ORLANDO -- SAP provided more detail at Sapphire around its plans to track the KPIs that will be used to gauge support cost increases for the next seven years.Solution Manager, a lifecycle management tool that's mandatory for all SAP customers, will be a critical part of monitoring the key performance indicators (KPIs) that will be used to justify price increases associated with Enterprise Support.
While customers don't need to document process in Solution Manager to receive Enterprise Support, deriving value from the new structure will rest to a certain extent on how well customers document their companies' processes within the tool. That's something not all companies currently do because of factors such as cost and time.
"There is clearly a relationship between what you really need and what you need to put into Solution Manager," said Matthias Melich, who works on Solution Manager for SAP. "But we're not talking about the full process model you have in ARIS or something. It's really the essentials of the process."
SAP is recommending that customers -- to make this process easier -- use Solution Manager for upgrades. Using the predefined content for upgrades in Solution Manager settles 95% of the documentation a company will need to do, Melich said. That way, the handover to productive support is seamless.
The reports that will track the KPIs are generated from data in Solution Manager, which will examine performance over time, key transactions, and where improvements can be made to enhance performance.
Over time, the vendor will also make the findings available as best practices to help customers benchmark their own use of the support offering.
In the new model, a group of 100 customers from around the world running releases of R/3 4.7 or higher will act as the benchmarks to determine whether SAP Enterprise Support is worth the money. The group hasn't been selected yet but will be picked by SUGEN, the SAP User Group Network.
SUGEN will track the value achieved by a group of customers in four categories: business continuity, business process improvement, protection of investment, and total cost of operations. Those KPIs will be evaluated in six months and then on a quarterly basis for the next four years.
The cost increases associated with SAP Enterprise Support won't go into effect until the KPIs are met by a group of 100 customers. SAP also stretched out the increase over seven years, instead of the originally planned four.
Meanwhile, competing support provider Rimini Street used Sapphire as a chance to launch its SAP support offering -- the first in the industry.
Rimini Street's offering, the only one for third-party SAP support, extends to SAP R/3 releases, ECC 5.0, ECC 6.0 and BW 3.5, and promises to cut SAP support costs in half.
The third-party support provider, based in Las Vegas, announced just before Sapphire last year that it would be extending its offering to SAP support. The company already provides third-party support for Oracle's Siebel, PeopleSoft and JD Edwards software.
While SAP has made strides on its support program with the KPI agreement, many companies are still interested in third-party support.
"What SAP is offering is a great program on the KPIs," said Ray Wang, vice president and principal analyst at Boston-based Forrester Research. "But in talking to over 900 clients, at least 60% to 70% are interested in exploring that [third-party support] option."
Sapphire attendees interviewed agreed that SAP's commitment on the KPIs was a good deal, but they were still open to looking at other options.
"It's a good deal. It helps to quantify and assess the performance of the SAP system," said Fahim Bhuiyan, an associate at technology consulting firm Booz, Allen, Hamilton in McLean, Va. "Of course, we're interested in understanding what [third-party support] services are offered."
When Rimini Street announced that it would provide SAP support last year, it didn't intend to support ECC 5.0, ECC 6.0 or BW. But CEO Seth Ravin said he received so many calls from interested customers on those SAP releases that it made sense to offer support for them as well.
SAP customers should consider Rimini Street's offering, Wang said. It will appeal especially to companies with stable environments that have been doing some self-support. But keep in mind, Wang said, that in moving to third-party support, customers on ECC 6.0 will no longer have access to enhancement packages, SAP's new upgrade path. Enhancement packages offer downloadable, industry-specific functionality, available whenever customers want it.
SAP didn't put much stock in Rimini Street's announcement.
"This is the second Sapphire in a row Rimini Street has made that sort of announcement," said Michael Myers, an SAP spokesman. "We'll wait to see what sort of concrete plans they can demonstrate."