SAP's annual U.S. user event, scheduled to start today in Orlando, Fla., couldn't come at a better time for the German software company.
SAP is betting that it will benefit from the current bitterness between Oracle Corp. and PeopleSoft Inc., a result of Oracle's attempted hostile takeover of its smaller rival.
Although SAP executives do not plan to make any changes to the three-day agenda as a result of the recent excitement in the ERP industry, the company did place a large advertisement in last week's Wall Street Journal courting PeopleSoft and J.D. Edwards & Co. users.
Both those companies were thrust into the spotlight last week, when PeopleSoft announced that it planned to acquire J.D. Edwards and, just a few days later, Oracle launched an attempted hostile takeover of PeopleSoft.
In part, SAP's advertisement read: "A few words of comfort to PeopleSoft and J.D. Edwards customers just when you need it most."
"We see this as an opportunity," said SAP spokesman Bill Wohl. "As a 30-year player in the market, [we've] got a pretty strong focus on solving customer problems.
"We're offering some creative pricing. Right now, customers need a company that keeps its eye on the ball. You don't want your key technology partner thinking about something other than their best interests."
The annual user event comes at a pivotal time for SAP and its clients, for several reasons. In coming months, nearly half the company's global customer base will be faced with upgrade choices, rushing to reach R/3 version 4.6C before SAP terminates support for prior releases at the end of this year.
Also, during the last year, SAP has introduced customers to several new terms and technologies. Attendees of the annual event, which is called Sapphire, will hear about NetWeaver, the company's new strategic platform; mySAP ERP, the newest upgrade package in the SAP family; xApps, SAP's cross-building application technology; and the company's newest CRM release.
The newest CRM and supply chain management (SCM) versions have been enhanced to optimize SAP's new NetWeaver architecture.
Next week's event will be the first U.S. SAP user event for Bill McDermott, the relatively new president of SAP America. It will also reflect the changes the company has made to its executive masthead in the last year, a period that saw former co-CEO and company founder Hasso Plattner step away from his daily duties and into a role on the company's supervisory board. At this year's Sapphire, Henning Kagermann, SAP CEO, will deliver the first keynote Tuesday morning, and Plattner won't stride across the stage until Wednesday.
Much of the agenda, though, will mirror last year's Sapphire event. The focus will be on happy customers, prestigious companies such as ChevronTexaco Corp. and Disney Co., that have achieved satisfactory return on investment (ROI) from SAP software during tough economic times.
Carly Fiorina, chairman and CEO of Hewlett-Packard Co., will fill the speaking slot previously held by former President Bill Clinton, whose scheduling conflict prevented him from fulfilling his original agreement to address attendees.
Evening entertainment will be provided by British R&B singer Joe Cocker.
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