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SAP Report Card: Some SAP users want better support, documentation

Some users said SAP could do a better job with documentation and support. In fact, some said navigating their way through SAP support is often more confusing than the code that caused them to reach out for help in the first place.

Many of the SAP professionals who responded to a SearchSAP.com survey are often frustrated by the company's documentation...

and see support as an area where the company could improve.

The 500 survey respondents are SearchSAP.com readers, and the results were recently released at SearchSAP.com's conference for SAP professionals.

On the subject of documentation, respondents gave SAP an average of 2.92 on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 representing the highest level of satisfaction. User education was also highlighted by the respondents as an area that needed more attention from SAP, achieving only a slightly higher grade of 3.01.

Survey participants gave SAP an average mark of 3.29 for pre-sale support, and 3.25 in the category of crisis support.

Some survey respondents complained that navigating their way through SAP support was often more confusing than the code that caused them to reach out for help in the first place.

''SAP needs to make an effort to better understand their customers before starting the process," said Cindy Vautrin, an SAP financial information systems manager at Central Michigan University. Vautrin wrote in her follow-up interview to SearchSAP.com's survey: ''We renegotiated our license recently. The process was long and drawn out, partly because the correct SAP personnel were not available or not included in the process."

Because of its size, many SearchSAP.com respondents agreed that SAP's support must be considered in the context of the entire industry.

"I have customers who love the support SAP provides," said Bill Morton, vice president of strategic accounts for Edison, N.J.-based Intelligroup Inc., a systems integration company.

Sharing the sentiment offered by several SearchSAP.com survey respondents, Morton said: "A lot of the confusion in SAP support is a result of this question, "who do I call for what?"

Still, Morton said: "SAP has always been pretty good about production down. If you've got a critical issue, they do respond."

Survey respondent Ben White, business support center director of technical services at Jackson, Miss.-based Ergon Inc., wrote: "Both sales and support are very slow to react. It's difficult and time-consuming to get a serious problem addressed quickly or to get assistance from a person high enough in the support organization who is knowledgeable about our issues."

"More experienced users, like ourselves, have very knowledgeable employees on our permanent staff working on SAP,'' White said. "We need to be able to go directly to a high-level support person when needs arise. We don't need to work our way through the lower levels of SAP personnel first.

"Another area that needs improvement is the documentation and instructions associated with upgrades. This documentation is often full of bugs and mistakes."

Derek Prior, a Gartner Inc. research director based in the U.K., conducted a survey that yielded similar results to the ones the SearchSAP.com survey yielded.

"The general client feedback is that product support service has got a lot of room for improvement," Prior said.

"A large part of dissatisfaction within comes from within the U.S.," Prior said. "I think the experience level goes up as you get closer to Europe.

"Is that unique to SAP? My colleagues tell me it's not. Other ERP vendors aren't as great as they should be in support. So they aren't unique, but … leaders (such as SAP) need to do things differently."

SAP doesn't consider this piece of analysis by Prior to be valid, said Bill Wohl, SAP's vice president of public relations, because Prior's statements were based on investigations of only 17 customers and were "so out of context with what our own survey results reveal." He warned against interpreting SearchSAP.com's survey results as an accurate representation of SAP's customer support satisfaction.

"In the case of service and support, what we typically find is that the answer we get from folks about their level of satisfaction really depends on where they are in the organization," Wohl said.

When addressing support complaints from SAP professionals in the trenches, Wohl said: "It's typically the case that companies have made a decision about what level of support they would like for SAP," referring to SAP's support options, such as the gold-star Maxx Attention offering. "Having said that, we take very seriously any comments we take from SAP customers, regardless of where they sit in the organization," Wohl said.

John Brown, a director of corporate systems for Monroe, La.-based CenturyTel Inc., the country's eighth largest telecommunications firm, has been an SAP user since 1993.

"I found, in general, their support is better than the average vendor," Brown said.

While Brown did share the experience of being passed through the ranks of SAP support when he had a problem, he felt that SAP stuck with him for hours when he needed them.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Read more on the report card: Users give products high marks, see interoperability challenges

Share your thoughts on SAP's documentation and support

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