Analyst, SAP dispute over reported support discounts reveals murky picture

SAP has disputed a report that it gave substantial discounts to some users, but conditions are still ripe for customers to find savings

By , IDG News Service |  Software, SAP

SAP and a financial analyst are at loggerheads over a recent report by the analyst, which said that a handful of customers had received substantial discounts on their software maintenance renewals.

"We recently spent time talking with a handful of large SAP customers that have received roughly 50% discounts on maintenance renewals," states the report by Peter Goldmacher of Cowen and Company. "The original contracts were in the $5M-$10M range."

"All these customers were looking to reduce IT spend, they felt like SAP maintenance wasn't good value for the money, and they were actively evaluating lower cost alternatives," the report added, in a possible allusion to third-party maintenance vendors such as Rimini Street. "When these customers informed SAP of their intentions to cancel maintenance, SAP initially offered modest discounts, only to follow up with significantly larger discounts when the customers pushed back. Given that there was executive level engagement in these discounts, we infer that senior management at SAP is aware of the issue."

But an SAP senior executive who oversees approval of all maintenance contracts said in an interview this week that to his knowledge, no such discounts have been given.

"I have an organization in every geography that is dedicated to interact with customers in terms of contracts and conditions," said SAP's Augusto Abbarchi. "When we saw that report, we were kind of shocked. We don't have any discount policy at SAP. We don't know where this is coming from. We've always said maintenance is not a topic for discussion when it comes to price."

However, Abbarchi did offer a number of caveats. "What I can say is, we see increasing pressure from customers in terms of reducing any kind of costs," he said. "So of course we have a higher number of discussions with customers compared to the past [regarding maintenance fees]."

Customers in financial distress have also approached SAP, looking for a cut in maintenance. "The reaction we have is always the same, that together with the customer we analyze how our maintenance services can help them lower their costs."

That's what SAP's Enterprise Support service is supposed to do. SAP angered many customers several years ago when it announced they would be migrated to the pricier service, but later made some concessions.

"I can admit that the consumption of the services inside Enterprise Support is not as high as we'd like," Abbarchi said.

However, Abbarchi wouldn't rule out a scenario where a customer facing serious financial woes could get a break on maintenance, if only temporarily. "I don't want to say it's impossible."

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