Confab to Focus On

BOSTON (06/14/2000) - This week, at its Sapphire user conference in Las Vegas, German software maker SAP AG will likely have a lot of explaining to do about its much-talked-about but little-understood offerings.

SAP claims to have licensed more than 1 million users of since it announced the business software last August. Yet has been far from a resounding success, according to John Hagerty, an analyst at AMR Research Inc. in Boston.

One big reason is that few users seem to understand exactly what is and how to transition from their current enterprise R/3 applications to SAP's e-commerce platform, he said.

"SAP talks about 1 million users, but what they're really talking about is a few big organizations with tens of thousands of users," Hagerty said. "You can get to 1 million pretty quickly that way."

Winning Customers

SAP spokesman Bill Wohl dismissed Hagerty's comment. "Lately, AMR seems focused on the negative in everything," he said, claiming that SAP has won "huge numbers" of additional users. Wohl said a related announcement will be made this week.

The three-day conference will include more than 30 sessions focusing on, which comprises business-to-business marketplaces, business software applications, application hosting services and what SAP calls "role-based portals" for different users performing different jobs.

To Mary Kay Devillier, director of e-business and information resources at chemical company Albemarle Corp. in Richmond, Va., "appears to be a constantly moving target, evolving in features and functionality and pricing.

SAP is still juggling pricing, trying to figure out what will be accepted in the marketplace."

At its European users' conference last month, SAP announced new pricing scenarios aimed at providing more flexibility for customers.

Last week, SAP also announced 70 new service providers, which brings the number of companies it has certified to do consulting and implementations to 98.

"The marketplace continues to send signs and signals that customers are figuring out," said Wohl.

"There's no question that over the initial 12 months of, it was a very different way of thinking about solutions being delivered in general and being delivered by SAP," he said. "But the whole concept of confusion is really pretty much an old story at this point."

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