Looking for online information on SAP products and support can sometimes be a challenge. Some sites are hard to use, information gets moved around, and some of the best sources of information can get overshadowed by the sheer number of sites and portals, according to a new report from Gartner Inc.
"The information that SAP provides is very comprehensive, but it's sometimes difficult to find," said Derek Prior, an analyst with the Stamford, Conn.-based IT consulting firm, and co-author of Your SAP Information Survival Guide 2.0, which lists more than 40 sources of SAP-related information customers can benefit from using.
Finding the right information can be difficult, Prior said, due to the fact that the search technology SAP uses within its portals is "ineffective" compared to more commonly known engines like Google.
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"SAP's own search technology is just not very efficient," Prior said.
SAP also often moves information around within its portals, Prior said, and that can lead to confusion for customers who think they know where needed information is located. Before SAP launched its current SAP Community Network (SCN), a site where SAP and non-SAP experts write on a range of technical issues via blogs and other forums, there was the SAP Development Network, which largely served the same audience.
"Once you got used to how content was organized, you knew where to go. But then they came along with SCN, a newer network. All of your SDN stuff, which you had bookmarked everywhere, had been re-categorized," Prior said. "SAP is good at moving stuff around."
There are advantages and disadvantages to using the SAP Service Marketplace, the main entry point for information on customer support, consulting services, education services and partner support information.
"Quick links" -- essentially shortcuts -- help get users to where they need to go, Prior said. However, the site asks users to enter their credentials two or three times in the course of getting there.
"You have to log on multiple times," he said.
SAP support information sources
The SAP Support Portal, accessed through the SAP Service Marketplace, contains more than 140 links to various sources of information, including:
- SAP Business Maps for industries, cross-industry solutions and NetWeaver;
- SAP Release Strategy and Planning;
- SAP Ramp Up Knowledge Transfer for details on new products and versions;
- SAP Product Defect Support;
- SAP Enterprise Support Academy, which lists all of the services provided with Enterprise Support; and
- SAP Support Services for general information, including contacts.
A separate portal for SAP Crystal Solutions Support is available for customers that do not have a maintenance agreement, Gartner said; it is part of the SCN.
While SAP posts a significant amount of broad, general information on its main website, customers can also access current online documentation for all SAP applications, SAP NetWeaver and SAP Solution Manager at the SAP Help Portal, which also includes a SAP glossary and release notes for new product information, best practices and access to the Service Marketplace and SCN.
SAP has also created Experience SAP HANA, a site with dedicated information on SAP's in-memory database platform and HANA applications.
Prior said the site offers plenty of good information for those looking to learn more about HANA, but he also questioned the way SAP has gone about providing that material.
"It's good stuff," Prior said. "I just question why they had to have a special portal if the others were effective. Why wouldn't they integrate it with those? Why [keep creating] more portals?"
SAP product licensing
Prior said the sites around licensing are some of the most important for SAP customers to know about.
"The stuff for SAP licensing has gotten so much more complex over time. It's very, very complicated," Prior said.
Information on SAP product licensing can be found at the following portals:
- Licensing SAP Products: A Guide for Buyers covers generic principles behind all SAP software licenses, such as users, engines, suites, etc.
- SAP Agreements includes sample agreements for software and support, for various countries.
SAP partner products
SAP has put a huge amount of partner-related information on its SAP EcoHub repository, according to Gartner.
According to the report, the SAP EcoHub was expanded in 2011 to include the following SAP software:
- SAP analytics;
- SAP Rapid Deployment Solutions (RDS);
- SAP Store for mobile apps from SAP and its partners; and
- A SAP online store for other SAP products.
Although the intent of the SAP EcoHub is to provide information on its partners, a better site to look for information on partners -- particularly service partners -- is the SAP Partner Information Center, which preceded the creation of the EcoHub.
Prior called the Partner Information Center one of the best little-known sites out there for customers.
"The Partner Information Center does a much, much better job than the EcoHub itself," Prior said.