SAP drops call center software deal with Clarify

Computerworld |  Software

SAP AG today disclosed that it has pulled out of a year-old agreement under which it was reselling call center software developed by Nortel Networks Corp.'s Clarify division.

The Clarify software had been offered as part of the customer relationship management (CRM) suite within SAP's MySAP.com product line. But now, SAP officials said, the German business applications vendor plans to revert to relying on call center technology that it developed internally.

SAP blamed significant "executive management changes" at Clarify for the breakdown of the partnership between the two companies. Nortel, as a whole, is struggling to cope with IT spending cutbacks prompted by the softening economy; last week, the Brampton, Ontario-based company reported a $2.58 billion first-quarter loss and increased the number of workers it's laying off to 20,000.

William Wohl, a spokesman for SAP America Inc. in Newtown Square, Pa., also said that as executives at the software vendor spoke with users about their call center needs, "the more we understood that what we were offering together [with Clarify] wasn't going to offer much to the market."

With Clarify out of the picture, Wohl said, SAP will turn its attention back to homegrown call center software that was originally released for beta testing in late 1999. SAP had shunted its own product aside last spring when it signed the agreement to resell Clarify's more established set of applications. Now, SAP said it plans to ship expanded "interaction center" functionality by year's end.

The deal with Clarify was one of SAP's first forays into reselling software developed elsewhere, and it won praise from analysts as a welcome recognition on SAP's part that it couldn't continue building everything itself as it targeted a wider number of application categories. Just a month later, SAP announced a similar teaming arrangement with business-to-business software vendor Commerce One Inc. in Pleasanton, Calif.

The latter agreement remains intact, and SAP and Commerce One today announced the joint launch of two new software releases supporting collaborative procurement and online marketplaces. The rollout and the ending of the Clarify deal were both detailed as part of Sapphire Lisbon 2001, the European version of SAP's user conference taking place this week in Portugal.

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