SAP expands business-intelligence strategy

SAP expands business-intelligence strategy

Co-CEO Apotheker previewed new products and acquisition of sustainability company at event in New York Monday

SAP on Monday unveiled software for business intelligence and analytics, areas that are becoming integral to the strategy of the German enterprise applications company.

SAP plans to unveil the products at its SAPPHIRE show, which kicks off Tuesday in Orlando, said Leo Apotheker, co-CEO of SAP, who discussed the products at a meeting with members of the press in New York Monday.

One product is a business-analytics search tool called SAP BusinessObjects Explorer he likened to an "iTunes" for business analytics, allowing any business user to search and find business analytics information very quickly, he said.

The other application, called Constellation, combines social networking and business intelligence and "helps people work together in a very seamless way," Apotheker said.

He did not give many specifics about the product but said it is a "social application" that "links back into the business suite."

SAP BusinessObjects Explorer is the result of the company's purchase of BusinessObjects in late 2007. The product combines a memory database, a custom-built search engine and a user interface that is similar to the interface of Apple's iTunes software and allows for easy searchability of business-analytics information, he said.

"Even SAP can be cool," Apotheker said, joking about the iTunes comparison, before describing the product. "It enables you to do one very important thing - you can look at any quantity of data - we're talking about terabytes, hundreds of terabytes, and get an answer in less than a second in normal language," he said.

Business intelligence and analytics are becoming an increasingly important part of SAP's overall business, particularly since the purchase of BusinessObjects, Apotheker said. He said that many people still think of SAP as mainly an ERP company, but that ERP "is not our biggest moneymaker" and makes up only a small percentage of SAP's revenue.

"I believe business intelligence is a true game changer, provided you make it accessible to the common human being," he said.

Apotheker's appearance Monday comes as he is about to take over as sole CEO of SAP. His colleague and co-CEO Henning Kagermann, who Apotheker congratulated for his service Monday, is departing his position next week.

In addition to giving a SAPPHIRE preview, Apotheker also spoke on a range of other topics, defending SAP's enterprise-support policy and also commenting on the current economic recession.

Regarding the former, he took a shot at SAP competitor on the subject of its enterprise support policy. CEO Marc Benioff has warned of vendor lock-in with enterprise support and said customers should not pay for it.

"Someone thinks enterprise support shouldn't be paid because it's a lock-in -- that's a bloody joke," Apotheker said. He said that SAP's 86,000 global customers have a choice about whether they want to pay for enterprise support or not.

Apotheker acknowledged that SAP does derive a significant amount of recurring revenue from its support, but said the company has committed to making it a good value for customers.

"There is no other vendor on the planet that has sat down with its users and customers [about support like SAP]," he said. "We will deliver a 30 percent value generation over a period of four years."

On the subject of the challenging economy, Apotheker stressed the importance of business responsibility going forward, and said SAP's business-analytics and applications strategy are aimed at making businesses take more responsibility and to also foster sustainability.

"I believe we are talking about a period and I'm sure it will last for quite a number of years where people want businesses to demonstrate accountability," he said. "At SAP we think that is a good thing and we want to embrace that."

To help support SAP's sustainability strategy, the company on Monday also unveiled the acquisition of a company called Clear Standards, which offers software to help enterprises measure and monetize greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental impacts across their operations and supply chain.

In a press statement, SAP said the acquisition would help it accelerate its ability to meet the carbon-management requirements of organizations to meet increasingly stringent government regulations and to be more transparent about responsible ecological strategies.

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