SAP Business Development & Project Manager
This article is primarily of interest for professionals working in or for companies that use SAP as their primary business application / ERP system. It aims to provide an objective, hands-on look at the age-old question of which avenue is most profitable – maintaining an in-house SAP support team or else outsourcing SAP support systems. The answer, as you may already imagine, is not a matter of black-or-white, but rather one of context. It is this particular context that this article has set out to explore and the author will continue to do so in further think pieces.
I will start by stating the (very) obvious: once you have invested in deploying SAP as your primary business application, providing adequate, reliable & efficient support for your users should be a priority, primarily as a means to get the most of your ERP system and solve issues faster. In an ideal world, up-to-date SAP support know-how would not be an issue, either – with everything it implies, training included.
However, since budget is also a major factor (some may say, the major factor) in making decisions, a more nuanced approach to assessing a company’s business needs may be preferable – an approach that looks closely at a particular organization’s SAP-specific context, its competence pools, number of SAP users and overall SAP maintenance and support costs. If the conclusion happens to be that maintaining an internal SAP support team does not make sense cost-wise – well, surprisingly, it may not be the end of the world. Quite the contrary.
So, let’s have a look at some of the main aspects that combine to make up the context for your company’s decision to go for either an internal SAP support team or else outsource SAP support to a trusted third-party.
Number one on the list is know-how, at multiple levels: knowledge of your company’s own business processes (and which areas are more likely than others to require process re-engineering and other changes to internal procedures, etc.); technical knowledge that may be needed to escalate & solve SAP support tickets and which may or may not be readily available; also, what happens when a specialist needs to pass a support ticket to another specialist or else address multiple business scenarios, each with its specific knowledge area, in order to solve an issue; knowledge of new SAP functionalities that has to be acquired, practiced and used by all quality SAP support systems; and also the continuity of knowledge – which ensures that essential SAP-related information is always readily available, irrespective of who joins and who leaves your company.
All the aspects mentioned above have to be carefully assessed, irrespective of whether you are considering going for an in-house SAP support team or else taking the plunge and contracting an external one. There is no defining set of criteria or else a right / wrong set of answers: it all has to make sense for your company. As far as company-specific business processes go, for instance, an in-house team will always have a more nuanced, to-the-point understanding than an outsourced, external team. However, it may make sense to assess whether in-depth understanding of said business processes is always required from an external SAP support team; for example, an option could be to combine an external, outsourced support team with one internal resource which is available on an as-needed basis to assist in case gaps in know-how, understanding and terminology come up.
As far as access to knowledge goes – specifically, technical knowledge and new, updated SAP functionalities – this is where external SAP support teams usually make the most sense. The reasoning is quite simple – an internal, dedicated SAP team in which consultants have and maintain a wide range of technical & business skills and know-how will most likely prove extremely expensive. Outsourcing specific requests of business users to external consultants means the company has access to a virtually unlimited pool of knowledge and (why not) resources which are also strongly motivated to deliver prompt resolutions, solve issues quickly and ultimately close support tickets as effectively as possible. If your company operates in a business context in which this scenario makes sense, outsourcing SAP support may be the way to go.
Number two on the list is costs. Put simply, you need to look at your budget availability and have a clear idea of annual support costs, as well as specific SAP maintenance and support costs. There is no denying the fact that training SAP support team members is costly and time-consuming – indeed, in-house SAP consultants, as a rule, is pricier than outsourcing SAP support. And while having specific SAP expertise brought in-house is certainly appealing and a long-term investment, the question also becomes – just how much of this knowledge is truly necessary? Is it better to have a wider pool of in-house SAP knowledge available all the time – or is it an option to access specific, outsourced resources on a needs-driven basis? Again, only the specific context within your own organization can answer this question.
In my next article on the topic of internal versus external SAP support team, I will continue to examine some of the main coordinates that need to be looked at in order to make the best, context-specific decision in terms of SAP support – more precisely, delivery time and dealing with industry-specific / business-specific requirements.