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Allegedly Rigged Product Demo In SAP Suit Goes Missing 210

Posted by timothy
from the dig-deep-fellas dept.
narramissic writes "Waste Management sued SAP in March 2008 over a failed ERP project. Now, well into the pre-trial discovery process, a presale product demonstration software package that Waste Management says was a key element of the 'false representations' SAP made to 'induce Waste Management into entering a software licensing and implementation agreement' has gone missing. Naturally, both sides say the other has it. And SAP, for its part, says it has 'searched extensively' for the system and wants it 'as much or more' as Waste Management, since it 'will help SAP disprove WM's fraud claim.'"
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Allegedly Rigged Product Demo In SAP Suit Goes Missing

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  • by SoupGuru (723634) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @04:55PM (#28130871)

    So this is pretty much like any other sales demo?

    • by Locke2005 (849178) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @05:20PM (#28131219)
      In response to Waste Management's complaint, SAP has said in part that the company failed to "timely and accurately define its business requirements" and did not supply "sufficient, knowledgeable, decision-empowered users and managers" to work on the project. So this was pretty much like every software project I've ever worked on?
      • by sortius_nod (1080919) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @05:47PM (#28131531) Homepage

        Sounds like most projects I've worked on.

        The issue, however, is that SAP made claims based on little to no information, nor people who had any idea on what the outcomes should be. Now, I'm no project management expert, but this seems like a monumentally stupid thing to do.

        Whether the demo was rigged or not, SAP went into an agreement without full details and without real confidence that the product they are delivering would actually do what the client wants.

        • by TheRealMindChild (743925) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @06:22PM (#28131951) Homepage Journal
          "So I have this great Wazmo that you certainly need! It jimmies your jewels so that they hum with the harmony of a negative color! You want to buy it, we want to sell it! It is a win-win for everyone!"

          That is my sales pitch... and you just bought my Wazmo. Who is the idiot?
        • by Decameron81 (628548) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @06:35PM (#28132097)

          Sounds like most projects I've worked on.

          The issue, however, is that SAP made claims based on little to no information, nor people who had any idea on what the outcomes should be. Now, I'm no project management expert, but this seems like a monumentally stupid thing to do.

          Whether the demo was rigged or not, SAP went into an agreement without full details and without real confidence that the product they are delivering would actually do what the client wants.

          IMHO it's more complex than that. There's guilt in both sides.

          Customers are guilty in that they often don't bother trying to check if what they are being sold is feasible at all. The end result is that most of the times they are willing to pay for more features in less time, even when that "more" is clearly an impossible goal. For instance if I asked you to develop an MSN clone with a proprietary protocol from scratch, and you told me it'd be ready in a week for $20, I would look for someone else to get it done.

          Problem is when the customer doesn't know better, and is unreasonable.

          • by mgblst (80109)

            One of the reasons companies go to external companies like SAP, is because they don't have the technical knowledge necessary to build the thing themselves, and so how can they know when they are being lied to. This is in no way the companies fault, they aren't expected to be lied to, they aren't expected to be ripped off!

            What a ridiculous way of looking at things.

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by diskis (221264)

              Actually software like SAP requre their own administrative/support staff. SAP is so complex (=administrative nightmare) that a company must have specialists available if they are to purchase it.
              And purchasing SAP is not because of lack of technical expertise, it's because software in that scale takes years and years to develop and test. Buy it, and it's up and running in a few weeks.

        • by hairyfeet (841228) <.bassbeast1968. .at. .gmail.com.> on Thursday May 28, 2009 @08:09PM (#28133199) Journal

          I have to agree, that while it sounds like both sides didn't bring the brightest bulbs to the table, SAP screwed the bigger pooch by signing the agreement without knowing what they were getting into. It is like when I build a new PC. Folks often just want me to quote them some price but I refuse. I ask them to at least give me an IDEA of what they want, to which I usually get something like "Really really fast with a crapload of memory(which you have to watch out for, because half the time they say memory when they mean HDD space) and super duper graphics and..". It reminds me of that old line from Robocop-"I want a car that is really really fast and gets really shitty gas mileage! I want a fully loaded 6000 SUX!

          So then I quote them a crazy price and after they are done choking I say "Now why don't you just sit down and tell what you want to DO with it, and I can help you design an affordable machine that will do what you want and be reliable." and every time their description ends up getting them a dual core with 4Gb of RAM, a 250-500Gb HDD, Onboard Graphics(which are actually pretty good now) and XP Home. And they leave with a smile on their face and are gushing to their friends about how great I am.

          The problem is when the client asked for the moon for $1 SAP said "sure, we'll throw in Mars while we are at it!" instead of simply refusing to sign anything until they sat down with somebody with a brain that could tell them what they actually needed the thing to DO, instead of what they WANTED. Because I have found those two things are almost never even slightly related. IMHO it is always better to give the customer what they need and not what they want. If you meet their needs they are usually happy campers. If you try to give them their desires not only will it be expensive as hell, it will often not actually do what they need. And nothing pisses off a customer more than spending big bucks and finding out after all is said and done they are still stuck with the same problems they had before they paid you.

          • I can't agree more wholeheartedly with the above (unclear specifications). I see it all the time in my business too.

            If you go to the folllowing page: http://slashweb.org/programming/25-best-programmer-comics.html [top 25 programmer jokes], one is the classic Dilbert strip where Alice tries to nail down a client's specifications... one of my favourite jokes of all time.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by cerberusss (660701)

            instead of simply refusing to sign anything until they sat down with somebody with a brain that could tell them what they actually needed the thing to DO, instead of what they WANTED

            In my opinion, it doesn't always work like that. I run my own business and regularly the following happens:

            • Client posts a pretty generic Request For Proposal (RFP) on a website
            • I put in some thought (say, an hour) and give a rough price
            • They call me and make an appointment
            • We meet and talk it through for about two hours
            • I make a final proposal, another four hours.

            Now I've spend a day and have not yet seen a single penny. The customer usually replies with "thanks for the proposal, but you should change this

        • by jsebrech (525647) on Friday May 29, 2009 @12:14AM (#28135011)

          This happens all the time in the specialized software business.

          Usually the needs are so particular that there's nothing in the market that does exactly what they want. So, you get approached by someone who knows you don't sell what they need, but they hope you can build/adapt something quickly.

          The surprising thing is that if you press for exact specs at the beginning of the project, the entire project is often derailed. The realization by the customer that they don't know what they want is often enough to scare them away from buying a solution for their problem. Sales will put a lot of pressure on development in the form "just give us a general quote, we'll figure it out once they sign". For sales, every signature is a win. For the business as a whole, some projects are money losers.

    • by dave562 (969951)

      Pretty much. I worked for a consulting company, and one of our clients needed a system to manage their manufacturing and distribution processes. Developing a system like that was far beyond the scope of our ability, but we developed the needs analysis (documented all of their internal processes, etc) and helped them shop for vendors. We eventually narrowed it down to Epicor and the Epicor sales staff of course promised everything under the heavens... then signed a contract committing to their promises.

    • by jsebrech (525647) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @11:57PM (#28134895)

      The company I work for also sells waste management solutions. The first time we sold it, we took a planning tool meant for building maintenance (repairing light bulbs and the like) and repurposed it. Even today the garbage trucks still have to be entered into the system as employees.

      So, yeah, this is pretty common.

      Then again, the users are very positive about our solution, which is apparently one of the easiest to use in the market. That says a lot about just how bad the niche enterprise software business is in general. People think those special-purpose apps are well-crafted, but because they're special purpose they usually are held to a much lower standard than consumer apps.

      The most embarassing "enterprise" niche software product I've seen was a solution for patient transport in hospitals. It was written by a hobbyist, and I could have done a better job at 15 than that guy did. Still, they sold it for thousands of dollars a seat, and were apparently one of the key players in the patient transport business. Scary.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    in reference to cleaning up this mess...

    "Can't someone else do it?"

    Waste management was not amused.

    3 points for the reference.

  • I for one... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @04:58PM (#28130909) Journal
    Would definitely trust SAP on this. Who wouldn't trust an ERP vendor that either managed to lose a vital file or managed to "lose" a vital file?

    Getting to choose between serious incompetence and outright malice is always fun.
    • by sys.stdout.write (1551563) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @05:09PM (#28131077)
      Apparently you've never used SAP.

      SAP is how Lucifer interacts with our world.

      Any product demo showing SAP working in a satisfactory manner is clearly fraud.
      • by geekoid (135745)

        How DARE you lower Lucifefrrs name in association with that pile of crap.

        Lucifer is far more clever in his malice.

        It was create by a few German Gnomes that mostly live in an underground complex with one way in or out.

        Now, the people who buy SAP, they have Lucifer whispering in their ears.

        • by Qzukk (229616)

          How DARE you lower Lucifefrrs name in association with that pile of crap.

          I knew I should have taken Satan's offer [sinfest.net]! All I got for selling my soul to SAP was a tech demo, and it disappeared the next day!

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by interkin3tic (1469267)

        Seriously, what is ERP and what is SAP? Like, from a tree?

        NEVER USE ACRONYMS WITHOUT DEFINING THEM!

        • Never is a strong word.

          In some cases, an acronym is not an acronym. SAP is the company name. What does it stand for? Maybe something, but "SAP" is how people refer to the company that's called "SAP".

          And in some cases, the acronym is totally unique and is accepted terminology. Think "AM", "PM", "AD", "BC". "ERP" isn't quite that ubiquitous, but it is enough so that a quick Google search--the modern equivalent of a dictionary search--would tell you exactly what you need to know. Even if they did s
          • You're right, never is a strong word. Maybe I should have said "always define the acronym unless you're certain everyone will know what it is." In this case, I didn't.

            However

            And in some cases, the acronym is totally unique and is accepted terminology. Think "AM", "PM", "AD", "BC". "ERP" isn't quite that ubiquitous, but it is enough so that a quick Google search--the modern equivalent of a dictionary search--would tell you exactly what you need to know.

            No, I did a wiki search:

            The abbreviation, acronym, or initialism SAP may stand for:
            RamÃn Villeda Morales International Airport, located in San Pedro Sula, Honduras (IATA code is SAP)
            Serum Amyloid P Component, the identical serum form of Amyloid P component (AP)
            Santa Paula, California (Amtrak station code: SAP)
            Second audio program

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by enogeejon (1054590)
          fyi, ERP = Enterprise Resource Planning SAP = Systemanalyse und Programmentwicklung which roughly translates into System Analysis and Programming. Now, since I work as a SAP BASIS (sys. admin.) administrator at a managed services hosting company so I actually get to work with multiple companies SAP landscapes daily so I can easily play devils advocate for SAP here. Maybe part of the problem for Waste Management is that they have a less than stellar implementation partner. It can easily take months for th
        • NEVER USE ACRONYMS WITHOUT DEFINING THEM!

          Really?

          Hey man, you got the time?
          Sure, it's 10am. That's from the Latin ante meridiem, by the way, in case you were wondering. That means it's between midnight and noon.

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by mazarin5 (309432)

            That means it's between midnight and noon.

            Isn't everything? :)

            • Isn't everything? :)

              Only if you don't take the order into account.. if "midnight" is the start and "noon" is the end then the answer to your question is no.

        • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

          by DAldredge (2353)
          If you don't know what SAP and/or ERP is you should not be posting on /.
      • by Jake73 (306340) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @05:35PM (#28131387) Homepage

        Actually, I'm convinced SAP saves big companies millions of dollars. They do so by losing invoices or making it so difficult for other companies to invoice them that these invoices never get paid. Companies using SAP have much higher payment aging than other companies.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by petermgreen (876956)

          And how much does it cost those big companies in lost productivity when an unpaid supplier deciedes they have had enough and stops shipments?

      • SAP is how Lucifer interacts with our world.

        I thought that was through Lotus Notes applications. They definitely emanate a creepy feeling, and nobody who used them kept his/her sanity.

      • Re:I for one... (Score:5, Informative)

        by b4dc0d3r (1268512) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @07:08PM (#28132477)

        This is not funny. I work at a fortune 11x company and I know several things are true.

        1) We use SAP because they made a pitch and hooked a sucker in a suit.
        2) You buy SAP, then a plan to "customize" it.
        3) Customize means "finish the code"
        4) It also means you pay high-ranking aka high-earning business types piles of money to give requirements to SAP when a junior coder could just do the obvious and have something that works
        5) The requirements you give to SAP are exactly the same as what the sales pitch said it already did

        I'm sure I could go on. This is not a funny comment, it is how SAP works. Mod me scary or obvious if you want, but not funny.

        • by sxltrex (198448)

          I too work at a multi-billion $ per year company, and our executives also bought the SAP sales pitch hook, line, & sinker. What a stinking pile of crap. I have never seen a worse user interface. The saddest part is, no-one knows of a successful implementation, yet all of the executives who buy this shit think "my company will be the first!" They also think paying hundreds of millions of dollars to firms like Deloitte will fix everything. Dumbasses.

          One of my co-workers invented SAP: The Board Game.

    • by Chris Burke (6130)

      Getting to choose between serious incompetence and outright malice is always fun.

      Forget the lost demo, I have to make that choice every time I interact with SAP.

      Though frankly I think it's a combination of both -- the incompetence being when SAP actually does work.

  • Hahahaha (Score:3, Funny)

    by goldaryn (834427) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @05:00PM (#28130925) Homepage
    Hahahaha

    In response to Waste Management's complaint, SAP has said in part that the company failed to "timely and accurately define its business requirements" and did not supply "sufficient, knowledgeable, decision-empowered users and managers"

    Not "decision-empowered".. good way of saying brainless lusers. I like it!
  • Oh, oh, SAP (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 28, 2009 @05:05PM (#28131003)

    SAP... liquid cement... the firm that sold ERP to CEOs and turned thriving firms into basket cases by forcing wholesale moves to slow, cumbersome, slow-motion systems controlled by an elite of take-it-up-the-ass-and-weep consultants and partners? The firm that pioneered the creation of Euro 1,250 "consultants" who were newbies with sociology majors that had done three months of BAP and knew less about software than a E-scoring CompSci major. The firm that pushed for software patents in Europe because they swallowed the cool aid and were too pussy to compete against FOSS? And finally someone sued them? Where do I donate to the attack fund? God, I *hate* SAP. Bastards, long overdue against the wall. Utter, utter bastards.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Waste Management is headquartered about an hour from SAP America's headquarters in PA.

    They also are also the subject of various mob-related rumors (as are all trash disposal companies), and have had a dubious string of CEO's come and leave under weird accusations of accounting fraud.

    I wouldn't want to walk to my car late at night at SAP. That's all I'm sayin'.

    • by superdave80 (1226592) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @06:19PM (#28131905)

      How the hell did trash disposal get so mobbed up? Did the first conversation go something like this:

      Mob Boss: Ya know, it's great being in the booze, gambling, and beating the crap out of people business, but you know what I've always wanted to get a piece of...?
      Mob Lackey: What's dat, boss?
      Mob Boss: ...garbage collection. There's nuthin' more glamorous than telling people you work in garbage.
      Mob Lackey (fearful for his life): Uh... yeah, yeah, great idea boss!

      • by Tmack (593755)
        What better way to make unfortunate evidence disappear?
      • by db32 (862117) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @07:31PM (#28132751) Journal
        Aside from the obvious of trusted removal of things like stained rugs and strangely heavy "empty" barrels... There is also an incredible intelligence gathering piece. You know...the same reason that the authorities like digging through your trash for evidence and criminals like digging through your trash for useful information.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        It's big business and it's tied into communal politics. Need I say more?

  • Do you suppose Waste Management is going to try and "trash" SAP?
  • Waste Management are a good old American business. Whereas SAP are a German (nazi+evil) corporation (super evil), who are European (communist).

    We find in favor of the plaintiff!

  • SAP. SAP get my presale product demonstration software package.

    I am SAP.

    Get me my presale product demonstration software package.

    No. Wha ha ha!

    Grr. I'll just get my own presale product demonstration software package through the pre-trial discovery process.

    But the presale product demonstration software package was MISSING.

    *BLAM!*

  • by Locke2005 (849178) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @05:18PM (#28131191)
    In fact, Waste Management should have the demo in its possession, as it was transferred to the trash hauler's system in late 2005 and early 2006, according to SAP, which demanded in a May 14 filing that Waste Management turn it over. So, copying the software to a customer's computer automatically erases it from developer's computer? And now they want it back, 'cause that will automatically erase it from the customers computer? This dispute makes both sides look like morons, but looking like an idiot is going to have more more impact on SAP's business than on Waste Management's bottom line. No one expects a garbage man to be an IT expert. But if a software developer can't keep a copy of everything they give to a customer, how the hell can they be expected to maintain the software they distribute?
    • by PitaBred (632671)
      Keeping the POC (Proof Of Concept, AKA demo),which isn't software... it's more like a database tables and data transforms and such very specifically made for Waste Management and useless to almost anyone else, for over 3 years after you haven't heard anything from the client? Do you have any idea how much data that is, and how often people do POC's that go nowhere? Hell, even if it DOES go somewhere, the initial demo is either just a base point or completely thrown out and redone once the actual infrastruct
    • by mgblst (80109)

      It is like when I was downloading the ne acdc album of off someone, and noticed that he was downloading it from me as well. I messaged him and asked him what he was doing, he said "I'm getting back my ablum, asshole".

  • by bfwebster (90513) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @05:18PM (#28131193) Homepage

    I'm not a lawyer, but..

    Most software licensing agreements contain limitations of liability and monetary damages, usually limited to the amount paid by the customer. However, if the customer can demonstrate fraud, the customer has a chance to 'break' those limitation and go after additional damages (lost profits, cost of replacement, etc.). So if the demo exists and if it shows capabilities not found in the actual SAP implementation, WM might be able to use it to prove fraud -- assuming that the judge doesn't simply rule the demo as being "sales puffery" (i.e., salespersons are allowed a certain legal leeway in extolling the virtues of the product they're trying to sell).

    Should be interesting. ..bruce..

    • by geekoid (135745)

      Can ana ctual lawyer weigh in on the legal application of "Sales puffery"?

      • by Xtifr (1323)

        IANAL, but Groklaw [groklaw.net] contains all sorts of useful links to on-line legal references, which is how I found this [law.com]. HTH. HAND.

  • WM trashed SAP's ERP.

  • They are the zillionth company to find out that not only in Soviet Russia SAP ERP adapts YOU... and they are pissed about it. Don't tell me they actually expected software that would adapt to their own business model and integrate seamlessly with their operations?

    • by geekoid (135745)

      If that's what SAP claimed, then yes they should expect that. When that fails SAP should have the pants sued off them. Rinse, repeat until SAP stops lying.

  • SAP again? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by someyob (1062238)
    I would hazard the vast majority of us have first hand knowledge of an SAP based enterprise system project gone amok (as I have). Some interesting ideas here http://itknowledgeexchange.techtarget.com/sap-watch/what%E2%80%99s-the-real-trend-in-failed-sap-projects/ [techtarget.com]. I wouldn't necessarily blame the users all the time; in our case, it seems a combination of ill defined requirements, crazily feature rich software and consultants not unhappy when things drag out.
  • Today we will have a few demonstration of our new product.
    Afterwords, there will be cake.

    Now read it again after the cake reference.

  • I find it interesting that the demo is apparently a separate program instead of what they were getting with some preloaded scripts or something. Our demos for our accounting system was someone running the program we were going to buy and mostly doing what we asked. We still missed that an important feature was missing :( Hey, the 1980 computer system did it, the 1990 computer system did it, but forgot to check the 2004 system :/ That was in addition finding out how many of the things it does do actually cos

  • When SAP said that Waste Management has the evidence, they meant they throw it out in the trash so technically WM has it now.

  • by Todd Knarr (15451) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @05:52PM (#28131591) Homepage

    My guess at what happened: once SAP was done with the demo and left a copy with the customer, whoever was responsible for putting it together cleaned it up. It wasn't needed anymore, and document retention policies and the need to clean up file clutter both dictate it goes. On the WMI side, the techie who got the demo filed it away. It's not like a demo mock-up's going to help a developer. And again, between document retention policies and the general need to get rid of useless junk cluttering up the directories, it got deleted. And then months after that, the lawyers come around looking for it and it's not there.

    This, BTW, is one of the reasons I don't like document retention policies that're designed to make sure things get deleted/destroyed. Sure they may get rid of evidence the other guy could use against you, but at the same time they get rid of evidence you could use to support your case if you end up in court. I normally consider all vendor communications to be "retain indefinitely", likewise all product documentation, specifications, etc.. At some point you will need to be able to look one of their salespeople in the eye and say "Yes, you did promise that and I've got the letter from you to prove it.".

  • http://lh4.ggpht.com/samuel.jack/SLvrV9QlOiI/AAAAAAAAAQQ/ajKR2-6Pmko/TreeSwingProjectManagement_thumb%5B3%5D.png?imgmax=800 [ggpht.com]
    No seriously, this was the first thing my Project Management professor showed us...
  • it's a single line of C code printing Hello World!

  • by Archfeld (6757) * <treboreel@live.com> on Thursday May 28, 2009 @06:47PM (#28132223) Journal

    These 2 companies deserve each other like few in the world do... SAP sales folks ARE the KINGS of VAPO-Ware. They will promise ANYTHING in the "next release" and then re-assign any person responsible for making any claims of any type, stating that they are unavailable at this time. WM is one of the lowest of the low and has been tied to corruption and the MOB in more states than I can count on 2 hands. I am just sitting back hoping they will do each other in :D

  • The trash hauler has said SAP used "rigged and manipulated" demonstrations during sales presentations.

    Reminds me somewhat of the E3 demo of Half-Life 2, and Valve's claim of "these are not scripted sequences."

    For people who don't remember, there's a point in the demo where the player walks into a room and shuts (and barricades) a door. The combine guy on the outside kicks the door open. I personally played that demo when it was leaked, and I stood outside of the "unscripted room" and watched the door magically explode inward with no-one there to kick it, as the combine just stood there and stared at me.

  • "And SAP, for its part, says it has 'searched extensively' for the system and wants it 'as much or more' as Waste Management, since it 'will help SAP disprove WM's fraud claim.'"

    Hmm... "I want police to find my wife as much or more as the District Attorney, since she will help disprove the DA's claim that I killed her and neatly disposed of her body."

    • by mjwx (966435)

      Hmm... "I want police to find my wife as much or more as the District Attorney, since she will help disprove the DA's claim that I killed her and neatly disposed of her body."

      Hans, they're letting you post on /. from prison.

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