More proof that SAP is serious about making a break from its on-premise past and in the process challenge on-demand titan Salesforce.com came last week in the form of a preview look at SAP Sales On-demand. The preview, granted to a group of industry analysts in Boston, proved that SAP isn’t afraid to be innovative in ways that could threaten the very on-premise enterprise software edifice that SAP itself has helped create over the last 20 years. And it showcased the latest in a growing portfolio of on-demand applications that, at a minimum, gives SAP serious credentials as an on-demand player-to-be.
The preview that we were shown gave a clear view of a collaborative CRM application that represents a serious break from how SAP, and most of the industry, view CRM. While the goals of the current product are relatively modest by the overarching breadth of the CRM acronym – Sales OD is targeted at enabling the sales team, and does not include marketing or other adjunct functionality – the result is a solid first salvo over the bow of the current on-demand champion, Salesforce.com, and the main contender, Microsoft’s Dynamics CRM.
The key component that makes Sales OD stand out is its implicit support of sales team collaboration. As I wrote here, SAP had the analysts play, literally, with Sales OD in order to give us a sense of how it works. It was clear from the game that Sales OD was designed from the get-go to be a collaborative sales tool, as opposed to having collaborative features glommed on as part of an enhancement release. This collaboration is enhanced by support for content access, analytics, and other key features that round out a pretty good looking CRM tool.
But what is under the hood is perhaps even more significant, insofar as it gives us a glimpse into a broad-based SAP strategy that will give Sales OD users and partners access to a large portfolio of functionality that will truly challenge Salesforce, and provide a potent rivalry to Microsoft’s plans for Dynamics and its Azure on-demand platform.
The secret sauce for Sales OD comes in the form of an even tighter connection to SAP’s Business ByDesign than had been previously intimated. ByD has become not only the platform for Sales OD and SAP’s other present and future on-demand applications, but the functionality in ByD – all the non-CRM, ERP stuff that ByD is designed to do – will be made available via a forthcoming software development environment that is similar to the SDK SAP released last year.
That makes it possible to extend Sales OD to include direct process and data integration with the rest of the ByD stack’s individual on-demand processes, making it the kind of deeply integrated CRM/ERP application that Salesforce has to partner to deliver. This on-demand integration will be in addition to direct integration to the on-premise SAP Business Suite.
The ByD connection will also bring Sales OD into the extended CRM world that Microsoft’s Dynamic CRM is targeting with its xRM development environment, which has huge implications for partners as well as customers. Of course, for the most part, Dynamics is targeting the SMB market, whereas Sales OD is a large-enterprise product targeted, initially at least, at SAP’s installed base.
Microsoft’s Dynamics CRM will also have a different competitive profile due to its ability to provide a complete hybrid on-premise and on-demand CRM option, something SAP and Salesforce.com can’t do. But the ability of Dynamics CRM Online to eventually make use of a rich palette of services to be available in the Azure on-demand environment – on top of its current ability to extend the CRM model using the xRM SDK – will put it on a collision course with Sales OD and ByD.
At a minimum, Sales OD will make it hard for Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics to pick off the easy wins among the SAP customers unhappy with earlier SAP CRM versions, much as ByD’s CRM functionality will be able to cut into competing vendors’ ability to poach the subsidiaries of smaller operating entities of SAP’s large-enterprise customer base. And when Sales OD can be extended to include ByD’s non-CRM capabilities, the combination will be a potent competitor in the market.
When Sales OD reach this highly competitive milestone? Looks like the full complement of functionality, including the SDK, will await a future release of the product, probably in the 2012 timeframe. Meanwhile SAP will be pushing Sales OD as a “standalone” on-demand product in its initial versions, coming this year.
Sales OD comes as the latest entrant into SAP’s on-demand portfolio, following ByD, Sourcing On-demand, Streamwork, and Carbon Impact (which is not on the ByD platform), and precedes the market entry of Travel On-demand and Career On-demand, due out later this year
This growing portfolio proves that a revolution is underway at SAP, and in the industry: The old days of SAP as a purveyor of big, monolithic enterprise apps is gone. Sales OD proves that SAP is going to mount a frontal attack on the nascent on-demand market. Even if it means disrupting the very forces it helped create.