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SAP says divorce with Clarify was amicable

SAP's push into CRM took an interesting turn when the company announced this week that it was ending its reseller relationship with Nortel Networks and its Clarify contact center product, and would instead develop a product jointly with Nortel's competitor, Alcatel subsidiary Genesys. The switch in midstream stresses the importance SAP places on the contact center and its centrality in the company's CRM plans.

SAP would like to portray its divorce with Nortel as an amicable one, with mutual respect on both sides, especially since both companies continue to buy each other's products. It appears, however, that the 'co-opetition' between the two companies turned out to be more competition than cooperation, and SAP decided it would be better off integrating a universal messaging/switching architecture from Genesys into its own product.

John Wurfl, director of CRM communications at SAP, denied all implications that SAP had 'mothballed' its own CRM development efforts when it signed its deal with Nortel last year. According to Wurfl, the company had two distinct development teams operating separately, one working to allow access to Nortel's product from mySAP and one for its own development efforts. That latter team will now work to integrate functionality from Genesys' contact center offering into the SAP product. The two companies will both have teams in the San Francisco Bay Area and in Germany writing code.

SAP will be looking to pick up such contact center 'must-haves' as voice over IP and Web chat from Genesys' G6 suite of integrated interaction management applications. Wurfl told the451 that SAP expects to have something to show customers at the company's massive user show, Sapphire 2001, in mid-June, although it likely won't be a finished, commercially available product.

At about the same time that it revealed the end of the Nortel relationship, the company rolled out a new portal-based CRM suite that offers role-based work spaces. This upgrade includes heftier analytical functionality and expanded communication channels. Fitting the model that SAP said all of its packages would follow, the release is based on integration with its new business unit, SAP Portals, which was unveiled last month.

Some have speculated that the timing of the two announcements could lead some customers previously thinking about purchasing SAP's solution to wait. Why buy now when waiting a few months will net you a product with greatly increased contact center functionality?

But Wurfl doesn't think customers will hold back and expects them to focus on their current set of needs. "We have very viable products in customer relationship management and contact center," he said. "There is no need to wait." Of course, the slumping economic situation might push any hesitant customers even further to the side of caution, but given SAP's solid set of results this quarter, the company has already been quite successful at quelling customers' economic fears.

SAP claims to have more than 400 current mySAP CRM customers, including Samsung Electronics, Phillip Morris and Gillette

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