In It for the Long Haul
Rogers said he was encouraged by comments made by SAP co-CEO Jim Hagemann-Snabe that he is not counting on a rapid surge in new revenue from Business ByDesign in the early stages. Instead, he is looking for a steady rise in the number of users who start working with the product. That suggests, Rogers said, that "they are willing to be in it for the long haul and they are willing to absorb some financial hits against it as they go forward." The new summer release of Business ByDesign will include what SAP describes as a rich client user interface developed with Microsoft Silverlight that will provide simplified navigation, interactive graphics and close integration with Microsoft Office. The interface, which is designed to run effectively on the Web, desktops and mobile devices, will also enable users to create their own "mashups" of application services and content, according to SAP officials.Support for mobile devices will enable remote access to Business ByDesign applications that SAP says will give users greater operational flexibility at a lower total cost of ownership.It will also include support for real-time, "in-memory analytics" to support business intelligence and decision support applications. Business ByDesign will enable bidirectional Microsoft Excel integration that will let users access and manipulate data using Excel spreadsheets. Next, SAP is recognizing that building a vibrant user and partner community is essential to the success of an on-demand application platform by making plans to "provide a development environment" that will allow partners to extend the Business ByDesign platform with "additional services, scenarios and industry-specific functionality." The development environment will support the creation of vertical industry applications that have been important to other SAAS platforms, such as Salesforce.com. With the new release, SAP will also have Business ByDesign starter packages that give customers the basic "general business" or "customers management functionality" for rapid deployment. As the business grows, customers can expand their Business ByDesign installation and turn on additional functionality built into the platform, according to SAP officials. One of SAP Business ByDesign's prospective competitors, NetSuite, indicated that it has little reason to believe that Business ByDesign will represent a serious market challenge in the near term. NetSuite has more than 6,600 customers and the company reports more than 1.4 million user log-ins, said Mini Peiris, NetSuite vice president of product marketing. Most of the features that SAP announced for its summer release, such as real-time analytics, support for multi-tenancy with a single-tenancy option, support for mobile devices, and a rich Web user interface, are features that NetSuite has had for years, Peiris said. The introduction of multi-tenancy for Business ByDesign at this stage in the development of the on-demand software market demonstrates SAP's "lack of understanding of the cloud in some ways," since "it took them this long to rearchitect [the product] to get to a multi-tenant solution that they feel they can now go to market with," Peiris said.