Daniel Gerster, CIO of Roland Berger Strategy Consultants, and his team at the company headquarters in Munich are about to complete the company-wide implementation of SAP Business ByDesign. “The cloud-based ERP software will create a central data basis to dovetail business processes from purchasing and customer relationship management through financial accounting and controlling, and to manage these processes consistently using IT,” says Gerster, outlining the IT project’s most important goals.
Thanks to the SaaS cloud-based SAP solution, even small international subsidiaries that only have a few employees will, in the future, be able to use full-fledged ERP functions. Roland Berger, which was founded in 1967 as a one-man operation, now has 51 offices in 36 countries. With more than 2,700 employees, it is a top player in the premier league of international consultancies. On-site implementations of SAP Business ByDesign are not necessary, because users can access it through the Internet. Authorized employees and managers can hook up to the solution any time and from any location, and call up information and key figures or enter data such as their hours worked or their travel expenses, whether they are at their desktop PC in the office or on the road using their laptop, tablet PC, or smartphone.
Mapping work processes in the ERP standard
To harmonize business processes across locations, the standard functions of SAP Business ByDesign are used wherever possible. Only in a few exceptional cases has Roland Berger adapted the processes to its requirements using customer-specific fields. However, these enhancements are not hard-programmed, but are merely settings, so they will not be affected at all by new releases. This reduces the amount of work involved now, in the implementation, and down the road, when it comes to maintenance.
In the first project phase – the proof of concept – Roland Berger worked with itelligence AG, which, in this feasibility study, examined the Roland Berger locations in Austria, Sweden, and the Czech Republic. Here, the aim was to assess the use of SAP Business ByDesign with regard to the generally available country versions, as well as for the regions where a localized version was not yet available. The consultants at these locations should be the first to enjoy the benefits of end-to-end business processes and the opportunities of mobile data access.
“Manual and paper-based work processes that used to cause integration gaps have become a thing of the past,” Gerster says. The company hopes that processes will now become more transparent and more efficient. “At the same time, data quality will improve, as will the information content, because authorized employees can call up current information themselves at any time and also update it,” Gerster explains. Another advantage is that settling travel expenses will be much faster and more secure, because the process is workflow-based and is completely electronic, right through to approval. Employees can even scan documents using their smartphone camera, so that expenses can be processed fully without having to wait for paper invoices to arrive.
SaaS: Settling travel expenses using workflows
Lead management at Roland Berger will also benefit from SAP Business ByDesign. Prospects’ contact data can be recorded directly using the CRM functions integrated into the cloud-based ERP solution while employees are on the move, and it can also be managed centrally and consistently. And not least, as part of the shift to SAP Business ByDesign, there are plans to produce account settlements that comply with the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) as well as with the German Commercial Code.
However, the rollout of SAP Business ByDesign to the individual locations has posed certain challenges for the IT department and the project partners. This is because the Roland Berger offices in more than 20 countries had to have their own localized version produced – fully localized country versions are only available for 14 of the Roland Berger countries. “When it comes to the localization of the software for smaller offices in particular, we’re effectively pioneers,” says Gerster.
The company’s first own country version covering all its relevant business processes was developed for the Czech Republic and was tailored to meet specific national requirements, such as local currency, value-added tax rate, and financial accounting. Furthermore, the local version contains forms, relevant reports, and legal output formats in Czech. The local compliance requirements with regard to data security and data protection are also met. This process took just a few weeks and there are now plans to expand it to more countries.
On-premise: Too much implementation work and too expensive
The implementation of the ERP on-demand software means that Roland Berger is replacing its heterogeneous IT landscape that grew over the years and comprised CRM and ERP solutions from different providers, as well as homegrown solutions. “Using SAP’s integrated IT platform as the basis, we are consolidating our IT landscape,” Gerster recapitulates.
To do this, the IT experts also developed a new IT concept. They compared the potential benefits of an ERP solution operating on-premise with a service in the cloud. The results revealed that equipping all the offices throughout the world – especially the smaller ones – with integrated on-premise software would be too costly, because operation and maintenance would be very labor-intensive. What’s more, compared with a cloud solution, more implementation work would be involved and the costs would be higher.
In addition, SAP takes care of SAP Business ByDesign’s technical operation, maintenance, and – above all – its updates, thus taking a load off the internal IT organization’s shoulders and enabling Roland Berger’s IT employees to concentrate on their core tasks: namely, managing external IT providers, and designing and optimizing IT processes.
Testing security: Data is safer with SAP
Security is another important topic. Roland Berger had to test the cloud solution in terms of security and compliance with data protection. The result? “In the end, we ascertained that business-critical data is safer in SAP’s high-performance data center than on servers, databases, and storage systems in our own data center” Gerster says. “And the high demands of German data protection law are also met.”