SAP customers are threatened with a new license disaster

After years of quarrels about the “SAP NetWeaver Foundation For Third Party Applications” and “indirect use”, the next surprise is looming: SAP wants to request user licenses based on SAP authorizations. The associated back payments are likely to be substantial.

After SAP has been asking its customers to make some drastic additional payments since 2015 with the topics “SAP NetWeaver Foundation For Third Party Applications” and “indirect use” and thus made headlines, the next negative surprise could now come for customers. The German software company uses a license condition that has been in the price and condition lists (PKL) of SAP for a number of years : user licensing based on SAP authorizations. The resulting back payments for customers could be drastic again.

What is currently happening? If you look at the price and condition lists (PKL) of SAP, version 2017/4, you will find the following description on page 25: “The SAP Professional User is a defined user who is authorized by thesoftware, for which usage rights have been acquired (without SAP Business Objects Platform – SBOP), to perform supported operational and system administration or management roles … “. Furthermore, on page 12 of the same PKL it is defined:” Named User is an employee of the Client or its affiliated companies, or an employee of business partners who is authorized in accordance with the acquired right of use to access the package in question. “

These descriptions are not new to the PKLs of SAP. Anyone who has bought or re-bought user licenses in the past few years has acquired them on the same terms. This means that the user licenses are granted according to the respective authorization, which is linked to the license type according to the list of prices and conditions, and must be licensed by the customer and not – as is generally the case and as has always been the case in licensing practice in the past was lived – according to the transactions and accesses actually carried out by the customer. As early as 2017, those responsible for SAP had repeatedly announced at events or discussed in individual customer discussions that the allocation of SAP user licenses is based on SAP “authorizations”.

The sum of the authorizations is decisive

What does this mean for user companies? Every SAP user has to have a specificLicensebe assigned. The different license types differ according to the scope of the functions they cover. The smaller the permitted range of functions, the cheaper the license. In order to keep their costs as low as possible, companies naturally strive to always issue the cheapest license for their SAP users. A license administrator usually orients himself to the functions that the user has actually performed.

That should no longer work like this in the future. Is it up to theSAP, the scope of the functions that the user could use, the license type and thus the price should determine in the future. It’s like having a driver’s license tied to a specific vehicle. With usage-based licensing, it doesn’t matter whether a new Mercedes Benz or a 1987 Toyota Corolla is being driven. You always pay the same license fee. It would look different with authorization-based licensing. The amount to be paid is then no longer based on the vehicle that you actually drive, but on all the vehicles that you could theoretically drive.

Here you will find further important information about the licensing of SAP software:

Eight tips: regulate
indirect use with SAP Avoid risks associated with indirect use of software
Indirect use of SAP systems – what you should know
Tips on indirect use: SAP – friend or foe

Which functions a user in SAPcan call is determined by its permissions. As of today, authorizations are mapped in so-called authorization roles that are assigned to the individual users. These are not individually tailored to each user, but rather combine certain functions in order to keep the number of different roles clear. A user will therefore always be entitled to more functions than he actually uses.

For example, if a narrowly defined worker license was sufficient for 600 euros up to now, an expensive professional license for 3200 euros may soon be due. And that’s only because the user is entitled to an additional, but never used transaction within the scope of his authorization roles, which does not, however, fit into the narrow definition of the worker license.

New USMM 2.0 from SAP examines authorizations

But that is not enough: SAPwill also revise their surveying tool “USMM”. The current USMM examines in the classification aid who has made changes to important SAP tables and then outputs a list of SAP accounts that must be licensed as “SAP Professional User”.

In other words: So far, the current, official measurement tool from SAP has examined which user has actually carried out which transaction – not which abstract authorizations are associated with the respective user role. That should change in the course of the year. After the introduction of LAW 2.0 (License Administration Workbench) there will also be a new “USMM 2.0” in the future. It is very likely that this will check the authorizations granted by the customer and no longer the transactions or table accesses actually carried out.

Previous agreements soon to be ineffective?

The whole thing should of course also have legal consequences. Anyone who has been a SAP customer for a long time will probably have purchased user licenses earlier according to their actual use. But in the recent past he will also have bought user licenses based on the respective authorizations. The question of which metrics apply when licenses that were acquired under the old and new PKL come together has not yet been finally contested and decided in a German court.

Until a court decision has finally clarified this question, SAP customers must assume that the changed general terms and conditions and thus also the respective PKL apply to B2B business relationships at the time the contract is concluded and that earlier agreements become ineffective at the same time.


It is undisputed that SAP has repeatedly changed its terms and conditions over the years. The legal effectiveness of this licensing practice has not yet been legally verified by German courts or the European Court of Justice. Until such a legally binding decision has been made, this means that SAP customers must change the allocation at the latest when the new USMM is introduced. Anyone who does not have an optimized SAP authorization concept – i.e. if employees have more authorizations for their daily work than they actually need – will have to buy more expensive licenses in the future.

Then customers will also ask themselves what they should do with the many cheap license types, such as the “SAP Worker User” or the “SAP Logistics User”. They will probably no longer be able to assign these, unless they have clearly defined SAP worker roles or SAP logistics roles that only contain the transactions and reports that employees with the appropriate license are allowed to execute. Otherwise, the motto in 2018 is: diligently buy “SAP Professional User” licenses – and that should not be cheap.

Originally published in German May 3 2018, Computer Woche Magazine (Computer Week),3544437

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