SAP is demonstrating a beta version of its new hosted mid-market application to select groups at the Cebit trade show in Hanover, Germany.
The application, known internally as A1S, is currently being tested by around 150 users, SAP chief executive Henning Kagermann said. No firm date has been set for a commercial launch but general availability is expected in the second half of this year, he added.
"This is a completely new model for us," Kagermann said. "We have to ensure that not only the product but also the service are tops."
A1S is aimed at mid-market companies that are looking for an inexpensive, easy to deploy, low-risk suite of business applications including enterprise resource planning, customer relationship management and supply chain management.
Traditionally, the software industry has developed applications and businesses have had to adapt their processes, Kagermann said. "Now with A1S, users define their software requirements.”
The new hosted mid-market application, which runs over the NetWeaver middleware platform, is designed to integrate with mySAP ERP business suite. Kagermann expects subsidiaries of large enterprises to be interested in the product.
The hosted application will be available on a monthly subscription. It will give smaller, cost-sensitive companies the flexibility to set up and test the software on their own before deciding to make a purchase, using a "try, run and adapt" model.
First-time users of the browser-based application would notice an interface that blends in with "the Windows environment", Kagermann said. A "huge effort" had gone into designing a simple, intuitive and uniform user interface, said SAP board member Peter Zencke, who heads the A1S product development team.
The application conducts a dialogue with users, asking them what type of business tasks they need to perform and how they would like to manage them. A help icon appears on every screen. When clicked, users are shown a list of options, including "frequently asked questions", with a video link so users can see how to perform a task. For technical problems, users can click another icon and send an email to the SAP service team.
Some businesses would be able to set up A1S on their own, while others might need some initial coaching, Kagermann said. "We expect a new breed of consultant to help some businesses get started -- but only to get started. Once businesses have used the application, they'll get the hang of it pretty quickly."