Software

Fear the SAP-slap? Users can anonymously submit questions about licensing naughtiness

Better than having to stump up £54.5m in back payments

By Rebecca Hill

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SAP is to offer feedback on anonymised indirect licensing as concern and confusion about the rules grows among customers.

The German firm's rules on indirect access mean customers can be hit with licensing fees to cover any and all software that connects – even indirectly – to data stored on SAP systems.

Following a high-profile court case in which booze multinational Diageo was ordered to pay SAP £54.5m in additional fees after introducing two Salesforce.com systems, there were fears others would be pursued by SAP sparking calls for clarification on the terms.

In response, SAP promised to simplify the rules, and published a white paper that aimed to offer more clarity on three common scenarios – Order to Cash, Procure to Pay and Static Read.

It also promised not to pursue back maintenance payments for customers who "proactively engage with us in good faith".

However, few users were persuaded. A recent straw poll of 50 users found that 30 per cent feared the consequences of speaking up, 36 per cent said they'd have concerns and 10 per cent said they wouldn't be happy to talk.

"The problem for most organisations is they have no idea whether they are correctly or incorrectly licensed," said Paul Cooper, chairman of the UK and Ireland SAP User Group.

"SAP's Indirect Access white paper is a start and it is good to see some clarity around three of the most popular processes SAP supports, but it is by no means comprehensive.

"Despite SAP's assurances it won't ask for back maintenance payments from organisations that are under-licensed, members have understandably been reluctant to speak with their account managers."

In a bid to encourage this conversation, SAP has created the SAP Licensing Transparency Center, to which user group members can submit anonymised use cases or scenarios and then get feedback from SAP.

The UK and Ireland user group said in a statement that the feedback would be "generic" and will "depend on the level of information provided by members".

Nonetheless, Cooper welcomed the move and hoped it would allow members to more openly seek clarification from SAP.

"Licensing remains an incredibly complex topic, so it is imperative that SAP provides as much information and education to customers as possible, with working examples that they can clearly understand," he said.

"Although members will only get generic responses to their anonymised questions, from the first couple of enquiries we have submitted, the input has certainly been useful." ®

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