SAP's next E-Sourcing release, 6.0, will include a number of enhancements for all customers -- behind-the-firewall, single tenant hosted and multi-tenant SaaS users all included (in the last case, whether it's delivered directly via SAP or a third-party partner like Hubwoo or IBX). In this post, I'd like focus primarily on providing a few more details around 6.0's back-end integration (stay tuned for an additional post in this series on the other enhancements).
Perhaps the most important selling feature of the new solution when it comes to up-selling an SAP installed base that has not yet standardized companywide on an E-Sourcing platform or when trying to steal away SAP shops using best-of-breed solutions is that 6.0 offers -- whether single tenant hosted, SaaS or installed -- deeper direct integration into SAP back-ends. This integration will enable companies to create, push and pull supplier and purchasing information on-the-fly with no custom integration costs.
The integration hooks go beyond simple APIs by providing the ability to simply switch on or switch off data flow between E-Sourcing, other SAP applications and different layers in the stack within the SAP solution hierarchy (e.g., master data at the most foundational level). For some, this might sound simple, but it's not, especially in a hosted / SaaS environment. I suspect that there will be a number of SAP shops that base their sourcing decisions on this type of integration capability.
Theoretically, it's possible to nearly obtain this level of integration today with other applications. But it is costly and will not necessarily deliver the same functional outcome in environments where an organization is leveraging the broader set of core underlying SAP ERP and procurement technology. In addition, this will help SAP to sell organizations on an On Demand sourcing concept because, in the words of the solution lead on the project, David Marchand, the "point is to make integration for On Demand so good that On-Premise is never needed". Which would explain why the next On Premise release is not planned until 2011.