Startups take SAP consulting to the cloud

Vivido Labs and CumulusIQ are playing up the immediacy and flexibility of their cloud-based help desks for SAP implementations

A pair of startups, including one led by a former top SAP executive, are betting that SAP customers want more flexible ways to purchase consulting services and find answers to problems.

Greg Tomb, who was CEO of SAP North America before leaving the vendor early this year, recently formed Vivido Labs, which offers remote help-desk service provided by a roster of experienced SAP professionals, Tomb said.

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The main difference between Vivido and traditional consulting contracts is that customers can purchase help a la carte, and can get it faster, he said. A large systems integrator may demand a minimum length of engagement or be unable to immediately put qualified help on the job, he said.

About 1,000 SAP consultants have expressed an interest in working with Vivido, but the company has selected an initial group of about 400 for now, according to Tomb.

The system works well for the experts, many of which are veterans and "tired of traveling," Tomb said. "It gives them the ability to make extra money and get in front of new customers. ... These people love working through the hard problems," he added.

Following feedback from initial customers, Vivido is now tweaking its platform to ensure customers can name a preferred consultant if desired, rather than be assigned one randomly from a group specializing in a particular area, Tomb said.

Vivido is focusing on customers whose SAP implementations are already up and running and need help with configuration issues or other "post-go-live" problems, Tomb said. However, a customer that is just about to hit the switch on an implementation might want to call in Vivido's experts to serve as a last-minute extra set of eyes, he added.

In addition to remote help, Vivido is attempting to build up a large repository of white papers, how-to guides and other information relating to specific areas of SAP software. The materials undergo a thorough vetting process by a team of SAP "scholars," according to Tomb.

Meanwhile, startup CumulusIQ, based in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, is taking a somewhat different approach to remote support.

Customers submit questions to the company's "SAP Help Desk in the Cloud," after which an answer is "crowdsourced" by a virtual team of consultants.

"You could potentially have 20 experts looking at an SAP issue anytime day or night, whereas with a traditional dedicated help desk, you might only have one person helping you at a time," cumulusIQ CEO Monty Kalsi said in a blog post.

Vivido and CumulusIQ are creatures of the recession and its pending aftermath, according to Jon Reed, an independent analyst who tracks the SAP jobs market.

"Basically, when you look at the impact of this economy, business models are never going to return to the way [they] were. We're going to recover into a different world," he said. "Part of what's changing is stuff around systems integrators and consulting in the enterprise space. Companies want more innovation."

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