Unlike manufacturing companies, service providers do not generate revenue through products that are brought to market and then sold, but rather through individual services provided by employees with specific skills. US management expert Tom Peters estimates that up to 90 percent of the added-value contained in a product comes about as a result of services. “In small to midsize service providers from the engineering, IT, advertising and marketing, administration, energy and water management sectors in particular, but also in non-profit organizations, at least one to two percent of revenue is lost in the ‘feedback process – project manager monitoring – comparison with contractual agreements – billing – bookkeeping’ information chain,” says Wilfried Merz, Managing Director of ProPart, a subsidiary of SAP Business Partner AC-Service. Shortcomings in the feedback process, invoices, contractual service agreements and regular billing are just some of the factors responsible for the lost revenue.
Mapping processes transparently
“An industry solution therefore has to cover as many processes as possible in one go, map them transparently and be geared to the needs of small to midsize service providers,” explains Merz. What’s more, SMBs also tend to look for future-proof, scalable solutions with a reasonable price/performance ratio in order to protect their investment. Enter qualified mySAP All-in-One solution ProServ which meets all of these requirements and more. “ProServ is a business-management concept for service companies, which is particularly attractive for SMBs who are experiencing a steadily increasing number of customers, projects and employees and require an integrated IT platform that will provide support for administrative processes,” says Merz.
According to AC-Service, ProServ maps all key processes for service companies. This includes service sales, contract management, internal orders, event management, project management and service management. AC-Service has reconfigured the SAP R/3 processes in ProServ and, where necessary, has added industry-specific functions specifically for service providers. “This allows us to ensure that the solution can be fully integrated in business-management functions such as Materials Management (MM), Finance (FI), Controlling (CO) and Human Resources (HR),” explains Merz. ProServ brings orders together on a single interface and maps both the input and output processes. As a result, individual procedures, which otherwise had to be input manually, are initiated automatically in the various modules of the SAP system. ProServ channels the queries and forwards them to the relevant SAP module. The benefit for users is clear – they only work with one mask, thereby saving valuable time.
The combination is what matters
ProServ has a modular structure and, according to the SAP Business Partner, is offered in four variations – ProServ-BAS, ProServ-VER, ProServ-PRO and ProServ-SER. “The solutions can be combined as required and are sufficiently flexible to be customized to each individual customer’s needs,” says Merz. The basic system (ProServ-BAS) offers, among other features, “basic functions” such as financial accounting with a general ledger and debtor and creditor data, controlling with overhead cost controlling, cost center, profit center and cost unit accounting, a sales support module with address management, contract management and operations or order management with tariff-based service sales. For example, ProServ-BAS maps the management of contracts that are billed at a fixed amount at regular intervals. And the system automatically checks which services are covered by the contract and which are not.
What’s more, functional configurations in the form of add-on solutions, e.g. ProServ-VER event management, are available to cover specific requirements. And ProServ-PRO enables companies that handle a small number of very large projects with a material ratio of less than 50 percent to control their projects via the SAP PS (Project System) module. Consequently, companies can handle projects based on a fixed price, milestone billing or billing for work completed. ProServ-SER is particularly suitable for customer service scenarios and was designed for service providers who continue to manage or maintain products at the customer’s or who deploy service technicians to remedy faults. Service management leverages the call center functionality to control the deployment of service technicians who remedy faults at the customer’s or perform maintenance work. Any repairs which become necessary are also mapped.
Early warning system at the core
Unlike manufacturing companies where sales come from products, service companies generate revenue through “their employees providing one-off services, which are documented and billed on the basis of the time spent,” explains Merz. Identifying the different work completed and invoicing it quickly is an important competitive factor for service providers in particular. That’s why the ProTime work management module is the “functional core of ProServ”. It delivers fast and convenient feedback on different process variables, such as work completed, times, expenses and materials, on a single mask. What’s more, new projects can be created within a matter of minutes. The entire monthly invoicing process, posting included, can be completed within one to three days, as can multi-stage profit contribution calculations per customer. A further advantage of the software is its reliable early warning system comprising an automatic e-mail function for each individual project to notify if cost or revenue limits are exceeded. The software is fully Internet-enabled, meaning that designated employees – either project or company managers – receive project, market segment, management and company performance indicators in what is virtually “real time”.
No special requirements
The fact that the solution is so comprehensive prompts many people to ask if there are specific requirements for implementation. And the answer is a firm no, according to Merz. In terms of hardware and software, companies looking to utilize ProServ only have to be “SAP-compatible”. The requirements are not even defined by ProServ, but by the particular SAP system. In terms of software, SAP R/3 including the necessary licenses has to be installed, as has a suitable database like MaxDB (formerly SAP DB). “As far as implementation time goes, the quickest ProServ installation lasted just one day,” says Merz, proudly. In practice, the length of time taken to implement a complete solution depends among other things on which tasks customers carry out themselves. Merz says that anything between three and six months is a realistic timescale. From a technical point of view, there is no minimum number of users for the system, though in practice the lower limit is between five and ten users. This number will be exceeded very quickly if the entire company has opted for SAP, meaning smaller branches and sites across the enterprise will work with ProServ and will be served by the Outsourcing Service Center. According to AC-Service, the monthly cost of outsourcing (ASP mode) for between 25 and 50 users, including hardware, communication, system management and operation of the complete SAP solution, can amount to anywhere between Euro 5,000 and 8,000. “The price bracket covers the different levels of service that customers can choose from,” says Merz, “though the price for a complex solution like ProServ will be particularly attractive for SMBs.”