SAP readies CRM upgrade with verticals focus

SAP AG is readying an upgrade of its customer relationship management (CRM) software that officials said will deliver more industry-specific functions and increased ties to other applications.

SAP plans to release the next version of its mySAP CRM software in June. As part of the upgrade, it will expand the ability of the applications to use Web services technology to take data feeds from both internal and external systems, said Peter Zencke, a member of SAP’s executive board. That will let users draw on more information and better exploit analytical CRM tools to improve their interactions with customers, he said.

The new release will also include built-in business processes specific to 22 vertical industries, Zencke said. For instance, SAP plans to expand its marketing campaign management functions for companies in the consumer packaged goods market.

Seeking a Remedy

Eric Bloom, vice president of IT at Endo Pharmaceuticals Holdings Inc. in Chadds Ford, Pa., uses SAP’s R/3 enterprise resource planning software and said he would like to see SAP roll out a CRM module for the pharmaceuticals industry. The ability to tie together customer data from multiple systems would be a big advantage for Endo, he noted.

Bloom said SAP has been trying to put together such a product, but he added that it’s hard for vendors to create a single set of CRM applications that can meet the needs of companies with different business processes, even within the same industry. Endo currently uses some homegrown CRM tools, Bloom said.

An SAP spokesman said pharmaceuticals is one of the vertical industries that the CRM upgrade will address through functionality such as capabilities for analyzing contested charges and managing drug-sampling procedures.

SAP’s increased vertical-market focus shows that it recognizes there’s no such thing as one-size-fits-all CRM, said Erin Kinikin, an analyst at Giga Information Group Inc. in Cambridge, Mass. Many users have struggled to apply CRM technology to their specific business needs, she said.

MySAP CRM in particular could appeal to R/3 users because of its tight integration with SAP’s back-office applications, Kinikin added.

SAP will make all its CRM functionality accessible to end users with mobile devices for online or off-line processing, Zencke said. Currently, handheld devices are limited to using SAP’s sales force automation tools. The company will also make R/3 and its other business applications handheld-accessible, Zencke said.