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"I have no idea what they actually do"

For ERP applications (which SAP is arguably most famous for) you are basically getting all of the "standard" features that you require to run a business in one highly integrated (and usually highly modular) package. This will include, at a very basic level:

- Accounting (general ledger, fixed assets, accounts receivable, accounts payable, budgeting, consolidation, maybe treasury)

- HR

- Payroll

- Supply chain/warehouse

- Manufacturing (processes, bill of materials etc.)


- Interfaces (including web portals, EDI, perhaps direct links to manufacturing systems)

- Many many others...

What arguably makes this all rather complex is providing all of this functionality in a way that can work across a large multi-national organisation - for example, the accounting and tax rules in different countries can be very different. Even the basic technical challenges of getting a Tier-1 ERP working in a global company are non-trivial.

Factor that these things are highly customisable and you can perhaps see why they have to be so complex.

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