SAP Sales OnDemand: Got It, Got It, Need It?

For an inconceivably long time, I have been a fan of SAP's without being anywhere close to a fan of their on demand a.k.

For an inconceivably long time, I have been a fan of SAP's without being anywhere close to a fan of their on demand a.k.a. SaaS a.k.a. sorta cloud, efforts. In fact, if you remember I ripped Business By Design a new one even as recently as Sapphire 2010 last May.

But, at an invite-only Influencers Day in Boston last week, I saw their Sales OnDemand product, and FINALLY, I can say SAP seems to have really gotten it right.  There are holes, there are caveats, of which I'll opine on in just a few, but this new product built on the Business By Design platform (but it isn't a Business By Design app, which apparently is a different thing), does what it has to do for sales. SAP EVP John Wookey, a long time industry veteran and a really nice person,  said that it was built "from the sales person up not the management down."  I think, dudes and dudesses, this is a genuinely accurate description and one that continues to be welcome, given that most historic CRM SFA applications have been built for sales management, not sales people.

Its funny, John Wookey, when he did time at Oracle, had the same outlook there and it was no coincidence that back in the day, Oracle CRM was the first CRM program to provide features and functions for sales people rather than sales management, like, allowing sales people to create quotes for customers directly from the system.  I still remember that...fondly, given my proletarian-support tendencies.

The Process

This "sales person POV"  allowed SAP to incorporate customers into the product creation process, something that SAP is getting increasingly good at. In fact, they've been incorporating customers directly into product creation for a number of years in a more sophisticated and, to their great credit, more culturally embedded, way than any of their competitors in the market (check out the FREE downloadable digital chapter on culture change of CRM at the Speed of Light, 4th edition or Venkat Ramaswamy's "The Power of Co-Creation for much more detailed discussions on this).  This approach to product co-creation is maybe the primary reason that SAP truly got it in this iteration of an on demand (OD) product.

Customers like Philips and PGi participated in the creation of the product and now are apparently happy users of it if their participation in a customer panel at the Influencers Day is any reflection.

But according to the good Mr. Wookey, it took a lot to get to this how "sales person POV." Because to do that, SAP had to design the product from a very different perspective than in the past. Here's the thinking on the design as best as I can reproduce it.

  1. They had to identify the business problems to be solved. It could be closing a deal, it could be executing a budget. Things like that.
  2. Then they had to identify the stakeholders that would be involved in resolving the business problem, which in the eyes of SAP also included the IT guys.  Which means the ability to customize the product was taken into account seriously.
  3. Then they had to think about the tasks that had to be taken on to solve the business problem.
  4. Then they had to think about the design of the product from all of these standpoints.

To get to this point, they not only brought in the customers who would use the product, such as sales operations people to work with them on the product features etc, but they also adopted a lean, agile approach to development - short cycles, iterative.  Pretty much what most of the companies their size and even considerably smaller are using now. So this is SAP getting on board with the times when it comes to development methodology - not particularly surprising, not particularly exceptional, but welcome.

The design thinking that underlay all of this was interesting to say the least and I'm not 100% certain that I agree with it entirely, though I see its efficacy.

It goes something like this.

Selling is no longer a single sales person's lot, its the lot of a sales team.  So all the work, all the functions of this product are designed to work for a sales team, not the individual sales person. So the product empowers sales teams.  Not marketing teams, not individual sales people.  As Bill Hou, the lead for the product put it "it takes a village to sell now."

I get the "not marketing teams" part of this.  This is clear a collaborative sales product in the same vein that Oracle's so-called Social CRM sales products are.

But there is some either odd contradictory thinking here or lack of clarity in what was presented. I say that for two reasons - neither of which, by the way, denigrate the genuinely good quality of this product.

There is, to me at least, a difference between a sales team (which involves salespeople who are tied to a common opportunity or territory with a common set of goals and a manager of that) and a "village" or sales person's network. The individual sales person who sells strategically, (this is in Bill Hou's own words) "rely on their personal networks."  In fact, collaborative selling relies not just on sales people but others throughout the company who have some useful knowledge that will benefit the sales person in their attempt to successfully close an opportunity. With the advent of products like Chatter and now Sales OnDemand, the ability of the individual salesperson to access and communicate with that personally important network is now an easy thing to do.  What makes it particularly valuable is that the access can be permanent with members of an ongoing formal team or a group of communicating friends or can be ad hoc and created just for purpose of the opportunity. It can be treated as a separate or combined communications aggregation. Meaning that the networks that are available for whatever reason are now accessible.

But while this is "it takes a village" thinking to some extent, its not the same message as "it takes a sales team." That lack of clarity or misdirection needs to be addressed before this product gets too widely spread (it launched yesterday) because Sales OnDemand is a product based on 21st century paradigms, not advanced 20th century ones.

The Plan

Sales OnDemand is just the opening salvo in what seems to be a master plan that involves a substantial On Demand product portfolio that has some interesting and some odd moments.

The odd part is that the portfolio is being clearly distinguished (much to my relief) from the Business ByDesign products. Its the mechanism that they are using to distinguish BBD from the OnDemand products that strikes me as a bit odd.  Here's the way it was explained.

There are products that are "company related" - those would be Business ByDesign.  There are products that are "line of business related" which would include Sales OnDemand and the 2011 arrivals of SAP Sourcing OnDemand, Carbon Impact OnDemand, Travel OnDemand, and Career OnDemand; and then you have products that are "people related" like Business Intelligence OnDemand and Streamwork. Though Streamwork is definitely a "people product", I think it might be a bit of a stretch to say that BIOD is. Business intelligence is not ordinarily in any of the categories here - though a case could be made for "company" I would think.

I have to say while I love SAP for making the attempt, I'm not sure that this doesn't seem a bit all over the map. First, let me preface this by saying that they NEED to distinguish this product and their future products from Business ByDesign, given what I see to be issues. I get their categories - BBD is company wide - though there is a BBD CRM product that is sales focused - which would put it into the Line of Business category in the portfolio, wouldn't it?  The others are specific to varying requirements of varying jobs at the company.  Why they chose for example, Travel, Career and Sourcing and didn't choose, for example, Customer Service, is a bit mysterious but who am I to say what SAP's reasoning is?

But they have a smart target market here - which might be what's determining their choice of future product releases.

Their target market? I'm so glad you asked. It is existing SAP customers who want a sales application/service that is easy to handle and has manageable costs.  The problem with any other strategy - a standalone strategy - would be that SAP is getting such a late start in the SaaS world, even with a product that is as good as this one promises to be. They have a couple of hundred BBD customers for example, where the paradigmatic salesforce.com has 80,000.  So focusing on that which you can focus and still make money and have impact - in this case, existing SAP customers - is a wise move.

A very wise move.

The Product

The product is, to put it simply, very good, especially for an early release. It has all that you would expect of an SFA product that is geared to 21st century selling. With product feature inputs from customers who are going to actually use it, that's no surprise. Traditional functionality i.e. pipeline management, account management, opportunity management, contact management, etc. It has all that you would expect from a social standpoint - activity feeds, collaboration tools,

We did a hands on at the Influencers Day and I have to say that if I had to classify the ease of use I'd say that you absolutely need to be trained but once you're trained you won't forget how to use it.  The guy from Phillips on the customer panel said that his users didn't get any training. Must be working with a team of totally brilliant, intuitive sales guys.  Or something.

This is not an intuitive product, but its not hard to use. Navigation is a little tricky because there are universal activities that are accessed from the individual's profile page where all feeds are aggregated and then context sensitive activities that are of the same sort as the universal ones but are accessed "in context" meaning within the opportunity screen, for example.   However, once you get that, you get that and its a moot point.

The interface, unlike Salescloud 2 with Chatter integration is not Facebook-like, but is very clean and perhaps even more manageable.  Here's a screenshot to give you some idea:

Nice looking and notice the amount of information on this Account page including, location data, leads, opportunities, outstanding orders and associated tags and the mini-window with the profile specific information including the salesperson, with their outstanding accounts, opportunities, some analytics related to their sales success etc.

Or this page for all you left brained sales managers or those aspiring in that direction:

While the analytics provided aren't extensive, they are are useful. For example, if you're looking to find out which of your sales people has been most successful dealing with a particular account over its lifetime with your company, you can dredge this up to the dashboard, find the person based on the statistics extracted in the form of charts, go the person, subscribe to the their feed, filter it according to what you need from them and then contact them either generally through the feed, or more traditionally through email, etc. In other words, the analytics results can be acted on.

In fact, one of the things that makes this product so appealing is the ability to communicate via an individual feed that comes up from a person or group. For example, look at this screenshot:

Note the Reshma Mani feed and the comment from Bill Hou addressing that feed directly. Again, while not a particularly WOW factor thing, this is something that is table-stakes convenience - and that shouldn't be discounted.

Finally, this product makes it easy, as you can see if you look to the right side of this same slide, to find what's going on with and to correspond with teams and followers in a single area.

Given that all the traditional functionality is here, collaborative capabilities of the "it takes a village" kind are here a.k.a. crowdsourcing, this is a great start for a sales product.

There is one or two things that I think would be important to the immediate next iteration or maybe the one after that however, that are clearly missing here and that their competition can already point to.

  1. If you look at the analytics reporting now, its slicing and dicing are aimed at results gleaned from internal transactional data.  Competitive intelligence such as that provided by InsideView is not a part of the configuration at all. It needs to be. The amount of sales intelligence out there on the varying accounts and contacts that are in your corporate sales system is sufficient to make or break an opportunity's success.
  2. While the feeds provide information and point level collaborative conversation, there is no real area for collaboration on presentations or a rankings/ratings engine to allow the collaborators to give a clear indicator of the quality of the presentation or document (say...proposal) to the producers of the documents.
  3. There is a sales document library but it seems to be more accessing for an audit trail/log than for actual proposals, presentations or needed other documents.  I was unclear if this were possible.  If it isn't, it needs to be.

The Pricing

SAP for reasons I'm not sure of, didn't release the pricing, which is a little bit concerning. This lack of information problem is mitigated somewhat by the fact that their initial target marketing is fully aware of what SAP pricing is for at least their on premise products, so its likely to be either no surprise to their existing customer base or even a pleasant surprise. But its when you begin to get outside the target market's pricing awareness, that the speculation isn't a good thing.  First, salesforce.com sets the bar for the pricing - meaning an enterprise edition that is $125.00 per user per month.  Second, Microsoft is on a pricing rampage, with their SFA product, Microsoft Dynamics CRM Pro, which is aimed at the enterprise customer, running as low as $34.95 per user per month.   That sets a different kind of bar that is not ignorable, even if you're used to SAP on premise pricing. So the faster this pricing mystery is solved, the better because they are going to have to justify why its more than Microsoft's even to their own base - if it is.  And if I was a betting man, who believed in gambling, I'd have to bet it is.

The Production (for Influencers)

As always, SAP gets how to handle analysts and influencers. They treat them as human beings, not just analysts and they provide access, they are friendly, they are interesting and even fun, as Josh Greenbaum pointed out Monday in his excellent Information Week piece on the SAP Influencers Day in Boston last week to introduce the product.

I'm never surprised by SAP in that regard though. They kick the butts of all their competitors in their efforts to find and work with influencers both in the scope of what they do and the treatment of the individual human beings who make up the influencers.  Not only do they out-scale all their competitors with a Business Influencers group  and a Bloggers group who find the key influencers in particular fields be they institutional or individual, be they journalists, bloggers, independent analysts or academicians, but they also make the point of individually engaging them and vetting them and knowing them as actual people.  They also maintain the relationships even when there isn't a press release to shove in the face of these folks.

So when they put on influencers/analyst days, they actually think through what to do with it, including just having some down time and fun during the event. Sapphire last year was the best conference I've ever been that was able to pull that off on an unprecedented scale.   So, the hands on playing with the product, with some prizes, a little competition but not an onerous one, etc. made the event genuinely enjoyable. See Josh's post for more on that. I've often said that adulthood doesn't mean we have to stop playing and SAP proved that in fact, playing makes things a whole lot better.

The Prognostication & The Problems

So what do we have here in sum?  Let me put it into a list to make it eminently clear.
  1. This is a very good product and the first SAP OnDemand product (at least in the CRM realm) that I'm comfortable standing behind.  While the product isn't intuitive, once learned it most likely doesn't have to be learned over and over again. Its easy to remember.  It also is founded on collaborative sales and incorporates what it needs to to foster that minus a couple of things like external competitive intelligence and associated reporting.
  2. The base it's targeted at is spot on. The existing SAP customer base is the right opening day target market. I foresee some difficulties when the product gets past the installed base but that's a ways and how well toned the product is at that point will make a difference.
  3. I see it competing with salesforce.com and Oracle CRM on Demand and maybe Microsoft CRM Dynamics Live.  When it comes to sales functionality its toe to toe and because the design thinking is based on accomplishing jobs and solving business problems for sales people, it has a long life of actual use ahead.
  4. I have some serious concerns. I think the pricing needs to be revealed and hopefully, competitive with salesforce.com and Microsoft.  I think the messaging needs a lot of work and a lot more clarity and that has to happen fast. Such as the sales team v. sales person network contradictory messages. Or calling something the "Facebook for the Enterprise" when a. salesforce is already doing that for Chatter and b. it doesn't look like Facebook at all. Finally, I'm perplexed on why there isn't a customer service on demand product in the offing to make this more competitive with the above.  My most serious concern is that since the SAP customer base is finite and at some point they will have to go to a standalone non-SAP-ecosystem target market, will it be far too late - not too little though. Just too late?  I don't know the answer to that.

But all in all, well done, SAP, well done, sirs and ma'ams. Finally.

Posts (Other)

Josh Greenbaum, Information Week - "SAP Plays Games With the Analysts"

Barney Beal, SearchCRM - "SAP Takes Another Shot at CRM on Demand"

Denis Pombriant, Beagle Research - "SAP @CeBit and Sales OnDemand"

Nick Heath, Silicon.com - "SAP Eyes Facebook and Apple for secrets of success."