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You can open up a restaurant, have the best food and fanciest décor in the world, but if the service sucks, no one will come back to eat. You can also open up a restaurant, put foie gras on the menu, and serve chicken liver in its place. No one will come back to eat.


While this beautifully constructed metaphor may be a slight stretch, it lines up well with SAP Cloud Portfolio, its products, and its service.


SAP is (finally) delivering some delightful products in its Cloud Portfolio, with the user experience getting better with each release. These are products I’m proud of, but I’m sad to say, I’m consistently embarrassed by SAP Cloud Support. This is the business unit that handles incidents generated through application issues in the Cloud products. There’s no reason to harp on the current state of affairs, because I can’t change that. I can, however, offer some constructive criticism that will align Cloud service with Cloud products.


EXPECTATIONS FOR SUPPORT


SAP has claimed many times to have a 24×7, ‘follow the sun’ support system in place. Unfortunately, the reality falls far short of the promise. It’s true that if you call SAP Cloud Support, they will pick up the phone 24 hours a day. However, the only time your incident is being worked on is typically during Indian business hours, where the development team resides. This leads to huge lag times in getting problems fixed.

My recommendation: If SAP will only provide actual support during Indian business hours, say so. The golden rule in consulting is to under-promise and over-deliver. SAP should re-evaluate its support messaging to set customer expectations accordingly.

And for any SAP Cloud Support folks reading this, sorry for all the phone calls. 🙁

TRANSPARENCY

When SAP Cloud Support works on incidents, very little information is provided. The most typical response or update is that ‘our development team is working on the incident and we will update you tomorrow.’ Then tomorrow, you’ll get an update with the same message. And again. And again.

Customers would be so much happier and confident that their incident is really being worked on if SAP includes what is actually being done to solve the problem, and by who. Why hide behind generic responses if actual work is being performed by an actual human?

ACCOUNTABILITY

There are published SLA’s for SAP Cloud Support incidents, but they only include response times, not resolution timeframes. For example, a High level incident must be responded to within three days. But this timeframe is missed all the time. Shouldn’t SAP be accountable for this? What recourse do customers have?

There should also be some SLA’s for resolution, because sometimes major software bugs surface that prevent the business from functioning. I’ve been in these tense situations with my clients, with the resolution spanning weeks. It doesn’t make anyone look good. Perhaps if expectations or estimates for resolution are set, customers and partners can at least plan accordingly.

IN CONCLUSION

If SAP wants to build the best Cloud menu out there, it’s got to provide commensurate service in the form of realistic expectations, transparency, and accountability. Otherwise, no one will come back to eat.

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36 Comments

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  1. Pim de Wit

    Hi Judson,

    Nice blog i agree. Traditional support models don’t fit the Cloud.

    Beside support i would like to add 1 more thing that SAP need’s to sort out to be successful in the cloud. They have to adopt the Cloud sales model.

    Cloud is about very easy and low level entry to explorer functionality. Pure SaaS vendors (like salesforce) have set the bar with a standard 7-30 day trail version of a fully functional solution. After this trail period you pay by credit card and your trail account/system is your new productive system. Microsoft has adopted the same model in it’s office365 offering. On SAP’s leading SaaS product (=Succesfactors) i couldn’t find any similair offering.

    I was shocked to only get access to some product video when i register myself for a free trail of Sales Ondemand. (beside the fact that the “trail” doesn’t seen to run on Safari Webbrowser!)

    Maybe i’m pushing the wrong buttons on the SAP site. Fact is that i do not have overview and very low level entry which results in a bad sales experiences.

    Or to use your words. SAP may have the best menu but there’s no way of letting customer explore it for themselves.

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    1. Judson Wickham Post author

      You’re absolutely right, and the public should have access to ‘try before they buy.’ This is an almost universal feature among SaaS vendors, especially for LoB solutions like Sales OnDemand.

      You have to be an official prospect with an internal SAP CRM number in order to access the demo systems.

      I was going to send you an invite to an actual Customer OnDemand system, but I don’t have your email, so here you go:

      URL: https://my301187.crm.ondemand.com/

      User: SALESMAN

      Password: Welcome1

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    2. Tamas Szirtes

      Hi Pim,

      Fully agree. In NetWeaver Cloud (incl Portal) you can sign up for a free trial account and when you like it, you can purchase a productive account. Then you can export your work in the trial instance and import it in your productive account. Not as fluent as we may wish, but it is possible.

      Regards,

      Tamas

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  2. Luke Marson

    Hi Judson,

    Great blog and a tough topic to tackle. Hopefully Sven Denecken will get the chance to read this and take some action internally.

    I’ve heard less than satisfactory things about support here and for SuccessFactors since SAP acquired them. But we all know that their existing support is not exactly market-leading and I hear many stories of customers creating their own solutions rather than wait weeks – or sometimes months – for a response from SAP (that’s response, not fix).

    I hope SAP looks at this because substandard support often leaves a bad taste and with many SaaS and Cloud solutions having many similarities then without significant differentiators SAP could lose out to the competition.

    Best regards,

    Luke

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    1. Judson Wickham Post author

      That’s why I wrote this. SAP must improve its support if it intends to compete in the Cloud.

      Contrary to all the hype, Financials OnDemand, for example, is not a revolutionary product as it does what every other financial system in the world does. So the only differentiators left are the Provider (SAP), and the Partner. We are very straightforward with our customers in that there are tons of solutions that would be a great fit for them, but the reputation of SAP combined with our own differentiates us.

      I really hope SAP sorts this out. They made so many promises around supporting the Cloud Studio (SDK) but have made no progress and actual slid backward.

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      1. Neil Krefsky

        Judson, we are just at the beginning of an innovation and adoption wave for cloud financial software especially for larger enterprises.  This mainly due to the convergence of a lot of concurrent technology trends, including cloud, big data analytics, social collaboration and mobile.  In that respect SAP Financials OnDemand is significantly different from the traditional financial systems around the world you refer to in that:

          • The financial systems of the 90’s were built around transactions, not decision-making or analytics
          • They were built for transparency and governance/compliance, not for collaboration and instant action
          • They were built for finance experts, not for everyone in your company

          People’s work style has moved on and the finance line of business role has evolved from the scorekeeper into a more strategic partner to the rest of the company.  Finance departments still need all of the foundational capabilities that SAP has become the trusted financial backbone for (transactions, transparency, governance/compliance, financial excellence) but more than ever, they need to add support for the 21st century style of work.  It is in this context that SAP Financials OnDemand is different. Specifically in a single cloud based solution SAP Financials OnDemand incorporates the latest innovations in big data, social collaboration and mobile with proven core financial management processes.  This approach enables companies to unlock the power of financial insight to all lines of business professionals to help improve the performance of their respective departments.  I’d be happy to connect directly and I can share more if you’re interested.

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          1. Judson Wickham Post author

            You have to be freaking kidding me.

            Financials OnDemand is Business ByDesign Financials with LESS functionality.

            Can you please explain why you are spamming this thread?

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    2. Andreas Eissmann

      Thanks Judson for this blog! I fully agree with you!

      SAP have to work on this issue cause if they don`t do…they will lose customers.

      Regarding transparency I will add that SAP have to invest in education of first level support cause often this people don`t understand customers problems and they also don`t understand answers from indian developers. They try to translate (additional problem in Germany) and try to explain something they don`t understand (in both directions), how should that work?

      Regarding accountability I think It would be a first step if SAP starts to be honest to customers. Currently they are really fast to say “We have checked you issue and it`s a regular system behaviour.”…sorry, no it`s a bug!

      I don`t know if SLA`s for resolution is something that works but they could categorize  bugs in main business processes (those which block customer business) as “System not available” and inculde those in system availability reporting.

      Best regards,

      Andreas

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      1. Judson Wickham Post author

        I like the idea of bugs blocking business processes as a System Not Available event, because in my opinion every documented process must work 100% of the time, and if not, the system is Not Available.

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        1. Rufat Gadirov

          Hi Judson,

          you´re so right! Besides, it is not only about bugs in the software. It´s also about CONVINCING the Cloud Support that the missing functionality IS a BUG. Currently, I have an incident in process (since 3-4 weeks). Now, I have received the the feedback that it is not a technical problem and therefore I´ll have to go to an implementation partner who should be able to help me. BUT I AM THE IMPLEMENTATION PARTNER and I have the technical experience but no access to deeper backend functionality. And its 100 % a bug as I tested the case in the latest release 1302 where it works and also discussed the problem with other partners. The cloud support process so far: They can´t solve the problem, postpone the case everytime and then, 3-4 weeks later, they tell me they can´t do anything!! They even haven´t told me what they exactly did so far! It´s really a pain! 🙁

          Another incident has been 3-4 months in process. The Endresult: No change! After receiving my incident, the indian development team began to develop a new AddIn. I don´t know what they exactly did, but 4 months later I haven´t noticed any change. They even did not ask for further informations in order to gain more knowledge on my requirements.

          Key User as a Service would only work if the Key User had access to the backend functionality. But even then – as you said- the customer wants only to pay when the support is included in the license. Yes, these are the reasons why I sometimes get desperate and ask you or Andreas! 😀   I am also completely aware of the fact, that you cannot help everybody and everytime.

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          1. Judson Wickham Post author

            Same experience here, and I personally get bombarded with questions constantly, taking my own personal time to help people with SAP’s problem.

            As you said regarding the technical issues, it’s useless to try to resolve on our own because the PSM has us in handcuffs.

            Someone from SAP needs to see this.

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      2. Luke Marson

        Any of the “smaller” areas of SAP Support have terrible first line support. The problem is that experienced folks don’t work on 1st line support. Usually they work on implementing. Folks like you and Judson would be awesome 1st line support folks, but seriously would you do it? I guess not.

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        1. Judson Wickham Post author

          Luke, yes I would do that, and charge for it. Key User as a Service. I’m sure you get bombarded with functional questions constantly like I do through my personal email.

          But who would be willing to pay when the support is included in the license?

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          1. Luke Marson

            The point is that you can’t charge for it – and maybe that’s why the support model is not working for SAP. If they really want great support then they have to pay for it, but in the Cloud model support is a cost center as opposed to on-premise where it is a profit center (through maintenance). I think this is a real challenge for SAP and other cloud vendors. I guess the best way is to assign all consultants to also work in support, maybe for 15% of their time. This would certainly add a lot of value, although maybe not make the workforce too happy.

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            1. Judson Wickham Post author

              Luke, here’s the problem with that: In my experience (back me up Andreas), the support issues are a result of actual bugs that can only be worked on by the Indian development team that is very shady (ex: if you ask their name, they will not tell you), and takes FOREVER to fix anything.

              I think this could be handled as Andreas proposed, as qualifying a broken business process as System Down Time, because it has the exact same effect on users. Since there is an up-time SLA for ByD, this could be a method of recourse for the customer.

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              1. Andreas Eissmann

                You are right Judson, we have bugs which support can’t or nill resolve…

                They concentrate on proposing terrible workarounds insteat of solving the orgin problem.

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              2. Luke Marson

                Well SAP need to invest in a better support team don’t they? Although I see that the classification of issues appears to be half of the problem.

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    3. Sina Moatamed

      Wow Judson, as I was reading this I was having PTSD with my own experiences now 2 years ago with ByD.  At the time there was a lot of talk of remedy with Brazil support being brought on.  It sounds like not much has changed.  That is too bad.

      First challenge is that SAP is no longer in the software business.  Cloud is about Service Delivery.  The entire engagement has to be from that lens.

      • SLA’s can no longer just be around system uptime alone.  Customer in partnership with VAR need to be able to look at a solution like ByD and define the business capability (process or functionality) that is critical to the business (lead-to-cash, procure-to-pay, etc.).
      • Map business capabilities to an established set of priority level response and resolution metrics provided by SAP.
      • The mapping or matrix of service delivery priority, needs to be open for change without contract rework.  Maybe a quarterly review as business requirements could change.
      • If true developer talent can’t be distributed to all follow-the-sun locations, then you have to have level 3 support working 2nd and 3rd shifts in India.

      I can tell you that Cloud Contracting is maturing and if SAP does not have the support infrastructure in place, they will be in a Penalty negotiation throughout the relationship with its customers.  I will also tell you that risk-pool contracts are going to become standard play in the cloud space.  For example, where 20% of the service fees are awarded if an agreed upon set of SLAs are met or exceeded.

      There are two hurdles that SAP has: creating a world-class support model and remedy the high latency in user interaction with the system itself.  If SAP spends 2013 focused in these areas, they will crush the market because the solutions are superb!

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      1. Judson Wickham Post author

        Sina, even after all these years, after all these major improvements and huge changes, do you know what the number one complaint of ALL users is?

        “The system is too slow.”

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        1. Sina Moatamed

          My hope is that SAP executives are listening to this exchange.  Judson, I know how much you and others have championed the SAP cloud solutions offered.  Trying to drive this message forward to improve and produce quality solutions. Its a partnership between SAP and this community.

          To put it simply its not about delivering a great solution, it’s about delivering a great experience.

          Could someone from SAP respond to this?  Judson has defined the two areas of greatest need in SAP’s cloud service delivery.  Its also not new, so this requires a well organized response to how SAP is addressing these concerns.

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    4. Andreas Eissmann

      How Sina mentioned, I hope SAP will respond to this blog…

      We already had this disscussion on DSAG (german SAP user group) meeting end of last year but it seems as nothing has changed…

      Before we can go further SAP has to clarify which role Cloud Support play…

      1. Is it a development support for fixing bugs? <- no customer would pay for this, it must be for free

      2. Is it support for process question? How can I do something? <- if support is good customer would pay for

      If I take a look on marketing and sales stuff for cloud solutions, I get the impression that SAP communicate that both points are included in the mothly fee but the reality is, only first point is included and not even that works…

      Since last week, one of my collegues is preparing a list of our and some of our customers “unresolved / not satisfactory resolved” incidents. We will escalade those incidents in next weeks and I think, it would be great if you all would do the same…then we have concrete things we can talk about with SAP…

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    5. Andreas Eissmann

      I was asked by some people why we disscuss something like this here in a public space on SCN. How we can do that? …Is that something we should not do?

      Let me explain, why I do that and I think Judson has some similar reasons for (please correct me if it is not true…).

      I am a passionated ByDesign fan…from my point of view

      – ByDesign is currently the highest integrated ERP solution in market

      – ByDesign delivers the most documented processes

      – ByDesign delivers the best thought out implementation method

      – ByDesign is not just a piece of software, it also can help a company to get more efficient, a better a control of its processes, it delivers business process consulting for free

      One of my biggest wish as ByDesign customer, partner and consultant is that this solution will continue its way and will reach more and more success.

      So how Judson wrote “if service sucks, no one will come back to eat”…we have a great solution, now we need also great support…Maybe those words sound hard, that’s the reason why I have to say: Cloud Support is not so bad in general. There are definitely a lot of passionated people as well who want help and do…

      But we also have a lot of incredible bad answers as well (esspecially last time) and it is not the first time we got such answers…we already escalated this in private some time ago but nothing happens, so I think now it is ok when we do that here in public…

      It’s no personally attack, it should be constructive criticism and we want help SAP to improve this service to have more success together…

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      1. Luke Marson

        The problem is that SAP don’t always listen – no matter what they say publicly. Then they get mad when people go public with these things. I wouldn’t worry – if SAP were concerned they would’ve listened originally.

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    6. Uwe Wieditz

      Hi Judson and Commenters,

      We were a bit surprised about your comments as it isn’t in line with our own observations. We are taking your concerns seriously and will reach out to you and the folks that have commented on this thread separately to understand exactly where the problems are and to find out what, in your opinion, can be done to improve the situation. If you could collect concrete examples that we can work with that would help us.

      I understand your frustration with some incidents that take 2 weeks or more to resolve.

      Background is as follows: In the SaaS model all customers share the same code, we need to be absolutely sure that a correction for one customer does not have side effects for another customer. Therefore, by intention, we reserve a 2 week period for Quality Checks of code corrections.

      As correctly mentioned in this blog, the current support is included in the subscription fee.

      Based on feedback from our customers, we are planning to offer more support options which include dedicated support account managers, regular status reviews and even guaranteed resolution times for non-defects.

      We will contact the people in this thread to discuss directly.

      Looking forward to improve our offering, Uwe.

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      1. Judson Wickham Post author

        I have to be honest. I have no interest in going through these concrete examples yet again as we have already address these with SAP internally as Andreas mentions above.

        As far as bugs: If a bug is blocking a business process that is documented by SAP as a part of the solution, customers should be credited with System Downtime for those two weeks you need to test. That would give you an incentive to deliver on your documented promises to your customers much faster, and not just in the Indian time zone.

        Also, what about your 24/7 support claim? We all know this isn’t true. Someone answering the phone and saying “the development team is working on it” should not be considered support.

        If you want concrete examples I suggest you look through your incident management system and search for the word “PSM”. There you will see many incidents that take months to resolve or are simply never resolved at all.

        It’s not fair to put the burden of improving your own support processes on us. We’ve told you what’s wrong, so why not fix it?

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        1. Andreas Eissmann

          Thanks for your answer Uwe.

          Judson, I understand your frustration but I think for SAP it’s really important to get concrete examples to work on a better support. From my point of view otherwise it’s hard to find out what’s wrong in detail and they need them also for internal argumentation regarding investment…sure, some points you mentioned can be corrected without incident numbers but others can’t.

          How I also mentioned above one of my collegues collected already such a list of incidents and it would be great if we can share.

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          1. Judson Wickham Post author

            I’ve already provided tons of concrete examples to people who met with SAP already, so I’m not really interested in going through this exercise again.

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    7. Leonardo De Araujo

      Wow!! It seems I missed an interesting conversation here…  😉

      I was on vacation this period…

      A lot was said and I think it the topic got some good attention. I understand, Judson, that it may be annoying to go over again on “concrete examples” but I am with Andreas on this. Now it is the time. Mark fired up an email and there will be a session about it. I will contribute as well…

      My addition to all this:

      The main argument of CLOUD is that “it simply works”. It is so much so, that you can (or should be able to) focus on more important things to your business then server maintenance, system admin, support and development.

      If that is not the case cause the product has problems or support is under par, it needs to be fixed ASAP.

      Leo

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    8. Omid Razavi

      Consider that for  Cloud Support, enabling self-support is a customer benefit, not a call deflection strategy, since it provides immediate access to expert level information and eliminate the need to go through troubleshooting.

      In addition, the next generation has a much higher preference for self-service, since  they do not want to have to call you or wait for an email reply.

      Investing in and expanding self-support must be a top priority for SAP and other cloud providers.

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      1. Judson Wickham

        As a person who has run an actual business on ByDesign, with ‘next generation’ employees, I must strongly disagree. Users with issues simply pass them along to their “IT Guy” to deal with or log an incident.

        This is a very idealistic, utopian view, but unfortunately, not reality.

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        1. Omid Razavi

          Not sure I characterize users passing  along issues to their IT guys, as self-support. In fact, self-service at the core is about disintermediation.

          Modern support is about multichannel, CRM, KM, analytics, the shift to community/ social, self-service, online and web chat, and away from time/resource exhaustive email and phone. Not utopian, as many technology companies, SAP included, are placing big bets on building stronger customer communities, and lowering costs too.

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          1. Judson Wickham

            I believe you are coming from an extremely idealistic perspective that does not reflect reality. I have actual ‘feet on ground’, and what you’re describing is not happening, anywhere. I try to shift my clients to these alternative support channels, and they do, for a few weeks, then go right back to asking for help without attempting to collaborate or self-serve. They don’t have the time. They are running a business on a system that is promised to ‘just work’.

            It’s a great target, but I’m telling you now that there is a long, long way to go.

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