The ERP company's emphasis on portals and private exchanges is intended to push ERP outwards from the enterprise into collaboration with business partners. It is intended to enable responsiveness and visibility in the supply chain.
At SAP's Sapphire 2001 event last week, SAP's CEO Hasso Plattner said, "It is the first time in business that systems have the opportunity for collaborative working across enterprises - and portal technology is the prerequisite for this."
In SAP's vision, portal technology will enable sales and buying staff to process and track orders as well as access production and customer information.
But analyst opinion about SAP's ability to deliver varied from cautious optimism about whether the software adequately models business practices to scepticism over performance issues.
Simon Pollard, an analyst with AMR Research, said, "SAP is arguably the BMW of this market space. Its strategy of extending the enterprise from an internal to external outlook is right but is 12 to 18 months late.
"I am convinced that SAP can stay ahead of its customers' ability to implement, but is the product fully ready?"
"I think it is still a work in progress because external collaboration requires a fundamental re-architecture of traditional applications. The large numbers of documents currently used for business need to be rewritten so that we have a common 'commerce object' within which we are profiled as buyers or sellers."
Simon Bragg, an analyst with ARC Consulting, said, "SAP is trusted by its larger customers and the portals and marketplace focus is one that is aimed at selling licences to its top customers.
"It gets its big customers to sponsor the development of products, but this means that when they hit general availability they don't quite have the appropriate functionality required for other industries and sectors."
SAP announcements at Sapphire 2001
- Enhancements to mySAP Supply Chain Management Event management functions will allow monitoring and response to events and processes across the network and a private exchange solution will allow collaboration between partners
- SAP Solution Architect A single customer portal will allow evaluation and implementation of mySAP-based solutions
- MySAP CRM A new release includes a greater range of customer data mining and communications media including Web chat and call-me-back features
- R/3 Enterprise R/3 on the mySAP platform will enable incremental extension to mySAP solutions.