SAP gives customers sneak peek at mySAP Business Suite interface

SAP customers running mySAP Business Suite applications will soon have a simplified GUI to work with.

ORLANDO, Fla. – SAP customers attending the Sapphire user conference got a sneak preview of a new graphical user interface (GUI) called Project Muse.

SAP said it aims to make the new SAP GUI available to customers running mySAP Business Suite applications. It will be added industry by industry with mySAP ERP 2005 through a series of enhancement packages, said Shai Agassi, president of the product and technology group at SAP and a member of the executive board.

"We believe [that] by simplifying the end-user experience we will have an even higher satisfaction rating from consumers," Agassi said.

The new Web-based GUI is similar to the one SAP rolled out for its CRM on-demand portfolio. It will sit on top of the existing interface, but include more intuitive features, such as the ability to add or delete a field with a right click of a mouse. Navigation is also enhanced to include guidance for specific business processes.

SAP described the new GUI as having all the benefits of a browser system as well as the benefits of rich clients.

After a keynote session where customers got a glimpse of the new GUI, many said they were pleased with what they saw. The old interface was "clunky," not very intuitive and long overdue for improvements.

Michael Van Dan, a supply chain and warehouse management expert at Minneapolis, Minn.-based Pentair Water, said he believes SAP is on the right course. Customers may still be trying to understand NetWeaver and the development of service-oriented architectures, but this year SAP has made a lot of software enhancements, he said.

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"Most of the discussions about NetWeaver seem overwhelming," he said. "But there's something here that every attendee can grasp."

The Project Muse interface has a style similar to SAP's Business One interface and the ease of use of the SAP-Microsoft joint Duet product, which connects SAP processes with familiar Microsoft Office products. While SAP is moving forward with simplifying and enhancing its interfaces for end users, Microsoft is also creating an intuitive platform for end users to easily connect to business applications, said Paul Hamerman, vice president of enterprise applications at Forrester Research Inc.

"SAP knew that their interface had to be more appealing to remain competitive," Hamerman said. "The current environment calls for better ways to connect the end user's business processes with the appropriate applications."

The new version of mySAP ERP is also being launched with 300 enterprise services, which act as the Web services connectors that enable customers to lay the foundation for service-oriented architectures. The latest version also enables customers to purchase the newly named Microsoft-SAP Duet software.

Shai Agassi and SAP CEO Henning Kagermann each showcased SAP software and technologies during separate keynotes Wednesday at the annual Sapphire user conference. The two executives took the second day of the three-day conference to urge attendees that the time to upgrade is now.

"Customers want incremental low-risk upgrades," Kagermann said. "We give customers choice where the choice matters."

Kagermann said customers have the choice to upgrade to the latest version of mySAP ERP or keep existing SAP R/3 and legacy systems and add NetWeaver capabilities through the use of Web services. However, upgrades are more effective to reduce complexity, he said.

SAP has an incentive program that gradually decreases incentives the longer customers remain on older R/3 versions.

Many large companies are ready to upgrade, but some are still trying to figure out where to begin investing in Web services, said Jimmy Thomas, an SAP consultant with Columbus, Ohio-based Battelle Memorial Institute. Thomas, who is consulting on a contract for the U.S. Army, said he is interested in how composite applications can help companies improve certain processes unique to their businesses.

"A lot of companies are happy that SAP opened up their architecture, because it leads to more options for customers," Thomas said. "Right now we're trying to understand how composite applications will work for us."

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