SAP launches long-awaited on-demand CRM

SAP AG made its long-awaited dive into the hosted, subscription CRM (customer relationship management) “on demand” market on Thursday, launching a new software service with a starting monthly price tag of US$75 per user. But SAP won’t be going head-to-head with on-demand trailblazers like Inc.: Its system carries a 100-user minimum, restricting its potential customers to the enterprise clients SAP traditionally targets.

SAP’s service, called SAP CRM on-demand solution, focuses on sales force automation functionality. Basic customer service and marketing tools will be released later in the year. The hosted, Web-based system is aimed at allowing customers to rapidly roll out CRM functionality to new users and departments. English and German versions of the software are now available, with French, Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish and Chinese versions slated to follow within the next three months.

IBM Corp. is SAP’s hosting services provider and will run the service’s data centers, and will also offer its consulting services to SAP’s customers. Although the two companies are close partners, SAP alone will sell the new system. SAP is guaranteeing 99.5 percent uptime, with higher SLAs (service level agreements) available to customers interested in paying for higher-tier services, according to Bob Stutz, SAP’s senior vice president of CRM product and global strategy.

SAP has been eyeing the on-demand software market for years, prompted by the attention and its rivals have attracted by lowering the entry barriers for buyers of CRM systems and other back-office applications.

Traditional ERP (enterprise resource planning) software, SAP’s lucrative strength, involves high upfront licensing costs and complex deployments. Hosted, subscription-priced, remotely managed offerings like’s attract customers looking for quicker and lower-risk options.

SAP’s greatest strength in the crowded market will be its existing customer base.

When Siebel Systems Inc. entered the on-demand market two years ago, it primarily attracted existing Siebel customers who viewed the on-demand offering as a faster way to extend their Siebel deployments to new users and units in their organizations.

Stutz said that SAP, too, expects that many of its customers will come from within the SAP ecosystem.

“The reason most CRM implementations fail today is that people jump into them with both feet,” Stutz said. “They don’t really know what their needs are. This allows you to start and get up and running quickly. It’s a good on-ramp.”

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