Maybe, you heard this acronym—SAP—during a conference or an event dedicated to business management. Maybe, you stumbled upon it online. Maybe, a colleague recommended checking it out since you’re looking for a new CRM system for your venture.
Whatever the reason is, here you are. And, you’re probably confused: just googling SAP CRM or SAP vs CRM only leads to a toxic mix of both outdated and recent articles that don’t make anything clear. Is there even such a thing as SAP CRM or not?
Take a deep breath and relax. Once you do, you’re ready to take a deep dive into what SAP is—and whether it beats both custom CRM solutions and off-the-shelf ones. And fear not: once you’re finished reading, you’ll have a clearer picture of all things SAP.
A Few Words About SAP SE
This acronym refers to the vendor’s name: Systemanalyse Programmentwicklung—System Analysis Program Development in German. If you see SE added to SAP (like in this section’s heading), it’s just the vendor’s legal corporate name (SE means Societas Europaea).
As you’ve probably already guessed, SAP SE has its headquarters in Germany, Walldorf to be exact. It can boast of a rich town history since its foundation in 1972 as well as being headquarters to the cloud customer base of more than 230 million users.
And although it may not be a household brand, it’s the third-largest software company in the world by revenue. In 2020, SAP’s revenue amounted to an astounding €27.338 billion.
Now, Is There an SAP CRM Solution?
SAP itself is most famous for its ERP (enterprise resource planning) product. In fact, the company’s name has become synonymous with that solution. It also has its own database management system: SAP HANA.
For some time, CRM features were just a part of SAP’s ERP. But the year 2000 marked the first release of SAP’s standalone CRM solution. It was later reinvented multiple times, e.g. from an on-premise solution into a cloud-based one until it was reintegrated into SAP’s ERP again.
The latest version of the standalone product was SAP CRM 7.0 (as a part of the SAP Business Suite). It later evolved into SAP Cloud for Customer (2011) and SAP Hybris Customer Engagement and Commerce (2014). Later on, it was reintegrated into the S/4HANA ERP core.
TL;DR: there’s no standalone CRM product from this German company anymore. SAP CRM modules are now a part of its ERP product.
But What’s the Difference Between CRM & ERP?
Of course, customer relationship management (CRM) doesn’t equal enterprise resource planning (ERP). Yes, both types of software help you improve your bottom line—but that’s the only key similarity between them.
The differences, however, are substantial:
“But wait… If SAP has both ERP and CRM features, is it a mix of both?” Yes, although the ERP remains its main purpose.
How Does SAP Compare to Off-the-Shelf CRM Solutions?
Well, there’s no hiding it: most CRM rankings don’t even feature SAP solutions. Here are just a few examples:
- PCMag’s Best CRM Software for 2021;
- U.S. News’ Best CRM Software of 2021;
- TrustResults’ 2021 Top Rated Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Software;
- CRM.org’s Best CRM Software Tools & Systems 2021.
That’s not exactly a surprise: SAP S4/HANA’s main purpose is ERP, after all. It would be akin to comparing apples to oranges. That’s why it’s more prominently featured in the best ERP software rankings of 2021 by TechRadar and PCMag.
TL;DR: if all you need is a CRM, SAP suite is hardly a front-runner among other off-the-shelf CRM systems—there are better alternatives. Plus, the custom CRM option is always on the table.
4 Reasons Business Owners Choose SAP
Let’s say you’ve decided to consider going all-in on SAP’s ERP with CRM capabilities. Here are its 4 key pros:
- Range of features. When implemented right, SAP can be the only enterprise solution your business will ever need, regardless of your industry. It’s a full-fledged ecosystem, in essence.
- Customization. Thanks to a variety of modules, SAP is flexible enough to accommodate most businesses’ needs. There’s also the official App Center where you can buy third-party apps to expand the available functionality.
- An extreme level of detail. All data is reflected in real time, and you can collect indicators from all across the board.
- Automation capabilities. They are robust enough to automate most manual tasks, especially in IT and accounting.
… And 4 Reasons Why Some Steer Away from It
Now, let’s talk cons:
- Lack of transparent pricing. Good luck finding the pricing page on the company’s website—you’ll have to reach out to request a quote. Plus, as reported by reviewers on TrustRadius, the pricing is quite high.
- Steep learning curve. The moment you dig a bit deeper into the range of solutions SAP SE offers and how each of them works, get ready for your head to start spinning. The same goes for your employees: if they haven’t had any experience with such heavyweight solutions, they’ll be overwhelmed.
- Not-so-great UI. Unfortunately, the user interface isn’t as intuitive as it could’ve been. That means you’ll need to dedicate a lot of time and other resources to employee training.
- Lack of third-party integrations. Unlike off-the-shelf and custom CRM systems, it’s inherently difficult and, in some cases, impossible to connect your SAP solution with other corporate tools.
In Conclusion: Is It Better than Custom CRM Solutions?
All in all, SAP is worth considering in the case of large businesses who can afford:
- The steep licensing costs;
- Having a team of several developers and managers working on its implementation, introduction, and maintenance;
- Spending a lot of time and resources to transfer their current data and processes to SAP;
- Large-scale employee training.
If this isn’t about your business and/or all you need is a CRM, not an ERP (because you already have one or you don’t need one yet), SAP isn’t for you. But even if it does check off all the boxes, don’t be too quick to discard the custom CRM option.
That’s because it outdoes even the likes of SAP in the following 3 ways:
- It’s tailor-made for your business from the get-go. You’re not limited by the available modules or features. Want integration with your social media or cloud storage accounts? No problem. Need a mobile app? Consider it done.
- It’s easy to scale and tweak later on. All businesses change with time. And since you’re the sole owner of your custom CRM’s codebase, you can change it anyway you want to make it fit the specifics of your business.
- It’s cheaper in the long run. Products like SAP will cost most mid-size businesses dozens of thousands of dollars per year. Two to three years of paying those fees can cover developing a custom CRM.