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SAP Trots Out CRM 2007

SAP recasts its CRM as a good Web 2.0 citizen.

SAP CRM 2007, available in both on-demand and on-premises incarnations, was demonstrated today at the SAP Influencer event in Boston.

The offering, to be widely available this month, sports a simple, white-screened Google-like interface to which users or developers can add mashups from the world beyond CRM.

Users can drag-and-drop on-screen elements around their screen to suit their tastes, and the UI can be as complex and busy or as spare as the user dictates.

SAP's CRM Chief, Bob Stutz, said this represents a big UI improvement over the last release. "[CRM] 2006 was more of a beta release to get more customers on and get more feedback, find out what's missing, what we needed to do. [CRM] 2007 is a pretty radically different UI. It has the ability to do things like add mashups. It's quick, simple and fast. In 2006, nothing was drag-and-drop," Stutz, senior vice president CRM Global Strategy & Product Development, told reporters at the Boston event.

SAP is clearly trying to compete with the Web 2.0-like interfaces sported by Salesforce.com and Net Suite. This release is based on Sap's Net Weaver foundation, meaning that corporate developers can parlay Net weaver skills from the ERP realm here.

But, as usually the case with SAP, there is some question on how dependent CRM is on sales and adoption of the company's market-leading ERP suite. Even the company admits that ERP is the cargo ship that carries CRM to market.

One large SAP customer painted that dependency in positive terms. "If you don't have the ERP and the other connections you need, what you really have is SFA [Sales Force Automation], and as a sales manager that's a limited battle. It's a great place to start but not a great place to finish," said David MaCauley, senior vice president for CRM for Sales Transformation at Siemens. Siemens is one of SAP's largest customers.

"A salesman has questions and wants answers without having to care where they reside," he added

MaCauley noted that Siemens currently uses a raft of CRM products, including Salesforce.com, Siebel and others but is standardizing on SAP CRM.

For developers, this release of CRM, like the latest releases of SAP ERP, is based on the company's Netweaver foundation.

There is some skepticism among SAP watchers over how many customers remain on the old-school (i.e. non-Netweaver-oriented) R/3 ERP release. The company claims that 24,000 of a total 42,000 SAP customers have made the Netweaver move.

CRM 2007 is part of SAP's enterprise business suite. It also offers suites for small and mid-sized businesses.

About the Author

Barbara Darrow is Industry Editor for Redmond Developer News, Redmond magazine and Redmond Channel Partner. She has covered technology and business issues for 20 years.

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