At last year's SAP SAPPHIRE conference, Rimini Street indicated its intention
to expand into third-party maintenance for SAP customers. Now, right on schedule, at this year's SAPPHIRE event, Rimini Street is announcing the availability of its support services for SAP customers, building on its similar offerings for Oracle's J.D. Edwards, PeopleSoft, and Siebel customers. It's a good move for Rimini Street and hopefully provides further validation for the third-party maintenance model.
I spoke with Rimini Street's CEO, Seth Ravin this morning about the launch. Seth indicated that his firm already has several SAP customers on board, with strong interest from many others driven by SAP's increasing prices for its own maintenance program. SAP has since backtracked on its forced march to Enterprise Support, but its original stated intention to increase maintenance fees to 22% of original license cost appears to have been enough to start SAP customers looking for alternatives.
The mood is nowhere better evidenced than by the response of German SAP users. Until now, few competitors dared challenge SAP on its home turf. But that changed when 30 CIOs invited Rimini Street to present to them in Berlin, according to Ravin. Rimini Street already has several of them as early adopters of its SAP support services.Spread Thin?
Seth assured me that his resources are adequate to support multiple ERP vendors. Each product is supported by a separate leader and dedicated resources. In the case of Rimini Street's SAP unit, the leader is Shawn du Plessis, a "16 year SAP veteran who has held leadership roles across more than 15 major SAP full life cycle implementations with global companies such as Nestle, Sebastian International and Siemens," according to Rimini Street's press release.
But the launch of its SAP offerings has forced Rimini Street to go global. It has put up a German version of its website, and it plans to hire local resources in Europe and the Far East, complementing its workforce that until now has been limited to North America. Contrary to the practice of SAP and Oracle, it does not believe in an offshore service delivery model.Flexible Contract Options
Seth indicated that the phrase "flexible contract options" in his press release does not refer to tiered pricing options. Rather it indicates flexibility in the contracting period. Most customers sign up for a five year term, but others buy into ten or even 15 year periods. Others adopt shorter periods, for "gap coverage," while they migrate from one system to another. Flexibility refers to the ability to tailor the contract length to the actual need. I also note that Rimini Street provides support for customer modifications or extensions to the base system, something that goes beyond what SAP or Oracle offer to their own customers. Generally, modifying base code "voids the warranty" with SAP or Oracle, as so to speak.Why Not More Third-Party Maintenance Providers?
Why haven't there been more players like Rimini Street rising up to meet the market demand for third-party maintenance? Seth believes there are significant barriers to entry. In the case of SAP or Oracle, a potential service provider has to be willing to take on two powerful multinational organizations. Existing business partners of SAP and Oracle, those that are best qualified to offer third-party maintenance, are reluctant to offer services that compete with the parties that they rely on for sales leads, training, product access, and general good will. Finally, it takes significant resources, including funding, to build a 24/7 support organization, much of which must be built before the first customer is brought on board.My Take
I agree with Seth that the barriers to entry are significant, though not insurmountable. The Tier I enterprise software market is ripe for disruption by third-party maintenance providers. With SAP and Oracle realizing gross margins in the neighborhood of 90% on their maintenance business, the economics are simply too strong for third party maintenance providers not to rise up.
Rumor has it that there are smaller, niche players besides Rimini Street already offering third-party maintenance contracts "under the radar," on a case-by-case basis. But they are reluctant to publicize their offerings out of fear of incurring the wrath of their business partners. Oracle's lawsuit against SAP
and its former TomorrowNow unit, which provided third-party maintenance for Oracle products, only heightened these fears.
As I've written before, it may take one or two antitrust lawsuits before larger service providers feel comfortable venturing into meeting this market need. Interestingly, today's Wall Street Journal
notes that the U.S. Department of Justice plans to step up antitrust actions against illegal monopoly conduct. One can only hope that one of the first markets they explore is enterprise software maintenance and support.Related postsRimini Street to provide third-party support for SAPLegal basis for third-party ERP support industry