Almost half of SAP customers (43 percent) are dissatisfied with the system’s response times across all components, according to a global survey.

Organisations said this presented serious potential financial risk to their businesses, according to a survey commissioned by testing and performance management vendor Compuware and conducted by PAC Consulting.

Interviews with senior managers at 588 companies in the UK, US, France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain, found forty four percent were also not satisfied with response times on the SAP web portal.

Figures differed slightly between large and small businesses for web portal response times. Among large companies with over 2,000 users, a third were not satisfied with response times compared with 48 percent in smaller firms.

The survey was not simply measuring satiasfaction with the SAP applications, however. There are a range of issues that can have an adverse affect on SAP performance, analysts said, including the age of the deployment –not detailed in the survey – and the technology infrastructure on which it runs. With SAP drawing on so much other software as well as network and server infrastructure, problems in other areas can have a significant negative impact.

The Compuware study states: “SAP software can only do the job it is designed for if the overall IT infrastructure is stable and reliable. In order to ensure that SAP technology runs effectively, everything from computing platforms to database and network connections must be running with maximum efficiency.”

Businesses running SAP often use the system as the backbone of their operations, and expressed serious concerns over the potential financial risks of SAP technical issues.

Nearly all businesses – 96 percent – warned that they faced financial risks if their SAP systems experienced performance problems. Over half said there was a “high risk” of such an event causing damage.

“In general, most companies are unhappy with their ERP environments,” said Ray Wang, chief executive at Constellation Research Group. “Slow performance, rigidity of user experience, and high cost to manage often lead the list of complaints.”  The age of the system would likely make a big difference, he said, particularly with "the agility to make changes".

“Anecdotally, I hear lots of people of complaining about their ERP systems,” agreed Georgie Lawrie, VP at analyst house Forrester. “It’s certainly an issue for them.”

But Lawrie said the other infrastructure in place, including databases and other key software, could have a major impact on performance. “It’s easy to blame the ERP vendor,” he said.

SAP offered its own performance tuning service, called MaxAttention, he noted. This is used by companies to address some of the issues raised in the survey.

David Bradshaw, research manager at analyst house IDC, said he was “not surprised” that so many people were disappointed in the performance of what is often a “large system”.

“People use systems like SAP for so much, in such complex environments,” he said. “It’s also often highly customised. There are many other systems in place and other factors that can have an impact on SAP performance.”

Of the companies surveyed, a quarter used SAP for finance or human resources, a fifth for supply chain management, 18 percent for customer relationship management and 14 percent for supplier relationship management. Other areas included e-commerce, where SAP was used by 14 percent of respondents, and business intelligence, by nine percent.

In the UK, two thirds ran SAP in-house, with the remainder using hosted or outsourced SAP.

But companies’ responses also indicated concerns around their abilities to measure system problems and remedies quickly.

Some forty percent of businesses said they could detect issues in real time, and instead relied on user feedback.

Additionally, only fifty one percent said they could perform SAP troubleshooting based on rapid root cause analysis. Around half were unable to predict future SAP performance and capacity.

Compuware advised businesses to use systems such as its Vantage software to measure SAP performance. Vantage measures SAP performance across operations from the “front end to the data centre”, it said.

Half of the respondents said they planned to invest in a dedicated performance management system for SAP.

“Only with proactive performance monitoring can problems be detected early enough to provide companies with the chance to take action,” the report said, “before issues disrupt business processes.”