SAP users hail upcoming support services upgrade

But customers will have to wait and see if SAP's promises pan out, an analyst says

SAP's recently announced plans to overhaul its support services have user groups giving the thumbs up, although it may be some time before many customers feel a big difference.

Dubbed One Support, the effort is aimed at giving customers a single place to access support whether their problem concerns on-premises or cloud-based software. More than just providing convenience, this approach acknowledges the new complexities customers face as their SAP environments become a hybrid of deployment models.

For example, a customer may log a support ticket for a problem they believe involves their on-premises Business Suite implementation, said Jens Bernotat, vice president of strategy, maintenance go-to-market at SAP. But SAP technicians may investigate and subsequently determine the problem lies with an interface between the Suite and the customer's SuccessFactors application, which is cloud-based, he said.

SAP is also planning to roll out a universal toll-free number for support named Call 1 SAP in this quarter.

Logic and market forces demand a unified support model, according to Augusto Abbarchi, global head of SAP maintenance go-to-market.

"Customers are moving to the cloud to simplify," he said. "They can't accept the idea that getting support then becomes more complex. We think this is what the customer wants and that it's a potential competitive advantage."

Although One Support isn't yet finished from a technical standpoint, SAP user groups praised the announcement.

"I think it makes a lot of sense," said Andreas Oczko, vice chairman of DSAG (German-speaking SAP User Group).

Past acquisitions by SAP, such as Sybase and Business Objects, created a tangle of different support processes depending on the product, he added. "Sometimes it drove the customers mad."

SAP eventually harmonized support processes involving those vendors, but now it needs to do it again given the more recent purchases of SaaS (software-as-a-service) companies such as SuccessFactors, he said.

"This is a great step forward in simplifying customers' support interactions with SAP as more and more customers find themselves operating in a mixed environment of cloud and on-premises," Americas' SAP Users Group CEO Geoff Scott said via email. "SAP is a cloud company. [CEO] Bill McDermott has made that very clear. As such, combining support under one roof is essential to that vision."

One Support also got a nod of approval from the UK & Ireland SAP User Group.

"Naturally we welcome any enhancement to the Enterprise Support service that will help customers adopt the latest innovations from SAP or realise business value from deploying and utilising SAP solutions, regardless of whether they are on-premise, in the cloud or a hybrid of the two," chairman Philip Adams said in a statement.

One Support will be showcased at the Sapphire conference in Orlando next month, and work on merging SAP's various support portals will be ongoing over the next year.

SAP has the wisdom of experience on its side when it comes to making those types of hand-offs trouble-free. After its acquisition of Business Objects, SAP switched product support over to its own system, angering some users who couldn't immediately obtain login credentials.

There may be other considerations in play behind One Support.

For example, the new features will only apply to customers on Enterprise Support, which costs more than Standard Support. SAP may be hoping One Support will convince Standard Support customers that coughing up the extra money is worth it.

SAP is also facing pressure from third-party support providers, who offer steep discounts compared to vendor-provided support. One, Rimini Street, also recently introduced services aimed at hybrid deployments.

"One Support is SAP's attempt to refocus on the value of their maintenance," said analyst Ray Wang, chairman and founder of Constellation Research. "I think clients will have to judge for themselves if the new program meets their expectations, as this is a recommitment to delivering better support."

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris' email address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com

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