SAP pushes products

While announcing enhanced supply chain management and customer relationship management applications this week at its Sapphire '03 user conference in Orlando, SAP also elaborated on the evolution of its products, with an eye to making them cheaper to install and maintain and easier to use.

During his keynote address earlier this week, SAP's recently installed chairman and CEO Henning Kagermann called the company an innovator and "not just a safe haven," presumably referring to the ongoing Oracle Corp./PeopleSoft Inc. takeover fracas. Continuing to reiterate some of the messages that SAP has delivered over the past year and a half, he emphasized that the company is committed to delivering an open platform, so customers can exploit their existing software investments through integration.

Going over the future technology road map, Kagermann also discussed a new intuitive portal-based user interface to SAP applications that will present business users with guided lists of tasks on-screen for them to follow. This has already been introduced in part in the latest version of the SAP human resources application. Referring to a new business-mapping service that SAP recently announced, he said users will be able to align business goals with applications and embed specific workflows as they roll out the software.

As expected, the company also announced the latest flavor of mySAP CRM. By exploiting the capabilities of the SAP NetWeaver integration platform, mySAP CRM will be able to deliver enhanced collaborative analytics, marketing, sales and service capabilities, the company said.

Among the new functions are trade promotion management, which lets consumer-goods companies launch and monitor sales campaigns, taking into account budgeting, demand planning and execution components. SAP will also offer automotive specific functions -- for example, a car maker can track data about car buyers, information on specific vehicles and even the history of a given car across multiple owners.

SAP also announced the latest version of mySAP SCM, which is intended to support event management and allow a company to react automatically in case of unforeseen supply glitch, such as an unexpected shortage. It also includes the new SAP Inventory Collaboration Hub, a single Web-based platform that lets a company more easily tie its supply chain with its partners' systems to ensure inventory replenishment.

Patti Walker, CIO of Fender Musical Instruments Corp. in Scottsdale, Ariz., plans to roll out the new CRM application as part of an overall ERP and supply chain management implementation that will replace a set of 20-year-old applications. Among the features she likes in the CRM software is its ability to do different configurations. That will allow Fender to fulfill special one-off requests, rather than making products in advance of orders, as it does now. However, Walker is waiting for SAP to deliver a configuration visualization feature to the suite that will allow customers to see what they are ordering over the Web.

SAP said that feature is already in a pilot program.

The mobile device user interface now available in the CRM application is of particular interest to Gerrard Rutter, a vice president at Adobe Systems Inc. in San Jose. The software maker runs SAP R/3 ERP software, and Rutter said he would like to deploy the mobile device interface to the company's mobile sales force as part of an overall mySAP CRM installation to replace existing software from Siebel Systems Inc. in San Mateo, Calif. He said he also likes SAP's push for easier integration.

"It's important at the end of the day to concentrate on business processes and bringing value back and not spending time on development and tying together on the back end," Rutter said.

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