SAP, Europe's largest software company, chose its recent customer conference in Berlin to announce several enhancements to its mySAP.com e-business solution, launched last October. Since then the company, which built its status as a supplier of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software - mainly the ubiquitous R/3, says it has amassed one million licensed users for mySAP.com.
Back in 1998, ERP software was the hottest thing in the business world. Companies like SAP, Baan and PeopleSoft were being hailed as the next Microsoft, but when the promised cost savings and efficiencies failed to pan out for many big clients, stock prices for these firms took a dive. ERP software was last year eclipsed by internet-based B2B (business to business) as the next big thing and, of the three big ERP players, only SAP has managed a healthy transition to e-business.
One of its smarter moves has been taking on the open architecture model for its software and allowing third parties to develop applications that bolt on to the central mySAP.com infrastructure.
Commenting on the new Global Partner Network that will see SAP teaming up with an increasing number of consulting, hardware and software firms around the world, CEO Hasso Plattner described his vision of a near future where companies will have to develop and deploy "thousands of business relationships, perhaps hundreds of application components, heterogeneous technologies and multiple standards".
"The level of cooperation necessary among customers and across solution suppliers is unprecedented, and no single vendor can hope to develop everything that business customers will need," he says.
Recent ôcooperationö deals with Nokia and Siemens have moved SAP into the booming mobile arena. Nokia is currently providing WAP technology to integrate with customers' mySAP.com Workplace enterprise portals while the deal with Siemens will see the two working on 3G mobile technology such as General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) for increased bandwidth and Universal Mobile Telecommuncations System (UTMS) for multimedia delivery.
Payment functionality has also been added to the latest release of SAP's Marketplace e-commerce solution thanks to a deal with Visa. Other components with enhancements in the May 2000 offering include Application Hosting and Customer Relationship Management.
SAPÆs Marketplace software is being developed by a California-based subsidiary, SAP Markets. Six marketplaces are currently live and the company says it is working on 15 more. The latest version of the software supports dynamic pricing forms, bidding and reverse auctions.
According to John Hagerty of business-software research firm AMR Research, ôMarketplace software allows SAP customers to create their own internal and external exchanges. SAP is clear that it wants be a market enabler, not a market maker.ö
Whether it wants to be an enabler or a maker, SAP will need to sign up some big clients for its exchanges if it is going to compete with more established e-commerce firms like Commerce One or Ariba. That said, SAP will benefit from having a wider range of solutions than just those for buying and selling, and the right strategic partnerships should see it having more luck with e-business than it had with ERP.