SAP's maintenance tax could trigger fresh revolt among French users

Bertrand Lemaire

Members of the French-speaking SAP Users Group (USF) are so worried about a possible increase in maintenance charges, the group has commissioned an independent survey from market research company Sofres to measure the degree of dissatisfaction. Some members of the group are seriously considering abandoning SAP.

"We want to plan ahead so as not to suffer, but I am concerned about the feedback I am receiving from members," said the group's president, Claude Molly-Mitton. The group's board announced the decision at its annual Spring meeting last Thursday. "It will allow us to get an objective view of SAP users' feelings and concerns about the company," he told French publication CIO Online.

Five years after the last major dispute between SAP and its customers, over maintenance fees, three topics are causing tension: licence audits, third-party application access to SAP and, once again, maintenance fees.

After the last dispute, SAP agreed to fix maintenance fees through 2016. Beyond that, "The USF will refuse any increase," said Molly-Mitton. While 2016 may seem far off, some recently renegotiated multi-year maintenance contracts have not included a guarantee that rates will remain unchanged beyond that date. "SAP has a lot to lose if it decides to reopen this matter. As long as no official decision has been announced, we hope to educate them about this."

The group's big fear is that SAP waits until summer 2016 to announce a significant increase in maintenance fees. It intends to take the lead and show the company in advance that it won't accept any increase.

Major SAP customers are now willing to consider abandoning the ERP vendor, with some even discreetly asking the user group's board to set up a migration working party.

Long-term SAP clients with a software license and a maintenance contract increasingly have the impression that the German company is squeezing them ever harder to extract more revenue. Newer clients, renting SAP's software in the cloud, are better treated and have no maintenance fee to pay.

SAP customers faced with the prospect of migrating their legacy SAP systems to its new cloud offerings are starting to wonder why they shouldn't just migrate to some other vendor's cloud services instead. Some hard-to-replace modules could remain with SAP while others move to competitors such as

By commissioning the Sofres survey, USF wants to get an objective view of all the sources of dissatisfaction. "As far as I know, it's the first time a user group has organized such a survey," said Molly-Mitton. The group hopes that having a third party conduct the survey, keeping responses anonymous, will strengthen the results, which it will publish at its annual convention in October.