A few rules for choosing a services provider responsibly
Among the factors identified by companies as crucial for the selection of an SAP service partner, experience and the number of clients served usually come first. However, when considering long-term and wide cooperation, it’s a good idea to carefully consider a number of additional aspects related to the partner and its offer: the organization of the team, the form of cooperation, and the scope of additional services provided.
The degree to which these requirements are met or adapted to the current and potential needs of the client will determine the level of satisfaction of cooperation with the partner. Based on Hicron’s experience in the area of SAP services, we would like to present a few tips worth considering when selecting a service partner.
Proper organization – the key to efficient cooperation
An independently structured service team is the basis of efficient cooperation. That is why it is worth asking a potential business partner a number of questions: Is there a team of consultants dedicated solely to rendering support services? Who is accountable for quality verification? How is a lack of availability of consultants dealt with?
If the potential partner has a resource manager who guarantees the availability of resources, and is responsible for the organization of the service team and the assignment of tasks, the client can be certain that the task will be completed properly and on time. One factor that demonstrates the partner’s reliability is the assignment of a single person as an account manager. The account manager assists the client throughout the process, from reporting a problem to its solution, and at the same time makes sure that tasks are carried out in a timely manner. “It is not enough for the account manager to know the system. Since the person delegated to providing support services often helps clients to articulate their needs, an account manager must be able to link a business problem to a specific system functionality. Therefore, apart from a thorough knowledge of the system, what is also essential is familiarity with business processes and the ability to speak the language of business – the client’s language,” says Michał Guzek, Business Solutions Architect at Hicron.
It’s worth checking whether the potential service partner has a dedicated portal for exchanging information between the client and the partner for such things as placing service requests, suggesting and approving solutions, giving details of contact persons, and obtaining lead times.
Don’t be afraid to talk to many providers
Even when satisfied with the current service provider, it is a good idea to remain open to offers from other providers. Firstly, this is the easiest way to verify current market rates. Secondly, this will give a fresher outlook on the SAP solutions applied by your company, which may translate into ideas on how to improve work in the system. Thirdly, launching cooperation with another partner will most certainly introduce an element of competitiveness and consequently stimulate both partners to make their offers even more attractive.
When is the right time to change a service partner?
The decision to change service partner is usually made in one of two cases: when the quality ceases to satisfy requirements, or when there is a more favorable price offer from another potential partner. While in the first case, changing the partner is definitely desirable, in the second case – it might not be. Before a company decides to replace the existing partner with another one offering more favorable rates, it should check whether the lower price does not mean worse quality. Choosing a service partner only on the basis of low rates may result in the need to pay a much higher price than the most expensive offer presented. “We are not buying the price, but the service we receive for the price. That is why we recommend taking a closer look at the references and assessing whether the quality of the service is satisfactory. But do not forget that the service partner’s references are built on the experience of its consultants. So instead of assessing the length of the reference list, it’s more worthwhile to examine the CVs of the individuals dedicated to the service,” suggests Michał Guzek.
When verifying the competences of a service partner, check the scope of the services it offers. In SAP application service, module competences are crucial, yet technological experience, especially in Basis and ABAP, is also important. “In observing our current and potential clients, we have noticed that companies require comprehensive support. During the execution of support services, needs are often identified that require in-depth technological know-how: integration with external applications, development of interfaces, implementation of non-standard solutions, etc. In such cases, a lack of broad competences in the technological sphere can result in an inability to solve a problem, and this disqualifies an SAP provider as a service partner,” Robert Stiller explains as he shares his observations.
Another element affecting the price of support services is the site from where the services are rendered. Working from the service provider’s office or operating remotely as a standard feature allows support costs to be kept down. Providing adequate safeguards, such as secure VPN connections, ensures that required safety standards are maintained. When verifying the competences of a potential service partner, make sure you know from what location services are provided and what level of security is guaranteed.
Application support in companies with corporate services
SAP application support services are required by every company using SAP systems. However, companies where the system has been implemented on a corporate level are often unable to make use of external service providers, and have to rely solely on the support of the corporate SAP Competence Center. The Competence Center may, however, have little knowledge about local tax laws or regulations, which is of great significance for the proper operation of financial and accounting modules in particular. A possible solution in such a situation is the indirect use of the services of a local service partner through the in-house Competence Center. In this type of arrangement, the local service partner takes responsibility for the execution of service requests in a given area, and reports to the corporate Competence Center. Cooperation between the company and the service partner can be as follows: the company reports a problem to the Competence Center, which then orders the local partner to solve the problem, and oversees the operation to ensure that the solution meets the required levels in terms of quality, lead time, and compliance with corporate standards.