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SAP CRM: Simple and Powerful — and Especially Relevant in a Strained Economy

by Jujhar Singh | SAPinsider

January 1, 2009

In this executive Q&A, Jujhar Singh discusses two CRM activities that are especially critical in a downturn economy: retaining profitable customers and acquiring the right new customers at the lowest possible cost.


Jujhar Singh
Senior Vice President
CRM Product Management and Global Strategy


As the global economy fluctuates, cutting costs and improving efficiencies are top-of-mind priorities for corporate executives. At the same time, it is critical to better serve and retain existing profitable customers, as well as identify and attract the right new customers at the lowest possible cost.

With most companies in cost-cutting mode, SAP Insider spoke with Jujhar Singh, Senior Vice President of CRM Product Management and Global Strategy at SAP, to get his perspective on what the SAP Customer Relationship Management (SAP CRM) application can do to help companies address current challenges. Singh also shares his insights on how the specific capabilities of SAP CRM can help companies better manage their customer interactions in these challenging times — and where the solution will be going in the years to come.

Q: In a downturn economy, what are the value levers for companies to invest in customer relationship management (CRM) solutions? And where might some of these value drivers come from?

A: This is a hot topic, especially today, and it's relevant not only for CRM, but for all capital and operational expense investments. From a CRM point of view, I would first ask: How important are your customers to you in these difficult times? I am sure your readers would agree that, especially in a challenging economy, it's critical to retain existing, profitable customers and to acquire the right new customers at the lowest possible cost. This is not easy to do. Customer expectations and demands go up dramatically in difficult times. One way to tackle this challenge is to leverage CRM as a strategic tool in key areas of your business.

For example, CRM can help you secure relevant customer insight. You collect tremendous amounts of data about your customers — but how can you determine what's important to your business goals? By leveraging the analytical tools of SAP CRM, you can hone in on the most relevant customer information that will provide you with the proper insight to build productive customer relationships.

SAP CRM can also help eliminate costs by reducing process inefficiencies. By virtue of delivering end-to-end processes that span the enterprise, SAP CRM can plug significant leaks in many key processes, such as lead-to-order capture, marketing and promotion spend management, call center customer support, and field service. Using functionality such as e-commerce, for example, customers can better select the right products, configure them accurately, check availability, place orders, track shipments, and pay invoices — all without having to dial in to a call center. This results in a huge boost in both efficiency and cost reduction.


Customer expectations and demands go up dramatically in difficult economic times.

Q: What can SAP customers expect from SAP CRM?

A: I like to describe SAP CRM in two words: simple and powerful. By that I mean that the application contains powerful capabilities that are made available to end users through an easy-to-use, state-of-the-art interface. If you consider the history of CRM vendors, the two concepts have been mutually exclusive: You either had remarkable functionality that was difficult to access or use, or you had a simple interface that connected to very basic functionality.

Fortunately, we have an advantage over our competitors — SAP Business Suite software, a business process platform that has evolved over 35 years. With SAP CRM, we leverage the wealth of industry and business process expertise that's built into SAP Business Suite, and we focus on delivering comprehensive — yet simple to use — end-to-end business processes for sales, marketing, and service users.

Q: Let's take these two concepts one at a time. What constitutes the "powerful" in "simple and powerful"?

A: As I said earlier, SAP has always had many effective and efficient business processes embedded into its platform. The concept behind SAP CRM is to make these powerful features available to the CRM end user to support very specific, typically hard-to-solve business scenarios.

For example, in the consumer products (CP) industry, one of the great challenges is trade promotions management. CP companies rely on promotions to move inventory quickly and achieve their margins. But a major obstacle has been measuring the effectiveness of a promotion while it is underway. Industry research tells us that the majority of promotions are not effective.

Managing trade promotions effectively requires easy access to data from the back office, partners, retail channels, and third-party data aggregators such as Nielsen Media Research — as well as easy access to data in the CRM system. Until now, no vendor has been able to support this process through one unified software application. For the first time, we have created an end-to-end business process for trade promotions management that makes it easy for CP companies to effectively manage this complex process. For companies that spend several million dollars in promotions, a 20% increase in promotion effectiveness can do wonders to their top and bottom lines, especially in difficult economic times.

Q: What about "simple"? Do you mean that SAP CRM is easy to use?

A: It's not only easy to use, but also easy to deploy.People often think that the deployment of SAP CRM is complex — that it's got a long deployment cycle and is very costly. In the past, there may have been some truth to that. But with each new generation of the product, we have focused on simplifying and streamlining deployment, configuration, and the user experience. In fact, several customers have gone live with SAP CRM 2007 in less than eight weeks.

How have we been able to help customers achieve this? One reason is that we've gotten better at exposing integration points. We've developed a configuration tool that allows customers to configure and expose Web services very quickly, again without coding. A project that previously would have taken days to complete, such as integrating SAP CRM with another system, now takes minutes because we can easily publish a Web service.

Other configuration tasks have also become easier. In the past, many customers would spend a lot of time trying to modify the user interface (UI). Tasks such as moving fields around, changing field captions, making some fields mandatory and others optional all required coding. With the latest SAP CRM release, customers can use the UI configuration tool to allow administrators and business users to tailor the application to their needs without coding — reducing the complexity of deployment, testing, and pilots.

We have also invested in enabling ease of use through end-user navigation. There are now personalized pages based on the type of work that you do and how you go about doing that work throughout the day. The interface includes navigation that's comparable to something like iGoogle. We've worked hard to make our solution easy to use from the end-user perspective, so it's a fun experience.


With each new generation of SAP CRM, we have focused on simplifying and streamlining deployment, configuration, and the user experience.
Q: Now that SAP is firmly ensconced in the world of CRM, how will the latest release of SAP CRM — 7.0 — continue to focus on the "simple and powerful" theme?

A: We are building on our simple and powerful core in three major areas to enhance our value proposition even further (see Figure 1).


Figure 1
The three facets of SAP CRM as a simple and powerful application: innovation without disruption, industry-specific secenarios, and interaction excellence

First, this new SAP CRM 7.0 release is an integral part of the SAP Business Suite 7.0 offering. This means that customers will receive new functionality not in the form of upgrades, but in enhancement packages, which are easy to consume and much more economical than massive upgrades. We call this "innovation without disruption."

Second, we will continue to deliver industry- specific scenarios so that customers can use our application out of the box in the context of their own industry. There is no "one size fits all" solution, so our customers can select the functionality appropriate to their specific industry.

The third area of focus in SAP CRM 7.0 is to make every customer interaction count. We continue to invest in interaction excellence. In this challenging economy, companies cannot afford to lose sales opportunities, or worse, lose customers because of poor service experience or poor interaction management.


The concept behind SAP CRM is to make powerful features available to the CRM end user to support very specific, typically hard-to-solve business scenarios.

Q: Can you give us a peek into new functionality that is available in SAP CRM 7.0?

A: There is considerable new functionality, but allow me to highlight five key areas of enhancement.

Communications-Enabled Business Processes. In SAP CRM 7.0, we have taken the concept of communications-enabled collaboration beyond the call center and made it ubiquitous across the application to radically improve context-specific, real-time collaboration across the enterprise. By embedding our IP-based communications toolset into the SAP CRM application, we have now made it very easy for any CRM user to initiate a context-specific collaboration session in real time with any other available person in order to complete a business transaction.

For example, a sales rep looking for expert help with a product or service can instantaneously seek help from any available expert anywhere in the world by invoking a call and passing on the business context to the remote user. Companies can experience dramatic improvements in productivity by leveraging this low-cost, IP-based solution.

Smart Convergence Toolbar. This feature helps users easily navigate between communications tools such as email, chat, and telephone, as well as business applications such as SAP CRM, SAP ERP, or even non-SAP applications.

When a user gets an email in Microsoft Outlook, for example, he or she doesn't have to log in to SAP CRM, search for that customer, and manually associate the email with the customer account. By simply dragging and dropping the email into the Smart Convergence Toolbar, the user can get automatic associations between the email sender and the customer record in SAP CRM. Other communications with the customer, such as a telephone conversation or a chat session, can be automatically initiated from the toolbar.

Loyalty Management. We have developed a comprehensive loyalty management solution to help companies manage their increasingly complex customer loyalty programs, such as an airline's frequent flyer program or a retail company's customer rewards program.

In many cases, advanced loyalty programs require a company to manually access information from back-end financials systems to get a complete view of a customer's total expenditure and then calculate loyalty point accruals based on a complex set of rules. SAP CRM 7.0 offers a set of business processes to help companies understand and manage how the products and services they offer can be tied to a loyalty system — and from there into the financials and CRM systems — to get complete process automation. This solution will help reduce costs in managing loyalty programs, reduce errors in administration, and give customers and companies greater transparency to the program.

IT Service Management. This functionality directly addresses one of the major challenges facing every company: how to effectively manage and reduce IT support costs. How do you simplify the end-user experience? How do you give users the right level of support? How do you manage users' relationships with the IT department?

By leveraging IT service management in your enterprise, you can increase the effectiveness of your IT organization. In SAP CRM 7.0, we provide an IT service management solution that uses the customer service capabilities of CRM to track and manage IT incident tickets. The real benefit of this system is that it directly integrates into the SAP environment, so it takes advantage of the system management capabilities that SAP offers.

Investigative Case Management. Finally, public sector customers have guided us in the development of the new investigative case management solution. This enables organizations to leverage CRM best practices to better manage the life cycle of a case and to provide better levels of service to citizens. For instance, social service organizations can use these case management capabilities to assign case officers and monitor case progress. Law enforcement agencies can use the same capabilities to track the progress and audit history of cases, exhibits, and all investigative activities.

Q: Where do you see SAP CRM going in the future — beyond SAP CRM 7.0? What is your vision for the product?

A: Our goal is to be the leading vendor in the CRM market in all respects — product capabilities, customer success, market share, and more. We have already created a huge differentiation in the market for our customers, and we will continue to build on the unique strengths of the SAP platform, delivering industry-specific solutions that offer comprehensive end-to-end process capabilities.

Also, we are making significant efforts to get further ahead in the game when it comes to cutting-edge innovations such as communications-enabled business processes, mobility, and Web 2.0. We are not approaching innovation just for the sake of innovation, but to really bring innovation into the context of the business process and business user.

We have put together a very strong team that understands the CRM market and has a passion for delivering the best solutions. Look forward to more of these innovations coming down the road in 2009 and beyond.



Additional Resources

  • The CRM 2009 conference in Nice, February 11-13, 2009, and Orlando, March 2-5, 2009, for best practices, innovative techniques, and expert advice on using, deploying, and managing your customer relationship management solutions (

  • Planning Your SAP CRM Implementation by George Fratian (SAPinsider Store,

  • "Enable Cross-System Access in SAP CRM — Without Portals" by Ned Falk (CRM Expert, Volume 4, Number 10,



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