SAP unveils Web 2.0 look for its CRM tool

SAP developers spent more than 18 months interviewing users of its CRM software to determine how best to use web-style interfaces

SAP, looking to reduce the complexity of its customer relationship management software, last week unveiled an up­grade that adds support for Web 2.0-style user interfaces.

Bob Stutz, president and general manager of global strategy and product development at SAP, said developers spent more than 18 months interviewing users of its CRM software at 100 large companies to determine how best to use web-style interfaces.

"We're trying to bridge the gap between a cool, user-driven web application and an enterprise software application," said Stefan Haenisch, vice president of CRM product management at SAP.

Stutz described the upgraded CRM 2007 offering, introduced at a press conference at the company's SAP Influencer Summit, as "comparable" to Google's iGoogle personalised portal application.

Ray Wang, an analyst at Forrester Research, said the upgrade improves the product's user interface, but he added that it still pales in comparison with the latest CRM offerings from Oracle, Microsoft and Salesforce.com.

"What [SAP] has built is a great start, but I think some of the work we've seen from Oracle in terms of visualisation and [other capabilities] is much more Web 2.0-centric," Wang said. "We've seen things from Oracle that really take advantage of that."

David Macauley, senior vice president of CRM at Munich-based Siemens, said his firm plans to replace more than 500 separate customer relationship management systems with the SAP CRM software by mid-2008.

The consolidation is part of the company's decision to take a "much more serious" view of CRM technology, he said.

"The web user interface would definitely attract users as opposed to repel them, which was the case before," Macauley said. "The more flexible you can make a system, the more beneficial it is to doing your daily work."

He noted that Siemens plans to complete the first phase of the SAP upgrade in mid-2008.

Stutz said the CRM 2007 software is now available in packaged and hosted versions. He declined to disclose pricing for the upgrade.

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