Business Objects users angry over SAP support transition

Some customers of BI (business intelligence) maker Business Objects are steaming mad because they aren't able to access SAP's online support site.

SAP, which bought Business Objects for nearly US$7 billion earlier this year, switched the company's product support to its own system on July 7. SAP acknowledged some problems have occurred and said it is working as quickly as possible to solve the issues and that phone support is available for all customers.

But SAP can't work fast enough for John Sanzone, a BI and data warehousing specialist with a large U.S. IT services provider, who has been trying without success to get a usable log-in for the support site since the July 7 changeover.

"This is not the service I was expecting," he said. "I want them to fix it as quickly as possible."

Despite the inconvenience, it's not likely that his company will ditch its Business Objects software. "We're pretty entrenched in their product right now," he said. "The last time we changed BI providers, it took about a year. ... It's a big roll out."

Wayne H., a database administrator at a U.S. hospital who did not want his full name to be used, said in a phone interview that SAP apparently sent a letter with the required new passwords and log-in information to a woman on the business side of the organization who no longer works there. "This is just a mess," he said.

But the hang-up is not causing any serious issues for now, he added. "For the time being, I'm able to support our company's needs."

Many other Business Objects users are reporting problems accessing the site. A discussion thread on an independent Business Objects bulletin board about the reported problems stretched to nine pages as of Wednesday.

Frank Scavo, president of the IT research firm Computer Economics and maintainer of the Enterprise System Spectator blog, said in a post that SAP may have made a serious miscalculation.

"It sounds like a deadline-date-driven migration for which SAP was not prepared," he wrote. "If SAP is going to make major strategic acquisitions in the future, it is going to have to learn how to make them painless for customers."

A company spokesman said SAP is doing everything it can to right the situation and thought it had covered its bases before the switch.

"We didn't go into it knowing we were going to cause pain, but having made the decision to go forward, going back is not an option," said Andy Cobbold, group vice president of global customer assurance.

SAP moved more than 50,000 Business Objects customer records -- including any open support issues -- into its system, but not every customer has received a log-in, Cobbold acknowledged.

SAP didn't have e-mail records for some customers and contacted them about the switchover by regular mail, which is more difficult to track than e-mail, he said: "We sent everything out, but unfortunately, not every customer received their IDs for whatever reason."

"More than 80 percent of customers have been able to interact with and use the portal," he said. "Every day we are making good progress. Our goal is to finish as quickly as possible."

That includes increasing staff levels at call centers so customers can seek support by phone, according to Cobbold.

Even at the level of 80 percent who can use the portal, thousands of customers still cannot.

"We'd love everything to be entirely smooth. It hasn't been as smooth as we liked," he said. "Obviously, we'll be conducting a post-mortem to make sure we learn lessons from this."

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