Better SAP support, contract language at top of users’ wish lists

SAP customers are going into the new year hoping for a few changes from SAP. Some called for better SAP support; others say altered contract language and licensing are important.

Whether its contract language that protects them from copyright infringement or better SAP pricing models and support, there are a number of things SAP customers say the software company should do to help them in the coming year.

For one, SAP should look at changing its standard contract language that holds customers liable if SAP is sued by a third-party vendor for intellectual property infringement, according to Don Whittington, chief information officer of Florida Crystals, a maker of sweeteners and sugar substitutes based in West Palm Beach, Fla.

“We’re struggling with SAP’s lack of indemnification from IT infringement,” Whittington said. “Especially with some of these new products, I think that’s a risk for customers. From our standpoint, every contract we’ve had with major software providers, they’ve had a clause that holds us harmless from [their potential] infringement on third-party vendors’ intellectual property.”

It’s something that Whittington -- otherwise a “big advocate” of SAP -- said can be solved with the kind of simple contract language he has with his other suppliers.

“I really think that’s something, when you look at all the great things that SAP’s doing, some of these underlying, basic things, like protecting your customers from your own actions, those are things we’d really like to see SAP address and get right.”

Customer finds SAP support lacking
Neil Briggs, chief financial officer of WL Plastics Inc., a polyethylene pipe manufacturer based outside of Dallas, said his company would like to see better customer support for its Business ByDesign system as well as help with some of its manufacturing processes.

When we implemented [Business ByDesign], the way we used part numbers probably wasn’t the most efficient use of the system,” Briggs said. “We’re trying to get SAP’s attention to work with us to determine … how we should have done it, and then how do we make that conversion or re-implement all of our part-number structures in order to start using some of the functionality of production planning and MRP [materials requirements planning] and those kinds of features. Some of it is fairly technical.”

Getting that SAP support help, however, hasn’t been easy for WL Plastics, especially for a company its size that has limited IT resources. Few third-party vendors support Business ByDesign, he said, and SAP hasn’t been much help.

“To be a little honest, we’ve been struggling a little bit to get their attention on the support side. I don’t know what’s happening behind the scenes,” Briggs said. 

“You have some organizations that pester you obnoxiously for business, and then you have the other extreme where you have to chase after them. I think we’re in the chase-after-them mode. It may be that they don’t want to do this, but they just help us out because we’re nice guys.”

SAP licensing restricting some users
Others, like Ace Hardware Corp., are hoping SAP will use 2012 to adjust its SAP licensing models.

Ace Hardware looked at deploying parts of the SAP NetWeaver Portal, but found it to be too expensive, according to Rick Williams, director of software engineering for the Chicago-based company.

As Williams explains it, Ace wanted to deploy part of the SAP NetWeaver Portal as a better way for its retail locations to access invoices online. Folding that part of SAP’s portal into the existing customized portal would save the company the trouble of having to put a front end on SAP’s portal, he said.

The problem was that while a handful of people at each store would use the site on a limited basis, SAP was going to charge Ace Hardware closer to what a superuser would require. And with 1,500 stores, that would have been too costly.

“We would have liked to have used native SAP to get to the SAP data, but because of the licensing thing, we had to put some sort of front end that we built in front of the data,” Williams said. “It just made things difficult in terms of development time.”

Others are only hoping that SAP will integrate some of its more recent technologies at a faster pace. 

“SAP has a lot of things going on in the in-memory space, and not on just the HANA side, but as the in-memory starts creeping into the core of the rest of the applications,” said Mike O’Dell, chief information officer for Pacific Coast Cos. Inc. in Rancho Cordova, Calif. At the same time, the Sybase Unwired Platform is playing a growing role in mobility, he said, and SAP BusinessObjects is an increasingly integrated part of SAP’s applications.

“All those products are beginning to coalesce. It’s really exciting,” he said. “I’d just wish for the coalescing to happen faster.”

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