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Software license management tools can help with SAP indirect usage

Companies can use third-party license management tools to audit their SAP environment to address indirect access issues, but the tools need to be a part of an overall strategy.

With SAP's indirect usage licensing, companies are struggling to make sense of the guidelines and stay on the right side of SAP.

For enterprises overwhelmed with the idea of cataloguing every point of access in their SAP systems, using third-party software license management tools can help identify possible areas of concern about indirect licensing, as well as prevent unpleasant surprises during an audit. Companies can also use compliance management tools or asset management tools to perform similar audits of their SAP environments.

However, experts caution against relying on any one piece of software to alleviate problems, as they should be used as a part of an overall strategy to handle the indirect access licensing structure.

"The tool is really there to enable a process, and the process is the real issue," said Joshua Greenbaum, principal at Enterprise Applications Consulting.

Companies need to understand the contract they have with SAP and set up the system around it, as well as monitor potential issues, Greenbaum said.

One of the problems with monitoring and managing indirect usage is that internal departments tend to pass the buck. Much like cybersecurity, all the tools in the world won't help prevent problems unless every stakeholder and user understands the importance of complying with contract terms surrounding indirect usage, according to Greenbaum.

Understand your SAP system thoroughly

Companies run into problems with SAP when they don't understand their SAP environments, including which third-party applications access them.

This is basic IT management: Understand how you've constructed your system, how it's been implemented, what remote calls you're making and where data is coming from and going into.
Joshua GreenbaumEnterprise Applications Consulting

"The main issue is what remote function calls you're making," Greenbaum said. An enterprise needs to make sure it complies with the licensing agreement any time it uses a third-party program to access SAP and use the data within.

"This is basic IT management," he said. "Understand how you've constructed your system, how it's been implemented, what remote calls you're making and where data is coming from and going into."

Greenbaum considers this a comprehensive oversight process of SAP systems. It's critical to understand what's in the company's contract with SAP and to have both the legal teams and IT teams review it to help the company understand what it needs to do to stay in compliance. These aren't necessarily revisited regularly, but doing so can provide the basics for staying compliant with SAP.

Software license management tools can help companies dig deeper

Greenbaum said that there are several good tools available to map SAP systems, including those from Snow Software, Xpandion, Flexera and IntelliCorp. However, he cautioned that companies may want to start by bringing in a consultant to help them see the big picture of their SAP systems, particularly because there will be a change management aspect to the process.

"It's good to approach this holistically to get a better handle on the overall SAP system," he said.

Specialized software tools can help companies gain deep insight into their SAP systems, but they're not a magic bullet, according to Joachim Paulini, SAP chief developer and lead architect at Snow Software, a Stockholm-based firm that provides software license management tools for SAP and other systems. He explained that an experienced person is still needed to interpret the output from the tools.

In fact, there are things that companies will need to look for before they run a specialized software program, Paulini said, including the information that SAP generates during its yearly license audit. While traces of indirect usage in the SAP system may not actually be indirect usage, there is still the likelihood that companies will need to drill down. Historically, SAP systems have not provided internal mechanisms for companies to keep track of this, he said.

The second line of defense for companies that can be enhanced by a tool is mapping the system landscape, Paulini said. That includes SAP systems and external systems, like Salesforce or proprietary programs. Businesses should delve into data exchanges that might be users or applications and identify the users by IP address and service. This is especially useful for companies that have complex SAP systems that have been added to over the years but where those who know about the licensing or add-ons have left the company, taking the knowledge with them.

Software license management tools can help save money

Naturally, any self-audit of SAP systems may turn up surprises, such as where companies can save money on their licensing, according to Greenbaum. A company may be paying for licenses that it isn't using and reduce costs without affecting the system. Additionally, these audit processes are the same as what will be needed for companies considering an upgrade to S/4HANA, he said.

While using software license management tools to identify indirect usage will not be all that's needed to stay compliant with SAP licensing agreements, experts agree that they are useful. Companies will want to plan for change management, possibly bring in a consultant to help and use the information gleaned to put themselves in a better negotiating position with SAP.

This was last published in March 2018

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