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SAP maintenance fee increase prompts user groups worldwide to organize response

Heads of user groups worldwide will meet with SAP executives to voice their members' dissatisfaction with the SAP maintenance fee increase.

Heads of user groups worldwide will meet with SAP executives to convey their members' concerns with the recent...

SAP maintenance fee increases.

United as the SAP User Group Executive Network (SUGEN), a new task force formed in response to the issue, 12 user group leaders will meet with SAP co-CEOs Henning Kagermann and Leo Apotheker in a couple of weeks, according to ASUG president Steve Strout.

The group, which includes ASUG, aims to research whether there is value in SAP's new Enterprise Support offering, to convey its members' concerns about the increase and to "influence" the vendor's decision on the fee hike.

"SAP has not done a good enough job communicating to the customer base what's the value of an Enterprise Support agreement, and why it is important to their business," Strout said. "It is our opportunity to help influence SAP by conveying the thoughts and ideas of our members."

But at the same time, Strout said SUGEN's role, at least in his opinion, isn't to tell SAP to flat out overturn its decision.

"We don't believe we're here to dictate to SAP how to do business. They certainly have a right to do what they need to do," he said. "We are here to help facilitate the communication. We will continue to convey what our members are saying."

For more on SAP's maintenance fee increase
Has SAP conveyed the value in Enterprise Support?

Making mid-market ERP a success: advice on implementations, go-live and support

It's an approach that's worked in the past. For instance, Strout said, ASUG originally influenced the software giant to phase in the SAP support increase over four years – 18.3% in 2009, 19.8% in 2010, 21.4% in 2011, ultimately reaching 22% of net licensing fees by 2012. SUGEN (pronounced shoe-gun) could convince SAP to reexamine Enterprise Support's cost in a year or two.

"Let's determine whether this is really effective," Strout said. "A year or two from now, if people don't need it, if the cost of SAP doing business isn't as high, let's take a look at some options in that point in time."

In June, SAP announced that over the next four years, customers will move from paying 17% of licensing fees to 22% for a new, enhanced support offering called Enterprise Support. The new SAP support offering will also bring SAP in line with other vendors like Oracle Corp., which already charges 22% of licensing fees for maintenance.

SAP justified the increase by saying its customers have increasingly complicated technology landscapes and need additional services and support.

But the company needs to engage in deeper conversations with customers about what it really means to have service-oriented architectures (SOAs), Strout said. And it needs to point to some customers that have used the new SAP support model efficiently, as well as some who have not used it as efficiently.

SUGEN includes executives from ASUG, the world's largest SAP user group; DSAG, Germany's user group; and the user group from the U.K. and Ireland, among others.

Part of SUGEN's task will be research. It will find customers who are actually using SAP Enterprise Support to determine whether there's value, Strout said. It's also planning to put out some white papers and take surveys on the topic.

"We're trying to be prudent and trying to be collaborative," Strout said. "We're not going to roll over either."

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