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Survey shows R/3 Enterprise plans on hold

The results of the annual survey show that many customers remain in upgrade limbo, unsure of which way to turn.

LONDON -- The community is apparently persisting in its loyalty to the massive software company,...

despite concerns that SAP's newly introduced configurations are currently more confusing than appealing, according to the results of our annual online survey.

The results of the 32-question survey -- which was completed by 287 decision makers who work with SAP products, more than half of them IT managers -- will be presented at Conference Europe, which starts today at the Commonwealth Institute.

The survey, with its small sample size, was not meant to provide a statistically relevant representation of the community, which has 100,000 registered users. Close to 20,000 companies around the world run SAP products; the survey represents only a tiny fraction of SAP customers.

The survey results, though, do mirror some current SAP trends, including ones the company has advertised -- its growing success with CRM, for example -- and ones it has talked about more reluctantly, such as its long-standing reputation for sending confusing messages to its customers.

Many respondents did agree to follow-up telephone interviews, offering their perceptions about SAP and accounts of their recent user experiences.

Most of the survey respondents (90%) said they were currently working on R/3 version 4x, with 5% having already upgraded to R/3 Enterprise.

Indeed, 37% of survey participants said they had no plans to upgrade to Enterprise. Another 28% said they planned to wait more than a year. Those numbers are not surprising, given that SAP recently introduced a new deployment alternative to Enterprise, called mySAP ERP.

Before mySAP ERP, SAP customers were already facing a looming support deadline for four of the company's R/3 versions, a November 2002 announcement that impacted half of SAP's users worldwide.

Many customers and analysts have said in recent weeks that mySAP ERP looks like a good idea, but it's unclear what its exact benefits are. (The new deployment option wraps Enterprise and SAP's new NetWeaver platform together.)

Survey respondent Denis Louis, an SAP R/3 Basis administrator at Saskatchewan Telecommunications, based in Regina, Saskatchewan, was discouraged by the mySAP ERP announcement.

"I was hoping that when Shai took over development that he would go back to the basics," Louis said, referring to the recent announcement that SAP wunderkind, Shai Agassi, the company's youngest executive board member, had been named chief of SAP's technology development division. "Getting away from R/3, what are they thinking of?" Louis said. "They haven't perfected the R/3 piece, and now [they're introducing] another piece."

As for SAP's xApps, first introduced last year at SAP's annual technology event, only 16% of respondents said they believed SAP had effectively communicated its xApp strategy. More than 50% of those surveyed said they had no current plans to implement xApps.

However, those numbers don't necessarily mean customers won't eventually invest in SAP's newly introduced technology, once SAP's message is better communicated.

For example, nearly 70% of survey respondents said they simply "don't know" whether SAP's new NetWeaver technology will benefit them. Another 22% said they believe it will.

"I have a limited understanding of NetWeaver, xApps, and the Master Data Management (MDM) tool," said Lisa Pasquarello, a Philadelphia-based consultant who, like her current client, is more interested in MDM -– which hasn't been released yet -– than the other two new SAP technologies. Pasquarello is among the 11% of survey respondents who identified themselves as consultants.

"My client views the MDM tool as a solid solution for tying together many disparate legacy systems," she said. The problem, though, is that, aside from several company press releases heralding the MDM release, slated for September 2003, Pasquarello has had no luck getting information about its real-world uses.

"Based on past experiences, I am hesitant to accept some of the claims that SAP is making about these products," Pasquarello continued. "I have found some resistance to providing demos, with client data and details, surrounding the applications."

Pasquarello's client is planning to converge multiple instances of SAP into Enterprise version 4.7 within the next year, she said. "SAP has indicated that the limited functionality my client has encountered in release 4.6C in Materials Management -- as part of their business process requirements -- will be available in this release," Pasquarello said. "We are in the planning stages of developing a global template."

Like most survey respondents, Pasquarello is dedicated to working with SAP products.

Slightly more than 60% of respondents said they were confident, or very confident, that SAP could overcome current challenges. Customer satisfaction ratings in the areas of support and documentation showed satisfaction levels at about 3 on a scale of 1 to 5.

"I do think that SAP, on the whole, is a good COTS [commercial, off-the-shelf] product," Pasquarello said.

Finally, mySAP CRM yielded a positive survey response, with more than half of respondents saying either that they would deploy mySAP CRM within a year or that they already had deployed it.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: news exclusive: " SAP marketing: Confuse and conquer" news exclusive: "SAP's xApps potential untested"

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