Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Partners in crime

One thing that really annoys me about SAP; their use of the word "partner".

"Thats a problem for your hardware partner". "You need to refer that to your software partner". "You should call your FI/CO partner" - "you need to discuss with your MM partner".

Essentially, the use of the word "partner" is designed to make people feel that it is a collaborative exercise - of course, it is nothing of the sort. We are THE CUSTOMERS!! You are THE SUPPLIERS!! Are you listening Walldorf? (Of course they are not - they know better than us miserable creatures)

And of course, it is used by the consultants to avoid actually doing anything. If they can pass responsibility onto someone else, you bet they will.

When SAP was just bought by big organisations, it made sense. Most of these types of company would not do everything in house but would have links to specialists that would take on certain functions. Of course, for smaller businesses, that is not the case. We don't have "hardware partners" but suppliers - in many cases, you buy from the cheapest supplier at the time that you need something. It's not too practical to have long term deals as we just don't buy enough to make it worth while for the bigger vendors.

Equally, it's unlikely that companies of our size would have an "installation partner" - we do 2 or 3 servers a year, maybe 10 PCs. These days, equipment comes pretty much pre-configured - join it to the domain and away you go. But no, SAP want us to discuss with our "installation partners" how the system should be set-up. I then set-up a dummy company to handle this and passed details on to the consultants; they then sent some stuff through to the fake email address to advise me that I need to go on numerous courses to get myself "SAP accredited" as an "installation partner". In fact the consultants were our "installation partners" as they wouldn't let anyone else do it.

This came about because before we signed anything, they were asked what specification of hardware was required for the servers. The response was really vague; so I checked out some very nice equipment, (about $60,000 worth), put the details onto a letter and sent it to them with a request that they could confirm it would be adequate. Eventually they did (verbally) agree it would be OK. So we bought it.

However, about 4-5 months into the project we noticed a major problem; shortly after that, we found a couple more - we had some major system instabilities. They immediately told us that what we had was insufficient and that we had to refer back to our "sizing partners" to find out what equipment we really needed.

I then carried out an exercise with one of the largest suppliers of hardware in the world - they asked for information that we just couldn't give them - until the product goes live, we have no way of knowing what levels of some items we will see. However, I made up some numbers that sounded a bit excessive, and let them have that. The upshot of all this was that we were advised to put some more memory in the machines.

But that didn't fix it, so we were told once again to go back to our "sizing partners". God, if we were told this once, we were told this 10 times - and each time we told them that we had, and that we had put extra memory in as required. Later, they started telling us that we had to put even more memory in - but we currently have 20 GB in each server which should be enough by any standard.

They even started getting really snotty when they talked to the directors, telling them that I was being obstuctive - our CEO had one of their guys in and roasted him. After that they got one of their people in support in Germany to connect and he pointed out that there were some configuration items in the software that were wrong; once these were corrected, most of the instabilities vanished. We asked why these han't been addressed by their people - after all, they did the installation of SAP. The response - each system is different.

Going now before I have a coronary.

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