“Customer trust and confidence is a very fragile thing”
This week at the annual UK & Ireland SAP User Group conference in Birmingham, only eight percent of the users said they see SAP as a trusted advisor and the message to the German enterprise software firm is clear ‘transparency can’t exist behind closed doors.
The SAP UK & Ireland User Group is a community of over 680 member organisations and 6,000 SAP professionals, last year the group celebrated its 30 anniversary. This year with over a thousand attendees, including members from SAP user groups from Canada and Spain, it’s was the group’s largest event so far.
A lot of the attendees had gathered the night before and were already connecting before the event commenced this morning. Contemplating on why so many people choose to give up their Sunday evenings chairman of the UK & Ireland SAP User Group Paul Cooper mused: “It’s people and community. It’s the one point in the year where you can talk to hundreds of people in the same position as you.” he does add that “I’m sure the beer helps”.
SAP Structural Change
Over the last few months SAP has changed the structure of its corporate board following the step down of Bill McDermott from the role of CEO. SAP opted to split the CEO role, again, so that two people are now tasked with the responsibility. Former SAP COO Christian Klein and SAP SuccessFactors overseer Jennifer Morgan are now sharing the CEO position.
Cooper commented that: “We welcome a return to the co-CEO model that has served SAP and its customers well in the past. Christian Klein has been a key exec sponsor of SUGEN’s ‘Ease of doing business’ and ‘Licensing’ charters, and he has always made time to listen to product feedback and understand how SAP could work better with customers.”
However, he warns that SAP’s relationship with the users will need to be at the forefront of the CEO’s minds as: “Customer trust and confidence is a very fragile thing. Topics like indirect licensing, the end of life of ECC6 and lack of clarity around the roadmap for S/4 HANA have not helped the customer relationship.”
We Got Problems
Cooper’s warning is not without foundation. Each year the user group conducts an internal survey and strikingly only eight percent of the 467 user organisations queried said that they see SAP as a trusted advisor.
Furthermore, nine percent of users admitted that SAP is becoming less important to them, while only 54 percent of those surveyed said that they see SAP as a reliable technology partner.
The trust problem between users and SAP is an ongoing issue as Cooper notes that: “Above all as customers we need clear communication from SAP. Take the thorny topic of indirect licensing or digital access as SAP calls it. Behind closed doors SAP gave us lots of detail on the Digital Access Adoption Programme. However, the announcement it made and subsequent documents were light on detail.”
Indirect access occurs when a SAP customer uses a third-party application in conjunction with SAP’s database. The concerns over indirect access came after the company Diageo enabled SAP’s ERP system to be accessed via third-party software, in that case Salesforce software, which then resulted in SAP bringing a legal case against Diageo with the courts ruling that Diageo should pay SAP £54,503,578 worth of damages.
The user group acknowledges that SAP has worked on the issue of digital access and has given customers the means to measure the financial impact of adopting the digital access licensing model.
However, Cooper states that: “SAP decided not to publicly communicate key details of the programme – I’m sure there are a raft of accountants and lawyers with reasons why. We say to SAP – ignore them, give customers the detail, be clear and transparent. Explain the financial options in the programme in a much clearer way, with realistic and concrete examples of how it’s going work and how it is working. Tell us the maximum financial exposure any customer might have.”