More proof that SAP is serious about making a break from its on-premise past, and in the process challenge on-demand titan Salesforce.com, came last week in the form of a preview look at SAP Sales On-demand.
The preview, granted to a group of industry analysts in Boston, proved that SAP isn't afraid to be innovative in ways that could threaten the very on-premise enterprise software edifice that SAP itself has helped create over the last 20 years. And it showcased the latest in a growing portfolio of on-demand applications that, at a minimum, gives SAP serious credentials as an on-demand player-to-be.
The preview gave a clear view of a collaborative CRM application that represents a serious break from how SAP, and most of the industry, view CRM. While the goals of the current product are relatively modest by the overarching breadth of the CRM acronym -- Sales OD is targeted at enabling the sales team, and does not include marketing or other adjunct functionality -- the result is a solid first salvo over the bow of the current on-demand champion, Salesforce.com, and the main contender, Microsoft's Dynamics CRM.
The key component that makes Sales OD stand out is its implicit support of sales team collaboration. As I wrote here, SAP had the analysts play, literally, with Sales OD in order to give us a sense of how it works. It was clear from the game that Sales OD was designed from the get-go to be a collaborative sales tool, as opposed to having collaborative features glommed on as part of an enhancement release. This collaboration is enhanced by support for content access, analytics, and other key features that round out a pretty good-looking CRM tool.
But what is under the hood is perhaps even more significant, insofar as it gives us a glimpse into a broad-based SAP strategy that will give Sales OD users and partners access to a large portfolio of functionality that will truly challenge Salesforce, and provide a potent rivalry to Microsoft's plans for Dynamics and its Azure on-demand platform.
The secret sauce for Sales OD comes in the form of an even tighter connection to SAP's Business ByDesign than had been previously intimated. ByD has become not only the platform for Sales OD and SAP's other present and future on-demand applications, but the functionality in ByD -- all the non-CRM, ERP stuff that ByD is designed to do -- will be made available via a forthcoming software development environment that is similar to the SDK SAP released last year.