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SAP® customers must decide between two license models – but can they with the information available?

Does the New Digital Access Detection Tool from SAP® Reveal or Conceal License Liability?

By Sarah Rabett | September 13, 2018

At first glance, SAP's new licensing model, based on the number of documents created rather than user count, looks good. The new model has come about following conversations with customers and user groups and the idea is to give SAP® customers a clear and transparent way to pay for Indirect Access.  While it sounds simple, establishing the document count can be hugely challenging and there are still many unknowns. SAP has given customers a choice - they can either stay on their legacy contract; exchange current indirect user licenses for a number of digital documents or move to the new.  If SAP customers choose to move to the new model, they won’t be able to go back again. The SAP user measurement tool (USMM) will be updated later this year to measure indirect usage based on document creation and SAP is already talking to customers about moving contracts.

Source: SAP® SE: April 2018

The way SAP data can be accessed has evolved over time from easily identified human beings within SAP, to where we are now with third party products, robotics and apps routinely accessing SAP data. There needs to be a fair way for both SAP and its customers to ensure this access is licensed and paid for.

Source: SAP® SE: April 2018

Originally SAP went down the route of interpreting their contracts to mean that every user who accessed SAP’s data, had to have a named user licence to do so. They enforced this through the courts to the tune of millions of dollars, with Diageo ordered to pay $70M and AB InBev pursued for $600M. Third party access has grown significantly over the years so the risk of being hit with a huge licensing bill at audit time is real and only likely to increase.

In 2017, SAP announced they were changing their policy around Indirect Access to introduce counting two types of orders – order to cash and order to pay, but this didn’t help the confusing licensing situation.

Under the Digital Access license model, there is a charge for creating nine different documents – the ones SAP believes deliver the most benefit to the customer. The charge is based on the initial creation only and there is no further charge for reading, deleting or updating documents. Some of the documents are charged at line item level while others are charged at 20% of the, as yet, undisclosed cost.

On July 31, SAP released a tool to estimate Digital Access Document usage, but there are many shortcomings with it and SAP customers will find it does not provide a detailed understanding of the costs involved:

  • The SAP tool cannot tell the difference between documents created by SAP or by a third-party app. To get any meaningful data, the tool must be run separately for each “technical” user, on every ERP system within the estate.
  • SAP has said that all productive processes creating documents, including EDI, would count towards Digital Access, but as the tool only counts specified technical users, these processes are missed, meaning the total estimation could be vastly underestimated.
  • SAP has stated they would only charge on initial document creation, but the tool does not contain the processing logic to determine this, so all documents created are included.

What should customers do?

There are three steps customers need to take to ensure they make the right decision for their organization:

  • Understand Indirect Access liability under their current system and use it as a baseline for comparison to the Digital Access model.
  • Consider how technology is evolving and be cautious of moving to the new licensing model. It is likely that Indirect Access will continue to grow so the number of digital documents may well increase.
  • Ensure the wording in any new contract is unambiguous, to prevent any change to document types or the definition of Digital Access.

How can snow help?

Snow Optimizer for SAP® Software already helps with many issues around SAP licensing including Indirect Access: building a baseline, optimizing user licenses, managing and administrating users and license contracts, controlling engines, automating processes, and controlling and mitigating Indirect Usage. Snow’s new Digital Access Estimator provides all the information SAP customers need to reduce indirect access risk and make an informed decision about the most cost-effective licensing model for their organization.  Snow’s solution delivers a clear and concise overview of how many digital documents are being created, who is creating them and whether they would count as digital access under the new licensing model - all the key elements necessary to compare existing license costs to predicted under the SAP Digital Access license model.


If you want to know more about how Snow’s Digital Access Estimator for SAP can help you make the right decision for your organization, book your place at our webinar, Digital Access Mystery, Solved! On October 3.


SAP and other SAP products and services mentioned herein as well as their respective logos are trademarks or registered trademarks of SAP SE (or an SAP affiliate company) in Germany and other countries. All other product and service names mentioned are the trademarks of their respective companies. Please see for additional trademark information and notices.

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