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SAP aims to make upgrades easier; Rolls out enhancement packages; Touts analytics

Henning Kagermann, co-CEO of SAP, wants to do away with the upgrade-go-round with its upcoming Business Suite 7.0 with "enhancement packages," small optional updates designed to add functionality to enterprise resource planning applications.
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Written by Larry Dignan on

Henning Kagermann, co-CEO of SAP, wants to do away with the upgrade-go-round with its upcoming Business Suite 7.0 with "enhancement packages," small optional updates designed to add functionality to enterprise resource planning applications.

Enhancement packages are small SOA-enabled packs that can add new functionality to SAP's Business Suite. Kagermann noted that you won't have to upgrade for years to come.

"For 2008 and beyond we are focusing on two things. The lowest possible TCO and enhancement packages," said Kagermann, speaking at SAP's Sapphire conference in Orlando on Tuesday. "No one else has this. You just install it technically as easily as a support package for all products. There will be no upgrades for you in the next years."

Given the potential pain of ERP upgrades, Kagermann's message is likely to resonate with its customers. Kagermann's comments are part of a general theme from SAP executives at Sapphire: The company is looking to become more business friendly by embedding Business Objects analytics throughout its applications. Executives have also talked about using benchmarking data to allow customers to share information and best practices.

If these ideas make it into practice, SAP could make ERP more social. There are still issues with these concepts such as privacy of data, but a socialprise meets ERP message could resonate.

Kagermann also talked up NetWeaver 7.1, which is critical for Business ByDesign to work. NetWeaver is also planning process extensions for collaborative supplier management and collaboration. "Collaboration is the future of corporations," says Kagermann.

SAP on Tuesday announced NetWeaver Business Process Management and NetWeaver Business Rules (statement). This environment will allow for unified modeling, executable process modules and assign tasks via business rules management. These items will help SAP automate Business ByDesign. The latest NetWeaver tools are expected to be available to early adopters in the third quarter with general availability in early 2009.

On top of these collaboration tools, Kagermann noted that the acquisition of Business Objects will allow SAP to package predictive analysis, explorative search and other tools to get insight on all the data running around inside an enterprise.

So how would this analysis work in practice? On Monday, Jim Hagemann Snabe, who serves on SAP's corporate board and is responsible for SAP's Business Suite and NetWeaver technology platform, said SAP is building benchmarks to surface where a company stands in their industry compared to the average.

This dashboard would say something like "your processes are 10 percent below average." The data isn't perfect, but it would provide an interesting wake-up call. The idea would be that SAP customers would be able to share best practices and compare performance across industries, said Snabe. The challenges: Benchmarking is too manual, the data today is used mostly for sales pitches and privacy.

For now, SAP is looking to make its software more user friendly and business intelligence powered. In a demo, SAP noted that it will allow users to reskin the application, but customers can stick with the previous interface. "We know ugly," said an executive running the demo on stage with Kagermann.

Here's a look at some of the user interfaces SAP has today and will roll out into other products.

An example of embedded analytics:

And a look at SAP's more Web-friendly skin:

And a drill down on key performance indicators (KPIs):

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