For a long time now the definition of adding value in IT was coming up with ways to bridge the gaps between customer relationship management (CRM), marketing and supply chain applications. After all, while each of these applications performs a valuable function, the real value in all that software is the information that flows across it. The challenge has been making that information accessible to the business.
To address that specific issue, SAP is preparing to launch a series of composite applications that use Web services to dynamically aggregate information in ways that give business users a more holistic view of all the information that is applicable to a particular customer, regardless of whether it resides inside or outside of an SAP application.
The first of those applications, due out in the next 30 days, is called SAP Briefings, which gives managers access to all the relevant information about any particular customer to their mobile computing devices. That information not only includes the information that resides inside the CRM and supply chain applications, but also all the latest news feeds and relevant information that might reside on the customer's website.
The second application, called SAP Account Intelligence, takes that concept even further by giving business users access to reports that are powered by the SAP High Performance Analytics Appliance (HANA) in the cloud. The idea is to allow business users to run analytics applications in real time against all the corporate data residing in any application. This is accomplished by using the in-memory computing capabilities of HANA to aggregate all the information in a format that makes it easier to correlate all the relevant data across a single set of reports.
Further on, SAP is working with recommendation engine technologies that would analyze all that information with an eye towards identifying what new products and services that customer is most likely going to need next.
According to Vinay Iyer, vice president of global marketing at SAP, the main driver for all this integration is the growing interest in customer experience management. In the wake of the downturn, companies are taking a much more customer-centric approach to sales and marketing that requires coordinating information across multiple application silos. Rather than have IT organizations create these applications from scratch, the new packaged SAP applications are designed to allow organizations to create a bridge over which information can be dynamically accessed and shared across multiple enterprise applications.
Iyer says by using Web services, SAP is making it possible to layer these applications on top of existing SAP and third-party application investments versus requiring customers to rip and replace everything they currently have installed.
As the shift towards a more holistic approach to customer management progresses, the value of investments in enterprise applications will increase. Arguably, that value has been there all along; it's just been locked up in silos of applications that were difficult to get to.