SAP updates line-of-business cloud apps

Keep your core ERP intact and add new apps from the cloud, SAP says

Selling SaaS (software as a service) applications aimed at specific lines of business is one way that SAP has tried to stake a claim in the world of cloud computing and during the Sapphire conference it unveiled a broad series of updates to the portfolio.

For marketing purposes, SAP has oriented the line-of-business applications into four thematic areas: people, customer, money and suppliers. SuccessFactors falls into the first category with its HCM (human capital management) products, with SAP's Cloud for Customer, Cloud for Financials and Ariba fitting in the other categories.

Among the more significant features announced Wednesday was that support for 29 new countries has been added to SuccessFactors Employee Central, for a total of 51. In addition, SuccessFactors' payroll module is now fitted for 22 countries, SAP said.

Meanwhile, Cloud for Financials has also been rolled out in more geographic areas, with support for local taxation and reporting standards available in Austria, Denmark and New Zealand. The application is now available for 14 countries.

The added global reach could help SAP compete more effectively against rival Workday, which has been winning large deals for its own cloud-based HCM and financials software.

SAP also announced a wide range of improvements to its Cloud for Travel application, including the ability for users to take photos of receipts and include them with expense reports and an integration with Traxo that allows them to book flights and hotels.

Through Ariba, SAP offers software for spending management as well as a business network that helps buyers connect with suppliers. New features in the network include a recommendation engine and functionality that allows users to "quickly discover and qualify new sources of supply for one-off, time-sensitive or hard-to-find purchases," according to a statement.

Beyond the particulars of each application's new features, SAP is trying to send its customers a broader message, namely that they can keep running their core ERP (enterprise resource planning) software while quickly and more easily adding narrower applications through the line-of-business portfolio.

SAP also wants to show that it can develop software much faster than in the past, co-CEO Jim Hagemann Snabe said during a keynote address Wednesday.

"In the cloud our innovation cycle is much, much faster," with updates coming usually every 90 days but sometimes as little as 14 days, he said. "More importantly, you get the benefit instantly because we manage the upgrade."

There are now some 29 million users of SAP's line of business applications, although that total reflects the fact that some of the software, particularly SuccessFactors, tends to be licensed for every worker in a company, many of whom may use it rarely.

Snabe was joined onstage by representatives from a number of large customers who have latched onto SAP's line-of-business cloud strategy.

Steel and bearing manufacturer Timken makes major software changes very rarely, said Rob Arbogast director of organizational advancement. But it's now implementing SuccessFactors modules, including talent management, succession planning, core HR and payroll, he said.

Timken will be able to combine that software with its core ERP, which is on-premises, and is also enjoying the rapid rollout of new SuccessFactors features, he added.

"We're going from 30 years of the same system to every three months, something new," he said. "We're very excited."

Sapphire continues through Thursday in Orlando. The company is expected to highlight new developments in its HANA in-memory database on Thursday during a keynote.

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris' email address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com

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