SAP Unwraps New Release Of Its Flagship Apps Suite

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"We've taken the whole suite to a new level," said co-CEO Leo Apotheker during a press conference in New York to introduce the software. Apotheker touted the business process control and efficiencies SAP applications provide and the competitive advantage of having such capabilities in the current recession. "Even in hard times, if you have all the facts, you can still identify the opportunities," he said.

Pointing to several SAP customers attending the event, the executive said, "If banks had information systems as good as the companies represented here today, we might not be in this [economically challenging] situation."

SAP Business Suite is the company's line of ERP, CRM supply chain and other applications geared toward large corporations. About 13,000 customers are currently using the previous release of the product. SAP BusinessOne is the vendor's application set for small businesses and the SAP Business All-in-One package targets the midmarket.

Business Suite 7, with more than 150 functional improvements, includes new releases of the vendor's ERP, CRM, supplier relationship management, supply chain management and product life-cycle management applications. But Business Suite 7 continues an effort SAP began with earlier releases of the product to make it more modular, allowing customers to deploy and upgrade the SOA-based applications through "enhancement packages" and reduce deployment time and cost.

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SAP said owners of Business Suite 6 ERP applications would be able to upgrade using the enhancement packs, while owners of older releases of PLM, SRM and CRM applications would have to undergo a more complete upgrade.

But it's unclear how the new modular technology will allow customers to re-use modifications they or their solution providers have made to the applications without a lot of coding, noted Technology Business Research analyst Stuart Williams in a report. The report also said that embedding business processes more deeply into the software would increase customer lock-in with SAP.

The new suite includes more than 30 deployment templates, what the company calls "value scenarios," for implementing and configuring applications to match industry-specific business processes that cut across multiple operations or departments. The scenarios include integrated product development for discrete manufacturers, for example, and an "inspired shopping experience" for retailers who need to understand shoppers' needs and meet them by effectively managing inventory and product pricing.

The new release also provides improved embedded analytics and a more consistent user interface across the applications.