SAP CRM Upgrade Remains Limited

SAP AG will bolster its CRM software offering this week with an upgrade to its mySAP CRM application suite.

SAP AG will bolster its CRM software offering this week with an upgrade to its mySAP CRM application suite.

But while mySAP CRM 3.0 offers new features that bring it more on par with the customer relationship management market leaders, observers see its appeal limited to enterprise applications vendor SAPs installed base.

Key additions in the upgrade include enterprise portal access, multichannel marketing, sales and customer service capabilities, and support for mobile devices. Officials from the Walldorf, Germany, company highlight Version 3.0s integration with the back- office applications of, in particular logistics and work force management applications.

SAP officials said that only about 1,000 of their 15,000 customers have licensed mySAP CRM to date.

Version 3.0 contains 100 predefined business processes designed to eliminate the need for extensive configuration and get users up and running quickly. While there are no specific applications in the suite, its divided into 30 different roles—for example, for sales, customer service, marketing—with users accessing the system through the SAP Portals interface, enhancing collaboration, SAP officials said.

"This release doesnt change the way the world looks at CRM, but it will give [SAP] a leg up on their own installed base," said Joshua Greenbaum, an analyst at Enterprise Applications Consulting, in Daly City, Calif. Greenbaum said SAP has been perceived as lagging behind other top CRM vendors such as Siebel Systems Inc., PeopleSoft Inc. and Oracle Corp.

Still, mySAP CRM 3.0 appears to have its limitations. Its targeted toward the verticals that SAP has traditionally been strong in, namely discrete manufacturing and service companies and consumer packaged goods. Officials said this version provides 70 percent to 80 percent of the function needed for those industries "out of the box" with little configuration required.

However, that percentage is lower for other verticals—retail, insurance, financial services and health care—where CRM is increasingly being used.

Despite the promises of front-to-back office application integration, the reputation SAPs back-office applications have earned as being hard to implement could slow its acceptance as a CRM software provider.

"My impression was that SAP was not easy to work with," said Mike Overly, CRM director for Hewlett-Packard Co., in Indianapolis, which chose Oracles CRM applications for sales and marketing. Overly said Oracles applications were a better fit than SAPs for his companys business processes and organizational requirements. But he said his perceptions were also colored by a difficult implementation of SAP supply chain applications at HP, which took five years.

"Theyve borne the brunt of the bad rap [for difficult implementations], but historically, thats been valid for all [enterprise resource planning] software vendors," Greenbaum said.