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Analyst: SAP's Sapphire aims to be an ebusiness gem

SAP AG hopes to sparkle in the ebusiness world this month at its annual conference, Sapphire 2001, held in Orlando.

The show's focus, which the company first touched upon at this year's Sapphire in Lisbon, Portugal, will be on SAP's so-called five pillars of ebusiness: portals, private exchanges, customer relationship management (CRM), supply chain management (SCM) and product lifecycle management, said Lance Travis, service director at AMR Research Inc. in Boston. These planks are designed as a platform to help companies move forward with their ebusiness initiatives.

However, Travis felt the "five pillars" message makes it seems as if these elements stand alone. "A big advantage of SAP applications is that they are integrated across different areas... which did not come out very strongly in Lisbon," he said.

Portals, Web-based gateways for accessing applications and essential business data, aren't an entirely new concept. They were introduced in 1998 and 1999 as aggregated news and stock information. The SAP focus for portals that it will convey at Sapphire will be much more on using them as an interface that leads to underlying applications, Travis said.

In general, the portal concept becomes essential to support external users, such as suppliers on the supply-chain side, Travis added.

R/3 users may have felt neglected at the Lisbon show. Yet, at the American SAP User Group conference recently, an SAP representative spoke about the need for strong financial systems, human resources support and business analytics, Travis said.

In Lisbon, SAP did announce the next release of R/3 to help users slowly move to Travis expects to hear more details about the upgrade this time around.

"(In Orlando) it looks like SAP is going to have a strong representation of customers speaking and opportunities for other customers to delve into best practices," he said.

There have also been hints of substantial announcements in areas aside from SAP's "five pillars."

And, if the information and networking opportunities aren't reason enough to go, SAP will offer attendees free Palm VIIx wireless-enabled handhelds and a performance from Boston-based rock band Aerosmith, as well as the opportunity to get behind the wheel of a Formula One racecar simulator.


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