SAP Gives Its Customers Some Social Skills With Sales OnDemand

SAP has introduced a new on-demand application for its CRM base. Unlike its earlier attempts at this model, this product is the first of many that are being developed strictly to be used in a Software as a Service environment.

The application, SAP Sales OnDemand, is built on the SAP Business ByDesign platform. Other offerings in the works include one for optimizing expense management, and another for supporting employee performance management, employee development and career planning.

“This is the first of a series of new applications that are focused around emerging new categories of use — that is, they are focused on how end-users really work,” William Hou, project manager for Sales OnDemand, told CRM Buyer.

Real-World Practices

In developing SAP Sales OnDemand, the company spent a lot of time looking at how sales reps work.

“We started from the ground up and built a whole new interaction paradigm that requires little or no training for the end-user,” said Hou.

The company recognized that social media like Facebook and Twitter can have an important role in the sales process, he said. A key element of SAP Sales OnDemand is its social media-style interface with real-time data feeds, which makes it a potential rival to Salesforce.com’s Chatter.

Other features focus on strategic sourcing, contract lifecycle management and supplier management. For instance, the sourcing and contracting processes can be tailored to specific business needs, such as helping companies develop a qualified supply base.

Integrating with On-Premises Software

This latest application was not necessarily designed as an independent stand-alone app to be deployed by just anybody, Yankee Group analyst Sheryl Kingstone told CRM Buyer.

Like some of its earlier on-demand attempts, SAP Sales OnDemand was built to integrate into a customer’s on-premises installation of SAP Business Suite applications. “This is a product aimed at its installed base,” Kingstone noted.

The application is well suited for the needs of multinationals with multiple locations around the globe, said Hou — the type of company that tends to deploy SAP.

“In today’s competitive environment, it takes sales teams performing at high levels and who are not necessarily based in the same locations to achieve a corporate sales objective,” Hou observed. “We are focused on large enterprise-type organizations in that respect.”

Having a dispersed team also leads to the necessity for truly integrated CRM information — not just sales, Hou continued. “It is rare that sales teams work in isolation, ignoring sales or marketing issues. In discussions with customers, we found that they mobilize cross-functionality individuals as part of their sales initiative.”

Chatter Challenge?

The social media format is a welcome change from earlier iterations of CRM applications, Kingstone said. SAP joins Salesforce.com as the first CRM vendors to move in this direction, combining data from all segments of the organization into a social media-style layout.

Even though SAP was the first major vendor to follow Salesforce.com down this path, its offering hardly represents a threat to Salesforce.com’s Chatter, Kingstone said, which “is too far ahead in functionality and in its user base adoption for anyone to overtake, at least in the near term.”

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