SAP releases customer service module for Software as a Service (SaaS) CRM

As vendors begin to realize and adopt the advantanges of Software as a Service, new types of applications are being released. This article outlines which vendors are putting out the new software and how it will affect a customer's business.

SAP AG today released the third module in its CRM On-Demand suite, adding service capabilities to the existing sales force automation (SFA) and marketing tools.

Executives at the Walldorf, Germany-based company voiced skepticism early on about the benefits of on-demand applications, or Software as a Service (SaaS). However, according to analysts, companies like San Francisco's Salesforce.com began installing its own systems in SAP's customer base. SAP responded and first launched an on-demand CRM application with SAP Sales On-Demand in February and followed it up with Marketing On-Demand at its Sapphire user conference in May.

The new capabilities include service ticket management, allowing customer service agents to monitor and comply with service level agreements. With multi-level categorization, agents can determine service levels and distribute service tickets based on priority, status, product and account type.

"It still doesn't have the deep functionality as some of the other -- Software as a Service applications -- out there today, but they're moving in the right direction," said Liz Herbert, analyst with Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research. "One of the key things I liked about this was how SAP did a lot of work incorporating product information. That's somewhat unique and appeals to manufacturing-centric companies which is obviously a strength of SAP's."

A new product support tool allows detailed product information to be uploaded directly from mySAP ERP so sales agents can access product definitions and attributes. A quotation management tool gives sales professionals the ability to assign products to customer quotes, track quotes, manage and price discounts and export quotes to Excel spreadsheets.

SAP executives have said they entered into the Software as a Service market to provide customers with options when deploying SAP CRM applications, either on-premise, on-demand or a hybrid version. The on-demand and on-premise SAP applications share a common code base. SAP CRM On-Demand is aimed at the software vendor's largest customers.

A recent study from Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research found that the total economic impact favors Software as a Service applications in organizations with 100 to 499 employees and up to 100 users. For businesses with 500 to 999 employees and 250 users, on-premise deployments have a greater total economic impact, according to the report.

SAP announced the news at the SaaScon conference being held in San Francisco this week.

Pricing for SAP Service on-demand will start at $75 per user per month. Customers that have Sales on-demand and Marketing on-demand together will receive the enhancements as part of their existing $125 per user per month pay structure. Those customers with one of the modules, Sales or Marketing, will receive the enhancements in this release that apply to their particular modules. For example, a Marketing on-demand customer will receive enhanced campaign management and lead management. That customer would be also able to see the new functionality in the other modules within their browser but would be unable to use it, according to an SAP spokesperson.

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