SAP unleashes b-to-b initiatives

Portals will be central to SAP AG's product strategy at its Sapphire 2001 conference this week in Orlando, Fla., where the software giant will strive to portray itself as the vendor of choice for B-to-B (business-to-business) commerce, resource planning, and collaboration.

Industry analysts said that Walldorf, Germany-based SAP will use the show to provide more details on its IBM Corp. and SAP Portals systems integration alliance, the SAPMarkets relationship with PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PWC), and its SAPMarkets offerings.

SAP is taking the steps necessary to re-architect its products with competitive b-to-b capabilities that will help it keep up with ERP (enterprise resource planning) rivals who have outlasted once formidable b-to-b players such as Ariba Inc. and Commerce One Inc., now a partner of SAP, analysts said.

"I think the takeaway will be that SAP can help you execute in b-to-b," said Karen Peterson, an analyst with Gartner, in Stamford, Conn.

SAP declined comment on specific announcements, but elaborated on the direction of SAP Portals, an SAP company that offers single points of access to Web content, collaboration tools, CRM (customer relationship management), SCM (supply chain management), ERP applications, and legacy systems.

Overall, SAP will be unveiling much-needed "basic technology updates," said Lisa Williams, an analyst with the Yankee Group in Boston who was recently briefed by SAP. In light of SAP's embrace of J2EE last week at Sun's JavaOne conference, SAP is ready to deliver a lightweight front end, Williams said.

For the enterprise, SAP will be pitching the benefits of portal access to critical business information that is fleshed out via business intelligence tools, Williams said. A lot of important information is still locked away in ERP and legacy systems, according to Williams and other analysts. "Business intelligence and portals help you get at that stuff," she said.

Beyond the enterprise, SAPMarkets last week announced an agreement with PWC to deliver integrated b-to-b solutions for design, sourcing, procurement, planning, selling, and analytics for private and public exchanges via MarketSet, the combined b-to-b onramp of SAP and Commerce One.

SAP will be providing more collaboration capabilities on top of its Advanced Planning and Optimization (APO) and Product Life Management (PLM) suites, Peterson said.

The new lines of access will help SAP provide "visibility in the enterprise and outside the enterprise," Peterson said.

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