• May 2, 2008
  • By Jessica Tsai, Assistant Editor, CRM magazine


NEW YORK -- Enterprise application provider SAP held a media briefing in its East Coast headquarters here this morning to announce a new expansion of its partnership with Research in Motion (RIM), the Canadian wireless communications provider and developer of the widely used BlackBerry mobile devices. As a result of what one SAP executive called "co-innovation," a version of SAP CRM software has been rebuilt to natively integrate with the BlackBerry. Several of the SAP and RIM executives on hand repeatedly stated during the announcement that the new offering should be seen as "game-changing."

Unveiling the solution for enterprise mobility, executives from both companies said that the announcement is a culmination of a process that began with the two companies' original collaboration as far back as 2004. The market opportunity for this product is huge, said Bill McDermott, president and chief executive officer of SAP Americas and Asia-Pacific Japan. McDermott went on to cite estimates from research firm IDC that there are now 800 million mobile professionals worldwide, and that number is expected to increase to approximately 1 billion by 2010.

Still in the early-adoption stage, the companies have not set a date for general availability. "[Forrester Reserarch] thinks they're doing a slow adoption right now, doing their testing, and getting their production together," Forrester analyst Ray Wang tells CRM. Currently, only one company is using SAP CRM on the BlackBerry -- SAP itself. That's only natural, according to the SAP executives at the announcement, a natural step given the fact that all SAP employees are already equipped with a BlackBerry.

CRM only marks the beginning, McDermott said. SAP and RIM are looking ahead to bring the entire business suite of SAP onto the BlackBerry device. The current roadmap includes "ERP, supply-chain, [and] industry applications," said Bob Stutz, senior vice president for worldwide CRM product and strategy, adding that, "this allows workers to work anywhere, anyplace."

The company has yet to set a definitive timeline on the release of other business-suite applications. In response to a media question, Stutz vaguely promised that the subsequent applications will come out "as fast as we can build them," but he then contextualized that remark, promising that it will not take years. However, this promise should be taken with a grain of salt: Stutz added that further developments to BlackBerry-native applications will depend on observations and lessons learned from the CRM launch, which itself remains at least several months away. Wang says that it's possible SAP and RIM could come out with more enterprise applications within the next six to eight months, but anticipates that a slow rollout is more likely.

"It's really about access," said Jim Balsillie, co-chief executive officer of RIM. The CRM experience, according to executives of both companies, is enhanced by allowing users to:

  • Interact with the CRM database natively: Your contact list and calendar are connected to your CRM applications. When you finish a call, update your CRM call log--it's all seamless, secure, and simple, he said; and
  • CRM events (e.g., new leads, sales promotions, alerts) are immediately pushed into your inbox, where employees spend most of their time.
"CRM could be so powerful if only users have universal access to data," and make updates immediately and in real time, said Mike de le Cruz, SAP's senior vice president of CRM applications solution management and now responsible for SAP mobility. He added that he "never [before] had the ability to update...data at the point of interaction." Now, he beamed, "CRM comes to me." With CRM on the mobile device, SAP and RIM are contributing to a "breakdown [of siloes] in CRM," de la Cruz says. The age-old battle between marketers and salespeople was often a result of failed communication; but, according to de la Cruz, there never were any real wars: "It just wasn't convenient." Salespeople, for instance, are mobile; they don't want to be confined to a desk entering data. "We've closed the loop for CRM," he said.

No financial details surrounding the partnership were unveiled. In response to questions from the media, both McDermott and Stutz said that the partnership merely involves two companies coming together to engage in co-innovation and co-development. Wang says there will be mutual benefit in terms of shared customers. "RIM is trying to get more use of enterprise apps on the BlackBerry as a platform and SAP is trying to increase its base of overall users within the enterprise," he says. He estimates that maybe 17 to 23 percent of total enterprise employees touch SAP. "So anything you can do to add more users, this is a great way to do that," he adds.

Given past complications on the BlackBerry (outages this past February and another in April 2007, left users without email deliverability for hours), questions about how RIM plans to handle the security of enteprise CRM arose. "We understand that the BlackBerry is mission-critical," Balsillie said, stating that RIM has grown, and admitting that, while the company is not perfect, it's striving to be. "Words can't explain how serious that responsibility is to us."

"If you look at the penetration of BlackBerrys in the market, it is the market leader in the corporate space. So it makes a lot of sense from a partnership perspective," Wang says. Nevertheless, when asked about the exclusivity of the relationship, neither company is ruling out the possibility of expanding this solution--SAP to other mobile platforms, RIM to other application providesr. It's about enabling the customer with enterprise mobility and extending the capability wherever it's relevant, Balsillie said.

Since the beginning of this week, SAP has been under scrutiny for announcing a 12-to-18 month delay in the launch of its Business ByDesign software, intended for midmarket companies. McDermott, in response to a question from CRM, stressed that the delay in Business ByDesign is not a result of any effort to build a Business ByDesign service suite to run native on the BlackBerry; at the moment, he said, there are no plans to do so.

Amid all the speculation, however, Wang calls the mobile-CRM-for-BlackBerry announcment SAP's "good news for the week."

Related articles:
SAP Refocuses on "Fun"
SAP CRM 2008: SAP's overarching theme of "customer co-innovation" goes beyond its newly launched CRM offering, according to company executives.

SAP Susses Out 2008
With financial results in hand and Business ByDesign humming along, the vendor offers some thoughts on what's coming next.

SAP's Big Move Toward Smaller Businesses
The German giant's "A1S" product -- officially known as SAP Business ByDesign -- targets companies with between 100 and 500 employees.

SAP's Big Move Toward Smaller Businesses
The German giant's "A1S" product -- officially known as SAP Business ByDesign -- targets companies with between 100 and 500 employees.

SAP's Midmarket Design
Insight: SAP Business ByDesign is the company's new on-demand midmarket product; much of its success hinges on SAP's channel strategy.

SAP to Acquire Business Objects
The friendly takeover folds new business intelligence capabilities into one of the leading enterprise software platforms; amidst differing opinions, rumors loom of a counteroffer from Oracle or IBM.

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