Adventures of an SAP Musketeer

Feature Article | January 21, 2004 by admin

The German software and consulting firm All for One, founded in 1978 as Härle, initially focused on conventional consulting services. But when the company became an SAP Business partner in 1995, it switched direction to become a vertically oriented software and consulting firm, even changing its name in 1998.
All for One entered its SAP partnership with wide experience of SMB industries but far less knowledge of SAP R/3, so the years immediately following the transition were tough. But it was more than worth it: Over he past four to five years, the company has grown 25 percent annually – a growth level it expects to be able to maintain.
All for One completely modified its business model to build its services around SAP, eliminating most software development in areas where SAP is delivering a suitable product portfolio in competing SMB markets – such as the discrete and automotive sectors – in order to avoid going head-to-head with SAP.
The typical SMB customer is looking to the long term, says All for One executive board member Lars Landwehrkamp – financial stability, full functionality, low budget, and fast implementation. And they want all this at an SMB price. Combining All for One experience in the SMB market with SAP Best Practices, the company has developed several mySAP All-in-One solutions that meet these demands, he explains.
The company’s partnership with SAP has improved its competitive position, he adds: “Since SAP is perceived as a reliable and solid partner, our customers also perceive us as a reliable and solid partner. Together with SAP we have been able to build a stable position in the SMB market.” And All for One practices what it preaches: It uses SAP internally as well.

Gearing up, reaching out

The company has developed extensive expertise in the discrete industry, engineering and construction, and automotive supply sectors, with a strong focus also on healthcare, public administration, and social services. It chose SAP as a partner initially because SAP was building its indirect sales channel and the SAP market approach aligned well with All for One’s. For the health care and non-profit organizations, the company acts as an ISV (Independent Software Vendor).
Of 380 All for One employees at six locations in Germany – plus branches in Austria, Italy, and the U.S. – 120 are SAP consultants. The All for One focus on a limited number of industries dovetails with the current SMB climate, says Landwehrkamp: “Five years ago you could still get away with product knowledge, but with the people we are talking to now, industry knowledge is a necessity. We often talk to the owner of a company. He knows his business and can only work with consultants who are able to ‘talk the same talk.'”
For its mySAP All-in-One solutions, All for One develops preconfigured templates as well as marketing and training material. The current solutions include All for Automotive, All for Machine, All for Service, All for Public, and All for Social. As an example of a typical SMB implementation, for German automotive supplier Erich Jaeger (which has revenues of 34 million Euro and 300 employees), All for One installed its All for Automotive solution at a fixed price within six months – including summer vacations. The implementation included basic SAP R/3 components plus such industry-specific functionality as All for EDI.
Listing the strengths of the partnership with SAP, Landwehrkamp points to SAP’s mySAP All-in-One functionality – no extra programming needed – market leadership, customer references, and financial stability. “SAP has delivered beyond our expectations,” he says. “Perfect.”.
Several initiatives support the All for One objective of increased industry penetration. It plans to strengthen its sales force on an international level to meet aggressive local competitors. And new All-in-One packages close to their core business will enhance their image in the targeted industries, says Landwehrkamp. The company plans to involve some bigger clients as well, for whom they can do international rollouts. Profit contributed by these projects will help finance further investments in the SMB market.

The high cost of development

Investments in solution development are high, he notes. Beyond actual development hours, the company must continuously invest in marketing, sales, and new technology. The company estimates that it takes approximately 200 person-days each year to develop and maintain a single solution, though it takes advantage of input from its customers to optimize the solutions. Profits are used to further build the company’s knowledge base and to improve such major areas of concern as support.
All for One employees are crucial to realizing the company’s goals, says Landwehrkamp: “We live our corporate values to the fullest, enjoying not only the resulting success, but also enjoy ourselves in the progress. All for One’s employees are our most valuable asset.” Giving them the green light to be creative, he explains, leads to better customer service and more innovative products. All for One prefers that its consultants have industry knowledge, above SAP and product knowledge: “Tools you can learn: for industry knowledge, though, you have to build experience.”
An already solid relationship with SAP has improved over time, he maintains, especially in the area of SMB partner management; regular feedback rounds was SAP have had much to do with this improvement, and the savvy of partner managers has increased.
Still, the company would like to see SAP do more to deal with such concerns as less-than-optimal marketing to SMBs and channel conflicts with SAP’s direct sales force. SAP has begun to address these issues, says Landwehrkamp, through joint marketing initiatives and developing clear internal guidelines for sales.
Over the long haul, All for One sees SAP as a stable and reliable partner now and for the future.

Derek Davis

Derek Davis

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