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SAP, Accenture Marry For Finance

In an industry that already puts the two companies in close proximity with the other, SAP and Accenture strengthened their ties with an arrangement to marry their software and consultancy businesses in the financial community.

The question is: will both remain faithful when cheating will seal the deal?

Accenture and SAP are certainly putting a lot of attention to the arrangement, combining 800 people from offices in Spain, Germany and the United States. According to officials, the merged teams will work together -- both virtually and in the same offices -- to improve both the financial software SAP sells and the implementation services Accenture provides.

They're targeting banks and insurance companies, both of which have a vested interest in improving workflow to decrease operational costs. Henning Kagermann, SAP chief executive officer, said the new relationship will "create compelling offerings" to gain a competitive edge.

"By expanding our relationship to jointly serve banking and insurance companies, SAP and Accenture will offer customers unparalleled industry-expertise combined with a broader range of solutions, greater implementation flexibility and lower risk," he said.

Joe Forehand, Accenture chairman and CEO, mirrored those comments, saying: "Through these innovative solutions and services, we continue to help our clients become high-performance businesses."

Officials at Accenture and SAP minimized the idea of signing a deal without the other included, saying the demand in the banking and financial industry is for a pre-packaged solution -- one that includes software and services.

"I think that none of the companies believe in exclusivity as a way to win projects," said Jim Hagemann Snabe, SAP chief operating officer, financial and public sector business solutions group. "At the end of the day, it's a customer choice. (But) if we're good enough together, I'm sure we can show substantial benefits of our collaboration.

"We have proof of concept; both our companies have over 100 installations in banking and insurance companies," he continued. "We have proof of concept in working with the core processes of banks and insurance companies. It's the enablement of bringing applications from SAP and Accenture for the customer, to create a more dynamic and cost-efficient product."

Traditional companies these days are looking to perform system upgrades across the board. This week, an IBM survey showed retail companies -- which also have a heavy amount of customer-facing systems -- are slowly coming out of their shells and purchasing software and solutions that tie together and improve the front-end and the back-end of the corporation.

"There is a very, very large group of banking and insurance companies that are looking to replace older transaction systems and the back-office systems, that's what we're trying to get to," said Dave Hollander, Accenture financial services group partner. "I think we need to be compelling and different from the other platform and services companies that are out there."