Despite its size, Germany-based SAP sometimes toils in relative obscurity in the United States. For instance, many remain unaware that SAP, known primarily for larger enterprise applications like Strategic Enterprise Management, makes a small business accounting software solution - Business One.

"We were at the AICPA tech conference in Vegas last year," recounted Dan Kraus, vice president for SAP Business One at SAP America Inc., "and CPAs actually kept asking us why we were there."

Following a slow start in 2002, sales of SAP Business One have increased from 900 customers in its first year of existence, to over 6,000 customers now.

And that growth is expected to continue, according to Kraus.

AMR Research agreed with Kraus when they predicted that SAP is likely to be among the leaders in the North American software marketplace in 2005. Its software revenues were at 434 million euros (about $550 million) at the end of the first quarter in 2005 on March 31 - a 17 percent increase from the year-ago quarter.

"Business One is a large percentage of our footprint," explained Kraus. "It's not greater than 50 percent, but it's a large part of the SAP footprint growth."

Business One was originally written in Israel by TopManage Financial Solutions Ltd. and acquired by SAP in 2002. The software was, therefore, not based on mySAP ERP or any other SAP product, but built from a completely separate code base on .Net technology.

Randy Johnston, vice president of K2 Enterprises, described the design of the Business One product as "one of the most elegant, brilliant and stable out there."

"That means that things like XML are built in," said Johnston, "while everyone else is trying to add it on - it's remodeling versus reconstruction."

As XML becomes synonymous with integration to other companies' software applications, it stands to reason, Johnston stated, that Business One is becoming known for its integration powers.

Other differentiators for Business One, said Kraus, are a short implementation time - two to four months - an embedded customer relationship management system, and customizable alerts.

"Business people today are doing too much, too fast, right now," said Kraus. "Business owners get pulled in a lot of directions; alerts show you when things get outside the range. For a dashboard, you have to go and look at the gauges, but this way I get warned about what's going outside the range of what I define without having to look at gauges."

The big growth for Business One, however, started to come from partnering with rooted companies in specific fields, like American Express for retail verticals.

"American Express had been in business through their Tax and Business Services for a long time," said Kraus. "This way, customers don't have to worry about if a VAR reseller is going out of business. This isn't new to [AmEx] ... and it puts some credibility in the market right outside the gate."

American Express TBS was the first U.S. partner of SAP Business One to build a vertical application on the enterprise resource planning system.

In June 2003, AmEx TBS launched their American Express Edition for Wholesale Distribution, an enterprise resource planning solution with integrated warehouse management, electronic data interchange, sales tax, credit card authorization and document management capabilities.

To add to Business One, AmEx developed the American Express Edition for Point-of-Sale and SAP Business One, and the American Express Edition for Retail Management in January. Designed for small specialty retailers, the POS edition is geared towards a single-store operation, with three licenses available at $20,000. The retail management solution is for larger operations, such as retailers with multiple stores and a central distribution center or warehouse with higher technical needs.

"We're also starting to be recognized globally," said Harvey Goss, a managing director of AmEx TBS. "We started in the U.S. and now, through the SAP network, we've been able to become globally recognized and distributed."

Another important feature that AmEx TBS was able to add to Business One was the American Express Alliance Program, a nationwide network of resellers, distributors and support services for SAP Business One customers.

"From a customer perspective, what we're providing is fully integrated solutions backed by world-class services," said Charles Riess, a managing director at AmEx TBS.

Coming in late summer or early fall, a new release of Business One focusing on country-specific functionalities will be revealed. For example, Kraus explained, a very U.S.-unique function is the way that American companies do their banking.

With the new application, there will be added bank reconciliation and payment functionalities to better match the banking needs of American companies.

Into the far future, SAP is looking to partner with more clients that help spread the SAP name out, and do so with as much success as AmEx.

"We're talking to partners about addressing the not-for-profit market," said Kraus. "We're looking specifically at the service organizations of the not-for-profit world. Not that SAP would develop the products directly, but that we would find the right partner to work with, like we did with AmEx."

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