Portal product revitalizes SAP

SAP AG last week took a big step toward winning back customers looking to third-party developers to fill holes in SAP's Web application offerings.At its Sapphire user conference here, SAP demonstrated my SAP.

SAP AG last week took a big step toward winning back customers looking to third-party developers to fill holes in SAP's Web application offerings.

At its Sapphire user conference here, SAP demonstrated my SAP.com, a portal suite that will be available next week. The portal includes Workplace, an application that allows users to access SAP and non-SAP software via the Web, and Marketplace, a business-to-business trading platform.

SAP also plans to complete its suite of customer relationship management software and introduce new supply chain offerings by the end of the year. Each application will tie into the mySAP. com portal.

Many customers, while not yet ready to fully commit to SAP's Web strategy, say the ERP (enterprise resource planning) vendor has at least worked its way back onto their radar screens.

Larry Randolph, manager of distribution systems at heating and cooling system maker Lennox International Inc., in Richardson, Texas, said his company may rethink its current APO (advanced planning and optimization) installation.

"We're looking at replacing Manugistics [Inc.'s software] with SAP APO," Randolph said. "SAP might have what we're looking for."

He said that SAP's real-time planning capability is a key feature that could sway his decision.

mySAP.com will accommodate access to third-party applications, which could ease many IT administrators' enterprise application integration headaches. Some customers have bought into SAP's integration message in considering SAP's new offerings.

"We'd like to stick with one system from SAP," said Stephen O'Connell, manager of ERP at Pratt & Whitney, the aerospace manufacturer, in East Hartford, Conn.

That desire plays into SAP's plans. Although SAP is opening its system to third parties, CEO Hasso Plattner said in a keynote speech to Sapphire attendees that the company wants to "own the desktop" and be the single point of access for all users. In an interview, Plattner told PC Week that SAP's goal is to bring all of its customers' applications under a single interface via mySAP.com.

If nothing else, SAP, of Walldorf, Germany, has become more aggressive in marketing its Internet presence. In his speech, Plattner had a strong response to competitors' comments that SAP had lagged in its Internet development.

"[Oracle Corp. CEO] Larry Ellison said SAP is due for a nuclear winter," Plattner said. "But he had better be ready for some nuclear fallout from us."

The key for SAP now is delivering on its promises. George Coll, vice president of enterprise business solutions at CompUSA Inc., in Dallas, said SAP needs to follow up on its mySAP.com momentum with solid applications and fulfilled promises regarding release dates.

"We're looking at [mySAP.com] hard," Coll said, "as long as they keep moving fast."

New apps for mySAP.com

Workplace Allows for access to SAP and third-party applicationsSept. 30
Marketplace Offers open trading platform Sept. 30
B2B procurement Offers Web-based buying andselling toolsEnd of year
Supply chain suite Offers real-time planning and collaborationEnd of year
CRM Customer relationship management End of year