SAP is hoping to cement its foothold in the growing market for GRC (governance, risk and compliance) software with a new suite, announced Wednesday, that is nearly three years in the making.

There is "virtually no part of the product that has not been touched," said Jim Dunham, group vice-president of GRC solutions.

The new release, GRC 10.0, provides a common look and feel for all the modules, as well as user-friendly features like embedded BI (business intelligence) and a graphical risk modeling tool.

To date, GRC has been approached in four phases. At the most basic level, companies are dealing with compliance issues in a compartmentalised way - such as the finance department handling finance matters - and with manual tools, he said.

From there, companies have added some automation to their compliance processes, but the activity remained divided in silos, Dunham said. Phase three comes when IT departments start pushing to consolidate various compliance tools into a single platform for efficiency's sake, and companies start adding executives with job titles like "chief compliance officer," he said.

SAP's new GRC release aims at phase four, which builds upon the first three stages by merging GRC with BI for deeper insights, according to Dunham.

The 10.0 release connects to other ERP (enterprise resource planning) systems in addition to SAP's, as well as software lower in the stack, such as identity management platforms from the likes of Novell and IBM, Dunham said.

Partners are also starting to develop industry-specific content for the GRC suite, which is available through SAP's Ecohub.

SAP competes with large vendors such as Oracle, IBM and EMC in the GRC market, as well as smaller players like Agiliance.

GRC software revenues should grow about 20 percent this year, from $749 million (£459 million) to $899 million (£551 million), as companies scramble to deal with an increasingly heated regulatory environment, Forrester Research analyst Chris McClean said in a report released late last year.

But this growth will result in more vendors flocking to the market and thus more choices and confusion, McClean added. Also, new and changing regulations will slow GRC's maturity, he said.