What’s important to
note from the conference?

SAP hammered industry analysts with three key takeaways for
SAP CRM 2007. SAP wants customer relationship management (CRM) application
consumers to know that SAP CRM 2007 is:

  • Easy to use
  • Solves real business problems
  • Makes the complex simple 

Why is it important?

To some degree, SAP achieved its goals. What it needs for
momentum is proof, and more specifically, success stories from clients using

With CRM 2007, SAP unveiled a newer, very slick-looking user
interface (UI) to its CRM offering. The facelift, based on cascading style
sheets (CSS) and Ajax,
allows users and system admins to customize the product to look and feel as an
organization prefers. Organizations can dynamically brand the application style
guide the way they want, and users can select specific styles to satisfy
personal preferences. The solution offers many out-of-the-box customization
features, including prebuilt “skins” and personalization settings to satisfy various
user pallets. Additionally, SAP made strong strides to allow different roles to
customize dashboards and bring in other third-party application information
that may be pertinent to their job function and help them execute their jobs
more efficiently. SAP showcased a couple demos to illustrate how a sales rep
and a sales manager could customize the home page dashboard and bring in other third-party
applications, RSS feeds, and other “widgets” so that SAP CRM 2007 could be used
as the single sales application.

Customization capabilities are impressive and powerful, but
with customization empowerment comes great responsibility to manage it. A few
large SAP customers at the conference shared some of their lessons learned with
past CRM initiatives, and CRM application “over-customization” was something
that had led to significant painpoints for these customers — primarily in the
areas of technology standardization and platforming, consolidated reporting,
and data management.

What does it mean for
CRM technology customers?

So what does SAP’s new CRM 2007 rollout mean for customers?
Well, SAP has certainly raised the bar on its CRM product. With traditionally
strong capabilities in enterprise resource planning (ERP) and back office apps,
SAP has strengthened its front-office CRM offering with this release. Usability
improvements and flexible configuration capabilities to address common business
challenges sales reps and managers face daily will likely catapult SAP to a
stronger competitive positioning amongst its CRM vendor peers. Previously, sales
at SAP back-office shops had to bear the brunt of lackluster usability for
front-office application tools. Customers were forced to trade front-office usability
demands for back-office integration needs with other SAP back office tools. Some
of those SAP back-office customers not willing to concede front-office
usability needs sought out and implemented alternative CRM solutions. With the
release of SAP CRM 2007, however, SAP has reduced the front/back-office
tradeoff gap — something that may cause enterprise customers running SAP
back-office solutions to rethink which CRM solution they will employ as part of
their long term applications strategy going forward.

Pete Marston, Analyst,
CRM – Business Process & Applications