May 28, 2020 | Larry Goldman | Senior Director, Product Marketing

Shawn du Plessis, VP, SAP Global Support Services at Spinnaker Support, has developed and managed our SAP Support Services team since 2012. Shawn is an SAP veteran with experience in all aspects of SAP Sales support, SAP management, implementation, business process re-engineering, development process life cycle, managed services, and third-party support. Shawn’s diverse, talented, and award-winning team delivers software support, managed services, and project-based consulting to mid-sized and Fortune 100 global enterprises that run SAP.

After the recent flurry of announcements from SAP, I decided to reach out to Shawn, who resides in Arizona with his family, for his perspective on our company, the third-party SAP support market, and the implications of the latest SAP news.

First, for those who may not yet know you, please tell us about your business background.

I’ve been working either for SAP or with SAP products for decades. I began my SAP career as an SAP Consultant designing and developing new systems for Siemens in South Africa. Following that, I spent over 20 years consulting and providing implementation leadership and support for many Fortune 500 companies.

For the past 11 years, I have developed third-party support and maintenance practices, first at Rimini Street where I built their SAP third-party support practice, and now at Spinnaker Support – where I launched our SAP practice in 2012.

Tell us about your role at Spinnaker Support.

As the head of our SAP Global Support Services, I’m responsible for all SAP business development activities, services delivery (third-party support, managed services, and consulting), and organizational development. Drawing from my own background, I provide extensive knowledge of SAP applications and processes with a strong emphasis on software engineering concepts, design principles, and implementation and support methodologies.

I meet regularly with customers and business prospects around the world to ensure that our SAP support services team is staffed appropriately and continues delivering excellent service. I also help to develop and update our service portfolio. A good example of this is our recently refreshed SAP Basis Managed Services. By creating a set of defined service packages from basic monitoring to complete Basis management, we’ve simplified the customer options, SOWs, and pricing.

Looking back, how have things changed at Spinnaker Support since you arrived?

When I first arrived in 2012, it was all about building the SAP support group and securing the first SAP customers. Since then, we’ve grown substantially and globally, extending our third-party support to all SAP products, including the new SAP product offerings like S4/HANA and Hybris. Recently, with the enhancement of our technical managed services, we’ve been able to provide additional help to our SAP customers that are needing to mitigate the impact of the economic downturn.

Where is the SAP support market going in 2020? What should enterprises running SAP expect to see?

I have already commented on the revised deadline for SAP Business Suite 7 (ECC) in a recent blog post. SAP is unhappy that ERP customers are holding back from migrating to S/4HANA, so it is busy creating incentives and promoting new planning tools to push customers along their product road map. Many of these incentives will actually cost customers more after 2025.

As I talk with SAP customers, I see that more of them now recognize how the SAP future product strategy leads to more cost with little-to-no ROI. They also realize that even while SAP continues to move out the Maintenance End Dates (MED) to supposedly give customers more time to plan, SAP continues to add pressure by winding down their support of the older, on-premise products.

Now, in this pandemic-related financial downturn, many enterprise customers are even more concerned with cutting their SAP costs rather than pushing forward with a multi-year, multi-million dollar upgrade project. Because SAP support annually grows by 2-4% and is one of the largest IT expenses, we have seen a significant uptick in our third-party support business.

What do you see are the greatest challenges for SAP customers?

In this business climate, SAP customers are facing several challenges – all related to costs. First, because companies are always looking to increase revenues and reduce costs, IT departments are challenged to find ways to solve business issues without increasing costs. SAP is a tough negotiator that rarely (if ever) reduces costs.

Second, business leaders with scarce funds are challenged to build a compelling business case for upgrade projects with existing solutions. SAP has done a poor job showing the value of following their product strategy, and that will considerably weaken the case for a new spend.

Finally, if customers do choose to follow SAP’s current MED strategy, they will be forced to upgrade or install new software that will sharply increase their overall SAP costs. That includes spending more money on software support. What initiatives will IT have to drop to accommodate this expanded spend?

What advice would you give an SAP customer that is considering a transition to third-party software support (3PS)?

  1. Save money now. As we’ve seen, SAP is continuously realigning its strategy with what customers really want. So wait them out if you’re uncomfortable with their deadlines or product features and improve your cash flow by switching to 3PS.
  2. Don’t wait until the end of your SAP MED to get going. The earlier, the better. This way you have the time to align your organization, get past all concerns, and be ready for more responsive and comprehensive SAP support.
  3. Prepare your organization and managed service partners for the move to 3PS and the impacts of dropping SAP support. If you leave the discussion up to the SAP team, you will likely continue on the path of following SAP’s strategy. The Level 2 support team (Internal or Partner) will need coaching and convincing because they may be more invested in following SAP’s roadmap.
  4. Get over the anxiety of leaving the mothership. You’re still running the software; you’re just getting better support for a fraction of the cost. Hundreds of SAP customers have already switched to third-party support. We can help you through whatever is holding you back. Bonus: The world will be a better place once you reestablish your relationship with SAP, because you are in a far better negotiating position once they want you back as a support customer.