From Santa or the Grinch? SAP SRM 7.0 Enters Ramp Up (Part 1)

By my calculations, it's getting to be that time of year. Consumers are blindly spending their hard-earned dollars (or not, as the case may be) on gifts. The weather outside (and IT's attitude) is frightful. Santa is getting ready for his epic journey. And Hanukkah Harry and Kwanza Quigley are sitting back and marveling at the consumerism of it all (and planning how to make their own buck in the process). But this time of year is not just about the commercialization and bad attitudes-- not to mention depression -- that is often brought on by the commercialization of Judeo-Christian and African American holidays. It's also about the bad attitudes and depression brought on by technology ramp-up programs. For all of those in blogger relations at SAP, I'm just kidding on the ramp-up part. Don't call in the hit on me just yet.

But this time of year is most certainly also about SAP ramp-up programs which includes SAP SRM 7.0. SAP SRM 7.0 is a long-time coming. The last SRM application that SAP released failed to go G/A. That means the most recent generally available SAP SRM application dates back to the time when George Bush's approval rating hovered around 50%. Well, maybe not that high, but you get the point -- it goes back to 2004 and 2005. SRM 7.0, in comparison, appears to be a giant leap forward, a step made even longer because of the features, function and UI very few of us ever got to deploy in the SRM 6.0 ramp-up. According to a Deloitte analysis I read of SRM 7.0, SAP positions the release as one that "fully integrates procure-to-pay processes, provides excellence in end-to-end services procurement and offers foundational, stack-level enhancements to provide new levels of scalability, flexibility and TCO reduction. Perhaps the most important advance of SRM 7.0 -- besides a more intuitive user experience -- is unified access and information."

But how unified is this access, really? For procurement, the answer is more so. Consider the new contract objects within SRM 7.0 which let a user build a common contract that reflects the same information in the global outline agreements within the core ERP/MRP environment as well as the localized SRM contracts. This is not just integration -- it is the same object model across the systems. Still, unified architecture represents only the first whiff of the process and object model that SAP is baking in the SRM oven. At some point in the future SRM and ERP must converge into a single application for users to gain the full benefit and ease of use that such a capability will bring.

But it's still not that way today. By way of example, users still need to know what they're buying before knowing which system to log into. Hence the level of process integration between core ERP and P2P is really not any better going with native SAP than going with SAP and a combination of Ariba, BasWare, Ketera, Coupa or any of the other independent e-Procurement providers. However, when SAP brings core procurement capability for indirect, catalog and services based buying into the core ERP feature set (even if they charge for it), it will be much closer to game over for the independents.

Stay tuned for additional analysis of SAP SRM in this mini-series on SAP SRM 7.0 this holiday season. It's still not clear if Santa or the Grinch is responsible for bringing us this present yet. But given the precipitous decline in commodity prices, I don't want coal in my stocking like I had last year. Neither should you. So cross your fingers that SRM 7.0 will proceed and exit ramp-up accordingly!

- Jason Busch

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