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SAP expands flagship for all

The German company is continuing to turn its flagship R/3 product into all things software for corporate users.

SAP is continuing to turn its flagship R/3 product into all things software for corporate users.

From its European User Group conference in Madrid today, the German software giant announced a slew of new functions for the R/3 system, which automates business processes within corporations.

The latest additions to the R/3 family include a new procurement system, an application designed to extend R/3 functions to retail store employees, the SAP Strategic Enterprise Management suite of applications for executives to analyze business plans, manage risks, and monitor corporate performance; and more manufacturing specific applications in the newly announced R/3 Release 4.5.

But SAP did not elaborate on its plans for adding advanced planning and optimization tools to R/3, a fact that analysts said is sure to disappoint many of its users.

"SAP is beginning to fill in the pieces of their extended supply chain vision," said Alice Greene, analyst at Industry Directions in Newburyport, Massachusetts. "These announcements, however, are not the mission-critical components that manufacturing customers are waiting for to plan, optimize, and execute their supply-chain operations."

Still, Greene said many users of SAP's products will find useful the new applications being rolled out in Spain.

Called the Business-to-Business Procurement system, or BBP, SAP's foray into the electronic commerce world consists of a Web-based system designed to make it easier for employees to log their own requisitions while still giving purchasing departments central control over ordering. Functions include requisition filing and change, approval and rejection, end-user receiving, invoicing, and performance reporting. It is to ship in the fourth quarter 1998.

The system also comes with application programming interfaces that allow users to hook up their R/3 system to third party software systems or catalogues that allow end-users to place orders directly from preferred vendors.

And furthering its push into vertical markets, SAP unveiled a new application designed specifically to allow retail store managers often spread out at stores around the country access to important corporate data. It includes such abilities as purchasing, goods movement, sales processes, and promotion quantities. It is planned for beta shipment in the third quarter of this year.

The new application is a direct assault on rival PeopleSoft's push into the retail industry where it has traditionally had a strong foothold by selling its human resource and to a lesser extent financial management modules. PeopleSoft also recently bought long-time partner Intrepid Systems which makes software specifically for the industry.

For executives at the home office whether in retail or any other industry, SAP is rolling out the Strategic Enterprise Management application. It is a system designed for high-level managers wanting to analyze business practices for added value to the company and stockholders.

The four new applications in the SAP SEM includes business planning and simulation for modeling scenarios to calculate the risk or profitability of a certain idea, consolidation and sourcing which includes a Web-based editorial workbench for gathering outside information, corporate performance monitor for keeping an eye on key performance indicators, and stakeholder relationship management software for better communication with stockholders, employees and others with an interest in the health of a company.

Greene said the significance of this product is that it incorporates operational as well as financial indicators into the software, a unique offering. She also said this type of application is going to be a hot market as more and more high level mangers look for ways to assess the value of ideas and operations in their company.

It is to be available in the fourth quarter.

Lastly, SAP executives rolled out additional functionality for manufacturing customers including enhancements for materials management, repairs processing, plant maintenance, flow manufacturing, high-volume order management, trend analysis, project cost forecasting, and environmental health and safety.

Much of the new functionality targets specific manufacturing industries as well, namely the aerospace and defense industry, automotive, engineering and construction, high tech, chemical, pharmaceutical, and consumer products. The enhancements are due for delivery beginning in the third quarter 1998 with general release in the second quarter 1999.