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Self-service station for HR

Business application giant SAP will deliver a suite of ten new human resources applications that will let employees help themselves to personnel data.

Business application giant SAP next month will deliver a suite of ten new human resources applications that will let employees help themselves to personnel data posted on corporate intranets.

The company will officially unveil the employee self-service components next Tuesday and will ship them in December. The tools are intended to let employees "own" their own data so that they can search, update, and add to it in real time through any standard browser. SAP uses encrypted password protection to protect R/3 and SAP's Web server from invasion by nonauthorized employees or outsiders.

The components let employees check on benefits, time off, travel expenses, purchase requisitions, pick up electronic paystubs, look at employee directories, verify employment and salary information, sign up for training courses, and change their passwords, all without bothering anyone in the human resources department. The components can be custom-designed and integrated into a company's intranets in about two weeks, said Cary Fulbright, the product manager in charge of the components.

The HR links to the Web are the latest SAP effort to connect its best-selling business applications to the rapidly growing number of corporate intranets. While many companies have invested literally millions of dollars in setting up SAP's R/3 client-server application package, the Web connections allow them to keep their existing R/3 investments and still take advantage of intranets to let more employees have access to data. With the new software releases, SAP will have delivered 35 Internet and intranet-enabled components for R/3. The company says that R/3 is used by more than 4 million corporate users worldwide.

"[The components] will meet companies' interests in making their intranets two-way vehicles for communicating with their employees," said Fulbright.

The new components work with the R/3 system on Windows NT, Windows 95, Unix, and OS/400 operating systems but will be released separately from the upcoming version R/3 3.1, which is also set to ship in December. The company said it will continue to develop and launch additional Internet-enabled components independent of future R/3 releases.

The company said it is sticking with its Internet per-seat pricing model, but has not set actual prices for the HR components.

SAP said it has also published to its Web site more than 100 Business Application Programming Interfaces (BAPIs) that allow developers to tap into the R/3 system to build new, custom applications. The company is hoping the BAPIs will be widely adopted as a content standard for company-to-company communication over the Internet.

"We desperately need a content standard for the Internet," said Guenther Tolkmit, vice president of technology for the Walldorf, Germany-based company. He said SAP has submitted the BAPI specifications to the Open Applications Group standards body.

Adoption of the BAPIs as a standard would define such fundamental issues as how information fields will look and behave, setting the foundation for business-to-business commercial activities and communication on the Web, Tolkmit said. SAP has already signed up 45 software developers, including Lotus Development, Microsoft, and Visio to support the interfaces.