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sme.sap.com: be impressed

Regular readers will know I have great hopes for SAP Business ByDesign as a service, even if I am less than convinced about executive commitment. At the end of last week, a SAPper contacted me to ask if I want to check out sme.
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Written by Dennis Howlett, Contributor on

Regular readers will know I have great hopes for SAP Business ByDesign as a service, even if I am less than convinced about executive commitment. At the end of last week, a SAPper contacted me to ask if I want to check out sme.sap.com. Normally I would give this kind of thing a pass. Who cares about a vendor website fer crissakes? Right now, this is SAP's main go-to-market platform for ByDesign so I wanted to see what's under the covers and whether it is enough to get anyone interested in what it is offering. Bear in mind my prejudices but I give this one a qualified thumbs up.

Registration to the site is straightforward BUT you must be prepared to give them the digital equivalent of your inside leg measurement. I know many will poo-poo this but if you have more than a passing interest then you'll go through the 5 minute pain. The system asks you to create a password but then in email sends you another. Duh? SAP - fix that. It's dumb.

The interim password HAS to be entered very carefully as the system seems sensitive to the number of keystrokes it detects. I ended up calling customer support who were very helpful and got me past the entry gate. Message to SAP: just get rid of this nonsense. It adds an extra step, it is easy to mess up and wastes time.

Once in, the site offers almost everything a prospective buyer might need. Case studies are context sensitive and there are plenty of those in PDF format, the cost calculator gives you plenty of signposts for your general business type and the module explanations are sufficiently detailed without overwhelming you.

Many SAP watchers have been leery about the pricing, wondering how much they'd try gouge for extras. The answer? Surprisingly little. $149 per month for a minimum of 25 users remains for the suite style of your choice. 'Efficiency' users are quoted at $54 a month. For that extra $54, they get access to a portal with HR style self service functions, address book and the like. (see image below)

What seems to be missing is the ability to include user generated content such as company wiki, RSS and blogs of the kind you might find on an intranet replacement like Thoughtfarmer although it does include the all important learning center. If SAP takes that extra step, this would have a much better chance of full company wide adoption. It would also make the $54 a month seem much more worthwhile. At the moment, that's at least $20 over priced. Amendment: $54 per month is per block of 5 users. (see comments) However, before running away to buy into the solution there are a couple of things you should know.

You will need professional services. SAP outlines what these might look like but it's a cost you need to factor and which is not something that can be done with a digital wave of the hand. Second, you'll need a payroll solution. SAP offers a partnership with ADP but the exact service level you get and the price you pay depends on the country in which you operate. You may need or want other customizing solutions but on the evidence I have seen, I would avoid this where possible.

Don't be fooled by the 'average' cost per user. It is just that - an average - which seems to bring the overall price down. Remember the exact average depends entirely on your company's use case profile. In my example of 25+30 for a services business, the number comes in at $73.62 per month but overall at $4,049 per month. If your business needs warehouse and manufacturing management then the cost goes up again.

Commenters among my colleagues have been under the impression that SAP has pretty much taken its foot off the ByDesign sales gas. That is not quite true. A SAP representative emailed me a couple of days later offering more information, a 'try before I buy'  setup and offering me a Webex demo. I may well take them up on that to see how SAP manages this part of the process.

What else could SAP do? It has plenty of forums experience and I would like to see a public forum where potential users can drop questions. It's an efficient method of communications that works very well. I'm sure it wouldn't take much to twist Jive Software's arm on this functionality. It could also provide links to the ByDesign sections on the SAP Community Network.

So what's the verdict? This is not your mother's SAP go-to-market. It is a much more muted, less in your face approach. There is enough information to get me interested but I want more. I want to feel as though SAP cares and that's why I want the community style features I mention. While case studies are great, I want to see an independent view. Where are the analyst reports? (Disclosure: Brian Sommer and I have evaluated the offering in some detail.)

It is enough to at least get me to the demo stage and if it does that for such a complex offering, then it's a big win.

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