SAP drops call center software deal with Clarify

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 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.

At Sapphire, SAP also said its SAPMarkets business-to-business unit plans to start catering to private exchanges owned by a single company, as opposed to focusing solely on public marketplaces. The new private exchange strategy will be built around the MarketSet 2.0 software that was announced jointly with Commerce Onee, SAP added.

Open business-to-business marketplaces set up by groups of competitors in a vertical industry have received most of the publicity thus far, but many companies are instead opting for less complex private exchanges that connect them to a limited number of key suppliers. Jupiter Media Metrix, a New York-based market research firm, today released a report predicting that IT infrastructure spending for private trading networks will grow three times faster on an annual basis than public marketplace technology investments do through 2003.

Despite the continued collaboration between SAP and Commerce One, Wohl said during a teleconference related to the Sapphire conference that there are no plans for a merger between the two companies. "We both come at the market with a unique position," said Wohl when asked about continued rumors that SAP may buy Commerce One. "Bringing the two together doesn't add anything."

In other announcements at Sapphire, SAP:

  • unveiled plans for R/3 Enterprise, a new version of the company's flagship enterprise resource planning software. The upgrade is scheduled for availability by mid-2002 and will be built on top of the Internet-enabled technology, SAP said.
  • detailed a new release of its CRM software, saying the upgrade provides users with easier access to a complete view of data about the buying activities of customers. Among other new features, the mySAP CRM suite also adds support for data mining applications involving both internal and external information plus capabilities for communicating with customers through online chat and e-mail channels.

This story, "SAP drops call center software deal with Clarify" was originally published by Computerworld.

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