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SAP vows to unravel user snarl-up over software licensing

Survey shows misery and despair among customers

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SAP is "actively discussing" ways to make its software licensing easier to understand, the software giant has told The Reg.

A spokesperson for SAP, the world’s largest maker of business software, said it plans to announce specifics “shortly.”

SAP didn’t provide any more details, but the statement follows a damning condemnation of the current state of SAP licensing in a user group survey.

An annual survey of 336 SAP users in 150 user organisations found near-universal dissatisfaction with confusing and expensive pricing.

SAP is expected to unveil the changes at next month's UK and Ireland User Group conference in Manchester.

Users in the group's survey called on SAP to introduce a licensing holiday, to let them park unused licences they’ve paid for, and for SAP to publish a clear price list.

Overall, users believe SAP’s pricing has become complex and confusing thanks to acquisitions and the move into new technologies.

The UK and Ireland SAP Users’ Group – which conducted the survey – confessed surprise at the level of unhappiness among respondents in its poll.

Philip Adams, User Group vice chairman, told The Reg: “Some of the numbers were higher than we anticipated.

“We want to see SAP take some action on this and we surveyed the members to make sure the message is getting through to them [SAP].”

The survey saw 95 per cent of respondents agree that SAP’s licensing has become too complicated. “That was higher than we anticipated,” Adams told us.

“I felt some organisations would be more on top of it because they have a strong commercial or procurement team working with SAP. I thought [the amount of respondents in agreement would be more like] maybe 70 to 80 per cent. It shows that even organisations with dedicated people to call SAP struggle with the terms and conditions of licensing.”

Another surprise was that 97 per cent of users surveyed want to “park” their licence, to stop paying for software they’ve purchased but are no longer using thanks to factors like redundancies or restructuring.

“I was surprised that it wasn’t 100 per cent, but it’s a high figure none the less,” Adams said.

He reckoned this is an issue SAP could take a leadership position on as, given the state of the economy, the problem is probably not restricted to just SAP.

“It has gotten worse as SAP has bought a lot of products – Business Objects, Sybase, SuccessFactors – and as they expanded, now deploy on mobile and cloud. That’s adding to the stack and companies want to use a hybrid rather than just one. Once you start dealing with all this stuff on different metrics like CPU - that makes the burden worse."

It's not clear whether SAP will introduce changes allowing users to take a break from paying for unused licences. An SAP spokesperson told us existing contracts "need to be respected" and said SAP "discusses these issues individually" with customers. ®

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