SAP will have to meet a range of challenges to make its high-profile acquisition of hybris pay off, given the prominent role the purchase will play in its CRM and e-commerce plans, according to experts. Those challenges include making sure support services and other resources aren't stretched too thin by an expected increase in demand.
"You can't just add capacity like that and hope it works. You have to have it already," said analyst R "Ray" Wang of Constellation Research Inc., based in Monta Vista, Calif.
Last month, SAP announced its plan to purchase hybris AG, a maker of multi-channel e-commerce software based in Zug, Switzerland, to add to its stable of CRM software. Hybris also makes software for master data and order management, offering its applications in hosted, on-demand, and on-premises models. The deal was made official last week, though many believe it should have happened sooner.
In its last evaluation of B2C commerce suites, which took place in September 2012, Forrester Research Inc. found that SAP's e-commerce solution, called Web Channel Experience Management, fell behind leaders from Demandware, hybris, IBM and Oracle.
SAP's product suffered from inferior functionality and from being too tightly coupled with the SAP CRM software, according to Peter Sheldon, an analyst at the Cambridge, Mass.-based company.
"This situation simply came to a boiling point. SAP finally reached the conclusion that catching up via a build strategy was not working," Sheldon recently wrote in his blog.
Others agreed. "I think it's pretty important," said independent analyst Jon Reed of SAP's acquisition of the Swiss e-commerce vendor. "SAP wants a better play around cloud and CRM, and commerce is a big part of that."
Gearing up for SAP hybris deployments
At least one SuccessFactors customer claims that support wait times have grown in the wake of SAP's acquisition of that company. In response, one hybris executive said the company will be able to accommodate any bump in demand by piggybacking on SAP's network of support providers.
"Our focus to this point has been mostly on [systems integrators] and [independent software vendors] who support us in terms of implementing projects," said Rick Chavie, vice president of omni-commerce at hybris. "We have [internally] managed service centers in a couple of cities like Boston and Munich. We haven't scaled that to a global operation, however."
Creating a much larger network of support providers will take time and stretch hybris' resources thin, especially when hybris products become part of the SAP price list and demand grows significantly as a result, according to Sheldon.
"The challenge is going to be for the hybris organization to support the deluge of additional partners to onboard, as well as supporting the SAP sales force," Sheldon said. "There's going to be a significant amount of time during which the SAP sales teams don't know anything about hybris."
Others, like independent analyst Cindy Jutras, disagreed.
"The resources they had been devoting to developing and supporting their own solutions will transition to the hybris side," said Jutras, president of Windham, N.H.-based Mint Jutras, referring to SAP's CRM and Web Channel Experience Management software. "It's not like they don't have anything to offer there in terms of generic expertise. That could help in terms of responding to an increase in demand," Jutras said.
Increased demand in hybris' e-commerce platform, could also strain implementation resources, according to Gartner analyst Duncan Jones.
"SAP's ability to sell new products often outpaces its ability to ramp up knowledgeable implementation resources, and the good ones get nabbed by the best customers. What's left can be expensive and inadequate quality," he said.
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As a result, Jones recommends that customers ask a lot of questions of potential implementation partners -- down to getting the names and resumes of the people who will do the SAP hybris work and interviewing them.
Despite possible hazards along the way, acquisitions in general work out to be gains for customers of the acquired company, according to Jones.
"The benefit from increased R&D resources, both quality and quantity, outweighs the negatives, such as a more rigid support process," Jones said.
"Sometimes clients complain about poorer service levels and less willingness to do whatever it takes to make them happy, but sometimes I hear clients talk about improvements from a more professional approach, if the small vendor lacked competence in this area."