SAP today extended its enhancement packages initiative and harmonized the user interface across its entire software
suite with the release of Business Suite 7.
Customers running ERP 6.0 and the newest releases of CRM, SCM, SRM and PLM software can now bypass traditional upgrades and update their software by downloading only the new modules they want at that time. Prior to the release of Business Suite 7, enhancement packages were available for ERP 6.0 customers only.
SAP's goal is to allow customers to deploy new functionality in a cheaper, faster manner with the enhancement packages. The vendor also wants to make the software easier to use by harmonizing the user interface, and easier to implement by harmonizing the release schedule. New modules can be deployed in as little as two weeks, according to SAP.
"It is the first time ever we have a synchronized release across all of the modules," SAP co-CEO Leo Apotheker said. "We are going to give upgrades the kiss of death."
The synchronization of the business suite product releases is something SAP had to do, according to Paul Hamerman, vice president, principal analyst with Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research. The products that surround the ERP suite -- CRM, SCM, PLM -- all had different releases and different user interfaces. Business Suite 7 will enable customers to be on the same releases of the different suite products.
Customers on older releases of ERP software need to upgrade to ERP 6.0, the ERP component of Business Suite 7, to leverage enhancement packages. The packs are delivered through NetWeaver, the platform on which the newest ERP release runs. Business Suite 7 will be sold according to the licensing models SAP currently uses, Apotheker said, but he didn't discuss pricing.
With the new release, SAP has also embedded components of Business Objects in business suite modules. For example, CRM users can now download modules that can analyze revenue in different regions and tie that information into the CRM system.
This prospect of embedded business intelligence especially excited Partha Biswas, CIO of Joerns Healthcare, which recently completed an implementation of SAP Business All-in-One. Joerns manufactures furnishings for long-term care facilities.
"I'd definitely be interested in that," Biswas said. "Getting the data in a format that makes it more intelligent is always a challenge. That is something I'm sure will excite my team here."
Embedding business intelligence in some modules also marks an effort to deliver and describe products more in terms of the business scenarios they accomplish and less by the acronyms that represent them, Apotheker said.
"We want to talk the language of the business people," he said.
"The power of bringing analytical applications and process applications together -- [we] see the power of serving the business and the user, and not having the traditional siloed view," said SAP executive Jim Hagemann Snabe, who heads up product development for the business suite. "We are ready to help our customers get through the current crisis, and Business Suite 7 is designed to do exactly that."
While adopting SAP enhancement packages will be easier than an upgrade, there may be some oversimplification as to how easy the enhancement packages are to apply, Hamerman said. There's tooling for skilled IT professionals to go in and configure, and it includes a long check list of items to set switches -- which turn functionality on. But they do work, he said.
Customers on the SAP panel at the press event in New York said they liked the idea that upgrades would be much easier.
At Colgate-Palmolive, for instance, they're currently focusing on PLM, and there will be functionality in the supply chain they want to integrate. Under normal conditions, they'd need to upgrade the whole supply chain. In this case, they can just look at the components they need, said Ed Toben, senior vice president, GIT & Business Services. Colgate-Palmolive is finishing its upgrade to ECC 6.0.
"We have a large emphasis right now on CRM and PLM," Toben said. "When we look at PLM, enhancement packs should help us move faster. In the future, we'll have [fewer] resources devoted to upgrades and more into new projects."