Sapphire: SAP bullish as firms sign up to 'Salesforce killer'

Widespread adoption of SAP's Business ByDesign will not occur before 2010, but early adopters of the firm's long-awaited software as a service (SaaS)...

Widespread adoption of SAP's Business ByDesign will not occur before 2010, but early adopters of the firm's long-awaited software as a service (SaaS) offering stuck their heads above the parapet at Sapphire in Orlando.

Business ByDesign was announced as a self-styled Salesforce.com killer by SAP with an ambitious initial target of having 10,000 users by the end of 2010. Since then, those plans have been radically scaled back and the roll-out slowed down significantly. Currently there are only around 80 companies signed up to the initial release, leaving rival SaaS vendors to accuse SAP of not being committed to the cloud computing model.

But Leo Apotheker, SAP CEO, insisted he has enormous faith in the new offering. "Business ByDesign is a great product that we are very proud of," he said. "Business ByDemand is going to the world's first and only complete integrated business suite available on demand. If you don't believe that, take a look at some of the other offerings around."

Among the early adopters at Sapphire was video conferencing firm OneVision Solutions which became a customer late last year after previously being a QuickBooks user. CFO Brent Walters said that cost was a strong driver in making the move to an on demand offering rather than a replacement on premise offering. The on premise option carried implementation costs of $150,000 plus programming and maintenance costs of more than $80 a year; Business By Design came in at $100,000 implementation costs and $45,000 for a 25-user subscription.

The SaaS offering has also enabled the firm to focus on core competencies. "I don't have consultants living in the office or have internal IT people," said Walters. "For me, that's priceless. Our business is to sell video conferencing systems.'

SAP's reputation as an enterprise player with big-ticket implementations has caused some to question its credentials for the traditionally SME-focused SaaS market.

""I was nervous about the massive implementation I remembered from a previous implementation of SAP," said George Bilkey, CEO at TAM Ceramics, which rolled out Business ByDesign after evaluating Microsoft Dynamics Great Plains as an alternative. "But I knew I could trust SAP. We didn't have an IT department, we liked the online aspect of Business ByDesign. To date we have been through 11 successful end of month closes without problems and the users love the system."

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