back to article Hana-hana-hana: No it's not your dad trying to start a motorboat... It's Northern Gas, renewing its SAP software

In a classic tale of vendor lock-in, Northern Gas Networks (NGN) has invested so heavily in SAP that it make little sense to purchasing heads to do anything other than sign off on a new £6m software license. NGN, a private sector company that is regulated under public procurement, has just awarded SAP a contract worth £5,985, …

  1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "a contract worth £5,985,385.60 over five years"

    That is the projected cost. Given that it's SAP, there will be an orbital drift and the final cost will differ by an amount no less than equal to the initial cost, plus interest.

    Sod's Law ? It's going to have a field day with this one.

    1. JCitizen

      Re: "a contract worth £5,985,385.60 over five years"

      Northern?... Isn't that company the one that went under with Enron a while ago? With the price of natural gas being so cheap, I'm surprised they have any money at all!

  2. TeeCee Gold badge

    ...worth £5,985,385.60 over five years.

    I'm betting 7m euro-washers using the exchange rate applicable on SAPs internal systems at the time the contract was drawn up.

    1. Tomato42

      who on earth uses exchange rates with 7 significant digits?!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "who on earth uses exchange rates with 7 significant digits?!"

        SAP lets you define whatever the hell you want. Trust me, if you think it's a stupid idea, it's probably how SAP have implemented it.

      2. Rob 54

        I've never seen above 6 in real world, not sure of anyone on 7

        However when it comes to FX EVERY decimal point is significant, especially with the volatility and swings of late

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    SCADA In the Cloud? You Cannot be Serious

    I'm absolutely gobsmacked that they've pushed SCADA Off Premises. Some of the valves etc are very old and have literally zero security features. If you can connect to the valve through an RS232 port you can do anything you want to. Hopefully no one has felt the need to attach an insecure comms device to these. Even if the comms is secure the idea of someone hacking into the control system is quite terrifying.

    These systems are usually on a private network air-gapped from the internet for a reason! With an IT spend of 8 million and over 1 million of that being on SAP licences I wounder just how much they spend on security and how experienced their in house team is.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: SCADA In the Cloud? You Cannot be Serious

      experienced teams are expensive, so they replaced them with the bosses kids friends sisters cousin who made a youtube video once.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Re: SCADA In the Cloud? You Cannot be Serious

      > Even if the comms is secure the idea of someone hacking into the control system is quite terrifying.

      Don't worry. It's a SAP system - no hacker will be able to get in until they've bought a licence.

  4. steamnut

    payroll has reduced from six hours to five minutes - really?

    Extolling the virtues of their self imposed SAP lock-in they said that "payroll has reduced from six hours to five minutes". I cannot see how SAP would do this. Even if their payroll was run on a 1980's PC running MSDOS, this sort of "improvement" exposes some other problems in their systems.

    It is easy to see why SAP consultants are amongst the highest paid; it's a job for life!

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: payroll has reduced from six hours to five minutes - really?

      I'm not sure how that's a saving anyway Is the computer processing wages for 6 hours so desperately needed for other tasks that the time saving is really valuable? Or are they not quite explaining all the fine detail here and when they say "payroll", implying the entire payroll takes 6 hours, they actually mean payroll per department or payroll per person takes 6 hours, and now that is what is reduced to 5 minutes?

    2. Annihilator

      Re: payroll has reduced from six hours to five minutes - really?

      "It is easy to see why SAP consultants are amongst the highest paid; it's a job for life!"

      I believe that SAP consultants set their day rate to be the same as their mobile number, just for convenience sake.

    3. DJV Silver badge

      it's a job for life

      Yep, sell 2 or 3 successful contracts and you can probably retire before you're 30!

  5. Dan 55 Silver badge

    "NGN will lose access to key critical business applications like SuccessFactors"

    Still not seeing what the problem is.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: "NGN will lose access to key critical business applications like SuccessFactors"

      There's a back end ERP doing the work so these are just manglement toys.

  6. Lars Silver badge

    Slightly silly

    I find this article slightly silly. There is always a lock-in, had they gone with say Oracle it would be the same. Apparently there is a lock-in with Office too.

    They make the best possible choice so why hope it will fail even if it is a British company.

    1. all ears

      Re: Slightly silly

      I'm guessing the reason for your downvotes is that this is SAP we're talking about, which has a strong and well-deserved reputation. Is Oracle any better? Perhaps not, but the real point is that this is much more about marketing, politics, and perhaps even corruption than it is about sane IT management.

      1. Lars Silver badge

        Re: Slightly silly

        Or perhaps there is a slight possibility that it's about SAP being a European German company and the world's third largest software and programming company, and not sold to India, China or the USA.

        SAP was formed by five former engineers from IBM in 1972. SAP employs more than 100.000 people and has over 425,000 customers in over 180 countries.

        And as a programmer I would claim the six hours to five min is not about the five min but about why it took six hours. It was most likely a batch program then, while now it is about a ongoing process between the wage periods and now they will be able to send the data to banks and employees in that 5 minutes and just on time. Nothing fishy here.

        I wish SAP and customers all the best, why would I not.

        As for Sod's Law why babbling about it, we all know that at times things go wrong and that will always be the case regardless of company, at least I know it.

        1. CujoDeSoque

          Re: Slightly silly

          I know a little bit about the technical part of payroll with SAP. The payroll cycle business processes may have changed with $/4, I haven't worked on an $/4 payroll system as yet and cannot do a practical comparison.

          In the past the payroll data model wasn't quite the best performing part of the system. Not having seen how they have changed it for the $/4 release, I would venture that they have replaced the clustered tables used in the payroll model with a new $/4 data model and also a columnstore technology (HANA).

          Now that you can cache most, if not all the data in memory, throw a ridiculous amount of hardware and resources that you would never have done for a Unix/Windows system with a "normal" database and set it loose, I don't think it's all that it's quite surprising. You're essentially comparing a cheetah with a snail in hardware terms.

          For example, SAP has redone the $/4 Financials tables with all new structures and the performance when the code takes advantage of the HANA architecture and the new structures is even more dramatic. It's a fair guess that it did the same with payroll.

          Another point is that the code on one of the sites for payroll I worked on had a great deal of custom extensions (known as "enhancements" and "user exits" in SAP parlance) and they were horrid in terms of performance. That may also be the case here. So the improved payroll cycle is entirely believable. It just may not be completely true.

          PS: $/4 isn't a typo. It's bloody expensive.

  7. PeterBerry

    Same scenario, but on a much larger scale, with the big SAP contracts - in banking and finance for instance. The bigger the organisation, the bigger the greater the pain, and risk, of unhooking. Staying with the energy sector though - isn't npower, currently in the process of being helped over the rainbow bridge by its parent company, also a SAP customer?

  8. sketharaman

    Payroll has reduced from six hours to five minutes

    Many SAP customers keep an SAP Consultant onsite while running SAP Payroll. Giving the high hourly billing rate of an SAP Consultant, savings obtained by reducing the payroll processing time from 6 hours to 5 minutes should payback the project cost in a month or two.

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