- SAP’s support has been eviscerated in an attempt to maximize its margin.
- What can be done about the SAP support conundrum?
Video Introduction: What to do About SAP’s Declining Support
Text Introduction (Skip if You Watched the Video)
SAP’s support has been in a long-term decline for many years. SAP has strip-mined the value out of support to increase its margins and push companies into increasingly expensive options like Max Attention. And by large, SAP customers have been obvious to this decline and have continued to reward SAP for bad behavior. At some point, SAP customers should question why they continue to give SAP for support, as the near entirety of this money ends up in SAP’s profit statement. You will learn how bad a value SAP’s support has become, but most importantly, what to do about it.
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Lack of Financial Bias Notice: We have no financial ties to SAP or any other entity mentioned in this article.
The SAP Support Conundrum
SAP HANA proponents can list all the positive aspects of in-memory computing, but that is not a relevant customer issue. The biggest problem that customers face is not the speed of processing of transactions. It is not that business intelligence output does not run fast enough. If SAP customers’ business processes, they may be happy but not resolving other priorities.
The speed of the database that SAP applications use would be far down on the list of factors that sub-optimize the SAP system’s benefits.
There are far more pressing issues that SAP customers face, such as:
- Maintaining current systems.
- Improving the uptake of the system by users.
- Configuring existing functionality that is working as desired.
- Maintaining their master data.
- SAP customer support.
This final bullet point of support is addressed in the book SAP Nation 2.0 by Vinnie Mirchandani. Vinnie is one of the few writers who write objectivity about SAP:
“While Bess was observing partner booths at SAPPHIRE, customers have been complaining that SAP’s own support has progressively gotten worse, even around the core SAP product.”
This quotation is also from SAP Nation 2.0
“Another customer is TT Electronics, a $1 billion UK based electronics manufacturer, whose CIO Ed Heffernan has been quoted as saying (SAP maintenance) is effectively an added tax that I have to pay for with no value in return.”
As is this one…
“Incitec Pivot, a $3 billion Australian industrial chemical company that has been an SAP customer for over two decades, uses Rimini for its ECC 6.0 and BW support. Besides the savings, CIO Martin Janssen cites better service: “We receive very clear service levels and faster case resolution that we never had previously.”
I sometimes help customers in following up on issues that mean working with SAP support.
While HANA receives massive SAP resources, people from the outside looking in have no inkling of how degenerate SAP support has become. SAP has minimized the investment in its support resources to the degree where the value-add is tiny. Still, SAP continues to receive massive support revenues from customers. It seems as if a significant awakening is imminent.
Getting Run in Circles by SAP Support
I have many OSS SAP support notes where SAP customers are run in circles, and customers are left to fend for themselves.
The English skills of many of the SAP support resources are quite poor. I have to rephrase my sentences with them. I have to ask the support person to backtrack assumptions because they do not understand what I am writing. I have a long history as a technical writer, so that is a problem if even I can’t get issues across.
And let us ponder this, SAP support resources can’t write coherent emails in English. How can they document anything? Documentation is foundational to support—it what allows the leverage of using accumulated knowledge.
Most SAP support resources would score a D or F in an English proficiency exam. This is most likely because, for almost all of them, English is not their first language.
I find it amusing that we like to discuss the importance of literacy in the US. While these people may be literate in their native language, they are not literate at any reasonable English level. SAP could have 100% literacy in its support organization, but it prefers not due to cost. The official position on literacy should be adjusted. Large multinationals are for literacy in their support organizations if it is cheap. They don’t value it if it costs them money (that is the definition of “valuing” something”).
For SAP, mistranslations are their customers’ problem. Let the customers bear the costs of working with support resources that are still trying to master both the system and English.
This travesty is not found in some small, inexpensive software vendors. It exists in some of the largest and most affluent software companies in the world. HP, IBM, SAP, and Microsoft have all spoken on this topic through their actions.
SAP Support: Better in Content Knowledge than (English) Literacy?
And as far as content knowledge, the story is not right there either. Too often, support personnel comes to the issue wholly fresh and inexperienced.
If you bring up an issue with me in my subject area in SAP, I will have often tested it or run into it before. I usually have it documented at Brightwork, and I don’t work in support. I do not see OSS notes or SCN (two of the primary sources of SAP support) documented to the level I have recorded issues at Brightwork Research & Analysis. Here is an article on parallel processing in SNP and another on the fair share logic in SNP. SAP is a $23 billion corporation and the 4rth largest software company in the world. I am one person. How small must SAP’s priority for support be?
Of course, I also can write that specific functionality does not work at all or as intended. SAP support hides this from customers as long as possible and will not own up to it. They might say it is not working in “your system.” But they know full well that the functionality is completely broken. One of the best quotes I heard from SAP is a comment on this article where SAP blamed the cloud. I recall one go around with SAP, where they had pulled in people from consulting to look at the issue. They just said it seemed to be set up as it should be, but they could not explain why it was not working.
In OSS or SCN, if the functionality does not work, it is papered over, or the thread of discussion stops. As was explained by the editors at SAP Press, when I wrote a book for them, my job in providing information in the book was to “make SAP look good.” Not to write what is true, mind you, write what made SAP look good. If something does not work, then you don’t bring it up in the book. That way, SAP “looks good,” but users then stumble over it later.
The problems with support are magnified by SAP’s lack of specialization among its support personnel. This is one of the most fundamental support efficiency concepts, and SAP cannot get it right.
I do not know how SAP support is internally configured, but I don’t see many specializations. If a person is focused on one area, they can easily provide value because they don’t have to research each ticket anew. And of course, the more they specialize, the more they will know in that area.
This brings up the topic of the unqualified personnel in SAP support. Often, I open tickets because the customer wants me to. That is, I usually don’t expect support to provide any resolution. What tickets often do is burn my time while we go back and forth on opening ports so they can test the system. SAP consumes a lot of its customers’ time because their support investment is inadequate.
A recent Nucleus Research report titled “6 out of 10 SAP Customers Wouldn’t Buy Again” a quotation gave SAP a grade of B in their support. And that SAP partner received a D, with the comment:
“There’s no support. It seems like they get the account and they shove you under the rug.” (regarding the partners that is).
Going through my support experiences with SAP, “B” just does not come to mind.
How Does SAP’s Support Compare to Best of Breed Vendors?
If I compare all of this to many best of breed vendors, SAP looks quite bad. With the best breed vendors that I work with, I can get detailed answers from real subject matter experts in just a few hours. The difference is stark. And the prices these best of breed vendors charge for this support are so much lower than what SAP charges.
I own software myself that I use for prototyping, and I pay a yearly support contract. And the vendor I use offers excellent support. This is why Gartner’s weighing of software vendors by size is so uninteresting. Support is inversely related to vendor size. The large vendors that Gartner likes to promote (and make so much money from) provide worse customer service than smaller vendors. If you look at Gartner’s criteria for the Magic Quadrant, larger vendors receive a boost in the ratings, which increases their “Ability to Execute.” This affects the outcome regardless of the actual support capabilities of the vendor. I cover in the book Gartner and Magic Quadrant: A Guide for Buyers, Vendors, and Investors; this appears to have been specifically designed to increase the ratings of the larger vendors versus the smaller vendors.
The Joys of International Support?
If we think of a typical extensive vendor support system, they will rely on offshore support in almost all cases. These are support centers that are barely part of the software vendor. I would debate whether SAP’s support technicians based in Bangalore are even part of SAP. This is because they are so poorly paid, and the turnover is so high. This may as well be an outsourced operation that is providing support services to SAP. They would not know any of the US resources that know.
When I work with smaller software vendors, I never have to deal with this. The support people are genuinely part of the company. They know the other people in the enterprise as they are real employees.
How Much is SAP Charging for Support?
The official SAP support is 22% of the initial license cost in support per year. Many companies, for a variety of reasons, end up paying more than this. One example is support for unique things such as the SNP optimizer. In addition to overpaying, customers get wrong information from the group that supports the SNP optimizer in SAP. And there are plenty of other examples of this. This group offers incorrect information that I tested six years ago and found to be false. SAP support cannot provide accurate information on this because it undermines the need to use the functionality. To add insult to injury, this component is not covered by the standard SAP support.
The price that SAP charges for its support have nothing to do with SAP costs. Oracle moved to 22% maintenance several years ago, and SAP has been patterning on this percentage.
SAP attempted to go to 22% maintenance in 2008 but backed off due to user pushback. The support hike was pushed to 2016.
Robert DeNiro’s character in the classic movie Ronin has a quotation that applies perfectly to SAP. That quote is:
“Everyone wants to go to the party, but no one wants to clean up.”
Support is “cleaning up” after the party. However, SAP’s heart isn’t in it. Sometimes SAP will send out specialists to address why applications are not working as intended, and customers instead will get pitched new applications rather than fixing the old ones. The emphasis and the compensation at SAP go to those who can sell and introduce new solutions. Why this is not more broadly discussed, I do not know.
Support Failings Covered Up by ASUG US
Entities like ASUG US that one would think would focus on this issue give it no coverage. I checked their website for the “support problem” and did not find a single article. ASUG US’s perspective can be neatly summarized as the following:
“Oh give me a home where the buffalo roam,
Where the deer and the antelope play,
Where seldom is heard a discouraging word,
And the skies are not cloudy all day.”
It works best if you sing this little ditty. Holding hands with a group in a school play is even better. Oh yes, it all right in the mind of ASUG US. (If ASUG US had a mascot, it would be an ostrich or maybe a lap dog.)
How can this be?
- Is ASUG paying attention to the SAP’s customers’ concerns, or are they censored by SAP?
- Does ASUG have even the tiniest percentage of independence from SAP?
ASUG US spends most of its time getting SAP customers all bubbly on new SAP applications. They are so censored on anything negative about SAP that they are a user group in name only. I have coined a new term for ASUG US. It is “SAP Marketing Apparatus Part Deux.” Any ASUG events or reading of ASUG articles should be framed regarding ASUG merely being another marketing arm of SAP. SAP does not need yet another marketing arm to get its message across and to censor all criticism.
What to Do About SAP Support?
Well, continuing to pay money to SAP for what is truly awful and disinterested support does not seem like a brilliant move. However, SAP’s support is tied to upgrades, and companies usually like to have access to upgrades. But there are far more rumblings about SAP support than in past years, which is illuminated in this quotation from the book SAP Nation 2.0.
“The analyst firm Gartner reports it is seeing a steady increase in inquiries about canceling maintenance agreements with ERP vendors. This is certainly a popular strategy with many SAP customers, who are seeking third party maintenance from providers like Rimini Street. Rimini says it now has over 150 SAP customers under contract, representing over $100 billion in customer revenues.”
And the value one customer thinks the received from SAP support is as follows.
“Another customer is TT Electronics, a $1 billion UK-based electronics manufacturer, whose CIO Ed Hefferman has been quotes as saying SAP Maintenance is effectively an added tax that I have to pay for no value in return. TT blends Rimini support while using savings to continue to buy a new SAP license for its ECC 6.0 environment.”
There is no way around it. SAP’s support is both expensive and of poor quality. It is of poor quality universally and is not a competitive offering.
- SAP invests little into support. It is seen as merely another way to charge customers for doing almost no work. It is known that SAP reaps roughly 90% margin on its support. SAP wants the margin rather than having any interest in investing in the support that is so lauded during the sales presentation.
- SAP and SAP partners push for customers to get on the latest versions and to install enhancement packs. This is a cost treadmill that often does not lead to more functionality being put into the field.
- SAP’s ticket component of support is of such low quality that it can be replaced by hiring spot consulting to follow up issues. And that is only one of some options which, of course, includes outsourced support.
- SAP customers, in most cases, are not performing analysis on what they get from SAP to justify this support. In an increasing number of cases, it is not worth what SAP wants for it.
A related article is on this topic is partner support. This is covered in this article titled When SAP Partners Bomb at Support.