Analysis: SAP stares down its licensing critics

By Peter Gothard
27 Nov 2012 View Comments
Concept image of SAP offices

SAP’s UK and Ireland managing director, Tim Noble, failed to dispel increasing unrest among the firm’s UK user base at the SAP User Conference 2012 in Manchester last week, with many customers leaving the event still unhappy about licensing issues and pricing metrics.

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When asked by vice chairman of the SAP User Group, Philip Adams, about a survey showing that 95 per cent of users think SAP’s licensing is too complicated, Noble replied that while the firm is trying “very hard to improve the simplicity of licensing”, SAP is, by its very nature, “quite complicated”.

Noble went on to say that his company intends to price future SAP licences along a single metric, adding that in the past two years existing metrics have become “20 per cent less complex”.

Speaking exclusively to Computing, Alan Bowling, the chairman of the SAP User Group, questioned this “funny metric”, commenting that “it sounded like [Noble] said two different things. And we don’t know what that means”.

But one of the key issues at the event concerned unused SAP licences - so-called “shelfware”. Not only are users told not to expect their licence fees back if licences remain unused, they are also forced to pay support and maintenance on these licences.

In a time of economic uncertainty, the need to discontinue SAP licences is becoming a big issue for many users.

“I’m sure all your users would like me to say that in some way [SAP] could assist with support and maintenance, but the fact is they can’t,” said Noble. “What I would strongly suggest to everybody in this room is that when you have issues like that, do talk to your local account team,” he continued, implying that individual deals could be struck.

“There are different ways to tackle it, but let me be straight: we do not park maintenance. But what I would say is work with the account teams, because you may be able to achieve what you’re trying to do by doing it a different way.”

Speaking after the event to Computing about whether SAP would give refunds for unused licences, Noble said: “We don’t do it, as a rule.”

However, Noble elaborated on his suggestion that local account teams could assist by drawing up personalised deals, in a “store credit” manner of agreement.

“Say you wanted to do any further transaction with SAP, you could migrate to a separate set of services - get some different software or embrace some of our acquisitions - then in any transaction you did with SAP, we would absolutely work with any of the unused licences you had, and come to some kind of commercial arrangement,” he said.

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