SAP took a big step into the front office yesterday, teamingwith fellow German IT vendor Siemens AG to introduce a call-center application. Customer Interaction Center (CIC),unveiled at the CeBit 99 trade show in Germany, builds onSiemens' computer telephony integration technology and linksinto SAP's R/3 enterprise applications. It can connect toSiemens Information and Communication Network Group's call-center software through an expanded application interface.
The call center, which is a forerunner for other customer-relationship management applications that SAP has said itwill release this year, is critical if SAP is to be takenseriously as a front-office vendor. "There's a demand forthis in the customer base. It's important for them to havethe type of [customer-relationship management] capabilitiesthat best-of-breed applications have," says JoshuaGreenbaum, president of Enterprise Applications ConsultingInc. While it will be a "big selling point" for SAP, headds, it won't hit the customer base in a big wayimmediately because it supports only SAP R/3 4.5.
CIC will give SAP users call-center functions such as callerrecognition, conference calls, and call forwarding. R/3transactions can be initiated using caller data stored inthe system, and SAP data can be fed automatically to thecall center so that users have a better sense of acustomer's interactions with the company.