Article

SAP promises cost savings with new mySAP Financials tool

Christine M. Campbell, Assistant News Editor

By offering electronic bill presentation and payment (EBPP), companies can save up to 70% on the processing costs related to paper invoices, according to Wakefield, Mass.-based analyst Ovum. SAP wants to pass this savings on to its customers by adding EBPP to mySAP Financials, which will allow users to issue electronic invoices and support payments over the Internet.

The EBPP functions are integrated with mySAP CRM, a tool for enhancing customer retention efforts. "If a customer is at the Web store, companies can offer additional products. ...If companies combine EBPP with profiles and cross-selling, it's a valuable solution for the biller," said Juergen Weiss, product manager, mySAP Financials.

SAP's EBPP uses Java server pages to allow customers and business partners to view their accounts. Additionally, customers and business partners can pay partial amounts of their bills, Weiss said.

In general, EBPP can be used in every industry, but it's "especially valuable" for industries with a lot of customers, such as utilities, telecommunications, insurance and the public sector, according to Weiss. For example, the U.S. has an e-government approach, where people can apply for business licenses over the Web. Instead of sending out a paper bill, the government agency can stay media-consistent and present the bill over the Internet.

According to Ovum, the U.S. is a prime market for EBPP.

But another analyst believes that EBPP is ahead of its time. To

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date, it hasn't fit into the CRM or North American market, said Kip Martin, senior program director at Stamford, Conn.-based Meta Group Inc. "It's like electric-powered cars," he said.

Business-to-business companies can also benefit from EBPP and intensify their relationships with their business partners, Weiss said. Electronic data interchange (EDI) converters are expensive, which makes the Internet a much more cost-effective medium for companies to present and pay bills, he said.

SAP's EBPP also allows companies to download bills into their SAP Financial system or Microsoft Excel with comma-separated values. SAP has plans to expand this to other back-office accounting systems.

Implementation is relatively easy, according to Weiss. BAPI interfaces are needed, and installing the presentation logic can be done on a customer's existing Java or Web server.

"This is a step in the right direction," Meta's Martin said, adding that SAP has taken some of the core functionality of EBPP and extended it, which is good for the company and the industry. Yet most of SAP's EBPP seems geared toward bill presentment and is on the CRM and biller's side. The product needs more back-and-forth capabilities, he said.

EBPP will be released in the fourth quarter of 2001. Pricing information was not available.

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