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London university on hunt for £17m SAP ERP replacement

Institution also relies on German vendor for data warehouse software

City, University of London is sizing up the market for a new SaaS ERP system set to replace its SAP ECC software in a contract worth up to £17m.

According to a tender notice published this week, the 20,000-student institution is looking for a supplier to provide, implement, and support the software and enterprise resource planning (ERP) system to replace the existing ERP and associated systems used by human resources (HR), payroll, finance, and procurement.

"City is seeking a SaaS solution that will enable improved visibility of strategic information across the university for HR, payroll, finance, and procurement whilst improved usability and control will support our staff, students and partners," the document said.

The £246.4m-income organisation is looking for software to support 100 users for HR, finance, payroll, and procurement, and around 2,200 staff more broadly in a contract expected to last 10 years.

"We will be undertaking a competition to determine the most economically advantageous tender for the future solutions and a partner able to share best practices processes," the tender document said.

According to a Freedom of Information response posted in December 2021, the university currently relies on SAP version is ECC6 EHP5, with no plans to upgrade along the SAP path. At the time it said it would tender for a replacement "shortly".

The university has been contacted by The Register and is yet to respond to the question of whether it will consider one of SAP's SaaS solutions – both scaled-down SME system SAP Business One and S/4HANA are available in SaaS mode – but the lack of appetite for an upgrade suggests it might not be. The decision points to an interesting juncture for SAP. While it wants users to upgrade up its product ladder, and go to the cloud and/or SaaS at the same time, it has admitted this could mean end-to-end business process change.

Speaking to the UK and Ireland SAP User Group (UKISUG) webinar towards the end of 2020, Oliver Betz, SVP head of product management for SAP S/4HANA, said: "I'm a true believer in the cloud as the future state-of-the-art model. However, that requires standardisation which needs to happen on the customer side: they have to agree on standardised processes. You cannot have these modifications that you had in the on-premises world, that's not how the cloud works. You will go in a direction where you have quarterly or at least twice per year releases, which you have to absorb and agree to."

At this point customers are entitled to ask themselves: if they need to go through the pain of changing business processes with SAP, why not look for another vendor at the same time?

The decision could eventually affect City's other technology plans. A case study from NTT Data published in 2017 shows it uses SAP Business Warehouse to support management decision making. The institution is yet to answer questions about whether this system too is about to be replaced. ®

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