SAP to push SOA, CRM

At its Sapphire 2006 user conference this week in Orlando, SAP will be showcasing its latest on-demand CRM offerings as well as highlighting progress it's made helping customers use its service-oriented architecture (SOA) platform.

More specifically, the business applications vendor plans to talk up customer adoption of its SOA-based Enterprise Services Architecture (ESA), of which its NetWeaver middleware stack is the central component. The vendor also expects to highlight how partners and customers have been finding new ways to get benefits out of an SAP investment using the ESA, said William Wohl, spokesman for the company. SAP will also demonstrate the next revision of its online service, SAP Marketing on-demand.

The marketing product is the second iteration of SAP's CRM service first unveiled in February, said Wohl. It will offer campaign and lead management, customer segmentation and other features, he said. Additionally, SAP will be adding analytical capabilities to the service that allow users to look into the sales pipeline and do opportunity assessment. The marketing solution will also support additional languages, including French, Korean, Portuguese and Chinese.

Among those headed for Sapphire 2006 will be Aaron Nichols, a general manager of IT for the Canada Post. Canda Post uses SAP's ERP and CRM software. Nichols said he wants to learn about upgrading his applications, and -- since Canada Post is standardized on a Microsoft technology stack -- find out more about Duet. That product, announced a week ago, enables Microsoft Office users to have integrated workflows with SAP's ERP and CRM applications.

Analysts said that SAP needs to demonstrate at Sapphire 2006 that its technology roadmap will actually deliver something worthwhile. "They need to continue to talk about the value of the ESA and NetWeaver," Joshua Greenbaum, an analyst at Enterprise Applications Consulting, said, noting that companies are hesitant to commit to an expensive migration to an SAP-based ESA architecture. "Many customers are struggling with overall issue of, 'How am I going to justify this?'" said Greenbaum.

SAP has to demonstrate that its architecture will actually help customers craft reusable business processes based on the ESA, said Rebecca Wetteman, an analyst at Nucleus Research. "They need a strong story as Oracle is now mapping out what Fusion [Oracle's next generation suite] looks like," she said.

SAP Marketing on-demand is available now. Pricing for SAP CRM on-demand is US$75 per user per month, but customers wishing to use Sales on-demand and SAP Marketing on-demand will pay US$125 per user per month.