SAP Deepens Functional Coverage in ITSM and Contact Center

I had a chance to do a deep-dive with SAP lastweek in two areas, SAP IT Service Management (ITSM) and SAP Business Communications Management (BCM), and there were some very good surprises along the way. My overall finding is that SAP has made HUGE progress in leveraging strong elements from CRM and other applications across their portfolio, so not only do you now have a more consistent look and feel across the various applications, but they surprised me with some sophisticated features in unexpected places giving them a ‘best of breed’ distinction when ‘good enough’ would have probably been acceptable (and let’s face it, that’s the strategy many suite players use).

ITSM, or tools for IT support, may not seem like an obvious interest area for me, since the SSPA is external-customer facing. But with services revenues growing, SSPA and TPSA members are now finding themselves offering all sorts of advanced service options, sometimes acting as the IT outsourcer for implementations of their technology at customer sites. As a result, member companies are facing more requirements for ITIL compliance, service catalogs, CMDB-like asset tools, and they need to be able to speak with IT customers using the ITIL terminology of ‘incident/change/problem’ management. In other words, the line between internal and external support has thinned, and ITSM tools and philosophies are becoming more common in tech support.

A few exciting things for me in SAP ITSM are:

  • Full integration between SAP financials and the IT asset management tools. I just had a question from a member on this, and after some digging I found that most (all?) big implementations of niche IT asset tools never integrate to their back office, so IT isn’t doing more than inventory control, and value/depreciation of assets has to be manually calculated for financials. I’m sorry I never discovered this black hole while I was covering ITSM at Forrester, and I’m glad to see at least one solution with pre-integration to fix the problem.
  • SAP Interaction Center, the fast and easy UI for locating contacts, is now available within ITSM, making the entitlement process a breeze. Yes, I admit one of the reasons I love Interaction Center is that I had input on the UI back in the wireframe stage, but it is a very slick tool and I’m happy to see SAP leverage it across their application suite.
  • Other CRM concepts have made their way into the ITSM UI and feature set, including the concept of employee roles. On logon to ITSM, you have a drop down list of the roles for which you are authorized. You can have a completely different UI tailored for each role, allowing employees to streamline every process executed when they are acting as a manager, a shift supervisor, or when they need to jump in and take calls because the queue is backing up. Configuration options like this really make employees love the application.
  • Here’s a big one–when have you ever seen a fully automated email response management system (ERMS) built into an ITSM tool? I certainly never have. SAP ITSM gives you the option of working with customer emails like a high volume call center agent, with suggested responses, 1-click embedding of knowledgebase content into customer emails, and support for email templates. You rarely even see this in a CRM tool (it is always an add-on module), but having it embedded in an IT tool is very cool.

I had asked for a briefing on SAP BCM because my inquiries about telephony continue to climb as members make the swith to IP, and look for more flexible systems as they manage volumes across geographies and have more remote/at-home support techs. Also, my blog post about SAP’s acquisition of Wicom, which formed the core of SAP BCM, continues to be one of my top read posts, even though we are going on 2 years since the transaction.

As anyone who covers ERP could have told you, what did SAP bring to telephony that has been missing all these years? Business Process.  And with the integration work complete across contact center, CRM and even field service, you now have business user-focused rule engines allowing inbound interactions of any channel to be routed according to any of a million database fields.  And, they all have the benefits of a telephony platform for unified messaging (tracking down internal resources by any channel).  So you end up with fun scenarios like:

When anyone from renewing customer A calls, regardless of whether they called billing, tech support, education, whatever, route that call to their TAM John.  And if John doesn’t answer by the 2nd ring, try his cell phone and 2 way pager in that order. If he still doesn’t answer, page and email John immediately and route the call to the sales manager on duty.

There is also an expertise management system, so you can type in a product, procedure, concept, whatever, and get a list of who in the organization is an expert on the topic, as well as which of those experts are currently available (using IP presence awareness) and a 1-click control to call, email or text them.  

With over 200 live SAP BCM customers–at least half of which are SaaS–I think this mix of business process, flexible telephony, resource management, and tight integration to CRM, ERP and SCM, will continue to gain marketshare.  After years of criticizing SAP for clunky user interfaces, it is great to see the suite evolve with some–can I say it?–elegance. (The knowledgebase and search sections could use an update, though.)

Sorry for such a long post, but everyone asks what SAP is up to, and I wanted to pass along what I learned.  If you have any questions please add a comment or drop me an email, and as always, thanks for reading!

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5 Comments on “SAP Deepens Functional Coverage in ITSM and Contact Center”

  1. Rob Kaplan Says:

    Risking simplicity John, would you say that “HUGE progress in leveraging strong elements from CRM…surprised [you] with some sophisticated features…giving them a ‘best of breed’ distinction” translates to competive advantage over Oracle?

  2. jragsdale Says:

    I try to avoid comparisons between these two giants when possible, but yes, I do think SAP has an easier time integrating CRM across their suite currently, because Oracle is still working through what the future of CRM is with Oracle Apps, Siebel, PeopleSoft, JDEdwards, etc.

  3. steve smith Says:

    This very beautiful web articles like this web very well. Ask the good article to read.

  4. We are an SAP CRM Special Expertise Partner in South Africa, and we had the pleasure of implementing ITSM and BCM at Pioneer Foods in the Cape. We encountered the solution for the first time and I was pleasantly surprised as to how easy this was to implement.

    I think that SAP definitely had good advantage here by creating the ITSM solution on SAP CRM, firstly SAP CRM Service Management is a mature solution already and SAP Simply incorporated the New ITSM solution into SAP Service Management, which makes sense. This also means that the solution as delivered by SAP works.

    The Integration into ERP was very easy and we used Standard interfaces, we also integrated the solution into SAP Solution Manager, SAP BW, and Microsoft Active Directory.

    We have implemented interesting functionality using BCM like password resets over the telephony system, this takes away a lot of volume from the service desk.

    Another interesting item, we implemented Adobe Interactive forms, this allows users to log their own tickets (in a very comprehensive manner, again taking a lot of effort away from the service desk resources), we also allow them to request new user creation or existing user modifications via the forms, you know the scenario. i.e. when a new user joins a company, they need access to networks, mail, sap…., this then simply creates the ticket in the ITSM solution and this is then forwarded to each of the other departments that take care of providing the access required, we even go so far as procuring equipment via a very streamlined process.

    I can only see this solution becoming a serious competitor for the other products that has been in this space for a very long time.

    Dion Kalicharan

  5. Gaurav Says:

    This may be very basic question to ask, but I have just started to explore ITSM in SAP. can you please let me know if ITSM is a separate solution offered by SAP that has its own master data and ability to be installed stand alone?? or is it a module that can be plugged in CRM,ECC or any other SAP solution.

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