With SAP Indirect Use Licenses, companies struggle to understand the guidelines and stay on the right side of SAP.
For companies overwhelmed with the idea of cataloging every access point in their SAP systems, the use of third-party software license management tools can help identify possible areas of concern with indirect licensing, as well as avoid unpleasant surprises during an audit. Companies can also use compliance management tools or asset management tools to perform similar audits of their SAP environments.
However, experts caution against relying on a single piece of software to mitigate the issues, as they should be used as part of an overall strategy to manage the indirect access licensing structure.
“The tool is really there to enable a process, and the process is the real problem,” said Joshua Greenbaum, principal at Enterprise Applications Consulting.
Companies need to understand the contract they have with SAP and build the system around it, as well as monitor for potential issues, Greenbaum said.
One of the problems with monitoring and managing indirect use is that internal departments tend to pass the buck. Like cybersecurity, all the tools in the world will only help prevent problems if every stakeholder and user understands the importance of complying with contractual terms surrounding indirect use, according to Greenbaum.
Understand your SAP system
Businesses run into problems with SAP when they don’t understand their SAP environments, including the third-party applications that access them.
Joshua GreenbaumEnterprise Application Consulting
“The main problem is knowing what remote function calls you’re making,” Greenbaum said. A company must ensure that it complies with the license agreement whenever it uses a third-party program to access SAP and use the data it contains.
“It’s basic IT management,” he said. “Understand how you built your system, how it was implemented, what remote calls you make, and where data comes and goes.”
Greenbaum considers this to be a comprehensive monitoring process for SAP systems. Understanding the content of the company’s contract with SAP and having the legal and IT teams review it is essential to help the company understand what it needs to do to stay compliant. These are not necessarily reviewed on a regular basis, but it can provide the foundation for remaining SAP compliant.
Software license management tools can help companies go further
Greenbaum said there are several good tools available for mapping SAP systems, including those from Snow Software, Xpandion, Flexera and IntelliCorp. However, he cautioned that companies could start by hiring a consultant to help them get the big picture of their SAP systems, particularly because there will be a change management aspect to the process.
“It’s good to approach this holistically to get a better grasp of the whole SAP system,” he said.
Specialized software tools can help companies better understand their SAP systems, but they’re not a silver bullet, according to Joachim Paulini, lead SAP developer and principal architect at Snow Software, a Stockholm-based company that provides management tools. software licenses for SAP and other systems. He explained that an experienced person is always needed to interpret the results of the tools.
In fact, there are things companies will need to research before running specialized software, Paulini said, including the information SAP generates during its annual licensing audit. Although indirect usage traces in the SAP system are not actually indirect usage, it is still likely that companies will need to dig deeper. Historically, SAP systems have not provided internal mechanisms for companies to track this, he said.
The second line of defense for companies that can be improved by a tool is mapping the system landscape, Paulini said. This includes SAP systems and external systems, such as Salesforce or proprietary programs. Companies need to delve into data exchanges that could be users or applications and identify users by IP address and service. This is especially useful for companies that have complex SAP systems that have been added over the years, but where those familiar with licenses or add-ons have left the company, taking that knowledge with them.
Software Licensing Tools Can Help You Save Money
Naturally, any self-audit of SAP systems can reveal surprises, such as when companies can save money on their licenses, according to Greenbaum. A business can pay for licenses it doesn’t use and reduce costs without affecting the system. Additionally, these audit processes are the same that will be required for companies considering an upgrade to S/4HANA, he said.
Although using software license management tools to identify indirect use is not enough to stay compliant with SAP licensing agreements, experts agree that they are helpful. Companies will want to plan for change management, possibly hire a consultant to help, and use the information gathered to put themselves in a better negotiating position with SAP.