|No "big bang" SAP's new ERP Plus package goes modular (February 9, 2009)|
New York City launch of Business at swanky U.S. Marketing offices of SAP draws ample press. Chat transcript shows that attendees were impressed with the office space. Most liked the technology, too
On an icy February 4th in a well-choreographed, half-day session, SAP launched the latest version of its suite of object-oriented business software, SAP BusinessSuite 7, with its CEO and many of its most senior executives in attendance.
Chat transcripts of the event showed that most in attendance were at least temporarily transfixed with SAP's glitzy Manhattan office space-which tended toward the sculptural. Others grumbled about the length of the program (http://www.coveritlive.com/index.php?option=com_altcaster&task=siteviewaltcast&altcast_code=24ee816704&height=550&width=460). But as the session progressed with a demonstration, BusinessSuite 7 caught the collective gaze of the highly caffeinated reporters.
Radically de-emphasizing its enterprise resource planning (ERP) roots-and even downplaying the business process management and workflow (NetWeaver) that truly characterized previous iterations of its software—SAP emphasized the practical and the cross-departmental, which the company described as business value scenarios. (Some early blog write-ups in technology journals indicated that SAP's upgrade was little more than a variation on software-as-a service (SAAS) idea. Basically, they said it was more a marketing effort in economic downturn than software re-engineering or entirely new. To this reporter, however, what SAP had in mind was supporting smarter collaboration.)
Picture a senior manager early in the morning, drinking coffee and checking in his electronic dashboard, offered as part of BusinessSuite 7. Based on what showed up, the exec could "drill down" into numerous reports, then, to the source applications feeding the reports. Conceivably, this means that one executive could adjust the work of another-on the fly-if the scenario warranted it. (For the full press materials, see New Products, and look under Internal Bank Operations.)
"This isn't about the software as much as the great team work it can support," co-CEO Leo Apotheker told the reporter in a brief meeting prior to formal remarks. Later, when asked about bank culture and whether it would support such departmental boundary crossing, Apotheker admitted that banks were known for their hierarchical structure and siloed approach. He suggested that the current climate might warrant another way of working, which might change culture over time. Currently, of the 190 global clients that have adopted BusinessSuite 7, ten of them are financial services firms, which are each in various stages of adoption.
This is because what SAP's BusinessSuite 7 supports, at least in full enterprise form, is an array of business capabilities from customer relationship management (CRM) and ERP capabilities to supply chain management and product lifecycle management functions. Still, with hard times firmly in mind, SAP emphasized its services oriented methodology (think small programs or collections of code). And so, aspects of a fully integrated enterprise could be ramped up gradually, and cost effectively. "We are very aware of the need for a clear-cut ROI on any technology project-that is why we have designed it for implementation by components, and that is why we are offering financing if necessary," said Apotheker.
For banks, an easy upgrade
Although most of the morning was devoted to the horizontal technology's general vision, in a later private chat with Rakesh Shetty, vice-president Financial Services Solution Marketing, ABABJ learned about what bankers might expect from the new package. "First of all, many of our banks and insurance companies are already using our Version 6 ERP system, so they have a solid foundation for an upgrade to various pieces of 7," said Shetty. (The software was designed for easy, "synchronized" upgrades-basically, the addition of new applications that could automatically integrate with the older set up.) "We also have a lot of dedicated, bank specific R&D and have a general ledger product, which might be particularly interesting to banks laboring with legacy core systems," he added. But banks have the most to gain with the insight that SAP could deliver, according to Shetty, who explained that SAP's acquisition of Business Objects in 2007 has let it embed analytics that can help banks address pressing customer acquisition, retention, and risk exposure issues.
[This article was posted February 9, 2009, on ABA Banking Journal, www.ababj.com, and is copyright by the American Bankers Association.]
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