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SAP: Business Suite 7 Now, SaaS a Little Later

NEW YORK -- At some point, the banking crisis will ease, credit will flow again and the global economy will emerge from recession. When it does, will your company be a winner or a loser?

Enterprise software giant SAP made that pitch to customers today as it rolled out Business Suite 7, a major refresh across its product lines. It includes an enhancement package strategy to ease customers' upgrade headaches and let them "cherry pick" modules for key new applications.

Although built around service oriented architecture (SOA) in order to offer more Web services to customers, the release is also a step toward offering subscription-style, software as a service (SaaS) applications that may help SAP emerge from the recession a winner, too.

The upgrades cover more than 150 product lines, including its ERP, Customer Relationship Management (CRM), supply chain management and product lifecycle management applications.

The release comes on the heels of fairly solid earnings by SAP but coupled with news that it would trim its workforce by 3,000 as tech vendors cope with customers cutting IT spending, especially for software. The economy served as a backdrop for today's event.

SAP co-CEO Leo Apotheker said Business Suite 7 would help customers improve how they collect data in order to detect opportunities faster. The applications in the suite improve efficiency and build more flexibility into customers' systems, which is probably one of the most critical issues facing companies today.

"If you cannot adjust fast enough, that might be the kiss of death," Apotheker said. "We have the best answer to all these challenges with our BI platform and ERP systems."

SAP said its Business Suite 7 release is built on industry best practices and service oriented architecture . The SOA foundation is what helps customers scoop out just the data they need from another data silo across the enterprise, be that finance or engineering.

Connecting to microbloggers

During a press conference here, SAP executives showed off user interface upgrades with dashboard displays pulling data across key platforms and formatted in charts, including a Twitter link and tag cloud piping in real-time "sentiment" from microbloggers connected with the user's network.

The release includes analytics that leverage SAP's Business Objects division, the company SAP acquired in October of 2007 for $6.7 billion

Ed Toben, an executive with consumer brand giant Colgate-Palmolive, said SAP’s "enhancement package strategy" would remove the upgrade barrier for the company and help it drive more innovation in its own processes.

Jim Hagemann Snabe, who leads SAP's business solutions and technology division, said a key feature is that it delivers upgrades to customers without disruption. "This is more relevant than ever before – helping customers through the current crisis."

Bruce Richardson, Chief of Research for AMR Research, said the product refresh gives its customers new modular approaches to CRM and product lifecycle management (PLM), and in many ways, targets best of breed vendors in these key areas. As for launching SaaS products, which SAP executives said would roll out later this year, Richardson told InternetNews.com that SAP really has no choice, given industry trends. "That horse has left the barn."