SAP Lightens The Load

'We have to start the cleanup process,' says Hasso Plattner, co-chairman and CEO.

How often does a software vendor offer more by promising less? In this case, it's SAP AG promising, with user help, to pare as much as 50% of the unused (and unappreciated) features from its R/3 Enterprise application suite. At SAP's June Sapphire '02 user conference in Orlando, Plattner estimated that "as much as 50% of the features could be dropped, and nobody would notice." With future updates dedicated to removing outdated, unneeded features, SAP intends customers to gain new ease of use, simplified installation and reduced management complexity. Overall, customers will experience strategic gains in software performance along with a lower total cost of ownership, adds Plattner. Also announced: a new breed of applications that can connect multiple applications from any vendor, even across company boundaries. Labeled cross applications (xApps), they enable integration beyond pure technology interfaces. The idea is to enable customers to drive change and innovation through their value chain by leveraging existing investments in IT, business relationships and employees, SAP says. Cross functional in nature, xApps are intended for the automation of processes such as real-time collaboration and data-sharing between companies. SAP's executive board member Shai Agassi says "the true solution for the integration challenge has outgrown the technology stack and entered the applications space." Industry analyst AMR Research Inc., Boston, says the approach is "long overdue." The first xApp, Resource and Program Management, is scheduled to start shipping in the fourth quarter. At Sapphire, Accenture, an SAP business partner, exhibited a prototype of xApps built on top of mySAP technology. SAP also announced the availability of an expanded portfolio of business solutions for small and midsize businesses. Two versions are available -- SAP Business One for less complex business processes and mySAP All-in-One for more demanding needs. SAP is tailoring solutions for the specific needs of small and midsize businesses in 11 vertical industries in the U.S. market. SAP also reinforced the vision of the adaptive supply chain network originally announced at last year's conference. One demo applied agent and RFID technology to the supply chain needs of consumer packaged goods and retail companies. SAP's idea is to capture occurrences across the entire network in real time. Adaptive agents are small software packages that analyze the information being collected via RFID for proper distribution across the planning and execution network. The electronic tags of RFID technology offer unique identification benefits, the company says.

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