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Are SAP's Cloud applications right for your business? (Part 2)

How is SAP taking on the cloud CRM market? By doing one better than Salesforce.

In this three part series, Soltius Cloud Line Manager Shay Lambert will take a look at SAP’s Software as a Service (SaaS) portfolio and discuss where the product set fits, for both current SAP customers and non-customers evaluating cloud options.

For almost a decade, Salesforce has undoubtedly been the big dog on the block in the cloud CRM market. They have been hugely effective at positioning themselves as the default provider for cloud-based sales automation systems. In fact, Salesforce have been so effective in selling that it’s not unusual these days for different departments within the sales divisions of larger enterprises to have each bought their own Salesforce solutions. As you can imagine, this is a nightmare scenario for a CIO, who discovers the organisation has multiple Salesforce contracts negotiated independently and with no integration of crucial sales data with the wider IT landscape. The sales team may not be too concerned about how their cloud application and the company’s on-premise ERP are integrated, but you can be sure it will give the IT department a few sleepless nights.

This scenario has occurred because the SaaS model is particularly well-suited to CRM requirements, with sales and service departments needing flexible – and above all, easy to use – systems that can be deployed quickly. SAP has taken notice, releasing their own SaaS application, SAP Cloud for Customer. While they continue to offer their traditional on-premise CRM, SAP launched their cloud equivalent two years ago with little fanfare. After a slow start, we have seen a huge amount of investment from SAP in recent times and they have accelerated the development of the new cloud offering, which is quickly maturing to meet more complex sales and service requirements.

The past few quarterly upgrades have seen significant enhancements and new functionality to enable Cloud for Customer to deal with a much wider range of sales and service scenarios - for example the upcoming upgrade included advanced features for field service and repair. And with offline capabilities available for an increasing number of transactions in their out-of-the-box mobile applications, SAP is delivering a genuine “mobile first” CRM solution. Industry solutions are also being rolled out – so far that has included: customer service and call centre functionality targeting the specific requirements of the utilities industry; retail-focused features to enhance the in-store experience of customers; and even a student recruitment solution for universities and other tertiary education institutes.

This functional depth and breadth is clearly aimed at delivering a viable standalone, vendor agnostic CRM. However, the biggest advantage of Cloud for Customer is enjoyed by enterprises that do run on SAP. Apart from the benefit of having one less vendor to deal with, SAP has gone to great lengths to eliminate one of the biggest bug bears for customers wanting to bring a cloud CRM into their landscape – integration with core SAP systems.

SAP’s integration strategy is based on their own middleware. Options for this middleware are either the long utilised SAP Process Orchestration product (formerly known as SAP PI) or the newer HANA Cloud Integration technology. The latter option includes pre-packaged integrations (called iFlows) for SAP-to-SAP scenarios and open APIs with public SOAP web services for third party applications.

With these tools and packages, which are also continually being extended and added to with each quarterly release, SAP is aiming to eliminate the risk of integration and provide a seamless experience between on premise and cloud. To learn how important this is, just ask any CIO who has run a project to integrate Salesforce with SAP.

To discuss any of this in more detail or if you have any questions, please email Shay Lambert at shay.lambert@soltius.co.nz or call him on 0275007660.

Coming up in part three of this series, we take a focus on SuccessFactors - the SAP HR solution for non-SAP customers.

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