SAP Community Helps Pillow Maker

Feature Article | December 3, 2008 by Claudia Linke

Relying on outside consultants to satisfy business regulations using SAP software can be time-intensive and costly. Sometimes it is preferable to draw informally on the knowledge and experience of other SAP customers and experts that have faced and handled similar business situations. That’s exactly what PCFC did – by looking for answers in the SAP Business Process Expert forum, a community of innovation within the SAP ecosystem of customers, partners, and other contributors. By leveraging the forum, PCFC was able to quickly find help for some very specific problems, saving money and time in the process.

“Researching information at the Business Process Expert community at SAP is quick and easy,” says Marielena Withnell, head of business information systems at PCFC. “The information is at your fingertips. It’s a great place to start.”

Chinese challenges

“By researching our issue in the Business Process Expert community, we saved a lot of money in consulting fees and time in our search for information.”
Marielena Withnell, head of business information systems at the Pacific Coast Feather Company.

PCFC implemented the SAP Business Suite family of business applications in 1995 and is using them to run all major aspects of its business, including accounting processes. Recently, the Seattle-based company (annual sales of roughly U.S. $300 million) implemented the SAP Customer Relationship Management (SAP CRM) application. Introducing the Chinese sales organization, however, brought a new level of complexity.

“We used SAP CRM to enable the sales process and an e-commerce Web site in China. That’s when we started to run into issues,” Withnell says. “We didn’t know how to structure our accounting processes with the SAP solution to satisfy Chinese financial reporting regulations.”

As PCFC was setting up its accounting practices for its Chinese business, Withnell wanted to simplify the process with a single entry in its SAP software. She wasn’t sure if the company needed to use a specific chart of accounts for China or if it could use its existing chart of accounts based in the United States. “We wanted to know how alternative account numbering works and how people are using it,” Withnell says.

When using SAP software to manage two different charts of accounts – one global, the other country-specific – a company can link both charts of accounts using an alternative account number field in the chart of accounts master data. Withnell turned to the Business Process Expert community to learn how this SAP functionality might help PCFC resolve its business process issue.

Setting up accounting practices made easy

In a forum within the community, Withnell found a thread with several responses to a question posed by an SAP customer about setting up a country-specific chart of accounts. “We found a whole section that dealt directly with the issue I was facing: using a China-specific chart of accounts and complying with the Chinese government’s regulations for financial reporting,” Withnell explains.

With help from its own business process analysts, PCFC set up the chart of accounts following the tips from the forum. “And it worked,” states Withnell. “We went forward with that configuration in our livesystem.”

Previously, the company had to rely on expensive consulting or wait to connect with other SAP customers at a conference. Now it could simply tap into the community and leverage its knowledge and experience. PCFC was able to quickly and cost-effectively address its accounting issues so it could get back to its most important business – growing its Asia-Pacific operations.

A forum of experts
The Business Process Expert community drives process innovation through collaboration, best-practice sharing, and collective learning by connecting SAP customers with each other. Within the community, industry experts, business and application consultants, process developers, enterprise architects, and many others engage in moderated forums, Wikis, and expert blogs to collaborate across company boundaries. They share ideas, develop and refine business processes, and leverage the benefits of enterprise service-oriented architecture (SOA).

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