Your 5 part toolkit from which to get the best out of SAP

Profile picture for user owen_pettiford By Owen Pettiford June 8, 2020
This guide will highlight the five things that you can do to make sure you are getting the best possible deal and service.

toolkit 5 things
(Photo by Todd Quackenbush on Unsplash)

You're an existing SAP customer. You have experience with SAP. But do you know how to optimize your engagement with SAP or how to get the best out of your SAP portfolio going forward? This guide highlights the five part toolkit you need and can use as an SAP customer to ensure you are getting the best possible deal and service. Some of these tools may seem obvious and familiar, but it is often the obvious that gets missed. And now is a very good time to re-evaluate your choices. 

For background, I have recently changed roles from working for an SAP partner - where I was helping SAP to sell stuff to working for an end user of SAP where I am trying to make sure we get the best value possible. My experience of sitting on both sides of the proverbial fence helps me to understand how best to play the SAP buying / selling game. To that end I now share five key 'know' areas where you should concentrate your thinking

  1. Know your SAP products and roadmap
  2. Know your prices
  3. Know your business case
  4. Know your partner
  5. Know when to buy

For those from SAP who are reading this, I'll also point out some ways where I think SAP could change to make the customer interaction smoother and increase those precious net promoter score. Hint: you already know you're in the toilet on those metrics. 

Know your SAP products and roadmap

Before you start any conversations with SAP about buying more stuff make sure you understand what you already have, when it next needs upgrading and where it sits in the SAP longer term roadmap. Best case, it could be that some of the answers to your problems are already available in what you have. Worst case you could find out that some of your SAP estate is running to an evolutionary dead end or is facing a price upgrade. 

Having this firm base of what you have and how you use it will be key to understanding how SAP recommend it evolves. SAP have a tool designed to help with this activity called SAP Transformation Navigator and offers a free three hour Open SAP course in how to use it. Personally I have never found this tool very useful (disclosure: I also haven't invested the three hours in learning TN) and I prefer to use the SAP Product Availability Matrix, TechEd presentations (given by SAP development) and niche partners to help understand where things are going.

Engaging directly with SAP for this can be a bit of a lottery as product knowledge varies and they have a vested interested in selling you the latest stuff (the answer S/4HANA, HANA, Qualtrics etc what was the question?). I recommend building knowledge internally and finding partners who act as trusted advisors, remembering that they will also have an agenda with SAP.

Where SAP have acquired products they have tended to keep the teams behind these products together as many sell outside the classic SAP install base as well as within it. I treat all these acquired products as offered from different vendors and evaluate purchasing them with a keen eye on the level of out of the box integration that is available and how much this may save in implementation costs. Tip: As a rule of thumb, the longer something has been acquired, the better this out of the box integration becomes.

SAP will push a whole bundle of products at you under the banner of the "Intelligent Enterprise." My advice is to be intelligent in which ones you choose, making sure the business case for out of the box integration stacks up for you. I know SAP is working hard to make the out-of-the-box experience better, and they recognize that getting this right is key to them selling outside their ERP heart. But the work isn't done. 

Finally, if you are considering a new product from SAP or using a new feature in an existing product, take up reference calls. You can get SAP or partners to help arrange these or use your network to find someone already using it.

Tip: One reference is worth 1,000 PowerPoint slides. Tip 2: Make sure SAP is not on the call.

Know your prices

One of the most frustrating areas of working with SAP and many other old school enterprise software companies is the total lack of transparent pricing. As this is one of the critical variables in building a business case, you have to find a way to get these as soon as possible so you don't waste time chasing a product that you can't justify.

Most partners can help with the license metrics — is it sold by User Counts, Transactions, CPU cores, Storage Size, Data Traffic, Connections, Turnover, etc.? — but they will generally not share prices so you need to engage with your SAP AE, who you will need to push to get prices. Be direct and explain that you can't evaluate the benefit without pricing, and you will drop the SAP products from the shortlist.

In an ideal world, you'd follow the lead of the SAP Cloud Platform (or is it the Business Technology Platform now?) and have an online price estimator and the ability to purchase via an online store. 

Tip: Watch out for items that have to be purchased with the "main license," so you don't get a surprise at order time. These include but are not limited to minimum order quantities, admin users, developer users. Also, make sure you understand any restrictions that exist for the type of license you are purchasing - e.g., Runtime HANA vs. Enterprise HANA

For all that SAP talk about Digital Transformation, they are not eating their dog food here. They've certainly not simplified pricing. 

Know your business case

This part is obvious, but I still see projects without a business case. Everything has to have a business case, and you should be able to explain it in 30 seconds. If you can't, you need to create a better one. Here is my template — feel free to lift and adapt:

"This project will Increase Revenue* / Decrease Costs* / Decrease Working Capital* / Keep Us Within Regulations (avoid fines etc)* by ………" (*delete as applicable) Please avoid saying it will be innovative without justification for how it will help the organization in the long term.

SAP and partners can do an excellent job of bringing examples and models from other companies that give you ideas for areas where your business could benefit - use these only as guidelines and accelerators and create your case.

Tip: Own your business case. Unless you have 100% trust in your partners / SAP, please don't share it with them unless the software/services cost is killing it, and you need to get a better price.

Know your partner

SAP has 1,000's of partners who specialize in various parts of the vast SAP portfolio. You will have worked with some, and hopefully, you have found some that you trust.

However, please don't assume that because Partner X did an excellent job in one area, it will be repeated. Understand your partner's expertise and ask them if they would recommend others for domains they don't cover and always take up reference calls without the partner on the call. No one is perfect, and you need to find a partner that not only knows the product (or is open about the investment they are making in their first project) but also fits with your project and delivery culture.

SAP could do more to get feedback on partners and make this available to customers — the SAP User Group in the UK has created a partner directory with feedback — and it would be good to see this from SAP. But think TripAdvisor — you need to read all those glowing references with a pinch of salt, but it does help you understand the sound wood from the deadwood.

Tip: references for partners are gold, but understand there are agendas in play. 

Tip 2: Beware exclusively using SolEx. SAP tends to recommend based on its SolEx program. SolEx is fine, but it's not the only source of partner knowledge or, for that matter, a guaranteed source for finding the best partners.  

Know when to buy (Spoiler: quarter-end/year-end)

SAP is driven by the dreaded quarterly financial markets check-in and, unsurprisingly, deal size. If you want the best price, you need to buy at the end of a quarter or better still the end of the year — which is 31st Dec for SAP — and buy as many things as will meet your anticipated project needs for the next year. 

If you have followed the advice in this article, you should be in charge of the Bill of Material (BoM), and you need to understand the business case for each part of it.

With subscription pricing, don't buy production volumes months and months before you go live. Do a deal where you can top up volumes as your usage increases. Also, watch the renewal terms and make sure you understand notice periods.

This is another area where SAP needs to transform itself so that friction is avoided, and transactions don't need an AE in the middle. Like the A&R men of the music industry of the 1980s, the SAP AE should be an endangered species.

Tip: Don't let SAP add or remove items from YOUR BoM. You should have them all and know the value they bring.

Customer conclusion

  • Own your SAP products and roadmap
  • Build your business case and keep it simple. (If you only do one thing on this list — this would be it.)
  • Select a partner or partners that know how to make the products you need to work for you. 
  • Own your SAP BoM

SAP conclusion 

Live digital transformation by these rules: 

  • Reduce sales / pre-sales people, increase references, and increase online resources with industry-specific content.
  • Be transparent with pricing and make purchasing digital. (If we only get one from this list, then this should be it.)
  • Continue to deliver and improve tools like Transformation Navigator and Digital Roadmaps to help customers plan their journey.
  • Improve the tools to understand existing landscapes and automate upgrades and patching.
  • Stop changing the message every time a new product is purchased. It's confusing enough in SAPland.