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Article - What it is, What It Delivers, How to Get Started...

by Peter Graf | SAPinsider

June 1, 2000

by Peter Graf, Vice President of Marketing, SAPMarkets SAPinsider - 2000 (Volume 1), June (Issue 1)
Peter Graf, Vice President of Marketing, SAPMarkets, talks about, what differentiates SAP's e-commerce offerings from others, and how to get started.

Q. Lots of companies claim to offer e-commerce solutions. What differentiates's offerings from the rest of the pack?

In short, our unrivaled experience in the area of business processes. In the past, business processes were run within one organization. In today's highly competitive Internet era, business processes must cross corporate boundaries. Take something as simple as buying and selling products on the Web. Imagine orders being automatically generated from a user's choice of catalog selections made available through Marketplace. A Purchase Order is created on the buyer's system and at the same time a Sales Order is created on the seller's system. Thanks to our unique understanding of the buyer's and seller's purchasing and order fulfillment systems (whether they both happen to be SAP systems or not), we can enable both companies to treat the transaction as a single business process - which, in fact, it is. This way, you avoid double, triple, and sometimes even quadruple entry of the same data into multiple systems - a situation that is not only inefficient, but also error prone. Moreover, buyer and seller know instantly whether an order can be filled. Since generation of sales orders, invoices, pick-lists, and even shipping documents is all automatic, the cost of the transaction goes down while the speed with which it's enacted goes way up - two essential business requirements in an e-commerce age, where profitability often hinges on very tight margins.

     Of course, online commerce and the kinds of tactical benefits I've just described are just the tip of the iceberg. The real strategic benefit lies in heightened innovation, responsiveness, and efficiency up and down an organization's value chain. "Value" is now derived from the sum total of the entire multi-enterprise network, not just from a single provider! The more tightly aligned a company's business processes are with those of its suppliers, distributors, and customers, the better. You realize lower merchandise costs, faster delivery times, streamlined inventory processes, improved customer satisfaction, and better data for more accurate, timely forecasting and decision-making. Ultimately, will enable you to integrate so closely with your business partners, suppliers, distributors, and customers that all these entities will work together as if they were one company!

Q. What, exactly, does "" stand for?

The "my" implies highly personalized interfaces and solutions. "SAP" stands for business integration, industry experience, and value creation. The ".com" says, in no uncertain terms, that this is an Internet solution, one that will drive new types of synchronized business processes. Put it all together and it's an equation for the delivery of collaborative business processes that can span enterprise boundaries. I just described one simple, collaborative purchasing scenario. Now picture collaborative forecasting or engineering activities being performed by two companies that leverage software services made available through an electronic marketplace. Better still, imagine that that software is integrated with both companies' backend systems. In each case, collaborative business processes enhance service while offering new opportunities, lower costs, and real-time satisfaction for all concerned. delivers these benefits through four key components:

  • Marketplaces

  • Workplaces

  • Business Scenarios

  • Application Hosting (Note: see Figure 1 for more detail on each.)

Q. Would it be fair to say that the scope of the initiative is well beyond the capabilities of any one vendor, even SAP?

Absolutely. In fact, that's the whole point! is an initiative that draws upon the talent and resources of thousands of companies. The Marketplace, with its online business directory, is drawing business partners from all over the globe. It's here that buyers and sellers register their profiles, locate business providers, and can participate in high-value, collaborative business processes.

     Our vision is to open things up and enable businesses to realize the immense opportunity that the Internet has to offer. I've seen estimates that peg the volume of business that will be transacted on the Internet in the next two years as high as $327 billion. Think about that - $327 billion! But everything comes with a price tag. The price tag associated with Internet-based business becomes affordable with We provide the prerequisite security, hosting services, and venue (i.e., the Marketplaces).

Q. Does's Internet focus make a traditional ERP system like R/3 obsolete?

Quite the opposite. You need to have your house in order before you can take thousands of orders over the Web and then attempt to fulfill those orders. You can't run processes that interoperate with those of your partners, suppliers, or customers without well-honed, in-house business processes. That, of course, is what SAP has always been about. Our commitment to R/3 is unwavering. is the solution that R/3 customers leverage on a component-by-component basis to instantly prepare their existing infrastructures for collaborative, Web-driven activities.

Actually, what does become obsolete is a rigid separation of internal and external business processes. Via Marketplaces, we're providing existing R/3 customers with the means to seamlessly meld their key business processes with those of their partners, suppliers, and customers.

     And for those organizations that don't yet have R/3 in house, we're providing an inexpensive and easy way to do so. Application Hosting services make it possible for even the smallest companies to readily leverage software. In the UK, for instance, we know of an R/3 customer with just two users. This customer did not have to incur any implementation costs, and will not incur ongoing maintenance costs, because they are utilizing a hosted solution over the Internet. Implementation and maintenance are the responsibility of the Application Service Provider. I suspect that over time, even our largest customers will avail themselves of Application Hosting solutions, forming heterogeneous environments where some applications run internally, while others are hosted outside - and all are accessed through Workplace.

Q. What does the end-user ( Workplace) experience look like in this new Internet world?

It's an enterprise portal. But this simple-to-use interface packs a powerful punch. Workplace offers every user a single point of access to all the applications, information, and services that he or she needs in the course of the day. SAP data and applications, legacy systems, third-party applications, and just about anything that can be reached via an Internet address are all available through this HTML-based frontend, with the added advantage of being role-based and highly personalizable.

     The people in your Sales, Finance, and Support organizations (and the customers, partners, suppliers, and employees) would not be looking at the same UI. Through the Workplace, the Sales folks would have access just to the data and applications that make particular sense to them, as would the Finance and Support folks. Moreover, we've set things up so users have secure access to all these resources via a single signon/logon. Users can even drag and drop information between applications. Say, for instance, I want to track the status of a particular overnight shipment. I can go into SAP, call up a tracking number, drop it on the appropriate page on the shipper's Web site, and view the delivery status of the package.

     Nothing needs to be installed on my desktop to facilitate these activities. Once you implement the Workplace, you gain browser-based access to all SAP functionality and even to the functionality provided by non-SAP systems. That's a big win for SAP users, who want simple, centralized access to all the things they need, and perhaps an even bigger win for the IT organizations that support them, since there is no longer any specialized SAP software that needs to be maintained at the client.

Q. How does a customer get started with

Participation requires nothing more than Release 3.1H (and higher). If you've got R/3 in house, the bulk of the work is behind you. We've made it very easy to quickly deploy components. Our e-Commerce Starter Pack gets you started with the Workplace, which provides immediate browser-based access to your existing R/3 and non-R/3 systems, Business-to-Business Procurement, and an Online Store. The starter pack includes consultancy, which ensures a customer gets components up and running in an incredibly short time frame. It really is that simple. Marketplaces Marketplaces are Internet hubs that enable bilateral and multilateral collaboration between and among enterprises. Marketplaces provide services ranging from stock quotes and news to discussion forums, business directories, and hosted applications - for example, e-commerce, collaborative forecasting, collaborative engineering, etc. Marketplaces may be purchased by organizations that want to build and operate marketplaces either on their own or in a joint venture with SAP and/or other companies. SAP also offers Marketplaces as a service that can be used by participating organizations for a fee. Examples of such marketplaces are at, which went live in October 1999, and the marketplaces for Chemicals/ Pharmaceuticals and for Oil & Gas, which open their doors this year. Workplaces Workplaces are enterprise portals for empowering all the employees, customers, suppliers, and partners of a company. They enjoy a highly personalized, single point of Web access to everything they need in their business role to get the job done easily. Business Scenarios Business Scenarios combine intra- and inter-enterprise services, information, and application components. These form collaborative business scenarios in the areas of e-Commerce, Customer Relationship Management, Supply Chain Management, Business Intelligence, and Enterprise Resource Management. Application Hosting Application Hosting reduces the risk, time, and investment needed to participate in collaborative business processes. An application service provider ensures that a whole software solution, or parts of it, are provided to a company as a service over the Internet; the enterprise does not need to run the software itself and consequently saves investments in hardware, maintenance, and system management. Visit to give the application hosting software a test drive!

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