News Analysis

SAP CEO bangs the drum on collaborative infrastructures

About 50% of Procter & Gamble's products are developed by outside partners.SAP co-CEO Leo Apotheker used this illustration to highlight the importance of collaborative IT infrastructures in modern business at SAP TechEd in Berlin this month.

Most IT suppliers have realised the importance of fostering closer ties with customers and partners if their business is to survive and prosper.

SAP itself has recently announced enhancements to its Business ByDesignoffering, which is delivered exclusively by outside partners.

But its launch of EcoHub, a website designed to enable SAP customers to find, evaluate and initiate the purchase of SAP-based applications developed by certified partners, has caught a few envious glances.

The idea is to benefit SAP users by helping them find the most appropriate applications to meet their business needs and to help extend the value of their existing SAP implementations.

Customers can search by industry or category of applicationand can evaluate products through user feedback, customer ratings and demonstrations.

Warren Wilson, principal analyst at Ovum, says although SAP still has some work to do, EcoHub's richness of its user interaction goes beyond traditional product and services catalogues.

"It also goes beyond what Salesforce.com or any other suppliers have for interacting with customers and partners."

EcoHub offers clear benefits to SAP by deepening the firm's relationship with its partners and providing an online marketplace for their products.

The response from SAPs partners has also been positive,says Jochem Hager, director of SAP business development at software house170 Systems.

But users at TechEd were at least partly sceptical. They questioned how objective and free feedback on products would be.

Wilson saysEcoHub is a smart strategy over the longer term. SAP has recognised that customer and partner loyalty is of great value strategically. EcoHub is aimed at cultivating that, he says.

Its launch has been fortuitously timed,with IT managers battling budget constraints in light of the recent financial turmoil.

SAP appears firmly committed to a customer and partner-centric approach to business, which although aimed at sustaining business in the long term, should bring real benefits to end-users.


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