SAP has been the industry leader in Supply Chain Management (SCM) and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) applications for the past decade. However, they have been lagging in the area of Customer Resource Management (CRM), and companies such as PeopleSoft and Siebel have taken advantage of this by using their popular CRM applications to sell their ERP and SCM apps, cutting into SAP’s share of the market.
Hoping to reverse this trend, SAP officially released mySAP 3.0, a new CRM app that supports the entire interaction cycle of a company’s SCM and ERP, along with financial and accounting apps.
SAP’s mySAP, which has been shipped for a few months at the time of this article, has received mixed reviews from industry experts. Although many praise its analytics, data mining, order-management, and field-service functionality, some worry that it will be difficult to integrate with other vendor’s apps.
The main reason for this is that SAP has again written its apps in ABAT, its in house code, which makes it difficult to extend mySAP to other vendors apps and websites. Because of this, Lance Travis of AMR Research, says users will be unable to realize the full potential of mySAP 3.0 unless they already have SAP R/3 with financial and order-management apps, or are planning to install them.
SAP’s experts, however, contend this is not the case. They are selling 3.0 as a stand alone app, capable of interfacing with other vendors’ apps, as well as web sites, and any other application that is not supported by SAP.
Given SAP’s infamous reputation as being difficult (at best) to install, the likelihood of companies attempting to integrate mySAP CRM into existing ERP and SCM apps may be minimal.
Even so, R/3 is the most used standard business software for client/server systems, according to Forrester Research. Therefore, SAP has over 15,000 companies running some sort of its software, and these companies will first look to SAP if they want to implement CRM for their business. MySAP 3.0 is designed to seamlessly integrate into SAP systems, so this app (hopefully) will work with existing SAP apps.
Barring any major calamities, most experts agree that SAP’s major presence in the industry will, in itself, allow mySAP 3.0 to be a success. It does, however, have many strong qualities besides integration into R/3 that could propel it into a stand-alone app. One of the most important components of mySAP 3.0 is an attempt to provide consistent data to all parties.
Consistency has long been a revered component of usability, and SAP has connected well with this idea. Their idea is that by presenting a consistent face to customers through website design and generic form usage, customers will easily navigate through web sites and find ordering predictable and uncomplicated. Moreover, 3.0 offers consistent data information to employees, distributors, and partners to eliminate confusion when communicating with each other.
For example, a support staff would instantaneously have access to a profile of the customer they are trying to help, and this information would be the same for all customers, eliminating the need for the staff to search for data.
Another important element in 3.0 is over 100 “boilerplate” business processes that are ready for use out of the box. These templates fit a variety of industries, and are to be used to lessen time spent implementing the new system.
Instead of building a whole new app, customers can simply choose which components they need to succeed, or they can have a base to build upon. 3.0 will also operate with other vendor apps (to some degree) such as PeopleSoft’s ERP and HR apps, and Oracle apps, and analyze their data using built-in analytical tools.
These tools come in the form of Online Analytical Processing (OLAP) engines, which uses third party data to determine what information is relevant. SAP promises that 3.0 will do this without full integration into ERP apps, but the extent of the analysis remains to be seen.
3.0 can support e-portal and mobile devices as well, but the other apps will determine how much so. It also offers logistics and workforce management apps, but they lag behind PeopleSoft’s and Oracle’s in these departments.
What mySAP 3.0 does offer is intelligent templates, very good usability, and full integration with SAP products, as well as a promise to be able to stand alone or integrate with other products.
SAP has made significant progress into making their products easier to install, but that pesky ABAP code is still there, making integration into other apps difficult. However, 3.0 is a very viable competitor in the CRM market, and expect to see it used widely in the coming years.
John Mark Kennedy is currently a Senior at the University of Kentucky pursuing a degree in Descision Sciences and Information Systems. His e commerce interests include eCRM and supply chain management infrastructure.