SAP users 'face maintenance price rises'

SAP's move to create a single maintenance offering for new users could lead to significant price increases for current users of its Basic Support plan, according to analysts.

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SAP's move to create a single maintenance offering for new users could lead to significant price increases for current users of its Basic Support plan, according to analysts.

The software vendor in February launched the new Enterprise Support programme for new users of SAP, Business Objects and third party software, who no longer can choose to buy the company's Basic Support options.

The new program carries an annual price tag of 22% of the customer's yearly license fees, the same price as the current Premium support programme. The Basic Support programme is priced at 17% of annual license fees.

The new programme will be rolled out in the second 2008 quarter, SAP said.

In a new report, Forrester Research said that new customers forced by SAP into the Enterprise Support programme will "overpay for services" which it predicts will ultimately be underutilised. In fact, the research firm is warning clients already using SAP software that the vendor will likely increase the price of existing Basic Support contracts to the Enterprise support level in the near future. Forrester suggests that SAP users "negotiate hard" to lock-in current Basic support prices.

Ray Wang, an analyst at Forrester, said SAP's Enterprise Support programme eliminates the company's pricing advantage over rival Oracle which currently charges 22% for maintenance and support. Further, Wang said SAP risks driving away its customer base which he contends is growing increasingly frustrated with licensing and support strategies of software vendors.

"In many contracts, SAP reserves the right to raise maintenance [costs] by certain percentages," Wang said. "It may very well be they will try to harmonise their maintenance to 22% across their customer base - this is why [Basic Support] customers should be careful," said Wang.

He added, "If they're about to make an upgrade to the next release, and this is a show stopper; it gives them pause as to whether they want to stay with SAP or not."

SAP spokesman Bill Wohl said that the new support programme is not a price rise, but a way to "provide customers the level of support they've been telling us they want. It's priced higher than Basic support was in the past, but that's a reflection of what they've said what they want."

Wohl said SAP will work with new customers who don't want all the features in the new programme. He also said forcing current users of the Basic Support to move to the new level "is not in our plans right now".

According to a recent Forrester survey of 215 business process and applications professionals, more than half said a fair maintenance fee should be below 16%. Approximately 21% of respondents said that maintenance costs should be between 10% to 12% of annual license fees.

SAP notes that the Enterprise Support programme offers increased levels of service from both the Basic and Premium Support options. For example, the new offering replaces a single support advisor with a pool of full-time available support staff. The support package also includes an upgraded version of Solution Manager and RUN SAP to boost operational processes.

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