SAP CRM 5.0: Simple, Flexible, Comprehensive
As a technology analyst, I spend several hours a week attending briefings with technology vendors, understanding products and functionality, new releases, product roadmaps, new customer wins, etc. Some of this information is exposed in published research, but most is not. I will be using this blog as a way to pass along some of the learnings I’m taking away from these briefings.
Those of you who have been reading my research know that I have been critical of both SAP and Oracle for spending the last 2 years focusing solely on differentiating their enterprise applications with infrastructure. Now, don’t get me wrong, I totally support moving toward componentized, standards-based architecture, but when business users are trying to determine which vendor will give them the best business value via processes and functionality, hours of PowerPoint slides on SAP’s NetWeaver vs. Oracle’s Fusion doesn’t help.
I had a chance to catch up with SAP’s CRM team last week, and I’m happy to say that SAP is returning to their roots of pushing business value for their applications. While they still have the “walk and talk” for IT interested in NetWeaver and how it can change the way they install, customize and maintain applications, they are also spending time (and resources) on getting the message right for the business users, whose adoption of the applications—or their refusal to adopt the applications—makes or breaks the success of the project.
SAP has worked hard in the last 5 years to create a CRM suite that can compete head-to-head with Siebel for ‘best of breed’ bragging rights, but with their background in ERP applications, usability was not always great, and overall look and feel of the applications tended to be klunky. But I’m happy to say that is no longer the case. After reaching out to early CRM adopters about what they liked and didn’t like in the applications, mySAP CRM 2005 (which 150+ customer companies are using) and mySAP CRM 2006 have made major strides to become, in their terms, “Simple, Flexible and Comprehensive.”
- Simple. Here’s where I think the single biggest evolution of SAP CRM has taken place–the user interface. First created for the Interaction Center, then migrated to the OnDemand release, and now used throughout mySAP CRM 2006, the new look and feel is clean and intuitive. In fact, users have a portal-like welcome screen they can customize just like their MyYahoo page, picking what data to show and how to arrange it.
- Flexible. SAP released 3 ‘waves’ of their OnDemand product in 2006, focusing on first sales, then marketing, and most recently service, now offering a full CRM suite that offers a compelling alternative for CRM shoppers seeking an OnDemand solution. With SSPA Research predicting that mid-market technology companies will spend $309M on CRM software in 2007, having an OnDemand offering makes sense to better compete with Salesforce, RightNow and Siebel OnDemand.
- Comprehensive. SAP now offers CRM in 25 industry-specific flavors, and the latest release added new functionality to some of the core vertical versions (telco, financial service, public sector, high tech, consumer products, etc.). Plus, SAP has some innovative offerings, including Duet software, the first jointly developed product by SAP and Microsoft, enabling users to easily interact with SAP data directly in Microsoft Office (a huge value add for Outlook-centric sales reps who are hard to coax into a CRM application).
I also give props to SAP for their partner ecosystem, which allows ISVs to certify their software on the NetWeaver platform making application extensions and add-ons easy (from an integration perspective). For example, check out SAP ecosystem partner Datria, who offers voice self-service for field service workers, creating a virtual dispatcher. And Adobe, whose popular Acrobat format can now be embedded in SAP applications with a sexy add-on interface. Want to print out a report, a sales quote, or a support ticket? Just click the Adobe icon and create a PDF version that is easy to print, share or email.
I still don’t see a bevy of eService companies (Kana, eGain, Talisma) in the list of ecosystem partners, but according to SAP, they are looking at recruiting some customer service and eService specialists this year. So stay tuned.
I spent 2 hours with SAP and only had one complaint (which is probably of a record for me): when you are viewing a support ticket and scroll down, you lose the customer name. I like the customer name and basic contact info to be in a fixed place on the screen so harried agents never forget who they are speaking with. But, this feature is offered in the Interaction Center, and there are plans to migrate it over to CRM in a future release. Analysts take pride in finding things to gripe about to vendors during briefings, but this was the only thing I could find.
I know there are many SAP ERP and CRM customers within the SSPA membership, and I’d love to hear from you. Are you using SAP CRM? If so, what do you think? If no, why did you decide to look elsewhere? I suspect some companies are waiting to upgrade their SAP ERP applications to a newer release before they can take advantage of CRM 5.0.
As always, please send along your comments, questions and suggestions!