Taking its first major step into the front office, SAP today rolled out its sales force automation suite to integrate with its flagship enterprise applications product R/3.
The German software giant, which announced the suite at the CeBIT trade show in Hannover, Germany, said the product integrates front office applications, including operational planning, execution and decision support, optimization, and customer self-service systems, more closely with back office systems such as enterprise financials, human resources, and logistics applications.
Due to ship the fourth quarter, the SFA package also includes R/3 Release 4.0, the Business Information Warehouse, the SAP Advanced Planner and Optimizer, and assorted programming interfaces for customization. The new package will follow standard user-based pricing, the company said.
SAP battles with Baan, Oracle, PeopleSoft, and, to a lesser extent, J.D. Edwards, in the global ERP (enterprise resource planning) systems market. These companies vie in providing packages used to automate and integrate corporate functions such as sales forecasting, inventory, control, procurement, manufacturing planning, distribution, finance, and project management.
While ERP applications are widely-used at a large majority of multinational corporations in recent years, sales have begun to decay with market saturation, observers say. The major ERP vendors have devoted large resources to extend their core product to the front-office in an attempt to make it attractive to a more diverse market.
Also today, SAP said it is increasing its investment in Kiefer & Veittinger, one of Europe's leading sales force automation firms, and a development partner for the SFA package. SAP said it is increasing its stake in the smaller company from 50 percent to 80 percent.
"The investment in K&V adds a whole lot of domain and market to our project," said Georgia Murray, SFA Application Manager for SAP. "As we have gotten closer to the release [of the product] we decided to increase our investment."
As previously reported, SAP said it plans to combine K&V's technical resources and consulting services with its development efforts to provide corporate users with customer management applications. No specific financial terms have been disclosed.
The move highlights increasing consolidation in the software industry as companies like SAP and its Dutch rival Baan snap up niche players to expand their own product lines.
The SFA package falls under the umbrella of SAP's Business Framework strategy, which company executives said allows faster implementation and simpler administration, and gives customers the ability to customize the system to their own industry needs.