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Second SAP ERP enhancement pack focuses on SOA, process improvement

SAP's second SAP ERP enhancement package includes e-learning, industry improvements and enterprise services.

SAP is following through on its promise to limit major releases through 2010, but the company continues to add...

functionality, releasing its second ERP enhancement package today.

According to SAP, the enhancement package includes horizontal and industry-specific updates, simplified processes and user interfaces (UIs), and new enterprise services focused on improving order-to-cash processes.

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At TechEd 2006, SAP said it would have no major software releases until 2010, keeping SAP ERP stable until then and introducing the concept of enhancement packages. In December 2006, the company announced its preliminary enhancement package schedule, saying it would probably expand the program beyond ERP to SAP CRM and SRM, and in March of this year SAP added Business One to the program. More is apparently on the way.

"We're not limiting the enhancement package concept to ERP," said Tobias Dosch, vice president of SAP ERP solution development. "We are going to have the same mechanism for the entire SAP Business Suite."

SAP Enterprise Learning, announced at Sapphire 2007, is one of the new products in this enhancement package. It is the result of a collaboration with Adobe that features virtual classrooms using the Adobe Connect application and the SAP Learning Solution. It fits within SAP ERP Human Capital Management (HCM).

"In the past, we've handled HCM or human resources as more of an administrative thing, where we helped customers automate their administration processes," Dosch said. "Now, it's really about how customers can get IT involved in how to develop people. And this development of people is one of the focus areas in our development portfolio."

SAP Bank Relationship Management is also among the new features, aimed at improving communications between banks through integration with SWIFTNet, a financial messaging network.

SAP ERP Corporate Services updates include new user interfaces for SAP Travel Management and SAP Enterprise Asset Management, and simplified space, room, move and service charge settlement management in SAP Real Estate Management.

Vertical additions include new and updated processes for the telecommunications industry, media, utilities and trading industries. For the manufacturing industry, SAP ERP operations will support Kanban processes and the Heijunka method -- related to lean and just-in-time production.

"[All] of these are things that existing customers and clients have asked for," said R. Wang, principal analyst for Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research Inc. "What SAP is trying to do is -- rather than wait for that big release -- get a lot of that key functionality that customers have been asking for and the company has traditionally taken a lot longer to deliver on."

SAP is currently developing the third enhancement package, which should be ready for all customers by the first or second quarter of 2008, according to Dosch. It will continue to service-enable business processes and will also focus on e-recruiting, talent and succession management, financials, and compliance issues.

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