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Salesforce.com to 'unlock' SAP's core software for 'social enterprises'

A new set of services is aimed at marrying Salesforce.com's Force.com platform with SAP's back-end systems

By Chris Kanaracus
October 21, 2011 06:35 PM ET

IDG News Service - Salesforce.com is rolling out a set of consulting and integration services aimed at SAP customers who want to build a "social enterprise" with Salesforce.com's Force.com platform.

"Our customers have spoken loud and clear," Salesforce.com said in a blog post Thursday. "They want to transform the way they collaborate, communicate and share information with both customers and employees. They want to shift IT from being a cost center to a catalyst for innovation and a driver of business growth."

But these customers are challenged by SAP's back end, which "houses their most critical data but limits data accessibility," Salesforce.com claimed.

The new offerings will allow customers to integrate Force.com with their core SAP systems, allowing them to use data that's now "trapped" there in "custom social and mobile cloud apps," the company said.

Salesforce.com is offering companies a free, half-day evaluation to develop a plan for implementing Force.com. The vendor has also lined up data-integration vendors to work on the projects, including IBM and Informatica.

An SAP executive downplayed the significance of the announcement.

"Salesforce.com offers a small sliver of what SAP can do, and customers recognize this," said Vishal Sikka, SAP executive board member, technology and innovation, in a statement.

"A true social enterprise strategy is about empowering people to work, think and interact in new ways, tackle business challenges in new ways, and connect more directly with each other and with the data that matters," he said. "This is only truly possible with deep integration of front-end applications that empower the user with core back-end business processes and data. Only SAP brings this expertise, and it is in every aspect of our product portfolio."

Salesforce.com and its outspoken CEO, Marc Benioff, have been pushing the "social enterprise" vision for some time. Companies can achieve this through a three-step process, Benioff said in a speech earlier this year. The first move is to connect with public social sites such as LinkedIn, followed by the creation of a private social network. Lastly, enterprise applications should get a social-networking injection, he said.

Salesforce.com's primary social tool is Chatter, which offers real-time collaboration capabilities. It has also acquired companies such as Radian6, which has technologies customers can use to monitor the social Web.

SAP has no full-fledged social networking software of its own, but has developed the StreamWork collaboration application. It also has a partnership with enterprise social-networking vendor Jive Software, and along with Microsoft created Duet, which links SAP applications to SharePoint.

Salesforce.com's announcement drew a skeptical response from analyst Kelly Craft, a consultant who specializes in collaboration platform implementations.

"In theory, this is really big news for the industry. But a closer look at the details makes this seem like not much more than an effort to drum up integration business for integration partners," Craft wrote in a blog post. "Forgive my cynicism, but I'm hard-pressed to imagine that customers will get much more than a bare-bones template 'project plan' after a half-day review. Seems like another effort where the promise surpasses the practicalities."

Reprinted with permission from IDG.net. Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
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