I recently had the opportunity to speak with Krish Mantripragada, Vice President of suite solution management for SAP.  For those readers who may not be aware, Krish oversees end-to-end supply chain and manufacturing business process management applications for SAP. I know of Krish from my previous contributions as a global product marketing manager for mySAP Supply Chain Management applications suite. We talked about a number of topics regarding business developments within various industry supply chains as well as SAP’s current and future direction in supporting customer needs.

One of the more interesting topics for me was discussing SAP’s Supply Network Collaboration (SNC) application.  Experienced SAP supply chain customers may remember this application by its original name, Inventory Collaboration Hub (ICH).   The application was first launched in 2003 as one of the very first SAP composite applications that could take advantage of the then evolving technology components of SAP NetWeaver.  The application itself was designed as an extension of both SAP’s ERP and Advanced Planning Optimization APO’s demand, supply and purchase order planning capabilities to support broader many-to-many supplier focused collaboration scenarios, such as a vendor managed inventory (VMI), responsive replenishment or purchase order release process. 

In 2005, SAP began to initiate organizational changes that have in my view helped to add more customer value to this very useful collaboration focused application.  First, as part of a large-scale restructuring effort driven to service enable the entire SAP applications portfolio including ERP, SAP reorganized its solution teams to be more end-to-end process oriented, returning to an end-to-end process view of customer business process needs.  The industry business units (IBU) also gained greater say in overall development schedules.

ICH was renamed to SNC, and SAP senior development executives addressed customer confusion regarding the overlap of SCM and SRM solution suites for supply collaboration process support, particularly in the area of purchase order coordination and management among external suppliers. Incremental functionality was added to support needs for supplier focused and contract manufacturing coordination, along with added customer collaboration processes.  A broader use of NetWeaver technology components and additional industry scenarios such as Life Sciences supply chain collaboration process support have led to SNC being one of the more popularly adopted applications within the SAP Supply Chain Management suite.

I’ve noted this brief history of SNC to emphasize a rather important take-away in software product management and marketing.  Although it was not always thus, SAP is overcoming its tendencies toward allowing organizational barriers to confuse important customer business process needs and SNC is turning out to be a prime beneficiary.

Nest month, SAP will be hosting its annual North American ASUG and Sapphire conferences, and I have been invited to participate in the worldwide blogger coverage of this event.  I plan to take advantage of that venue to further investigate SAP’s progress in responding to global supply chain business and technology needs within the SAP Business Suite and particularly the progress made around the Supply Network Collaboration application.

Bob Ferrari