SAP readies Salesforce.com rival

SAP's Sales OnDemand CRM application will have collaborative features

At the Cebit show on Tuesday SAP will show off an upcoming application called Sales OnDemand that could be a potential rival to the likes of Salesforce.com and Microsoft CRM Online.

Sales OnDemand is part of a series of on-demand applications SAP is positioning as extensions to its on-premises ERP (enterprise resource planning) systems. The strategy aims to preserve lucrative revenue streams from on-premises software while serving the needs of those same customers, who want to innovate their IT operations through SaaS (software as a service).

SAP is creating the applications with the platform that underlies its Business ByDesign ERP on-demand suite for small and midmarket customers. Sales OnDemand, which is scheduled for general availability in the second quarter, will be joined this year by applications for expense management and human resources, according to a statement.

While focusing on different areas, the software will share a core, "person-centric" design principle, said Sven Denecken, vice president of product management and head of co-innovation.

In the case of Sales OnDemand, that means a collaborative, Facebook-like milieu. The software also contains core SFA (salesforce automation) capabilities, Denecken said.

Pricing has not been finalized but will be "very competitive" with other offerings in the market, according to Denecken. But the application's tight integration with SAP's ERP systems will give it a crucial edge, he added.

SAP is also planning to deliver at launch native mobile support for iPhones, iPads, BlackBerries and Android devices, he said.

Sales OnDemand is not, at least for now, a full-fledged replacement for SAP's existing CRM (customer relationship management) software, which is available in hosted form but usually deployed on premises, said analyst Ray Wang, CEO of Constellation Research.

"At the beginning, I would say it will have 20 percent of the full suite. But that 20 percent is what people use 80 percent of the time," he said.

"This is a sales tool for sales people," he added. "Part of the problems most people face in terms of [CRM applications] is they've been designed for managers, [who] want things tracked and reported. This does that in a much more natural way. ... It's a very sexy product."

Other CRM vendors are also adapting to end-users' computing habits and comfort zones. Salesforce.com has added a layer of social networking and collaboration with the introduction of a tool called Chatter, while Microsoft's CRM Online employs "role-based" user interfaces and offers a native Outlook client.

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris's e-mail address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com

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