Over the last few weeks SAP has run several events for both customers and the analyst community to herald the launch of SAP 360 Customer in an attempt to regain ground in the CRM market and convince everyone that it has sorted out its cloud, mobile and collaboration strategy. One of the main user events was Sapphire NOW in Madrid earlier this month. From reports that I have seen, it seems that customers at that conference were far from convinced – and if customers are not convinced then prospects are likely to be even less convinced.
At the beginning of the year Ventana Research predicated six things would impact how companies procure software: collaboration, mobility, analytics, cloud computing, social media and big data. On the surface, SAP 360 Customer ticks all these boxes, so to some degree I sympathize with the SAP executives who were left baffled by the negative customer reaction. Others providers have got there before SAP, and I suspect that after several false starts by the company, many customers are skeptical that everything will work out this time.
Earlier this year I carried out benchmark research in adoption of the contact center in the cloud where I broke the systems into three groups: communications, business applications and analytics. The results showed companies have adopted more business applications in the cloud than the other two categories. CRM is by far the most advanced business application that has been adopted in the cloud, with the way being led by Salesforce.com. It has convinced the market that the cloud is the only way forward, and Salesforce is now the vendor others have to match up to. Salesforce.com’s Service Cloud has already demonstrated success in CRM, cloud, collaboration, mobility and analytics; others have to run to catch up.
In contrast, the SAP 360 Customer messaging is heavily weighted toward performance and how HANA delivers CRM at the speed of light. HANA allows companies to run CRM in memory, and it thus works extremely fast. While this is important, I don’t find that technology turns business users on. Does it really matter if it takes one or five seconds for users to get a response from their CRM systems? Where accessing customer information quickly becomes critical is during customer interactions. Even though more interactions are being carried out electronically, customers in the main want answers to questions in real time, and the information they need in all probability comes from multiple sources. So fast data access is not just a CRM issue, it is a system-wide issue and an analytics issues, because employees need to know information about customers and the outcome of interactions as soon as possible, so they can raise alerts if further action is needed – for example to prevent negative comments on social media or stop the customer defecting to the competition. As I understand it closer links are planned with SAP’s Business Communication Management systems, which could have a major impact on interaction handling and the customer experience.
SAP says its products deliver a 360-degree view of the customer, something I know from experience companies have long craved, but that my research into customer relationship maturity shows only 31 percent companies have achieved which represents more mature organizations. Here the challenge is the number sources and formats (structured, unstructured, events) companies have for customer data. Unless an application can access, process and analyze all of these then it will fall short.
SAP is making a lot of claims about SAP 360 Customer:
- Improved marketing, sales and service capabilities
- More granular customer segmentation capabilities, supporting marketing, sales and service and allowing improved personalization of responses
- Many capabilities accessible through smart mobile devices supporting both mobile workers and customers
- Better, faster available predictive customer-related analytics
- All in the cloud
If these claims all can be delivered to customers, then they would indeed add up to a major advance in CRM. I feel, like many of the customers in Madrid, that we will have to wait and see how this initiative plays out with customers and prospects. I will be keeping a close eye on developments over the coming months to see how successful SAP will be in providing its customers the critical applications and technology to fulfill on this mission of providing a 360-degree view of a customer.
Richard J. Snow
VP & Research Director