TECH ED - SAP's ERP 2005 'stable core' for five years

SAP intends to keep the current version of its ERP application in place through 2010, providing optional enhancement packages on a regular basis.

SAP is making a major change in the way it delivers ERP (enterprise resource planning) applications to customers, breaking with the traditional approach of upgrading the entire software release every 12 to 18 months.

Instead, SAP committed Tuesday to keeping the current version of its ERP software, mySAP ERP 2005, in place through 2010 and providing new functionality via a steady stream of optional enhancement packages. The vendor made the announcement at its TechEd developer conference taking place in Las Vegas this week.

SAP determined the new strategy in response to customer demands, according to Peter Graf, executive vice president of solution marketing for SAP.

"The customer is in a dilemma," he said. "They want the least distraction to their business possible, while continually innovating in a very short time frame." Not having to upgrade entire SAP ERP applications on a regular basis and being able to choose which functionality to take on via the optional enhancement packages should help ease the pain, Graf added.

MySAP 2005 will act as "a stable backbone" on top of which customers can add new functionality from SAP and its partners, Graf said. It's a very different approach from the several hundred product enhancements the vendor showcased in mySAP ERP 2005, he added.

The first enhancement package is due to ship in December. It will include new functionality around talent management and financial collaboration, new composite applications, enterprise services, industry-specific capabilities and possible extensions to SAP's NetWeaver integration platform, Graf said. MySAP is based on NetWeaver.

Going forward, SAP will likely issue enhancement packages once every quarter or two, with each package grouped around a particular theme. "We'll make sure we deliver them in a very focused way," Graf said. "For example, we'd say this package is all around talent management. If you want it, go for it. If you're not interested, don't use it."

Other enhancement packages will include CRM (customer relationship management) and Project Muse, a new GUI (graphical user interface) to mySAP applications developed through a partnership with Adobe Systems Inc.'s Macromedia business unit.

SAP begun making mySAP ERP 2005 generally available in May at its Sapphire user conference in Orlando. So far, 200 to 300 customers are live with the latest ERP software version, Graf said, with several thousand other users live on the earlier release, mySAP 2004.

SAP is hoping that users on older versions of its software, notably R/3 4.6C and 4.7, will also rapidly move to mySAP ERP 2005.

While the message at Sapphire from SAP executives to its users was to adopt mySAP 2005 sooner rather than later, the message from TechEd is rather more blunt. "There's no mySAP ERP 2007. This is it. Move," Graf said.

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