In a move that could open up new opportunities for both companies, Verizon Wireless and SAP America have inked a deal to deliver SAP's Customer Relationship Management software to smartphone users.
Verizon's cloud offering, Computing as a Service, serves as the backbone of the new mobile offering. SAP will tap the service to make its software available to Verizon smartphone customers. It's another push against Salesforce.com, and could turn heads in the enterprise.
"In general I think that the carrier angle has been underexploited in the enterprise space," said Mary Wardley, vice president of CRM and enterprise applications at IDC. "It is a piece of the puzzle that has existed but hasn't been leveraged effectively."
Tapping Real-Time Information
SAP hinted that this is the first in a series of solutions it will deploy in the cloud through the Verizon deal. As with any mobile CRM application, the idea is to boost the productivity of enterprise sales, marketing and service professionals. SAP didn't offer any insights into the next application it may deliver through the Verizon cloud.
With the partnership, enterprises can also integrate SAP applications with Verizon's Managed Mobility platform by leveraging the Sybase Unwired Platform to mobilize applications. In plain English, that means sales reps can access real-time customer information on mobile devices. The goal is to help customers make smarter decisions by offering anywhere, anytime information. But just offering the technology is no guarantee that SAP will gain traction in the market.
"Some initiatives in offering applications for mobile, and specifically for midmarket, have been explored," Wardley said. "The perception of difficulty and skill required may be a stumbling block. Carriers will need to build enterprise app knowledge and skills to adequately support this audience. Enterprise apps are very different than just turning on electricity."
SAP has been making a major CRM push, specifically targeting Salesforce.com, in recent weeks. Just last week, IBM and SAP announced the first official performance results of the SAP In-Memory Appliance software, known as HANA (short for high-performance analytic appliance). The test results, which were independently audited by Winter, found that HANA can handle 10,000 queries an hour against 1.3 terabytes of data, returning results in seconds.
So far, Salesforce.com hasn't answered back. The company's most recent announcements revolve around scaling with the smart-grid industry and social contact centers. In early March, Salesforce.com unveiled Service Cloud 3. So while SAP is going mobile, Salesforce.com continues getting more social.
Service Cloud 3 lets organizations communicate with customers on Twitter, Facebook and other social networks via Radian6. Companies can also scale operations and manage service issues. The solution offers built-in social analytics so agents can prioritize interactions across any channel and tailor support strategies to meet changing sentiments on the social web.
Who will win the latest round of CRM? SAP with its cloud-based mobile innovations or Salesforce.com with its continued focus on social collaboration? That remains to be seen, but it's a battle that many are watching.