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SAP has a list of lessons learned from its long-delayed Business ByDesign on-demand ERP software. It wants to put some of those lessons to work with a new on-demand CRM application called Sales On-Demand, announced earlier this week at its Sapphire conference. One of those lessons is to go to users early and often.
At Sapphire, SAP showed working code, essentially "version 0" of the nascent product, said Nicholas Cumins, Solution Management, On-Demand Solutions for Lines-of-Business at SAP. The software giant is involving users at this early stage so "we can produce a version 1 that will fit their needs when it's released."
"The beauty of On-Demand is we work in sprints and rapid cycles. We have running code online after each cycle of development that users can use and give us feedback."
As with its SaaS suite Business ByDesign, Sales On-Demand will use a multi-tenant model, which allows for cost-effective provisioning of computing resources. Critics and competitors derided SAP for not using a multi-tenant model with early versions of ByDesign, saying it showed SAP lacked a fundamental understanding of the differences between software-as-a-service and on-premise software.
Sapphire attendees said the Sales On-Demand application demonstrated at the conference "looked a lot like Facebook," and that was no coincidence, Cumins said. It incorprates technology from StreamWork, a collaborative decision-making environment created by former BusinessObjects staffers who joined SAP after it acquired the business intelligence specialist in 2007. Like Google Wave and Salesforce.com's Chatter, SAP's StreamWork seems designed to put companies on a collaborative middle ground by facilitating workflows somewhere between highly structured traditional enterprise applications and unstructured Web 2.0 applications.
Two of SAP's biggest themes for the future, mentioned again and again by speakers at Sapphire, are in-memory computing and mobility. Sales On-Demand will feature both. Sybase, the mobility specialist SAP is acquiring, will no doubt provide valuable input on the software so it's designed with mobile access in mind.
While much of the software-as-a-service market remains focused on point solutions, Sales On-Demand will ultimately offer "true synergy between multiple solutions," said Cumins. The name of the new product indicates it's closely focused on sales -- generating leads, following up on opportunities and closing deals -- rather than on other aspects of customer relationship management. But when used with other on-demand software from SAP, it will function like a suite. So, for example, companies might want to pull data from a talent-management application so they can get sales people with the right skills working on different deals.
Cumins said SAP also is well-equipped to create products that will function well in the hybrid software environments that will likely become common at many, if not most, companies. There will be "no loss in translation if you decide to use one application running on a device, another running on-demand and another on-premise," he said. He mentioned a Sapphire demonstration that involved SAP's Sourcing On-Demand interacting with ERP software from its flagship Business Suite and an application running on a BlackBerry.