SAP Rolls Out Small Business Apps

The Business One suite provides a set of basic enterprise software that can be deployed quickly.

Small and mid-sized businesses looking to automate office functions got another option to evaluate as SAP AG on Thursday introduced its Business One software suite in the United States.

The suite, which is in use at 1,300 companies in Europe, provides a set of basic enterprise software that promises to give managers at companies with between 10 and 250 employees better access to consolidated information from across their business.

Business One automates a broad range of typical business procedures for activities including administration (data backup, permissions setup), accounting (general ledger, budgeting), sales (price quote generation, order entry), product assembly (bill of materials) and reporting (sales, cash flow). The software, which will be sold through a reseller channel, can be implemented in a week or two, SAP officials said.

In addition to offering traditional accounting, manufacturing and sales force automation applications, Business One provides management control tools that notify managers when employees break business rules outlined in a workflow. The software also boasts reporting tools to provide business analysis to a range of users.

The management tools have been particularly helpful to Duane Taylor, vice president of finance at NextriaOne Federal, a Fairfax, Va.-based unit of NextriaOne LLC, and an early user of the SAP suite.

"Business One allows us to add alerts to the workflow and get better information, and that saves us time and money," said Taylor, at the SAP Business One launch event in New York.

SAP, of Walldorf, Germany, also announced that it is working with American Express Corp.s Tax and Business Services unit to not only resell SAP Business One, but develop special editions modified for particular verticals. In the third quarter, New York-based American Express will begin selling "SAP Business One, the American Express Edition," which will include special features for wholesale distributors.

American Express offices already resell small and medium-sized business software from Microsoft Corp. Great Plains and Best Software Inc.

SAP already offers the mySAP All-in-One applications for small and mid-sized businesses in specific verticals and with complex business processes. The Business One applications are designed for small businesses with less complex requirements.

SAP put a lot of effort into making sure that users can share master data between Business One and SAPs full-scale enterprise offerings, according to Gary Fromer, SAP vice president for SMB and hosting. This will make Business One attractive to subsidiaries whose parent companies already use SAPs enterprise-class applications, or to those companys smaller suppliers and business partners, Fromer said.

Potential customers also have enterprise software options from large vendors like Microsoft Corp. and Oracle Corp. or smaller developers like Best Software Inc. Fromer said SAPs advantage is the 30 years of experience it has and its market leadership among very large customers.

SAPs competency and experience message will not necessarily resonate with some small businesses. Gibson Guitar Corp. last year moved from Oracle Corp. applications to Microsoft Great Plains apps because, said Gibson vice president and chief knowledge officer Matthew Mullins, the company wanted to grow with the software.

"We thought it would be easier to go with a vendor that was scaling up, not scaling down," said Mullins, in Nashville, Tenn.

An SAP spokesman pointed out that the SAP Business One suite was not simply the mySAP technology scaled down for small businesses, but a new product with a different code base. Business One is the result of SAPs purchase last year of TopManage Financial Solutions, of Tel Aviv, Israel.

This story was altered after its original posting to add information on Business Ones development roots.

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