In 2019, SAP introduced its Digital Access Adoption Program at SAPPHIRE NOW and ASUG Annual Conference. After extended conversations between SAP leaders and the user groups ASUG and DSAG, the three entities collaborated on a program designed to help customers move away from traditional “hands on keyboards,” named-user licensing to SAP’s digital access license model.

Estimating Creation of the 9 SAP Document Types

Customers have now had a year to evaluate whether the program is a sensible option for them. We’ve learned that it’s not always a fast or easy process to determine how many of what SAP counts as “Documents” you’re creating in your SAP systems today—let alone the number of these you might generate in the future. It’s these nine Document types that SAP’s digital access model covers. The fact is, this process takes time, as ASUG board member and Johnsonville CIO Ron Gilson shared in his articles about what Johnsonville learned during its evaluation process.

It’s Not Too Late to Adopt Digital Access

But there is good news for customers who haven’t yet started this process. In May 2020, SAP announced that it would extend the Digital Access Adoption Program. This makes its two financially attractive incentives available to customers who switch to digital access licensing before the end of 2021. It turns out that customers have been taking advantage of the program already, as they’re moving over to the digital licensing model at an increasing rate.

On the heels of this announcement, we spoke with Matt Angell, VP and head of strategic pricing and commercialization at SAP, to find out how adoption of the program has been going over the past year and why SAP decided to extend it.

Ann Marie: What has changed since the introduction of the Digital Access Adoption Program at 2019 SAPPHIRE NOW and ASUG Annual Conference?

Matt: Since we launched the Digital Access Adoption Program, we’ve seen positive traction, with well over a 100% increase in the number of customers adopting the digital access model. It’s exciting to see so many of our customers starting to realize the benefits of making the move to digital access.

Ann Marie: The program was originally due to end in May 2020. Why did you decide to extend the program?

Matt: In two words: We listened. We spent a lot of time listening to customers, analysts, partners, and especially our global user groups. Through these conversations, we heard clearly that the program has been well received. And as I mentioned, this is also something we’re seeing in our adoption numbers. Through ongoing conversations, we also learned that many of our customers could use more time to evaluate their licensing needs. Based on this feedback and our desire to continue to drive greater transparency and predictability, it was clear that the right thing to do was to extend the program.

Ann Marie: Of those customers who have adopted the program, are you seeing certain regions or industries take advantage of it more than others?

Matt: That’s been one of the interesting things. We’ve really seen broad-based adoption. It’s taken off across all regions, channels, and industries.

Ann Marie: You also made some changes recently to the SAP S/4HANA conversion policy. Could you explain those changes?

Matt: In February 2020, in conjunction with the decision to extend mainstream maintenance for Business Suite 7 through 2027 and to offer extended maintenance through 2030, SAP has decided to grant customers executing an SAP S/4HANA conversion contract, dual use rights until they complete their transition to SAP S/4HANA.

Under the previous conversion policy, customers had dual use rights through just 2025, which was consistent with the end of mainstream maintenance support. If customers hadn’t completed their transition to SAP S/4HANA by the end of 2025, then they would have lost the right to continue to use their Business Suite 7 licenses.

Ann Marie: What kind of feedback have you received from customers on this program so far?

Matt: The feedback from customers has been overwhelmingly positive. By combining the extension of mainstream maintenance support with the dual-use rights for customers executing SAP S/4HANA conversions, customers have told us that they now have the flexibility they need to take advantage of what they currently own and adopt SAP S/4HANA.

Ann Marie: We’ve been talking with customers regularly about the effects of COVID-19 on their organizations in our ASUG Pulse Check. They have been telling us they’re postponing, delaying, or in some case cancelling their projects. I’m sure these customers will appreciate this flexibility, as they may be putting their SAP S/4HANA projects on hold not by choice, but by necessity.

Matt: This is the most customer-centric change we could possibly make. By introducing more flexibility from a timing point of view, we allow customers to do what makes sense for their organizations as they plan and execute those transitions.

Ann Marie: What tools are available to help customers evaluate their licensing requirements through the Digital Access Adoption Program?

Matt: Customers can use the SAP Estimation Tool and the SAP Passport functionality. One of the biggest learnings over the past year is that it’s been helpful for customers to take advantage of our complimentary offer of support from our Global Licensing Audit and Compliance (GLAC) team to make sure to get their licensing requirements estimation right. If customers use the tools on their own, there is a risk that they could overestimate their current requirements. By partnering with our colleagues on the GLAC team, they’re able to get a much more accurate estimate of their current and future needs.

Ann Marie: We did hear from some of our members that they were seeing overestimation of Document counts as they were evaluating their use. Will the consultation service from the GLAC team remain available until the end of 2021 along with this offer?

Matt: I’m extremely happy to say that yes, the offer of complimentary support from our GLAC team is extended with this offer. So until the end of 2021, customers will be able to take advantage of their support in making sure they have an accurate understanding of how many Documents they are creating, a view into what their future use might look like, and then how to take advantage of the program to its fullest extent. There’s been an enormous uptick in the number of requests for assessments and for help in understanding current Document counts.

Ann Marie: One of the last big revelations from May 2019 when this program launched was that a lot of customers ASUG was speaking with had not realized that EDI use could be considered indirect access. Has SAP issued any new clarifications or definitions about the different situations that could be construed as indirect use to help customers understand whether they’re engaging in it?

Matt: There have been no policy changes. What I would say is, use is defined as to activate the processing capabilities of the software. And to expand on this definition, it’s the right to load, execute, access, employ the software, or display information resulting from such capabilities. Specifically, indirect use is when people or things use the SAP ERP without directly logging into the system. It doesn’t really matter if that indirect use is from a third-party system versus an external user or from robotic process automation (RPA). What I would advise customers is that one of the great things about the digital access model is that use is outcome-based. It doesn’t really matter what triggers that outcome. We simply count the outcome, which is the creation of one of the nine Document types.

Ann Marie: One of the major benefits of moving to the digital access model is that customers who are planning innovation projects that involve technologies such as RPA are freed from having to worry about potentially running into the risk of indirect use. How do you think that the Digital Access Adoption Program will help customers prepare to digitally transform and innovate over the next few years?

Matt: The Digital Access Adoption Program was specifically designed to address customer concerns related to indirect access licensing requirements. By helping customers understand their Document creation levels and by providing them a compelling incentive, we’ve largely been able to take those concerns off the table.

Ann Marie: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Matt: I wanted to highlight that it’s unlikely that we’ll be able to extend the program beyond the two-and-a-half-year period ending on December 31, 2021. So, I would love to encourage customers to take advantage of this extra time to fully understand their Document creation numbers today and what they might be in the future. This is a great opportunity to adopt the digital access model and make the move to the intelligent enterprise.

Ann Marie: Our advice at ASUG was to take advantage of this program right away because we knew that it would take customers some time to go through the process of evaluating whether it makes sense for their organizations. Our board member Ron Gilson, CIO of Johnsonville, shared with us the process he went through in evaluating whether to move to the new program. It does take some time, so that’s good advice. Thanks, Matt, for catching up with us on the extension of the Digital Access Adoption Program.

Visit our Licensing Resource Center for in-depth coverage of this topic or send your SAP licensing questions to You can also visit the SAP Digital Access microsite for details.

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