SAP AG is showing a new package it describes as "Facebook for the enterprise" -- even as it fends off suggestions that it might be up for sale. The new solution, called SAP Sales OnDemand and announced at the CeBIT 2011 trade show currently taking place in Hanover, Germany, could compete with products from Salesforce.com and Microsoft's CRM Online.
The company said Sales OnDemand is designed for sales professionals, so they can more effectively collaborate in teams and more efficiently manage customer information. The key approach is that salespeople can interact with each other, not unlike Facebook friends.
SAP said the package, due for release in the second quarter, is the first in a new category of "people-centric" solutions and the first to be built on Business ByDesign, its new on-demand, cloud-based platform that can be integrated with its Business Suite software, as well as with non-SAP software.
SAP co-Chairman Jim Hagemann Snabe told reporters at CeBIT that the company expects a "substantial" amount of its expected revenue growth will come from ByDesign. The company projects an increase of 10 to 14 percent in software and services sales this year.
ByDesign allows customers to build on their investment in SAP on-site software while utilizing the advantages of software-as-a-service packages. The company has said it expects enterprises to use both cloud- and premise-based software for the next decade or two.
Upcoming applications on ByDesign include expense management and human resources, which will be released later in 2011. Sales OnDemand will also be available for Apple's iPhone and iPad, Research In Motion's BlackBerry, and devices using Google's open-source Android operating system.
SAP executives told news media that Sales OnDemand will not initially have all the capabilities of the company's CRM suite, but will focus on the 20 percent of the functionalities that are used the most.
One of the key selling points of this "people-centric" orientation is social collaboration, as well as salesforce automation. Some observers are suggesting the key impetus is to keep SAP customers from migrating to the socially friendlier Salesforce.com. The company compares Sales OnDemand's user interface to Facebook's, while industry observers are comparing the new product to Salesforce.com's Chatter.
Chatter is a Facebook-like, secure social network that enables collaboration among groups and is available free to Salesforce customers. Users can form a secure community inside a business and share information.
Even as it unveils major new products, SAP is tapping down talk that it's on the verge of selling itself. Snabe said the company is not "having talks with anyone," and noted that the 30 percent increase in its share price in the past 12 months has made it less attractive to potential buyers.