announced in this case in the UK. The case has left a lot of people scratching their heads. I followed the judge’s logic, and she tried to get to an equitable judgment. But I believe the judge made an error regarding the basic interpretation of the legitimacy of indirect access.

The liability for Diageo is substantial. If the judgment stands, they will owe SAP roughly $70 million.

The Connection of ERP to a CRM System

I do not know precisely how Salesforce (the CRM system) was connected to the SAP ERP system at Diageo. However, I have spent a significant amount of time in application integration. In the vast majority of cases, a CRM system integrates with the SAP ERP system in two primary areas of data. One is the customer data, and the other is sales history. The CRM system does not need to access any application logic in the ERP system. Application logic was applied to the sales order process in SAP ERP to create the data that sits in the SAP ERP system database.

All of this is a typical integration between systems. Something that, up until a few years ago, did not require the purchase of extra ERP licenses from SAP.

SAP proposed in its lawsuit that this was “indirect access” to its SAP ERP system software. Diageo suggested that it wasn’t, and the judge sided with SAP, although in a strange outcome, the judge was not able to find the appropriate SAP license that applied to the usage.

The quote below from Computer Weekly:

“In my judgment, there is no applicable named user category for the Connect customers… They do not have access to source or object code. They do not have access to the functionality provided by SAP ERP in support of the wider operation of Diageo’s business. They access business process functions and information from the database for the purpose of ordering products and managing their own personal accounts only.”

This is quite confusing. How can Diageo be responsible for paying an SAP license that even after litigation, it is unclear as to which SAP user license applies?

Interestingly, SAP wanted, even more, money from Diageo than was granted.

“..she (the judge) resisted SAP’s full demands, declaring that such usage did not need to be licensed at professional user level – £9,400 per user including VAT, as demanded by SAP – but rather as other types of users that could not be identified and were not listed in SAP’s price lists.”

Again, SAP has a large number of SAP user / SAP license types on its price list.

The following questions naturally arise.

  • How can the way that Diageo users used Salesforce not to fall into one of these categories? What occurs to me is that the SAP users’ definitions were created before indirect access was initiated as a concept.
  • How can any SAP customer figure out the appropriate SAP license if a litigated court case cannot make that determination?

My View on the Diageo Case

The only type of indirect access definition that I find reasonable is when an entity essentially duplicates the functionality or a part of the functionality of a software vendor and then uses that functionality to circumvent the intent of the application which it purchased from that software vendor. The Diageo case is not even close to meeting that definition because SAP ERP does not have CRM functionality. SAP has its CRM software, which is purchased as a separate product from the SAP ERP system. Salesforce CRM relies on data in the SAP ERP system. But there is no duplication of functionality and no circumvention of functionality that is possible by using Salesforce CRM when connected to the SAP ERP system.

For people that don’t work in IT for a living, there is, in fact, a straightforward way of testing whether SAP should have had a valid case of indirect access against Diageo. And it is this.

If Diageo had purchased SAP CRM instead of Salesforce CRM, would SAP still have demanded that Diageo pay them for the same number of SAP ERP licenses?

If the answer is “no,” then this is anti-competitive protection. If the answer is “yes,” then the Diageo case was correctly determined in the UK.

However, the answer is, in fact, “no.” There is, in my view, no way that SAP would have made a claim against Diageo if Diageo had purchased SAP CRM instead of Salesforce CRM.

Now many people know the terms offered to SAP customers that will read this article. If anyone disagrees with my statement, then comment on this article. I am very interested in learning how what I proposed is not the case, or under what conditions it would not be the case.

SAP as Legacy

This case, along with a buildup of performing many years of research on SAP, ranging from SAP technology to SAP business practices, has lead me to conclude something I think is quite significant.

SAP is now legacy.

Back in the 80s, SAP marketed against legacy systems. SAP, along with Gartner and all of the major and most the minor IT consulting companies told potential customers the following: 

  • ERP systems would eliminate all homegrown legacy systems with a single system.
  • ERP systems would be the only systems that these companies would ever need.

As this period predates my career, I learned of this in what I can only describe as hidden history from my research for the book The Real Story Behind ERP. All of these entities (SAP, Gartner, the consulting companies) were amazingly inaccurate in their predictions on ERP. And, each of these entities communicated these unproven messaging without worrying about compiling a shred of evidence.

  • My review of all the research into the productivity of ERP systems revealed that there was never any evidence for ERP having any return on investment.
  • While fabulously wrong, the biggest proponents of ERP, were also its major beneficiaries.

SAP has used its ERP system to push customers to buy more systems from SAP. However, after customers purchased the ERP system, they faced a diminishing marginal utility from each additional SAP purchase. There is a strong trend at play here, and it has been largely ignored. But the more the company invests in SAP, the less they incrementally get out. That has been the reality for the past few decades. And now, there are increasing liabilities to maintaining or growing one’s SAP footprint. Costs continually rise, and any company is now potentially subject to an audit and to indirect access fees that, in most cases, would never have been actionable at the time, the SAP software was purchased.

SAP’s Problematic Sustainability

As with the companies from the 1980s who had become overwhelmed with the maintenance of so many homegrown legacy systems, SAP’s unsustainability is now ever more apparent. 

Let us talk about just a few of the reasons why. “Why” could probably be the subject of a lengthy paper, but we can review a few of the most essential factors in a less comprehensive form. 

  • The Casual Strip Mining of Customers Using Constructs like Indirect Access
  • The Decline of Post ERP products
  • The Failure on SAP’s Big Bets like S/4HANA and HANA

I have covered the use of indirect access to extract from a customer. Something which is missed by just about every analyst that covers SAP is that most of its post ERP applications have not been successful.

With its top-selling ERP system, SAP embarked on a diversification into other application categories in the 1990s. Let us now discuss those applications.

Post SAP ERP System Applications

If we review these applications, while they have certainly generated sales, none of them can be considered successful technically.

Here is a brief overview of post ERP applications that SAP released.

  • SAP BW – Business Warehouse: A lagging BI application with famously high operating and maintenance costs.
  • SAP CRM: Very close to a dead application.
  • SAP PLM – Product Life Cycle Management: Never actually existed.
  • SAP Netweaver: Never actually existed (a container or marketing construct for a hodgepodge of mostly infrastructure tools)
  • SAP SRM – Supplier Relationship Management: A dead application (supposedly replaced with Ariba)
  • SAP APO – Advanced Planner and Optimizer: A lagging set of supply chain planning applications.
  • SAP MDM – Master Data Management: A dead application.
  • SAP Solution Manager: A dead application.

These were all homegrown applications. SAP customers invested enormously in these applications, and what was the payoff? Each of the applications above either does not work or is limping along in companies. Each of the applications has declined in prominence since released. Imagine how many resources were wasted in buying, implemented, and maintaining these applications?


One of the more successful product suites was APO (my area of expertise, and a suite of applications for which I have authored five books). While consulting with them has paid the bills, I can’t say that companies see much business value from APO. The maintenance overhead on APO is quite large, and customers tend not to like using the APO modules. So again, the waste involved here is overwhelming when we consider all implementations of these products globally. Now Deloitte or Accenture see this list, and a big smile comes over their faces, but it is hard to look at this list as an implementing company and have many good feelings. Mostly these applications are just a bunch of bad memories for those that bought them.

I should also bring up; I am one of the only SAP consultants who will write this. It is the case that SAP consultants will come up with any excuse they can to support the reasonableness of using the list of products listed above. It is accepted that as an SAP consultant, you both only say and write positive things about SAP, and most SAP consultants I have met have no knowledge of applications outside of SAP.

I chalk this up to financial bias; it is impossible for me to believe that the inherent limitations of the list above are not self-evident to many SAP consultants. However, it should be remembered that most SAP consultants work for a SAP consulting company, and writing what I have written, or any real criticism would be an excellent way to get fired from a consulting company. SAP consultancies are about profit maximization, not truth-telling, or following an evidence-based approach to coming to conclusions.

Other Problematic SAP Applications

And of course, there were more applications, but none of them stand out much differently than what I listed above. SAP also has acquired some applications, from Business Objects to SuccessFactors to many others.

However, none of the acquired applications are even as prominent now as when they were purchased. Most are considerably less noticeable, and as development lags, they follow a trajectory very similar to IBM’s software acquisitions, where they become out of date and less relevant as time passes. SAP has quite a lot in common with IBM. IBM is doing reasonably well financially, but IBM has lost its ability to innovate or even to provide much value. They now rely upon acquisition, labor exploitation, lawyers, and contracts. IBM is no longer even a desirable employer.

The Failure on the Big Bets like S/4HANA and HANA

The next topic is that the big bets SAP has placed on HANA, and S/4HANA have not worked out anywhere near expectations. HANA is a moderately selling, super premium priced database. S/4HANA has minimal traction in the marketplace.

For those that know my writing, I have extensively covered both HANA and S/4HANA, and there is far less actual fire than smoke on these products. See my other articles on these products on my LinkedIn article page. The sales for both do not contribute very much to SAP’s revenues.

And now, we get to why SAP has to employ something like indirect access. It is broadly known that SAP cannot meet growth goals. If we look at the applications released after ERP, the growth story is not there. The growth is not there with the big bets. HANA, S4, etc.

Indirect access merely is strip-mining their customers. Under that analysis, it is a marker or leading indicator of the decline of SAP. SAP is using indirect access, so it does not have to compete. This is textbook monopoly behavior. Textbook as in going way back, going back to Standard Oil in the US.


SAP’s CRM application is simply not competitive. How can SAP compete in the CRM space with Salesforce or BaseCRM with what SAP CRM has to offer?

It can’t.

  • My research entity reviewed SAP CRM, which you can see at this link.
  • Notice SAP CRM earned a 65% chance of project failure, higher than any other CRM system reviewed. (The risk estimate is an average, and not customized for anyone SAP customer)

And after reviewing all of these different data points is when I realized that SAP is the legacy system!

What is a legacy system? Well, it is a system you have relied upon historically, but which you are trying to minimize the investment into as you migrate to something more to “your liking.” No company can replace everything at once. Legacy is the portion of your systems that you rely upon, but which may be replaced at some later date.

The question now is not whether to grow your SAP investment but how to shrink it.

Who Figured This Out First?

Who had the best bead on this? I nominate Vinnie Mirchandani. He laid out in his book SAP Nation and SAP Nation 2.0 how unsustainable the whole SAP industry was. And there are very few candidates for this title, as very few people were willing to write accurately about SAP.

The degree of groupthink on SAP has been awe-inspiring. 

Advice on Enjoying the SAP Quiz

To see the full screen just select the lower right-hand corner and expand. Trust us, expanding makes the experience a whole lot more fun.


How SAP Controls Accounts

SAP has a tried and tested way of taking control of its accounts. This is explained by the following graphic.


Financial Disclosure

Financial Bias Disclosure

Neither this article nor any other article on the Brightwork website is paid for by a software vendor, including Oracle, SAP or their competitors. As part of our commitment to publishing independent, unbiased research; no paid media placements, commissions or incentives of any nature are allowed.

What We Do and Research Access

Using the Diagram

Hover over each bullet or plus sign to see more explanation. To move to a different bullet point, just “hover off” and then hover over the new bullet.


Research Access

  • Do You Need to Access Research in this Area?

    Put our independent analysis to work for you to improve your spend.

What We Do and Research Access

Using the Diagram

Hover over each bullet or plus sign to see more explanation. To move to a different bullet point, just “hover off” and then hover over the new bullet.


Research Access

  • Do You Need to Access Research in this Area?

    Put our independent analysis to work for you to improve your spend.