On the Scene: SAP Talks Enterprise SOA and Collaboration
Enterprise SOA and coinnovation were two key threads that ran through SAP's SAPPHIRE '07 Atlanta user conference, evidenced by announcements of accelerated NetWeaver adoption, upcoming NetWeaver functionality, and SAP's partnerships with companies like Microsoft and Adobe. Taking what appeared to be a back seat to these themes in terms of news announcements and keynote sessions was the company's CRM strategy.
The company announced a series of pairings, including one with Adobe to combine SAP Learning Solution with Adobe Connect Professional, a Web-conferencing solution, and an extension of its partnership with Microsoft to deliver upgraded versions of Duet. Duet is aimed at enabling organizations to tap into SAP business process and data through Microsoft Office apps. Duet 1.5 is slated for release this year, while Duet 2.0 is expected at the end of 2008, and Duet 3.0 soon after the next generation of SAP Business Suite apps and Microsoft Office software, according to the companies. (See "SAP and Microsoft Will Duet Again," at www.destinationCRM.com, for more about the partnership.) SAP is "essentially trying to expose more--whether it's data or even transactional-level information--to the average user," with the Duet and Adobe announcements, says Rob Bois, a research director at AMR Research.
Meanwhile, in his keynote SAP's CEO and Chairman of the Executive Board Henning Kagermann described two important business trends driving adoption of enterprise SOA: the quickened pace of business change and the increasing commoditization that's spurring the need to differentiate through innovation. Business network transformation, defined by SAP as the optimization of a company's network of employees, suppliers, customers, partners, and distributors to maximize the productivity of nondifferentiating tasks and to accelerate innovation, "has become the primary source of competitive differentiation, and to do this you need a new IT architecture. Enterprise SOA is a way to architect IT for business network transformation."
Enterprise SOA was also a focal point of SAPPHIRE '06, and CRM played a notable role. At last year's event SAP unveiled CRM 2006s, a hybrid on-demand/on-premise CRM suite that uses the same user interface across both deployment options and allows for integration with SAP and non-SAP back-end systems. SAP also announced at SAPPHIRE '06 that the suite would be available to initial customers that summer, and that it expected to migrate its entire CRM offering to its hybrid model by 2007.
"We [haven't] heard much about it since then," Bois says. "They tried to make a big splash last year around CRM because it is one of SAP's growing enterprise applications, but in doing so I think they left themselves with not much new [CRM] news to talk about this year."
Even so, SAP has been tapped by research firms like AMR as the CRM market's revenue leader. But the challenge the company faces, Bois says, is getting customers who bought licenses to implement. "If they can paint the picture to their customers and convince them that this is a lower risk proposition, it's not going to be as expensive as they thought, and the user interface is better than what they've seen in the past, that could help get more of the deployments under way."