• May 18, 2011
  • By Leonard Klie, Editor, CRM magazine and SmartCustomerService.com

SAP's Business Model Is Built on Collaboration

ORLANDO, Fla. (SAPPHIRE NOW) – Businesses today must operate in the moment, said Bill McDermott, co-CEO of SAP, in his opening keynote at SAP’s annual user conference May 17.

That moment, he explained, takes place when the customer is in the store. "It's about analyzing the customer's needs in real time and providing the right product to the right place at the right value," he said.

In this environment, "You cannot allow consumer information to be lost," he added, noting that competition is too fast and brand loyalty is too fleeting.

Yet the reality is that while the Internet is capturing billions of data points per second, terabytes of customer data never get analyzed, according to McDermott.

For SAP, the entire conference focused on being able to process this vast quantity of data with greater speed and efficiency, and a key to that is SAP's stated commitment to making mobile the new desktop. "Mobile is unstoppable," McDermott noted.

But actually, SAP's real goal is to innovate across three platforms: on-premises, on-demand, and on-device, according to co-CEO Jim Hagemann Snabe. He noted in part two of the keynote that SAP's innovations in the on-premises solutions during the past 12 months have led 40,000 customers to deploy SAP products. In the on-demand arena, SAP’' new Business By Design product has already been adopted by 500 companies. The company set a target of 1,000 adoptions by the end of the year, so it’s running ahead of that timeline. And on the on-device front, SAP is still reaping the benefits of its Sybase acquisition from about a year ago. It used the show to release the next generation of its Sybase Unwiired Platform, which will be available within the next few months. Unwired 2.0 features an enhanced development toolkit and will allow businesses to respond to real-time business dynamics and create applications that mobilize business processes and workflow. 

Unwired 2.0 currently supports the Apple iOS, BlackBerry, and Windows Mobile platforms, and a version for Android is currently in development. It integrates with back-end systems via SAP-certified connectors and open-standards connectors such as JDBC and RESTful Web services. Other features include enhanced security, including a single sign-on, encrypted HTML5 Web storage, and encrypted data transport.

SAP also announced several new mobile applications built on the Unwired platform. These applications are aimed at mobilizing business processes and business information across key industries, like manufacturing, consumer products, utilities, oil and gas, retail, and technology.

Also announced during the first day of the show was the general availability of INNOVATIONS 2010 enhancement packages across all of SAP’s Business Suite 7 applications. Thes enhancements allow customers to switch on new software features for unique industry and line-of-business processes.

But perhaps one of the biggest developments discussed on the first day of the show was the release of SAP Sales on Demand, part of the larger Business By Design product suite. The product is currently in the customer ramp-up stage and is expected to be ready for general release by July.

Sales on Demand, which offers rich, real-time analytics functionality, is one of SAP’s first on-demand applications. SAP is also working on a talent management and travel expense management applications, according to Peter Lawrence, head of on-demand products at SAP.

Bill Hou, vice president for Sales on Demand, called it a "people-centric app that lets sales people keep in contact with colleagues, clients, and accounts." With it, sales people and their managers can track and update sales data, contacts, leads, proposals, account histories, etc., through a very intuitive interface.”

But there is so much more going on at SAP. Vinay Iyer, head of global marketing at SAP, identified three main trends where SAP is focusing its attention. The first involves a change at the highest levels of corporate organization. "Suddenly, the board-level and C-level people are focusing on the customer," he said. "That's driving a lot of the innovations around the 360-degree view of the customers from prospecting through sales, customer support and technical support to retention."

The second trend he identified was a move of customer service beyond product support. "It involves so many other touch points at the company, including billing, shipping, manufacturing," Iyer said.

And finally, social media is now making the consumer more powerful than ever, meaning that companies need new ways to listen to their customers. "It's no longer about processes but about information and the speed of information that has shaken things up," Iyer said.

All of these things together have changed the business landscape altogether. In this new landscape, technology will need to be developed to further bridge unstructured and structured data together, to bring social media and on-demand together, and to take businesses from a sales focus to a collaboration focus. "To survive [during the sluggish economy of the past two years], companies started to realize that they need to focus more on their customers," Iyer said

"It's all about the consumers. You must never underestimate the customer's willingness to change brands if it’s in his best interest to change," McDermott said.

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