Sales-oriented support: SAP refreshes its CRM interface

SAP this week introduced the latest version of SAP Customer Relationship Management (SAP CRM) 2007. New capabilities include multichannel customer service, real-time offer management, and optimized marketing and promotions spend. More important, the new version is said to embody the ease of use required by sales-oriented applications.
By Kevin Parker, editorial director December 5, 2007

SAP this week introduced the latest version of SAP Customer Relationship Management (SAP CRM) 2007. New capabilities include multichannel customer service, real-time offer management, and optimized marketing and promotions spend.
More important, the new version is said to embody the ease of use required by sales-oriented applications.
Says David McCauley, SVP for CRM with industrial conglomerate Siemens , “We already have several thousand users on version 5.1, and see big differences in what’s being shown today. We’re excited because SAP CRM 2007 gives us the standardization we need to control complexity and at the same time the flexibility needed in a company that has, to put it mildly, a wide range of product offerings.”
SAP says it now has 6,000 customer companies using SAP CRM. This excludes the many companies equipped with CRM capabilities within their SAP Business Suite but have not yet implemented them.
Other companies already experiencing SAP CRM 2007 include Adobe , which is rolling out its sales force automation capabilities for lead management; territory assignment; and account, contact, and opportunity management for 170,000 customer accounts.
In addition, Intel and SAP collaborated on a solution for market development funds, including capabilities for online claims entry, compliance, and accruals incorporated in SAP CRM 2007. These processes within SAP CRM link to claims and payout processes with SAP ERP—as well as accounts payable—for vendors and partners managing channel marketing funds.
Trying to neatly express the quality of user interface (UI) changes can be tough. However, the new interface is said to be roles-based, task-oriented, and populated with Web 2.0 characteristics. Speakers at the press conference announcing the introduction repeatedly drew parallels to the Google Web page UI .
McCauley says Siemens has 35,000 salespeople. “In 2005, we found more than 500 separate CRM systems within Siemens worldwide. Many were Microsoft Excel or Access-based, but also systems from just about any CRM vendor you could name. When we standardized on SAP ERP we tried to standardize on SAP CRM as well. But that was an IT decision, and we got significant pushback from users in terms of nonacceptance. We had to address this, however, and we’ve standardized on SAP based on its Web user interface and the seriousness of its approach.”
SAP representatives at the press conference—held at the SAP Influencer Summit in Boston—included Bob Stutz, president and GM, CRM global strategy and product development; and Mike De La Cruz, SVP, SAP CRM Solutions. Neither was especially interested in comparing SAP’s progress in the space to that of Salesforce.com, contending that SAP’s focus on large enterprises made any such unhelpful—and that in any case, Stamford, Conn.-based analyst firm Gartner has identified SAP as the market leader.