SAP Integrated Business Solutions: Are they a Good Fit for your Growing Firm?
SAP is a German company with global market presence that was founded in 1972 by a small group of former IBM engineers. Since that time, SAP and its strategic and educational partners have made major contributions to the development and evolution of early enterprise resource planning and manufacturing resource planning business solutions. Throughout the 1970s and 80s, SAP introduced a series of experimental mainframe computing systems which evolved into more sophisticated client-server architectures by the early 1990s.
At this point, SAP has formed dozens of business partnerships with educational and research institutions all over the United States, and has also become one of the four largest independent software providers in the world. SAP’s primary enterprise-level market competitors are Microsoft and Oracle, against whom SAP recently lost a 1.3 billion dollar intellectual property lawsuit. This ruling may be appealed, and its long term effects on the health of the company are not yet clear.
Meanwhile, SAP is best known for its development and support of enterprise resource planning systems, specifically its major product SAP 6.0, which is part of the SAP Business Suite. Four of the other key products in the suite include systems for customer relationship management, supply chain management, supplier relationship management, and product lifecycle management.
Like many large enterprise resource planning solution providers, SAP began its design and marketing efforts in the eighties with the intention of targeting large, fortune five hundred level business clients. The earliest ERP systems, which were in part provided by SAP, were intended to help large manufacturing and other businesses coordinate and streamline their complex back office management tasks by unifying diverse departmental functions onto a single streamlined software platform. Once businesses could free themselves from isolated legacy systems, they could improve communication, reduce error rates and raise productivity levels. The first SAP solutions allowed employees across a company to run standardized business management applications and share access to databases that could be viewed by anyone and updated in real time.
During the 1990s, SAP integrated ERP business solutions revolutionized efficiency and productivity for larger businesses, government offices, university systems and branches of the military. But these systems were expensive and implementations were cumbersome, so the benefits of integration remained out of reach for smaller business clients for many years. In spite of rising interest at this level, large system implementations were very popular and large providers could afford to overlook the needs of smaller markets.
This began to change soon after the arrival of the new millennium, when demand at the high budget level peaked and then began to cool. At that point, SAP and other large providers began searching for new forms of market share and new ways to stay competitive, which turned their attention to a new focus on downstream opportunities. SAP and its competitors began actively scaling and customizing their product suites to appeal to smaller and mid-sized business clients, a transition which has worked to the benefit of clients and providers both. SAP now offers SAP All-in-One and SAP Business One, which it promotes to smaller and growing companies.