SAP developing collaborative CRM app

SAP says the forthcoming product, which will have a Facebook-like feel, will eventually succeed its CRM on Demand product

SAP is working on a new on-demand CRM (customer relationship management) application that will also incorporate social collaboration tools, a company executive said in an interview at the Sapphire conference in Orlando.

The product, Sales On Demand, is being built with a combination of technologies from SAP's Business ByDesign on-demand ERP (enterprise resource planning) suite, as well as StreamWork, its recently unveiled "virtual war room" collaboration platform, said John Wookey, executive vice president of large enterprise on-demand. It will have a "very Facebook-like" feel, according to Wookey.

[ Also at the Sapphire show, SAP talked up its on-demand ERP suite, Business ByDesign. | Discover what's new in business applications with InfoWorld's Technology: Applications newsletter and Killer Apps blog. ]

SAP is unveiling the application at Sapphire in hopes of convincing some customers to join an early-adopter program, which will help the vendor fine-tune the software before releasing it as a product, Wookey said.

He acknowledged that SAP's notion of marrying collaboration with CRM has echoes of Salesforce.com's Chatter, which was announced last year. "It's good that Salesforce.com has Chatter," Wookey said. "It's an interesting validation of the marketplace."

The new application will eventually succeed SAP's CRM On Demand product, which has not set the marketplace on fire since its release several years ago. Only about a couple dozen customers are currently using the software and SAP stopped actively selling it some time ago, Wookey said. Those remaining customers will continue to be supported and eventually migrated over to Sales On Demand, he said.

He declined to call CRM On Demand a failed product, saying many customers used it merely as an on-ramp to SAP's on-premises CRM suite.

SAP is planning to use StreamWork to create other collaboration-themed applications, Wookey said. He declined to provide details. "All I can say is that the collaboration space is not a trendy thing.... This is really opening up IT in a different way."

One industry observer seconded the notion.

"Collaboration, CRM and social are converging at a very fast rate," said Ray Wang, partner with the analyst firm Altimeter Group. "Users want the ease of use of Facebook, and the security of SAP."

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