SAP adds Web services to Business ByDesign

Users of the SaaS ERP suite can tap Google, Business Wire and others with "one click"

Users of SAP's Business ByDesign on-demand ERP (enterprise resource planning) suite now have "one-click" integration with a range of third-party Web services such as Google's search engine and news and financial feeds such as Business Wire and Hoover's.

Three of the other services -- MapQuest, Navteq/Map24 and Falk Online -- have a similar focus. In addition, Business ByDesign users can tap GoYellow.de, a German directory assistance provider; the Morningstar investment research service; and Google's Maps, Product Search, News and Finance services.

More preconfigured third-party services will be included in the next version of Business ByDesign, which is scheduled for release later this year, SAP said.

However, SAP's announcement does not highlight Business ByDesign's slow path to market. SAP initially announced the SMB-focused suite in late 2007, and predicted sales would reach US$1 billion and 10,000 customers by 2010.

But the company subsequently scaled back its rollout plans for BBD, and instead focused on six markets -- the U.S., Germany, Japan, France, Great Britain and India -- while it works to ensure it can make enough of a profit on the offering at scale.

Company officials have given no concrete timetable for when a full-fledged rollout will occur, although executive board member Bill McDermott recently told IDG News Service that "the noise level" around the product should heighten later this year.

Therefore, the Web services announcement could be one effort by SAP to keep the BBD product in the public eye while it works out the final technical kinks.

For its part, SAP stressed the benefits for BBD's early adopters.

Users in the initial countries run their entire businesses on the suite, the company said in an e-mailed statement. "For these customers having access to this kind of Web service immediately out of their business application is a great advantage."

It wasn't immediately clear how deep the integrations are between the services and BBD. This is a key point, said Forrester Research analyst Ray Wang.

Just being able to call out to Google Maps from within the ERP suite has limited value, Wang said. But if the system could use sales data contained in BBD to create a "heat map" showing the hottest territories, "that would be pretty cool," he said.

Meanwhile, there is a sizable market waiting for the chance to tap Business ByDesign, in particular new or remote divisions of larger companies, who may not feel a full-fledged SAP Business Suite 7 implementation is justified but want to remain in an SAP environment, according to Wang.

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