I've got to hand it to SAP. There are more creative ideas coming out of the SRM group than I've seen from many best of breed vendors recently. And one such concept revolves around cool little "disposable applications" and interfaces that they're planning for the future. Now, none of these tools are available just yet, but SAP is showcasing in SRM 7.0 what it terms widgets, as one example. Widgets are light-weight applications developed either by SAP or anyone else who wants to build them that provide visibility into data without having to log into an SAP application. Their technology framework might allow, for example, a workflow approval widget that enables a manager to sign-off on a purchase without having to go into SRM. Another widget might provide instant visibility in a browser or mobile device into maverick purchases, showing who is buying off contract within a company. Yet another might provide RFX negotiation values by showing a manager the total awarded RFX negotiation values for a category, supplier or category manager based on the activities of the purchasing group.
Another example of where SAP is headed down the path of data accessibility and slick user interfaces comes in the form of BI-driven dashboards courtesy of the Business Objects acquisition. One example they demoed was a JV-Kelly-esque dashboard focusing on RFX information, savings potential and spend leakage/compliance (including the ability to dynamically include and drill-down on cost break-down information, total cost data, payment terms, minority status, etc.) Another was a dashboard integrated with Crystal reports showing a slider that allows a user to understand the competitiveness of suppliers based on changing volumes and different supplier offers. All in all, quite cool. And proof that there is innovation -- and even a focus on data visualization and actual business needs -- lurking in the halls of ERP vendors.
- Jason Busch