SAP aims new strategy at Defence

Hot on the heels of the presidentially-decreed unified restructure of US security, integrated solutions vendor SAP has announced a new play to export its just-launched Security Resource Management product worldwide with the Australian Defence Force (ADF) a prime target.

Len Augustine, SAP's marketing and alliances director for Australia and NZ, has confirmed that a specialist team, including developers, will be flown out from the US in mid-August to "talk to the local market" and bring SAP's public sector team up to speed.

"Part of this is [because of] a global coordination aspect in that various governments want to work with each other. I presume that the Bali Australian [event] is quite a good example of that.

"We're reasonably bullish on this product in regard to it being a brand new market which wasn't apparent a year or two ago. It probably is a need," Augustine said.

The announcement comes as Australian Forces are deployed in coalition with the US to the Middle East for preparation for possible conflict with Iraq.

According to SAP, the ADF currently runs the vendor's Strategic Enterprise Management product for analysis, planning, budgeting as well as a business information warehouse product to allow data to be pulled from various sources including the R3 Enterprise product. All senior ADF information executives -- indeed all senior-level defence executives -- were locked in at the ADF's annual Senior Executive Service summit at Computerworld's press deadline and unavailable for comment.

The announcement also saw mixed signals emerge from an SAP press lunch last week. In response to questions about the terrorist threat, SAP Australian and New Zealand CEO and managing director Geraldine McBride referred to the "unfortunate" sales opportunities created during periods of armed conflict. Her boss, president of global field operations Leo Apotheker, contended that these came at the expense of other sectors.

Two senior defence analysts said they believed that SAP's new offering was possibly better suited to security agencies rather than defence per se, although both stressed it was too early to make judgements.

Aldo Borgu, a military analyst with the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (and former senior adviser to the Minister for Defence), said that although there was a definite need to integrate information systems and information sharing, he was unsure if any one product would achieve this alone.

"There's a lot of interest from companies in getting into the homeland security business. There is a requirement to integrate not only the intelligence effort, but the policy-making effort in terms of counter terrorism.

"We've called for an individual to be in charge of the counterterrorism effort. Intelligence and information management has a part to play in that -- that's been reflected in President Bush's announcement of an Integrated Threat Centre. The fact is that counterterrorism goes across a number of boundries, so any integration of that effort is going to be welcome," Borgu said.

Clive Williams, former head of Security Intelligence now with the ANU Strategic and Defence Studies Centre with Defence, suggested that, on the surface the SRM product may perhaps find more welcoming arms within Australia's security and intelligence community.

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