German software giant SAP is focused on the front office.
Living up to its promises of delivering applications that support sales, marketing, and customer service departments, SAP is to unveil this week the first applications for the initiative: Release 1.1 of SAP Sales and SAP Service.
The sales module is to support sales force automation and mobile sales. The service module will support mobile service. Additional modules for supporting marketing and other aspects of sales and service are to follow in the next few years. Beta versions of the first releases are to roll out the first quarter of next year with general release scheduled for the second quarter.
At its user group conference in September, SAP chairman Hasso Plattner laid out a three-year plan to build and sell stand alone front office applications. Most of the business application vendors, primarily Oracle and Baan, have made similar announcements.
Analysts have said such a move could prove lucrative for the vendors as they seek out new products to sell back into the large and growing installed base.
SAP is planning to role out the various pieces of its front office applications in what it calls "business scenarios," that is, pieces of the software set-up to meet the specific job function of an end user. So that a sales representative's "business scenario" may entail more than just a sales module but a configuration application, an order tracking system, and a link to manufacturing and production modules to verify when and if an order can be filled.
"Our strategy is to offer companies a closed-loop customer life-cycle [system], leveraging best-in-class customer interaction applications and powerful enterprise execution systems," said Peter Zenke, member of SAP's executive board. "
Plattner said his firm plans to make its front office package one of the top three available in the market and not just an add-on for the existing R/3 back office transactional system that drove SAP to the top of its field.
That mission led SAP to buy earlier this year a well-known European front office application maker Kiefer & Veittinger. But the purchase was not for product as much as brainpower. SAP scrapped K & V's existing products and started from scratch with its own, using K&V's staff as developers and market experts.
The marketing applications are scheduled for release by the end of next year along with additional functionality for sales and service.