SAP users are set to embark on a round of core systems upgrades with fear and trepidation about the cost and disruption that will ensue.
More than half of SAP users plan to upgrade their software in the next 12 months, according to a survey from the SAP UK and Ireland user group, published in the run up to its conference in Manchester later this month.
The survey also showed that 70 percent of users questioned believe the cost of upgrading was too high, at a time when budgets are tight.
The news that end users are preparing themselves for major upgrades should bring some cheer to SAP's beleaguered executive board members, who last week reported more grim results.
However, the survey of 100 SAP organisations in the UK and Ireland found 93 percent either concerned or very concerned about the length of time it takes to perform an upgrade. Meanwhile, 79 percent were concerned about system downtime and 59 percent were concerned about losing data should they undertake an upgrade.
Alan Bowling, chairman of the SAP UK and Ireland user group said these figures revealed a fear that past experiences would be repeated, rather than the reality of what an upgrade entails.
"There is a lot of hearsay around upgrades and, perhaps, concerns about the way things have been done in the past. Moving to SAP is a big change to any organisation and people fear that they will have to go through it all again with an upgrade."
The survey revealed that only 35 percent of organisations were currently on the latest version of SAP (SAP ECC 6.0). Those planning to upgrade cited the end of their current maintenance period was their main reason for upgrading (62 percent), followed by new application functionality (26 percent) and new technical functionality (12percent).
If an organisation is facing its first SAP upgrade they are probably terrified about what it entails, said Bowling. "I was one of first to upgrade to Netweaver and it cost nothing like what we thought and it was simpler to do than we expected."
SAP has introduced many tools and techniques to simplify the upgrade from versions 4.6 to 4.7 to Netweaver and reduce downtime. One of the aims of the user group conference said Bowling make users more aware about what they can do.
While SAP struggles to sell new licences and to sort out its controversial maintenance packages, the user group survey picked up signs that UK and Ireland organisations are slower to upgrade than other users worldwide.
"The UK is lagging," said Bowling. "I'm surprised and worried by that. It will have an impact on competitiveness going forward if we don't get moving."
Multinational organisations are up to speed, he said. "The big boys are doing it or have done it and have realised benefits. The smaller operations are scared and are holding back, but they shouldn't be. For many this next upgrade will be the one that will really help them going forward. The conference should make them more aware about what they can do," he added.
As organisations and their IT departments struggle with tight budgets, Bowling said the user group's membership had held up well. "We have lost a few organisations, mostly because they have gone out of business - Woolworth's for example - or because they have merged. But we have also gained others and we now have more members than this time last year."
One reason for the health of the user group, Bowling believes is that it "the cheapest form of consulting there is. You can listen to colleagues and learn from their experiences."
SAP UK and Ireland User Group Annual Conference 23 and 24 November, Manchester, More details available here