SAP plans to beef up product line next week

Among other tasks facing it next week, SAP must sell users on its big picture of e-business integration and web access, analysts say.

          Among other tasks facing it next week, SAP must sell users on its big picture of e-business integration and web access, analysts say.

          And it must bury its image as a company that handles only traditional enterprise resource planning (ERP) functions while insisting that users standardise on its applications.

          The enterprise software firm will kick off its Sapphire '01 user conference in Orlando on Wednesday. There, the company plans to make announcements in the areas of web portals and exchanges, as well as in the fields of supply chain, product life cycle and customer relationship management (CRM), SAP representatives say.

          They declined to offer specific details on the product enhancements to be announced.

          The show is designed to build on the message SAP sent at European Sapphire, held in Lisbon, Portugal, in April. At that time, the company outlined a clear-cut internet business strategy for its users to exploit. It explained, for example, how the SAP Markets initiative, cosponsored with Pleasanton, California-based Commerce One, would help companies share data throughout different departments during product development, thus speeding up cycle times, said Dave Boulanger, an analyst at AMR Research in Boston.

          Moreover, SAP showed how companies with R/3 systems could exploit embedded data and functions for order management and pricing for CRM applications, he says.

          But to make the strategy work, SAP must "completely transcend its legacy as a provider of back-office support systems" and offer access for its applications to a much broader set of company employees than before, according to a recent report issued by Boston-based Delphi Group after the Lisbon show.

          Also, customers must be able to more quickly integrate their SAP software with the web and with other vendors' software, saysthe report.

          Even so, that kind of integration between SAP and other vendors isn't a priority for Michael Labriola, a vice president at medical devices maker TriVirix International Inc. in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

          At next week's conference, Labriola plans to gather information on SAP's supply chain management and CRM tools.

          TriVirix uses SAP for most of its business processes, he said, and initially went with SAP because it had multinational capabilities and the most developed "web vision" of large ERP vendors.

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