SAP says what unites and differentiates SAP 360 Customer is the performance of Hana, which will power real-time transactions and interactions as well as provide insights into customer needs, preferences and behavior (through the Discover and Targeting, and Account Intelligence apps). In a customer loyalty interaction, for example, many companies update loyalty points once a month because it's a slow, back-end processing application.
"We've changed that and made it real time, so the customer is on a Hana-powered retail app, the points are on their phone the instant they buy and they're also connected to the store inventory available at that moment," Sinha explains. "I don't think Salesforce.com has anything close to this power, and I don't think they will get there within the next five years."
[ Want more on SAP's evolved cloud computing strategy? Read SAP's Ugly (ByDesign) Baby Gets Prettier. ]
With the release of SAP Financials OnDemand the vendor is delivering accounting, general ledger, financial accounting and management, and project management in a separate, cloud-based package. The service is based on functionality already in use in the vendor's cloud-based SAP Business ByDesign suite. But unlike ByDesign, which is intended to be all-inclusive, Financials OnDemand is described as open and extensible, with options to "plug in" myriad third-party applications and financial data sources.
"Customers can plug in Sales OnDemand, Employee Central, and Payroll from us, or they can use third-party apps because all of the financial processes we've designed have open plug-ins," Chris Horak, Global VP of product marketing for SAP's cloud business unit, told InformationWeek.
Financials OnDemand also runs on Hana, and the in-memory database is once again said to be a differentiator. "We're not just talking about [historical] analytics, we're getting real-time income statements, profitability statements, business-unit analyses and general ledgers out to everybody with costs allocated so you can really see what's going on in your business," said Horak.
SAP envisions two types of customers for the cloud-based service. Midmarket firms will choose it as a replacement for aging and fragmented on-premises financial management components from disparate accounting and ERP applications. Larger enterprises are unlikely to replace core ERP financials components they've invested in, but SAP says the will use Financials OnDemand to consolidate fragmented systems in use across many smaller units. They might also use the service where mergers and acquisitions require better tools for financial management.
Competitors to the service include Workday and NetSuite. Workday combines human capital management and financials in the cloud, a combination SAP can now deliver with the combination of Financials OnDemand and SuccessFactors. NetSuite has a complete applications suite in the cloud akin to SAP's Business ByDesign, but it has customers who focus on its financial management applications. Salesforce.com has AppExchange partners including FinancialForce.com, of which it is a minority owner, as well as Accounting Seed and other vendors that have apps integrated with Force.coms.
SAP plans to add performance management functionality to Finance OnDemand, said Horak, a move that would cut into cloud applications from the likes of Adaptive Planning, Host Analytics, Tidemark and Anaplan.