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Choosing an SAP Basis support provider rests on many factors

Beth Stackpole, Contributor

As with any SAP outsourcing decision, choosing the right partner to take over SAP Basis support is a complex decision predicated on a range of factors, from finding a service that’s priced right for the requirements

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to aligning with a provider that has proven expertise and is a cultural fit for your organization.

Given that SAP is a mission-critical business system and Basis administration is key to its success, companies should take a hard look at a potential provider’s ability to scale its services and resources to meet the customer’s needs. Asking what services and price points can be delivered, what levels of availability are offered and what specific SAP domain expertise is on hand will go a long way in determining if a potential outsource partner is flexible enough to adapt to a company’s short-term and longer-term SAP Basis support needs.

“The first thing you want to look at is bringing in a team that matches your requirements -- there needs to be people who know Unix if you have a Unix environment, or Oracle if Oracle databases are installed,” said Wade Walla, a senior SAP Basis consultant. “There needs to be a one-on-one match on skill sets between the company looking to outsource and the provider.”

The personal touch

Asking for and following up with reference customers can help verify whether the provider has experience with your specific requirements around SAP Basis. For some industries, like pharmaceuticals, which have specialized compliance requirements, it might make sense to choose an SAP Basis support provider with a track record of customers in that specific category. For other fields, it’s not as important to align with a partner with specific vertical industry expertise or business knowledge. Rather, organizations should opt for partners with a solid background across the broad spectrum of SAP technologies and applications.

Opting for a marquee brand outsourcing provider isn’t always the best route, especially for small or midsized firms that want to ensure they get the proper personal attention, even if they’re not the biggest client. That was one of the main considerations for National Gypsum, a privately held building products manufacturer, when shopping around for a SAP hosting provider, which would eventually take over its Basis support as well. National Gypsum focused on cultural fit when making its decision, opting for an outsourcing partner that targeted midsized firms like its own.

“Rather than being a relatively small company trying to fit in with a huge, worldwide hosting provider, we’re more of a bigger fish in a small pond,” said Jack Rech, National Gypsum’s senior director of information systems. “We’re a great cultural fit from a size and people perspective, with all the personalities involved.”

Having personal chemistry between internal IT leaders and outsourced team members is crucial to meeting project deadlines, translating business requirements and aiding in knowledge transfer, according to analysts. Making sure there are no language barriers, setting up weekly or biweekly meetings and putting processes and technologies in place to support regular collaboration and communication will go a long way in fostering good working relationships and integrating both internal and external team members.

SAP Basis outsourcing warning signs

One of the red flags companies often overlook is a lack of comfort with the SAP Basis outsourcing team -- a disconnect that can breed big problems later on. In addition, it’s a clear warning sign that a company isn’t on the up and up if they don’t provide transparency around pricing or their reference customers, experts and users say.

Beyond any personal chemistry and cultural considerations, there’s the ever-critical issue of price and value. Spending time on the contractual terms and establishing service-level agreements prior to signing a deal will set guidelines and establish the boundaries of the relationship. Many firms now will only consider providers that offer flexible pricing models and outcome or transaction-based contracts as a way to derive the most value from the relationship.

“A lot of companies don’t want to just pay for resources, they want to pay for outcome,” said Liz Herbert, principal analyst at Forrester Research Inc.  “For example, they don’t pay the provider per trouble ticket, but rather pay them on resolution [in the hopes of] driving the tickets down. It’s part of the goal to make SAP more efficient and easier to support.”

 


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