The new SAP WCEM (Web Channel Enablement Management) offering has been on general release for over a year. The question now is whether this completely new toolset is up to scratch in meeting the needs of both organisational e-business strategy as well as those of the business partners and consumers using it.
Where did SAP WCEM come from?
The previous SAP web offering was known as Web Channel Enablement (WCE). There was a fair amount of adoption with companies keen to exploit the power of e-commerce and e-service. It did what it said on the tin, but criticisms were often levelled at the difficulty in modifying it both in terms of UI look and feel as well as functionality. Since I was involved in a 2007 implementation of it, it is fair to say that the world has moved on significantly with users truly expecting a first class web experience from all websites they interact with, poor experience has never been less tolerated, and SAP WCE no longer cuts the mustard.
Recognising this, SAP chose not to extend SAP WCE, but instead to completely reengineer its web offering, hence SAP WCEM was born. At its heart it still has the vision of combined e-commerce and e-service capability, but with a more up to date set of supporting capabilities.
Core SAP WCEM capabilities
SAP WCEM consists of three core capabilities.
A Webshop - this delivers a more up to date user experience around e-commerce with functionality including well structured catalogues, multi-media showcase of products, community forums for reviews and ratings, links to social media, Loyalty Management capability for rewards, real time ATP availability checking, order tracking, gift cards, in-store pickup, store locator, and advanced product recommendations.
An e-service capability - this allows users to register products they have purchased, self serve in getting help with troubleshooting via powerful e-gain integration, chat to call centre agents in the interaction centre, log service requests which they can monitor and update, and arrange service appointments.
E-marketing - this is effectively the SAP CRM Marketing engine orchestrating defined up-sell, cross-sell and advanced product recommendations not only through the e-commerce experience, but also within self-service using both explicit and implicit understanding of the user. Starting to get the picture here?
Joined up experience
In essence we are getting to the real benefit of SAP WCEM over and above some of the non SAP products which may be seen as "best of breed". In short SAP WCEM enables a combination of integrated sales & service processes where opportunities to market and push products appropriate to the user are maximised throughout the experience.
Hence sales, service & marketing processes are truly aligned to the processes and data in the backend SAP systems but also very much aligned to the user in accessing one site to buy and serve. This is all encompassed within a rich WEB 2.0 architecture and modular in nature for easier (than WCE) adjustment. It's this rich mix of functionality across multiple use cases that starts to make SAP WCEM a compelling offering.
Add to this the ability to easily integrate to Content Management Systems (CMS), a redefined method for building, testing and deploying content via the Web Channel Builder, and analytical capability which facilitates a deeper understanding of the interactions that are taking place with browsing and buying behaviour and a toolset emerges which reflects the renewed vigour that SAP have put behind the new product.
Gartner positioned SAP as a "challenger" in the 2011 Magic Quadrant for E-commerce with SAP WCEM. They recognise strengths such as an upcoming mobility capability, multiple deployment options such as SAP rapid-deployment solutions (RDS) and also emphasise the direct use of the data and process already presiding within the SAP landscape. This last point re-emphasises the cross functional capability of SAP WCEM, powered by the master data and business processes that may be already configured in the SAP landscape.
However Gartner also recognises cautions with SAP because of the ongoing support of the old SAP WCE, the need for a level of re-implementation if wanting to upgrade from SAP WCE to SAP WCEM together with possible SAP software version pre-requisites as well as limited functionality by comparison to best of breed e-commerce products. With regards this last point it can be argued that the latest SAP WCEM 2.0 and 3.0 releases go a long way to addressing these shortcomings.
The Gartner conclusion leads me to consider a couple of my own cautions.
Firstly, recognising that a key strength of SAP WCEM is the tight integration to data and process configured in the backend ERP and CRM systems, it is clear that the functionality built into SAP WCEM is aligned with those processes. Although SAP are making a big play about how "modular" SAP WCEM is in its make up and hence it is simple to tailor functionality sets, it may still be very demanding to re-engineer the user experience or process within the tool if it is not well aligned to the back end data and process. This could suggest that a decision to implement SAP WCEM may be partly influenced by how much your scenario will need to tailor its inherent process.
Secondly, the skills to tailor it. Most organisations that have deployed SAP have access to an abundance of ABAP developers to help develop and maintain their SAP based applications. However my experience is that such organisations may be constrained in their Java skill sets and this is a consideration because SAP WCEM at the UI level is based on Java technology. That said, all web deployments will require skills outside of SAP ABAP anyway.
Finally, can the user experience be first class?
There are other SAP based options, such as building the User Interface within CMS toolkits like Coremedia and Sitecore, and integrating to the SAP backend landscape via webservices all glued together and orchestrated via SAP Gateway. This is a scenario we have recently implemented with a large customer.
But cards on the table - my view is that in WCEM, SAP have created a product offering which really is worthy of consideration especially when you consider not only the individual functionality sets but also the native alignment with SAP data and processes as well as CMS integration.
As ever, "horses for courses" rings true. My aim is to deliver a series of blogs which break some of the functionality, considerations and wider insight into more detail - watch this space.