May 4, 2004 8:33 AM PDT

SAP bolts on tools for change

Enterprise software maker SAP on Tuesday added tools to its applications maintenance package to try to help customers keep up with changes to the company's products.

Dubbed Change Request Management, the release is aimed at helping customers deal with all the upgrades and alterations inherent in each new generation of the company's applications, including its enterprise resource planning and customer relationship management software. SAP also introduced a premium customer support package, MaxAttention, which grants customers on-site access to SAP professionals for help controlling performance and cost issues.

Both moves are part of SAP's continuing efforts to shed its image as a seller of dauntingly complex products.

The company said the change management toolset addresses the traditional problems associated with new product installations and with fixes made to existing applications. The package offers the ability to automate the distribution of software and upgrades, test applications after changes have been made, and create status reports that track any product modifications. The company believes the package will be a boon to customers who are typically forced to budget large amounts of employee hours to the same tasks.

The enterprise applications maker plans to include the Change Request Management tools in the next release of its maintenance software, which is due out sometime during the third quarter. SAP executives highlighted the emergence of the change management niche as an area that customers have driven via their demands for more-streamlined methods for installing new products.

The MaxAttention service offers customers the opportunity to have SAP advisers help supervise applications performance and maintenance. Under the program, one or more technicians from SAP works full time at a customer facility to help administer the company's products. Customers can also get help from consultants within SAP to coordinate more-advanced software project budgeting, planning and management.

The change management software and the new support package mark the company's latest effort to make its products and services easier to use. While the company has been criticized in the past for creating significant management and integration issues for its customers, it has increasingly worked to shed that image by introducing tools designed to help IT administrators digest its complex new product releases and frequent upgrades. Among the most popular of its integration tools is the NetWeaver package, a collection of programs designed to make its line of business applications easier to modify and better able to work with other systems.

SAP's recent pledges to usability are also aimed at reducing the perception that customers are locked into its products once they have gone through the pain of one or more lengthy installations.

Despite some industry watchers' doubts about how much money customers will be willing to invest in enterprise applications during the next 12 months, SAP recently announced its first quarterly rise in new license revenue in almost three years.

 

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