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SAP executives urge customers to upgrade

There's no better time to upgrade to the latest version of SAP to take full advantage of NetWeaver, according to SAP executives who officially kicked off the Sapphire user conference this week.

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Now is the time to begin executing plans to upgrade to the latest version of SAP and put in place the foundation for an Enterprise Services Architecture (ESA), according to SAP executives who kicked off the SAP Sapphire user conference Tuesday.

While customers are seeking ways to sustain growth, reduce costs and achieve competitive advantage, all must follow their own unique course as they investigate when to upgrade to the latest version of SAP, said Leo Apotheker, president of global field operations and a member of the executive board at SAP. Many customers have the roadmap in place, and the time is better than ever to begin upgrading, he said.

"ESA is the key enabler for business innovation," Apotheker said. "ESA is a reality. You can no longer sit on the sidelines because you will face being overtaken by the competition."

In an afternoon keynote presentation officially launching the SAP Sapphire user conference, an estimated 15,000 heard the message that now is the time to begin laying the framework for service-oriented architectures. SAP wants NetWeaver to be at the core of that foundation and composite applications from SAP and partner independent software vendors (ISVs) to eventually make an SAP deployment unique to each customer.

SAP America CEO Bill McDermott told attendees that the software vendor will show this week that it is committed to developing its network of partner ISVs to innovate with new products around NetWeaver. A strong ISV network will help boost innovation and support the platform, he said.

"When there's no common platform and framework, one size eventually doesn't fit all," McDermott said. "You need to have a platform that is innovative and flexible."

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The combined SAP Sapphire and America's SAP Users' Group (ASUG) conference brought together a broad mixture of attendees from company chief information officers to ABAP programmers and end users.

While the functionality in NetWeaver is attractive, many companies see migration costs as far too high to conduct a complete upgrade, said Viren Patel, CIO of San Jose, Calif.-based semiconductor maker Renesas Technology America Inc. Instead SAP customers are beginning to use bits and pieces of NetWeaver functionality after finishing CRM projects or other additions, he said.

"SAP tried to be the company to do everything, but they're now listening to their customers and leveraging what they have with partners," Patel said. "Companies see that NetWeaver is the future, but they are going to move at their own pace."

Renesas currently holds licenses for SAP R/3 Enterprise and mySAP ERP, and is now deciding whether to upgrade to Enterprise or the latest version, Patel said. Many companies are in the same position and are talking with other ASUG members for advice.

ASUG, which has influencing councils that help SAP identify areas where it needs to improve functionality, is being heard loud and clear, said David Kaitschuck, an SAP financial supply chain management trainer at Lake Forest, Ill.-based WW Grainger Inc., a power tool and parts distributor.

"Companies seem to be doing a lot more planning than they did in the past, and that's good," Kaitschuck said.

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