SAP to detail customer management plans

SAP's main focus at its Sapphire '99 user conference here this week has been on the formal rollout of its much-publicised Internet portal and online marketplace software. But the company also has customer relationship management (CRM) on its mind.

At the conference, SAP executives are due to lay out a detailed plan to deliver a set of CRM applications for automating and managing sales, service and marketing work. SAP lags well behind rivals such as Oracle Corp. in releasing software for CRM, which is viewed as a key emerging market for software vendors.

It's still expected to be late next year or early 2001 before the full CRM suite that SAP envisions is available. But George D'Auteuil, vice president of CRM at SAP's US operations in said that delayed applications for automating field sales and service operations are now on track for release in the next six weeks. Those two packages were originally due out by midyear.

D'Auteuil said SAP also will announce today that four more CRM applications will go into beta testing by year's end, with shipments expected to follow in the first quarter of next year. That batch includes separate packages for selling products online and letting customers check on order status and other information via the Internet, plus products for managing call centers and automating a manufacturer's dealings with distributors and resellers.

Still to come next year are 10 more CRM applications for things such as managing product repair depots and automating the development of marketing campaigns and product pricing promotions, D'Auteuil said.

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