Small to mid size manufacturers should be able to get a new crack at going for SAP ERP if they choose to, following last month’s introduction of a two tier approach with its ‘Smart Business Solutions’ programme. SAP is now offering more sophisticated SME users, like “aerospace, complex engineering and motor sport”, the existing, but with templates and pre-configured industry templates assisted by a global roll-out of its SAP VAR partner network. Simpler, sales-orientated users, however, with between 10 and 50 employees, get the option of a new SME package covering financials, logistics and CRM. Initial targets include food and drink, but it’s clear SAP is aiming very broad here. The change is the result of SAP’s acquisition of Israeli software company TopManage Financial Solutions. Its suite covers accounting and banking, financials and CRM, alongside purchasing and selling, logistics and the management of product trees. There’s also some business intelligence and reporting and online alerts. What’s important is two-fold. First, it’s to be marketed as out-of-the-box technology requiring zero implementation work (“like you didn’t have to implement Microsoft Office – you just got trained on it”). Second, it’s open, based on SQL Server, integrates with and can be scaled up as the need arises. These are grand claims for a small, unsophisticated user system – and yet to be tested. SAP also says the system already includes its ‘Drag and Relate’ application interfacing technology, which allows users to link information from different data sources on the desktop. So simple, but speaking to today’s business user expectations. Jim Osman, director mid market solutions at SAP, says the new application will be sold by a new fleet of distributors under a newly formed SAP business unit. “We will triple the number of resellers,” he says. And he believes the dual approach will lead SAP to its avowed aim of 20% of revenue coming from mid market firms by 2005. It’s an interesting development, which Osman believes will tackle head on others in the ERP community’s aspirations here. Citing in particular Navision and Microsoft Great Plains, he says SAP’s dual, but integrated approach at the SME level will finally enable SAP to march down the market.