Not Your Parent’s SAP Portfolio

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By Matt Schaefer

There was a time when an organization that wanted to understand how well they were managing their SAP portfolio, or was approaching a software audit with SAP, simply tried to understand how their named user licenses were being allocated across the ERP landscape. It could have been just a count of which users were given what license type (Developer, Professional, Limited Professional, etc.) compared to the authorization roles (activities) they were thought to need. Depending on the directive, it might include some ‘recalibration’ of what license type users should have based on some unique definition of what ‘usage’ means to that particular company or group, and of course based on their SAP Contract! 

The internal Basis and BI teams (Admin and Reporting) were usually the ones responsible for creating some level of reporting that the organization would use to generate an understanding of how well the ‘portfolio’ was managed…which basically meant understanding consumed vs. purchased licenses. Add SAP package (aka engine) licensing metrics and the now infamous ‘indirect access’ licensing requirements multiplied across organizations, with hundreds of authorization roles, thousands of users and multiple SAP systems, and this undertaking becomes  enormous.

In addition, today’s SAP portfolio looks dramatically different as a result of SAP’s strategic vision, which is driving them toward Big Data and the Cloud. As you can imagine, it’s not getting less complicated for SAP customers, but more complicated. Much more so.  When SAP first bought Business Objects in 2007 customers began to see how licensing within the SAP portfolio would begin to change. First, since Business Objects users were not inherently Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) users and many organizations already owned Business Objects, not all licenses would or could be assigned within the ERP application.

Suddenly, licenses like SAP Application Business Analyst User, SAP Application Business Information User, SAP Application Business Expert User and SAP Application BI Viewer User became part of their license entitlement vernacular. Companies also had to determine how to consolidate users into a single license count so they wouldn’t double count them and end up paying more than necessary.  (For instance, SAP Application Business Expert Users have all of the rights that a Professional User has plus access to the additional reporting functionality that Business Objects now provides.)  Additionally, SAP acquired the cloud-based Human Capital Management solution Success Factors in 2011 which historically used Software as a Service (SaaS) based license models. These are a significant departure from manually allocating license types to users in an in-house ERP system.

SAP’s new direction also saw the acquisition of Sybase, a database/data warehouse vendor with tech offerings in data storage, virtualization and optimization for cloud environments, in 2010.  Then there was the release of HANA—SAP’s in-memory computing appliance designed to support real-time analytic and transactional processing, in 2012. SAP customers now find themselves in the uncomfortable position of trying to manage additional licensing entitlements that rely on complex calculations that consider a combination of hardware and software metrics such as physical memory, allocation limits, allocated memory and used memory.

So now, the evolution of the SAP Portfolio not only requires an understanding of how your employees are using (or in some cases not using) your core SAP ERP system, but also demands an understanding of how cloud based solutions will be integrated and licensed, and requires tracking the hardware configuration and data throughput  within  your system landscape. The new realities facing SAP customers today require new license management skills on the part of the SAP Basis and BI teams. This is definitely a new era, requiring a whole new approach to SAP Portfolio and Vendor Management.

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For a great article on SAP Engines, go to the following link to the ITAM Review, where a colleague of mine, Chris Hughes, is a contributor— “Lifting the Lid on SAP Engines”.

To learn more, please view our on-demand webinar:  SAP Software Licenses Could be Costing You