What's in Store for SAP SRM 7.0?

At SAP Sapphire, I had the chance to take a closer look at SAP's forthcoming SRM 7.0 release. I was told that ramp-up was scheduled for Q408, although G/A timing felt a bit nebulous to me as the SAP folks I spoke to had different answers when I asked. If ramp-up goes off without a hitch, I'd expect GA sometime in the Q209 time frame, but as we all know, until it's actually available, don't make any plans for it. Still, SAP SRM 7.0 represents a big step forward for SAP on a number of fronts and it is a release to get excited about. It offers significantly tighter integration -- and advantages -- with core SAP ERP components (and eventually other SAP business applications as well).

For the first time, SAP reps will be able to claim with a straight face that there are material functional advantages to running their SRM 7.0 on a core SAP platform over a best of breed solution. Still, upgrading won't be a walk in the park. Building off of the NetWeaver 7.0 release, SRM 7.0 amounts to what is essentially a forklift upgrade -- once a customer upgrades to this version, they will be able to gain "future functionality delivered via enhancements packs" not to mention better integration across their SAP environment. Still, using a forklift to transport a pallet is not the same as using your own hands to lift box, if you catch my drift.

As part of a forklift upgrade or not, SAP positions the advantages of SRM 7.0 coming from three key areas: procurement excellence, services procurement and foundational enhancements. From a procurement excellence perspective, SRM 7.0 will provide unified access and information across a purchasing environment and SAP ERP information. It will provide a single view for all purchase orders and queries and will consolidate SAP ERP and SAP SRM business objects (e.g., supplier or part information will be an object both within SAP SRM and SAP ERP, allowing users to work within different SAP applications and access the same information). Additionally, SAP positions SRM 7.0 as enabling a centralized operational contract repository across both ERP and SRM, offering a single, consolidated contract type/object that will enable easier access and management.

SRM 7.0 will also bring much needed enhancements to SAP's services procurement capabilities, allowing "end-to-end collaboration on the procurement of services", "excellence in the procurement maintenance, installation of construction spend," and "effectiveness in the supplier submission and payment of services". Foundational investments include extended work flow capabilities, total cost of ownership reduction, enhancement packs, and improved enabling via what SAP is positioning as a "collaborative supplier management" module which I previously wrote about in a post from Sapphire.

Stay tuned for my analysis of how SRM 7.0 stacks up to the market (although it's like comparing moving trains, considering that we don't know what Ariba, Oracle, SciQuest and others will have available by the time users adopt SRM 7.0 en masse sometime between 2009-2011 -- or perhaps even later).

- Jason Busch

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