SAP Says: We Don't Prohibit Use Of Third-Party Maintenance Providers - InformationWeek

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2/13/2009
12:39 PM
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SAP Says: We Don't Prohibit Use Of Third-Party Maintenance Providers

There was a good deal of chatter in the "blogosphere" this week about whether legalese in SAP contracts prohibits the use of third-party maintenance providers. But I don't know if anyone bothered to pick up the phone and ask SAP that question. So that's what I did.

There was a good deal of chatter in the "blogosphere" this week about whether legalese in SAP contracts prohibits the use of third-party maintenance providers. But I don't know if anyone bothered to pick up the phone and ask SAP that question. So that's what I did.The answer is no, SAP does not prevent the use of third-party maintenance providers, said Bill Wohl, SAP's VP of global field communications. "We promote the concept of customer choice and we have for years on this topic." Wohl added, however, "We believe and maintain that SAP is in the best position to provide support for SAP software."

This all started when Forrester analyst Ray Wang tweeted the following: "Hearing from SAP customers that there are new clauses that will force customers to commit to no Third Party Maintenance. Large ERP vendors requiring companies to confirm they are not receiving support services except from that vendor. More than 1 vendor. Suggesting to customers not sign away any third party maintenance rights in new contracts. This is uncompetitive!"

But according to Wohl, that's not true. "It's created anxiety about an issue that doesn't exist, because that's not our policy," Wohl said.

Meanwhile, a source was kind enough to provide a copy of a publicly available federal SAP contract. The contract was nearly 200 pages long, but contained within were a few paragraphs that COULD be construed as putting restrictions on third-party maintenance use, if one could make definitive sense out of the legalese:

The contract says:

"In order to receive SAP Enterprise Support hereunder, Licensee shall have obtained all licenses for the Licensee Solutions and the only support and/or maintenance services received by Licensee for such Licensee Solutions shall be the services described herein. "

And:

"Licensee hereby confirms, as of the Effective Date of this Schedule: (i) Licensee has obtained all licenses for the Licensee Solutions; and (ii) the only support and/or maintenance services received by Licensee for PSLE Solutions are the SAP Product Support for Large Enterprises pursuant to this Schedule and any other support/maintenance services provided by and separately priced and charged for by SAP which are in addition to SAP Product Support for Large Enterprises (e.g., SAP MaxAttention)."

Personally, even with 20 years' experience deciphering poorly constructed technology industry press releases, I wouldn't attempt to say, definitively, what the above two paragraphs mean.

But vague legalese aside, this is what SAP is saying on the record to a journalist: SAP does not restrict use of third-party software maintenance providers.

SAP's Wohl also told me he thinks this whole line of discussion is "much ado about nothing." Some third-party software maintenance firms are saying they'll soon add SAP support, but considering there's not even an established market for third-party SAP maintenance providers -- or proof that there's sustainable demand for such a market -- he's got a point.

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