The Titans Begin To Square Off: SAP Versus Oracle Versus (Maybe)


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About a year ago, I made my predictions for 2007 in a blog entry that was based on some of my typically seemingly arbitrary but not too bad thinking at the end of the year – meaning I’m was really tired when I wrote the predictions/forecast. I said:

“Social networking and other forms of 2.0 driven applications and services will be integrated with CRM and enterprise applications. But not as I originally thought – through building or acquiring the companies that make the assets. Instead we’ll see partnerships and OEM relationships etc. between the social networking companies and particularly, the on demand vendors to integrate the functionality of social networking and user collaboration, especially with CRM vendors. The on demand vendors like & NetSuite in particular are best positioned to do this but I also see SAP being savvy enough to do this kind of collaboration, though if any one company would build their own, it would be SAP. This may portend something of a revival for Lotus Notes as a collaboration platform and toolset. Though maybe not. That’s going to be up to IBM – who have good people at the Lotus helm, but have been terrible about their marketing and positioning of Notes. We all might be surprised – and not unhappily.”

But if I were to be reading that at the end of October this year, I’d be sweating now. I’d be thinking. Was I hallucinating about how important I made this? Had I had more than a glass of single malt scotch? After all I gave it a 9/10 probability of this happening. (PG-the-Analyst Note: My criteria for the percentage of probability here are completely arbitrary. They reflect only my level of firmness of conviction – and….and….and….well, my OTHER level of firmess of conviction). I mean, the only company that seemed to be thinking about these kinds of features was and frankly, they always are doing stuff like that.

But, damn if Oracle Openworld didn’t seem to open a floodgate. I spoke to what I thought of their Web 2.0 push here. But what followed was as interesting and exciting as OpenWorld was.

SAP found religion.

Yes, brothers and sisters, SAP, that Titan, That Olympian company, found religion – not the thumpin’, screamin’ reach deep into your pockets form of Sunday’s worst evangelism, but a more sedate but deeply “spiritual” form of CRM-ish love. They actually decided that, based on the customer feedback they had been getting and, I have to presume, the fairly relentless pounding that they got from analysts (even me, who’s been a fan of theirs much of the time) about how UGLY and how NOT-USEFUL their CRM application was – what an afterthought it seemed to be and the criticism that their “Hybrid” CRM app (both on demand and on premise) was more mutant than hybrid, they saw the light and hallelujah, they did something about it and announced that something at Business Influencers Annual shindig they held this year in Boston.

Behold SAP CRM 2007.

There are several features that are outstanding – potential game changers for SAP.

First and foremost, the user interface has gone from horrible to outright cool and easy to use. Not only did they do a deep dive and AJAX and CSS enable everything so that anyone can personalize the screen elements (meaning you can move around the elements to where you want them – so if you want dashboards – also customizable, BTW – on the upper left of the screen – so be it. On the lower right – voila!!) but they made the new interface skinnable!! Imagine that. Skinnable. That means that you can have a Lego Starwars skin on your screen as the look and feel of your CRM interface – actually, I don’t know how personalizable the skins are – is there a mod kit that allows you to develop the skins? But the step toward allowing that level of look and feel and elemental personalization is commendable and important – since style does matter as well as functionality. Even more, the interface and screens are highly amenable to all those 2.0 things we know and love including widgets and RSS fees.

Ain’t the look of life grand?

In addition, there is a mobile CRM edition that is going to be appearing soon and that is good for both RIM and the iPhone. Imagine, NetSuite (going public this month) and SAP are the two companies first market with major iPhone versions (though EDGE is EDGE and I hope SAP took the EDGE incredible slowness into account when they figured out how they would do the iPhone CRM version).

They are adding a real time offer management module that will make recommendations based on multiple internal and external customer information – which means that the ability to personalize offers to customers becomes both instantaneous (in theory, since I haven’t seen any of this in either a lab or production environment – I’m going on what has been released and what colleagues of mine at the Boston event – which I was invited to but couldn’t go to – told me.

I was invited. Really. C’mon SAP tell them I was invited. Please…. I’m important, right? Right? Hello. Anyone there? I know you’re there but just not answering….

In any case, there is so much more around trade promotion and service parts management, and improved SOA performance via NetWeaver. But these new features are mission-critical because SAP customers are getting what they want and what contemporary customers are demanding these days. Even the old school companies are becoming new school and next year the battle between SAP, Oracle and for now, looks to be as Olympian as what’s going to take place in Beijing. Because all of a sudden Oracle and SAP seem to be getting it – and with that kind of muscle – look out.


Technorati : Oracle, SAP,

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Paul Greenberg
The 56 Group, LLC
Paul Greenberg, the president of the 56 Group, LLC, is the author of the best-selling CRM at the Speed of Light: Essential Customer Strategies for the 21st Century, 3rd edition. Greenberg is co-chairman of Rutgers University's CRM Research Center and executive vice president of the CRM Association. His blog PGreenblog won both of the only two awards ever given to CRM blogs.


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