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    Consider this a rant !!! Be warned. Words will not be minced. No punches will be pulled. Feelings might get hurt. Cover the ears of the sensitive. Hide your women and children. Lock your doors if necessary. I’ve only just begun! (haha) You might ask “Chris!…you’re always such a laid back guy…so easy-going…why are you all worked up?!?!?!” You will find that this blog is a bit of a departure from my usual. Well, let me explain….

     It’s no secret that I enjoy HCM P&F. I think my many blogs covering it and my forum posts trying to help others get into this area as easily as possible so they can see what I see have proven that. Now, I might throw a few jabs here and there at it, but at the end of the day, that is all just for some fun and laughs. Honestly, I do enjoy HCM P&F and working with it. Surprisingly enough, what’s most frustrating to me of all, however, is not that the technology does not work (it does!) or that it’s got some framework breaking bugs (it doesn’t !) or any such of other common gripe someone might have when a new product is rolled out. HCM P&F works! I’ve done it. I’ve seen it first hand. Nope, it’s none of the usual stuff.

    My biggest gripe quite simply comes down to just one thing…..dollars. Yep, it’s the cost. No matter how wonderful and awesome I think HCM P&F is, or even how great clients see it’s possibilities, it all comes down to cost….or as one of my favored sayings goes “if we ain’t talkin’ dollars, it don’t make no cents (sic)!” (haha)

    I can not tell you how many of my own clients and prospective clients as well as others I hear about have gone down the path to seriously consider implementing HCM P&F (some even well into their projects!) when everything grinds to a sudden halt and stops completely or gets “postponed until a later date” when they finally get word of how much HCM P&F (namely Adobe licensing) will cost……Can I get an “amen” from my HCM P&F friends? (haha)

     So what does it cost? Glad you asked!….because it will depend on who you ask, when you ask and what you ask as well. I think they almost go out of their way to try to make it as the most painful and confusing process you will go through. Hang on for a fun ride! (haha)

     The overall main “cost” with HCM P&F will come down to the licensing for Adobe Interactive Forms. As much as SAP seems to sings the praises of Adobe Interactive Forms and has been pushing it like crazy in all their own marketing material, you would think they would make this extremely affordable in order to increase the adoption of their strategy to move to Adobe forms. But that seems quite the opposite when you see it put on paper. In a nutshell, here is pretty much what SAP states and can be found in any one of many presentations (if any of this is incorrect, please correct me in the comments below!)…

  • Even though it is an Adobe license, you have to go through SAP to get the license. Furthermore, it can not be “bundled” with an existing Adobe license you might have. (OK, so reading between the lines, I see this as “SAP is selling for Adobe so SAP wants their “cut” of the sales….no biggy there.)
  • For print forms, no additional cost. (ok, so this is like replacing our good ol’ SmartForms/SAPScripts with Adobe forms…no biggy)
  • For SAP supplied interactive forms, no additional cost. (ok, so they give them to us, so no cost to use….I can see that)
  • For SAP supplied interactive forms which have been only aestheticly customized, such as changing a SAP logo to your logo or changing a color or changing font style/family/size, no additional cost. (makes sense….we aren’t really changing anything other than the “look”).
  • For SAP supplied forms that have been changed more than aestheticly such as moving or hiding form fields, there is an additional cost. (what? same form with just some things moved around or hidden? That’s not really a change is it?)
  • For custom interactive forms, there is an additional cost. (hmmmm…..make note of this….here comes the BIG one!)

     Sooooo……that last bullet point seems to be the one where we might incur an additional cost past just the Adobe license then eh? “So what is that cost?”……brace yourself….please make sure you are sitting down and/or holding a guard rail firmly…..the cost is…..*drum roll*….



WHAT ?!?!?!?!?!?!!?!?!?!!!!!!!!!!!


    From the outside, someone is probably thinking “what’s the big deal?”. In most cases, how bad could it be? CRM? SRM? Those that know HCM P&F however will see the immediate issue. Our processes….the flow of them….are all handled by the collection and exchange of data in the forms! Here’s an example for you…..a typical HCM P&F might have say 3 steps in it….this might use 2 different forms….so that’s 2 forms to license then right? With me? But there’s more…..OK…..the first form might be used by all managers  (X number of users)….the second might be used by HR admins (Y number of users). Sooooo just in that simple…VERY simple…3 step process, we have:

form1 x (#X users) + form2 x (#Y users) = $$$

… consider a process that uses a form for ALL employees……or a process that includes maybe 14 steps and 10 different forms…….or possibly rolling out 8-10 processes. Can you see now how this cost becomes absolutely insane?!?!?!?! Just to get one process going could be a HUGE cost….let alone 5-10 processes!

    Until we get some resolution, here is the immediate argument I often hear (typically, again, from those not working with HCM P&F and that don’t know better)…..”But you get all those delivered processes from SAP, why would you build a bunch of your own?”….Forgive me….I had to stop laughing first. That suggestion is just….yeh. The processes SAP delivers are SAMPLES and noted as such. In fact, directly from SAP “help” documentation, it readsYou may not use the sample processes for productive implementation. Rather, you must copy them as customer-specific processes.” These samples are also very basic. They are no where near what you would see in a real business process. They are more to illustrate particular configuration settings, form development, scripting and services, and other things to serve more as teaching tools or reference than anything else. If I saw or heard of anyone trying to implement one of those processes “as is”, I think I would fall out of my chair laughing.

    So even if this all doesn’t sound crazy enough to you, there is yet another bit of confusion I have seen/heard…another wrench to throw in the gears. Even when you think you might have some idea of how this licensing works, it all seems to change….it’s a moving target at best.

     As I have all too often seen over the years with SAP, all that we discussed before is what you might hear/read publically, but it will still all boil down to “what is negotiated in the contract with SAP”. I am often not privy to this type of information, so I will only hear bits and pieces relayed to me. However, as it relates to this licensing issue/thorn and HCM P&F, there does seem to be some acknowledgement from SAP and “some” felxibility in working this out to an agreeable term. However, again, I think there is some confusion both within SAP and with customers as to what exactly is included in the license and what’s an additional/on-going cost. Case in point was a recent VERY funny story I heard. A customer had implemented HCM P&F. Month’s later SAP audits them. They get a big, surprise bill from SAP. It wasn’t for each and every form they used for each user. It was for every process that was in records/case management!!! (HCM P&F has to store data in there as XML for all it’s processes, but past that, it really isn’t true case management) Now, this was a big mistake on SAP’s end and was corrected, but it just supports the idea that even within SAP, there is confusion around HCM P&F and how to handle it.

    At last year’s TechEd and the HR Conference prior to it, I attended each and every Adobe forms related session that I could. It wasn’t that I expected to learn or hear anything new. I went simply to make a point to bring up this licensing issue as much as I possibly could! (haha) Was I trying to be a smarta$$? No. Was I trying to be “cute” or funny? No. Was I trying to put someone on point? No. I simply wanted to make them very aware of how ridiculous this is from a customer perspective. For most sessions, it was an Adobe guy presenting (great guy by the way). He was more the forthcoming with the information and seemed equally as frustrated. In fact, he got so use to me asking the same question in every session that he would just laugh and smile as I raised my hand and then start his answer to me with “Great question…..I get asked this in EVERY session it seems like….” (haha). But the funniest was when both he and the SAP product manager were in the same presentation. Yet again I asked “So the biggest point of frustration and confusion to my customers seems to be the issue of licensing….in fact, many have halted projects over it….is anything being done there?” Without skipping a beat, the Adobe guy replied with something to the effect of “Well, SAP has to handle the Adobe licensing through them, so I will defer to my friend here to discuss that….”.(haha) The SAP Product Manager handled it just as well too though. He acknowledged also that this was a known issue and they were “working on it”. Even past that, after the conferences and such, talking with SAP folks internally and in touch with HCM P&F, they too always reply with “I know, I know…we’re still working that out.”. So when is this going to get worked out?!?!?!

    In the meantime, as this “lull” is ongoing until these issues are worked out and customers move to adopt HCM P&F, there are people out there developing replacements. I know of folks developing replacement front-ends for HCM P&F (ie. doing it without using Adobe interactive forms at all!) that tie right into the same configuration and do everything just the same. Furthermore, these are accessible via the web/portal, iPhones, Blackberry devices, etc. , so they are that much more enticing to the “ooooo ahhhh” decision makers. I have even heard rumors of a Webdynpro ABAP replacement using the “soon-to-be-release” better, native version of WDA. It seems then that HCM P&F might not be killed off, but that we will only be accessing it in new and different ways. I can see it now….someone will say “So you guys are doing HCM P&F with that old Adobe stuff?” haha To that end then, this whole discussion and hurdle of licensing might become a moot point. Time will tell.

    Now, the critics among you (if there are any) might say “But Chris, this is just some self-serving rant….you’re just a consultant who’s mad that no one is buying up HCM P&F as fast as you would like, and you’re not getting steady work from it.” Well, sorry to rain on your parade, critics, but that could not be further from the truth. (1) My past several projects now have all been HCM P&F….so no trouble finding them…just not a lot out there (2) I don’t look at HCM P&F as any kind of financial/career boon to myself….I see it from my clients and SAP customers’ perspective for all the benefits it offers…sorry if I must apologize for this, I kinda take that whole “trusted advisor” part of consulting very seriously. (3) My areas of specialization are outside but also include HCM P&F….prior to HCM P&F, I did a LOT of ESS/MSS and portal work….so I can always find other work easily outside HCM P&F.

    My one and only agenda here is to move this discussion forward. I can not say often enough…I see huge potential in HCM P&F…but I would hate to see that potential unrealized simply because both sides can not work out the issue of money such that it’s beneficial and acceptable to both. Is that too much to ask? Maybe I am naive or at worst, too much of a dreamer, but based on all the buzz I continue to hear about HCM P&F, I seriously think that if SAP could work out this pricing foolishness, it would unleash the floodgates on HCM P&F sales, adoption and implementations…..and then I could sit back with a big smile and say “See….I told ya so!” haha

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  1. Jarret Pazahanick
    Chris, great article and glad you brought up this topic as it is truly the main pain point of HCM Processes and Forms. 

    I know first hand of multiple clients that would be interested in using the product if it were more affordable.

  2. Kevin Wilson
    A well laid out article. I can totally see how this form of licensing can prevent a company from going ahead and using the software. Are SAP actually trying to sell licenses or just sell consulting services for a blueprint phase because at that price they’ll never get out the blueprint phase.
    I had a customer that had a similar issue with web user licensing in the CRM space. It’s prohibitive and SAP needs to come to the party.
    1. Former Member
      Maybe that’s right re: blueprint phase. Check this guy’s blog to see what he’s facing: – just to whet your appetite, the post title is: ‘Your implementation is killing us.’ I’m wondering if I should have added …literally. There is plenty to absorb from what the person says, much of which I’m sure will resonate with people who have commented here already.
  3. Suresh Datti
    Amen for the truly ridiculous cost/license factor and am now curious about the native WDA statement too… haven’t heard that yet..
    1. Christopher Solomon Post author
      First off….thanks as always for your response and very valued input.

      As for the native WDA snippet…this was mentioned to me in passing from someone looking into EhP5 right now….not sure about any other details (rumors are fun eh?!? haha). The whole point of that paragraph is the same however…other presentation options are and will be available “soon”.

  4. Former Member
    Great blog as always, Chris, keep them coming. As previously mentioned, you make my job far easier for writing them.

    On the licensing issue, the plug was nearly pulled for HCM P&F on my last project when we were made aware of the additional costs. 

    It seems unethical to even contemplate this kind of pricing scheme. It’s not as if SAP is cheap to implement or maintain…

    On your other snippet of info about alternate front ends, I am also most interested. Are we talking Flex here at all?  I need a concrete ‘excuse’ to learn more about this and this could be the ideal one! 

    Also, the newer version of WDA sounds extremely interesting. I assume as details come to light you will make us all aware of them…


  5. Richard Hirsch
    I like this blog – despite its ranting character :-> -, because it once again reminds us that technology – irregardless of how cool it is – often plays a secondary role in IT decisions.


  6. Michael Bennett

    Great stuff. I think this helps to highlight issues using interactive forms even outside of HCM P&F where company might want to help streamline a process using interactive forms for end users. It becomes an immediate struggle to propose a simplified solution when you are questioned about the fact that we already more or less pay a per user license fee to use the SAP systems / platforms that are already in place. It seems to then become an additional overhead to give an ROI for any particular implementation of an interactive form. I’ve seen licensing be a “killer” in many areas of suggesting newer SAP functionality even though we already have business suite licensing. Given there has to be some return on investment to SAP for newer developed functionality it still becomes increasing had given the past increase in maintenance licensing.



  7. Stephen Johannes

    We have a couple of CRM processes that we would like to support with offline forms, that never get started due to “extra licensing” issues.  It reminds me of the commercial where the guy is selling hot dogs on the street without the buns.

    I wasn’t aware that you paid per user and not just per scenario.  That’s definitely a case of squeezing blood out of a turnip.  However I guess the pricing model is based on high-margin vs high adoption for this technology.

    Take care



  8. Hi Chris,
    I agree wholeheartedly with what you are saying here. I like everyone else who has worked with interactive forms have had projects stopped because of the license fees over the last years.

    I would however like to clearify a couple of things.

    The pricelist for the (interactive) Adobe forms is more nuanced than only pay per user. There is for instance a “starter pack” which includes 5 forms and no extra per user license. And if you create/modify more than 20 forms the price per user is only 1/3 of the price of the “Up to 20 users” package. For external users or NetWeaver “Full Use” the pricing is available upon request. (read: negotiation)

    The last year or so I have also found that the prices are open for negotiation, up until the point where the forms are almost free if they are bought along with another NetWeaver license.


    1. Christopher Solomon Post author
      See…and this is exactly the point….I have never heard of any of those “options” either. The ones I listed came straight from SAP material from the recent HR Conference, in fact. As you point out, this all seems soooo open to negotiation that it is even more confusing.
      1. The information is from the official price list (hope I didn’t share information I wasn’t supposed to..), so strange they didn’t mention the other options in the SAP material you mention.
        1. Former Member
          @Anne – you’re raising an interesting point. If SAP’s mantra is going to be ‘clarity’ then doesn’t it behoove SAP to publish its price book? Oracle does and it doesn’t cause issues?
  9. Former Member
    Last week I was contacted by Perfect Forms. $30/user/month….doing deals left and right, offered as a saas or on-prem…just inking a deal with HSBC $750K (they’ve got a lot of peeps and a lot of forms.) And guess what, HSBC is an SAP customer as per here: That must hurt.

    I’ve written about this here:

    Now I know SAP reads my stuff so when they see that and this on the same page, how many sales people are going to be going ‘Duh?’

    This addiction to predatory, confusing pricing HAS to come to an end or as my headline says…oh well, you can read it again…

  10. Former Member
    I don’t know enough technically about building forms .. but I know a little, so I would like to talk about the effort that goes into building a form and does that justify such a pricing model …

    Adobe Forms are PDFs .. internally very similar to an HTML/JavaScript website .. it has markup to describe the UI and Javascript for logic .. so building an Adobe Form is at the same level of difficulty as building a webpage that calls a webservice. So if someone were to build a webpage that allowed users to do the same process step .. its cost will be the same as that of building a PDF form.

    i.e Building and Adobe form for a process step or Building an internal intranet webpage for that process step will cost the same.

    Workflow advantages of Forms vs. Websites is a whole other discussion … but I guess the main obvious advantage of a PDF form is mobility or the ability to send it over email.  

    But is this mobility worth the cost? is it worth a per user per form license ?

    As I said, I don’t know enough about this, but to me as an outsider the cost does not seem justified .. and I feel customers would go though a similar thought process.   

  11. Graham Robinson
    Hi Chris,

    great rant – keep it going.

    I too take the “trused advisor” role very seriously. Despite years of posturing it is clear to me that, when it comes to pricing, SAP do not.

    Graham Robbo

  12. Former Member
    Hi Chris,
        I agree with you with a badly managed license for SIfBA.
    I think the evaluation formula needs to be adjusted and consider at least the time, something like:
    (form1 x (#X users)) * ( number of times used in a year / 365) ….

    I consider for example a module dispached to employees for the annual deduct declaration or for a sporadic update of bank accounting.

  13. Christopher Solomon Post author
    First off….@Anne Kathrine Petterøe…..I don’t think you let any “cat out of the bag”. The info you put out was pretty much publicly available. If it helps more folks….the information I spoke to in the blog and to which Anne Kathrine Petterøe spoke about can be found with a simple Google search. Here is one such find from a presentation about 1 yr ago…

    Just look at slides/pages 18 (which I talked about in the blog) and page 19 (which Anne Kathrine alluded too). These same slides are used in several SAP presentations on the forms, and I think you can see why they are no less confusing.

  14. Christopher Solomon Post author
    **** UPDATE **** UPDATE**** UPDATE ***********

    Funny how this post seems to have gotten so much attention internally at SAP. Oops! As was told to me “pricing and licensing is a sensitive subject”….and I do understand that. haha

    So, this morning I had a GREAT 45 min. call with folks from both SAP and Adobe. Of course it wasn’t to disucss pricing specifics or anything of that sort since I don’t get involved with any of that. Our discussion was more of where this is all going.

    Now, I don’t think I can discuss details of what was relayed to me as even those folks were not able to speak about all details. When/If SAP wants to be more public with this information, they said they would post/add to the comments here. But I will say this:

    1. The information I spoke to in this blog was “old”…the 2008 information. (haha) For 2009, licensing has changed a bit. Looking at page/slide 19 in the link below that discuss kits, forms in 20 “packs” and external user forms…let’s just say, numbers have been adjusted up for the better. haha However, are there any “replacement” slides to update that 2008 information? No. SAP has not released anything like that… guess is because the 2008 ones caused so much confusion as it is. haha

    2. They are aware that their is a difference between using Adobe Interactive forms overall vs for a specific application (such as HCM P&F) and are working towards an agreeable, balanced pricing for that. Finding that balance is the hard question…while also not adding to any confusion for the customers.

    3. This can not be said enough…LICENSING WILL DEPEND ON WHAT YOU SPECIFICALLY NEGOTIATE WITH SAP…..just like anything else. Therefore, it is hard for them to put specific numbers out there that might lead to greater confusion (kind of like the information I talked about in this blog that has been out there a while now…page/slides 18-19 in link below.

    4. Overall, does SAP need to be more open about their pricing and licensing(*cough Oracle cough*)? Yes. I really wish they would….then this little discussion and blog would be really unnecessary. But we all agreed that that discussion was much larger than any of us on the call and would be something for the higher-ups in SAP to decide.

    So, are things better? Yes. Is there still some room for work to be done? Yes. Am I hoping that SAP will respond to this and give us some direction? Yes.

    Let’s see where this goes!

    1. Suresh Datti
      still waiting for that “good news”.. it has been more than an year.. & I beleive it is status quo as far the licening goes.. EHP5 ramp-up is pushed to late December.. didn’t yet hear about other options for the Forms..sorry for diggnig up an old blog.. couldn’t help it..
  15. Former Member
    Great blog Chris.

    The comment made in your conversation with SAP/Adobe that “LICENSING WILL DEPEND ON WHAT YOU SPECIFICALLY NEGOTIATE WITH SAP” is perhaps what’s hurting them the most. As an independent consultant on HCM projects, not having a solid cost structure to discuss with clients makes it difficult to be a ‘salesman’ for SAP. I can discuss all the great features of the technology but when asked about cost, I have to tell them “it depends on your relationship with SAP”. That statement alone resonates EXPENSIVE and I’m doubtful most clients even follow-up.

    1. Christopher Solomon Post author
      Thanks…and trust me, I discussed/brought this up in our call. Of course, our main “job” is not to be the salesman/account exec, but often times as you pointed out, we all from the consulting side (be it SAP, IBM, smaller consulting companies, independent consultants, etc) will get asked those questions. I agree, I hate sounding like a broken record with “it depends on what you negotiate with SAP”. Two things that jump out at me with that statement…

      (1) how is the customer suppose to know what is negotiable and what to ask? Sure you can be flippant and say “well, all things are negotiable”, but that would turn a lot of folks away as you suggest, Derrick. To me that implies “well, you might get a better or worse deal than other people depending on if you ask the right questions or not and how much you are willing to spend overall”. That’s not exactly the right message to be sending, I wouldn’t think….especially in these tight economic times.

      (2) especially with HCM P&F, since it is so new to many folks, they don’t have an idea of what exactly might be all entailed in implementing their overall project/solution. You could as easily tell them they get 5 forms or they get 50 and that really wouldn’t tell them much…they wouldn’t know if that’s good or bad…much less what to negotiate from there.

      I think this all goes back to my point below about being more open with pricing/licensing overall, but that’s a whole LARGER discussion. In the meantime, I think we need at least a better balance for Adobe Interactive forms themselves as discussed below in comments.

  16. Former Member
    A big thank you for hilighting the issue around SAP’s current licensing model for Adobe interactive forms.  We can rule out HCM P&F straight away on cost but might look at leveraging the framework via WDA. 

    Also a big thank you for your many blogs on some of the features/bugs/pitfalls etc.  Helped me a great deal in understanding how the framework hangs together.


  17. Former Member
    I have read this blog 2 years and could not agree more.

    In 2010 I have spent days (maybe weeks) with SAP to highlight the challenge of their licensing model (even proposing a win-win solution for the licensing model) without any success.

    Mid 2011 : ‘same player shoot again’. One of my “customer” wants to have a project in the HCM area to tackle all employee performance with an offline scenario. I can bet you already the end result (even if there is a dream to use standard SAP Interactive form).

    Has anyone be able to overcome the licensing model challenge when it has to be used by all the employees of the company ?

    Chris if you read this blog : if you have any update … maybe I will have another lough.

      1. Christopher Solomon Post author
        Heya guys! Wish I had good news to tell you. Last year (2010) at TechEd in Vegas, this came up yet again. In fact, Mark Smithson of Step Up Systems Group along with Harald Reiter (fellow mentor) helped put together a meeting with Adobe and SAP’s newest product manager for forms.

        Well, more of the same is all I can say. From Adobe, their hands are tied. From SAP, they seem to think their “recent” change in providing “packs” is the solution. We (the folks in attendance coming from a client perspective) voiced why this STILL does not work. It just fell on deaf ears. We got the very polite…yet very political…answer to the effect of “thank you for your feedback…we will look into it”.

        In the meantime, as you both might know, many companies have built Adobe IF replacement solutions for HCM P&F. In my opinion, they come in varying degrees of usefulness and more often than not are just “accelerators” (not complete solutions) to get a consulting companies foot in the door to finish up the work (which is not a bad thing, but it is what it is). What was interesting, I heard several rumors that replacements were coming for AIF all together….such as mumors of Crystal Reports (what?!?! I know.).

        Sooooo….as before, not sure what is going on, but as you and I both know, SAP has lost a LOT of opportunity while sitting on their hands on this one.

  18. Former Member

    Hi Chris,

    Thanks for this blog.

    I was wondering if there’s any update on this matter?

    Is there any way to avoid these extreme costs for case management when using P&F?

    Do we need cases per se? My customer doesn’t use the cases itself at all after the process has ended.

    If we cannot avoid creating cases, is it useful to delete cases afterwards? Does it make any difference in the way SAP bills?


    1. Christopher Solomon Post author

      CASE Mgmt is NOT the issue in any way…and you absolutely DO want it. It is where  your process data is persisted and stored for historical purposes. No issue there with licensing so no worries. The “extreme costs” come in the form of the Adobe licensing that you need….and to that end, little to nothing has changed. This blog is fairly old but still pretty relevant…which is sad in that nothing changed during that time. There was some new news out of TechEd that I blogged about in SAP Interactive Forms by Adobe – Today & Tomorrow -my notes from SAP teched 2013, but nothing really new around licensing.


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