Also at Sapphire: SAP gains a banking customer

Orlando, FLA — SAP Canada has snagged its first mySAP Banking customer.

At Sapphire 2001 Thursday, Montreal-based Le Groupe Promutuel, an insurance and financial services company, announced that it will use the mySAP Banking solution to make the transition from traditional insurance sales to providing a wider array of Internet-based financial services.

“The changes overtaking the financial services sector have created challenges,” said Carl Cleary, vice-president of finance and corporate affairs for Le Groupe Promutuel. He said mySAP Banking was its first choice in its efforts to build an integrated solution that would give the company a complete view of its customer relationships and provide customers with one-stop shopping.

Le Groupe Promutuel is the fifth-largest insurance and financial services company in Quebec, uniting 36 mutual insurance companies across the province. It has 500,000 customers and revenues in excess of $250 million. It is also the second-largest property insurance company in Quebec.

SAP Canada Inc. also unveiled several new customers for its solution, including Domtar, the City of Ottawa, Pratt & Whitney and Mold-Masters.

Overall, the message out of this year’s SAP user conference is that the German software behemoth is no longer just an enterprise resource planning solutions company; it’s an e-business company. To date is has announced strategic partnerships with IBM and Palm to expand the reach of its e-business applications, a heap of new enterprise customers and has quadrupled its licensed business suite users to 3 million in the past year.

SAP has made a 180-degree turn since last year’s Sapphire, said David Boulanger, research director for Boston-based AMR Research’s SAP advisory service. For thing, he said, it’s becoming more customer-centric. Up until 1995, “they were pretty arrogant to work with,” said Boulanger, and often left systems integrators to deal with the implementation headaches.

The acknowledgement by SAP co-chairman and CEO Hasso Plattner in Wednesday’s keynote that customers will always have non-SAP applications in their IT environments is also a complete about-face, said Boulanger. “What it says to me is that Hasso believes SAP has to create an integration framework,” which is why SAP’s partnership with IBM, also announced Wednesday, makes perfect sense, he added.

Also part of that keynote was SAP outlining of five pillars: portals, private exchanges, customer relationship management, supply chain management and product lifecycle management. “SAP has discovered there is a whole world of collaboration out there,” said Boulanger. “There is a whole new market to conquer that was unthought of three years ago.”

Peter Blackmore, managing director of SAP Canada, said that as a company fights more for market share, the game is often about the quantity of customers. Now it’s about the quality of the relationships with customers. “When you achieve market share, it’s imperative that you go back and focus on customers.

“Customers are becoming more pragmatic,” he said. “They’re not looking for the most exotic solution.”

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Gary Hilson
Gary Hilson
Gary Hilson is a Toronto-based freelance writer who has written thousands of words for print and pixel in publications across North America. His areas of interest and expertise include software, enterprise and networking technology, memory systems, green energy, sustainable transportation, and research and education. His articles have been published by EE Times, SolarEnergy.Net, Network Computing, InformationWeek, Computing Canada, Computer Dealer News, Toronto Business Times and the Ottawa Citizen, among others.

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