SAP Influencer Summit: CRM 2007 debuts

SAP Influencer Summit: CRM 2007 debuts

This week's SAP Influencer Summit in Boston saw the German firm move into the Web 2.0 world with SAP CRM 2007. So what reaction has there been from the industry and customers?

By Stuart Lauchlan, news and analysis editor

SAP is taking its latest CRM offering into the Web 2.0 world with the launch of SAP CRM 2007 at the firm's annual Influencer Summit in Boston. The Web 2.0 support is intended to help users understand customers' tendencies and enable application infrastructure products to support changing business processes.

“Around 18 months ago we started on a journey with our customers to build a CRM product that could do CRM processes in a more simplistic way,” noted Bob Stutz, senior vice president, CRM global strategy & product development, SAP. “We worked with around 100 customers for about 18 months and not just talking to them but spending time with them and watching how they work. We saw how we could do things better, how we could speed up tasks. So customers have been very instrumental in the design of this product. This was about working with our customers to develop a world-class CRM product that is comparable to iGoogle.

Bob Stutz, senior vice president, CRM global strategy & product development, SAP"Around 18 months ago we started on a journey with our customers to build a CRM product that could do CRM processes in a more simplistic way." Bob Stutz, senior vice president, CRM global strategy & product development, SAP

"[CRM] 2006 was more of a beta release to get more customers on and get more feedback, find out what's missing, what we needed to do. [CRM] 2007 is a pretty radically different UI. It has the ability to do things like add mashups. It's quick, simple and fast. In 2006, nothing was drag-and-drop.”

The resulting software includes the SAP Real-Time Offer Management module, which can be used to calculate customer data and specific session information, the company said. A new feature called SAP Business Communications Management provides an IP-based "contact call centre" setting to route, queue and manage communications between internal, external and outsourced sources.

SAP said that the new version also adds a tool called the Pipeline Performance Management module, which is designed to allow organisations to create role-based interactive tools for sales staff to improve workflow via "what if" scenarios to map potential deals against sales opportunities. The new release also includes updated Trade Promotion & Market Development Funds software, which is designed to improve access to supply chain, financial and historical trade performance information.

"The next generation of CRM applications will be designed to appeal to sales, marketing and customer service professionals," Ed Thompson, vice president and distinguished analyst at research firm Gartner, said in a statement. "But they will also be able to support multiple different user interfaces with a clear emphasis on usability and ease of configuration for all types of users...[and will also be able to] integrate more easily to form end-to-end processes to appeal to both business users and IT."

The customer knows best

So what do the customers think? “I was very impressed when I saw the new CRM because I got it – it looked like the way I would want it to work as a salesperson,” commented Daryl Gainess of Intel. “We have a long history with SAP. In the mid 1990s we put in ERP, then we started to do some CRM. I have been very impressed with SAP – they have asked a lot of questions of us. CRM 2007 is how we are going to run our marketing fund.”

There were similar sentiments at Siemens. “Siemens is one of the most complex conglomerates in the world,” argued David McCauley, vice president of CRM at Siemens Sales Transformation arm. “We have every kind of sales and marketing model you can think in 190 countries. We are probably SAP's largest customer – we have just about everything they sell. We were very early adopters of the old SAP CRM. As we standardised on the SAP ERP, we also standardised on the CRM, although that was an IT decision that theuser community was reluctant about. There wasn't really an awful lot of buy-in. We operate in a decentralised model so it's not like the CEO or the CIO could tell people to implement it.

"What we have today looks more competitive and prettier than Salesforce.com. But we have always said that we are not interested in competing with Salesforce.com." Bob Stutz, senior vice president, CRM global strategy & product development, SAP

“But in 2005, the central management team decided that it was time to harmonise. We found that we had something like 500 CRM systems around the world – we were every vendor's key account. Most of these systems were hand-written and based on Excel or Access, but we also had Siebels and Salesforce.coms. We had to decide whether to stay with SAP or look elsewhere and the answer was pretty quickly that SAP was the right choice. With the web user interface, SAP offered us the user capabilities that we were looking for. CRM is always an area where the salespeople don't want to get the IT people involved so the more user friendly you can make it the better and the UI concept got them."

But it will be some time before Siemens moves to CRM 2007 – if it ever does. “We have around 2100 users on CRM 5.1 systems,” explained McCauley. “That has been heavily tailored to our different businesses as it's a lot different selling a fire alarm to selling a gas turbine. We needed a vendor who could provide a standard template globally, but also provide us with enough flexibility to deal with our different processes. That's what 5.1 gave us. Right now, we think we'll upgrade to CRM 2006 next year and after that we'll settle on a stable platform, which may be CRM 2007 or a later release.”

“At the end of the day, what is CRM about? It's about being able to service your customers at all touchpoints, but it's also about harnessing the information in your back end systems and using that to grow your business,” argued Stutz. “We have the advantage there because we own the back end. That is a huge advantage for us.”

CRM 2007 will be offered on-premises and hosted, which raises the inevitable question of competition from the SaaS vendors. “What we have today looks more competitive and prettier than Salesforce.com,” said Stutz. “But we have always said that we are not interested in competing with Salesforce.com. This is about large enterprises. We're not interested in that 10-20 user market. We have competed with Salesforce.com in large deals in on demand that we have won.”

It has to be said though that there have been some fairly embarrassing Salesforce.com wins as well – most notably at Dupont. Stutz's reaction? “You win some, you lose some,” he said.

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