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Business Objects, SAP Support Lessons Learned

by Maroushka Kanywani, Editor, Dashboard InsightThursday, July 24, 2008

By Cindi Howson, Intelligent Enterprise

One week later it seems the support situation at Business Objects is settling down, although customers remain miffed and a handful still do not have access to support. There are lessons for customers and vendors alike from this situation, and a question of how the BI vendor will make amends to those most adversely affected.

For most customers, the issue of not accessing support was one primarily of inconvenience and frustration. As of mid last week, according to Business Objects, about 20 percent of customers lacked the ability to logon to the site to open or track existing cases. However, for some, the disruption in support service meant a delay in production implementations.

In speaking to Scott Bajtos, Business Objects' Executive Vice President and Chief Satisfaction Officer, he acknowledged the migration had not gone as smoothly as expected. While some of the migration challenges were clearly planning related, it seems that the crux of the problems were twofold. First, the security for SAP's Service Marketplace system is separate from the SAP security systems, and Business Objects underestimated the number of logons that would not be synchronized between the two. Second, the support migration was just one of several migrations Business Objects did last week to leverage the SAP infrastructure.

Looking ahead, Bajtos said the main reasons for moving ahead aggressively with the migration to SAP's support platform are partially cost related but are primarily because the Service Marketplace is "light years ahead of the support capabilities Business Objects had under its previous support system." Service Marketplace offers:

• Integrated knowledge management: When a support case is resolved, other technicians and customers can see the resolution.

• Moderated forums: While the independent BOB user forum is an invaluable resource for Business Objects customers, the vendor has never officially supported or contributed to it.

• Better support for remote diagnostics

The vision all sounds great to me, but let's look at some of the sore points raised in the blog comments last week:

• Rate Increase: Support costs will increase to 22 percent of net licensing fees. While many customers are already at this rate, some customers were on a 20 percent rate for standard support that did not provide 24-hour/7-day access. The new rate gives 24/7 access. Customers will be migrated to the new rate over a four-year period. Based on research done for BIScorecard, a number of BI competitors charge maintenance based on list pricing and not discounted pricing, and that 22 percent is at the low end of the maintenance rate.

• Historical Cases: Historical case information will be migrated over and should be completed within the next two weeks. Customers will be able to access three years of history.

• Service level agreements: I continue to advocate that all enterprise BI customers negotiate SLAs as part of their purchase agreement. While one blog commenter wrote that Business Objects was not open to this in the past, I suspect this is more of a historical BI issue and lack of customer demand (or insistence!). SLAs are less important when BI is deployed departmentally. For enterprise software (including SAP ERP) and hardware, SLAs are fairly standard. So as part of your evaluation process (see recommended process here), involve the purchasing department early in the process. If you wait until the 11th hour, you may not be in the best bargaining position.

As I stated in my earlier blog, I'd like to see more customers evaluate support — the quality, the costs, the capabilities — as part of BI buying. Including an SLA in the contract would seem a natural evolution. Even if you have made an initial BI investment, revisiting the maintenance terms is possible whenever you buy new modules or additional licenses. In the meantime, I'll be curious how Business Objects makes amends to customers for this support misstep and if indeed they can execute on their vision in this area.

About the Author

Cindi Howson is the founder of BIScorecard, a Web site for in-depth BI product reviews. She has been using, implementing and evaluating business intelligence tools for more than 15 years. She is the author of Successful Business Intelligence: Secrets to Making BI a Killer App and Business Objects XI R2: The Complete Reference. She teaches for The Datawarehousing Institute (TDWI) and is a frequent speaker at industry events. Write to her at cindihowson@biscorecard.com

Source: Intelligent Enterprise

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