SAP Readies 'Partner-First' Retail And Commerce SMB Apps

SAP has developed a new suite of front-office commerce applications for small and midsize enterprises, and the channel will play a leading role in selling and supporting the cloud-based software.

The new SAP Anywhere applications will initially launch in China under an agreement with China Telecom announced Monday at SAP's Sapphire Now conference in Orlando, Fla.

"This product is going to be a partner-first product," said Rodolpho Cardenuto, president of SAP Global Partner Operations (GPO), addressing more than 800 partners Monday in an SAP Global Partner Summit that preceded Sapphire Now.

[Related: SAP Launches Next Generation Of Its Flagship Applications]

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The SAP Anywhere application set is SAP's latest move to transform itself into a supplier of cloud applications and services. Last month, the company reported that first-quarter revenue from cloud subscriptions and support grew 129 percent to 503 million euros ($234.1 million).

"Our cloud business is absolutely on fire ... here in North America," said John Graham, senior vice president of global partner operations, SAP North America, speaking to the assembled partners.

SAP Anywhere includes sales, marketing, ecommerce, inventory and business analytics applications in a single system targeted toward businesses with between 10 and 500 employees. The applications can be accessed using mobile devices and desktop computers, and it can operate on a stand-alone basis or be linked to back-office systems.

SAP already sells BusinessOne, a popular package of back-office applications for small businesses, and SAP Business ByDesign, the company's cloud ERP applications for midsize companies. SAP executives say the SAP Anywhere front-office applications won't compete with those other products. They are, in fact, complementary with SAP developing a connector between Anywhere and Business One that will allow Anywhere apps to take advantage of Business One's functionality.

In this year's first quarter the Global Partner Organization added 1,438 net new customers to SAP's customer base and 900 of them were running Business One.

Along with SAP's focus on cloud computing, SAP Anywhere also fits with SAP's recent mantra to make computing less complex. "The product has been built from the ground up with the idea of [requiring] a very low-touch deployment," said Toby Davidson, a vice president with SAP's SMB Solutions Group, in a briefing with CRN at Sapphire.

The decision to begin selling SAP Anywhere in China might sound puzzling. But the country's use of the Internet for both B2B and B2C commerce is exploding, Davidson said, including commerce through social media sites like WeChat and mobile devices. "It is growing into the largest market for online commerce," he said.

Another factor is SAP's already close relationship with hosting partner China Telecom, one of the country's three major telecommunications companies with some 100 million broadband subscribers and millions of small-business customers. "SAP is one of the most important partners for us," said Zhuo Han, president of China Telecom (Americas) Corp., at the same briefing.

Han said China Telecom's strategy is to expand beyond carrier services to offer customers applications and other services. SAP and China Telecom struck an alliance in late 2013 under which China Telecom hosts SAP cloud software, such as the SuccessFactors talent management application, and last year the two companies constructed a cloud data center in Shanghai.

SAP Anywhere has been available until now only through an early-adopter initiative, and that will expand to a broader pilot program this summer, said Eric Borrmann, chief of staff of the SAP SMB Solutions Group, in the briefing. The timetable calls for the applications to be available in three Chinese provinces in September, with a rollout to the country's other 28 provinces to follow.

Solution and service providers in China, especially those with expertise in specific commerce and retail market business areas, will be able to support the SAP Anywhere applications -- a model that Davidson said would apply when the product is launched elsewhere around the world. As in China, SAP expects local and regional telecommunications service providers to host the software.

Davidson said there is currently no definite timetable for when SAP Anywhere will be offered outside of China. That will hinge on such factors as customer acceptance in China, he said, and whether early sales meet revenue targets.