Service After the Sale

Feature Article | January 7, 2004 by admin

Service providers on the panel included:

  • Chris Meiser, Executive Vice President of Operations, Tallard Technologies, Inc. Value-added distributor of telecommunications and computing products and services to Latin American and the Caribbean: www.tallard.com
  • Douglas Greenstein, CFO, DITAN Distribution. Direct-to-store distributor of time-sensitive products: www.ditan.com
  • Steve Beaver, SAP Technical Lead, FacilityPro. Outsourcing services procurement for customers in manufacturing, real estate, construction, and financial services: www.facilitypro.com
  • Drew Blanchard, CSC Global SAP Financial Systems Program, Computer Sciences Corp. Global service provider in consulting, systems integration, and IT outsourcing: www.csc.com

The choice is yours

The panelists fielded questions from the audience as well as the panel moderator, Cathy Hite, service provider industry principal for SAP America, Inc. The question of selecting the right ERP solution was on everyone’s mind.
For Tallard Technologies, attendance at an SAP-sponsored event for SMBs was “just blind luck.” Meiser stated, “I didn’t even consider a tier-one ERP, but we didn’t want something that bolted on either.” When he realized that many of his major vendors use SAP solutions, the deal was clinched for mySAP All-in-One.
FacilityPro had two major requirements that were met by SAP R/3: ease of customization, to meet the needs of customers; and ease of use, to meet the requirements of a large number of occasional users. “We were looking at a potentially large training effort for our customer service reps. They use the system maybe once or twice a month, so the interface had to be easy to use.”
Any system implemented at DITAN had to support extensive EDI requirements and an extremely high number of transactions. Because the products that DITAN handles are time-sensitive, speed and accuracy are paramount requirements for any distribution system. For example, DITAN handles close to half of all video games shipped from publishers to retail stores in the United States.
Working with narrow time margins, employees at DITAN don’t have time to rekey or download data. Seamless integration of all systems is a must-have. And Greenstein didn’t have the luxury of downtime while an ERP system was installed. Speed and business experience were deciding factors in choosing an implementation partner.
The implementation of the selected solution can be a humbling experience for even the savviest manager. Unexpected issues can develop quickly and derail even the most carefully laid plans.

Managing change

All employees at Tallard were excited about the opportunity to have a world-class system. But some of the business processes took longer than expected. For example, planning required more data and more steps. But, as Mesier reported, integration did pay off. “We had to understand that there are predefined rules, and automation affects everyone in the organization. It changes the way that everyone does his or her job.”
As a small company, Tallard couldn’t afford any down time. “We had to pull the engine while the car was still moving.” Despite the stress that this caused, everything went smoothly. “The software worked like it was supposed to.”
Blanchard noted that the diversity of the user population at CSC Global had unexpected consequences. “We didn’t anticipate how this would affect communication. We underestimated the impact of different business cultures on business processes.
FacilityPro decided to involve its partners in the implementation process. According to Beaver, “We built a sandbox where customers could try out the new software. We collected their feedback and adjusted the system to meet their requirements. They needed to be part of the process.”
Working with certified partners, standardized implementation methods, and time-tested software brings a large measure of surety and security. The companies were confident that the SAP solutions could deliver on what was promised. But there were unexpected benefits.
Greenstein noted that the old system at DITAN forced the company to be constantly in firefighter mode. “We were always reacting. The personality of the SAP product is a benefit that’s hard to quantify. By focusing on planning, we’ve changed into a company that’s in control of its processes and transactions.”
Meiser praised SAP Best Practices. “When we saw them, we said ‘This is where we want to be.’”
Beaver noted, “We can sell SAP to our customers. They see us as a company that’s using a high end, solid technology.”

Achievements to celebrate

Each panelist was pleased with what his company had accomplished, not only during the installation but, more importantly, after the sale.
DITAN is proud of the visibility into its supply chain that it can now offer via its Web site and portal. Greenstein refers to it as “our glass-pipe supply chain.” Employees and customers have 24 X 7 access to all relevant information. They can see the entire supply chain through one site. And with the analytic functions, his employees can see the entire life cycle of each transaction.
Meiser noted the chain reaction of better business intelligence at Tallard. “At any point in time and in any area, we can look at how we’re doing. With analytics, we understand our customers better and we can manage our business better. This enables us to make better business decisions.”

Gain financial benefits

All panelists noted clear financial and process improvements for themselves – and for their customers. Tallard was able to reduce inventory significantly, which freed up money to finance their customers in Latin America.
Greenstein noted that the freight optimization solution from SAP enabled DITAN to deliver products directly from the publisher to retail shelves in its customers’ stores. The streamlined process, which bypasses a customer’s warehousing and distribution systems, results in significant savings. For example, one DITAN customer reported a $40 million USD decrease in shipping costs after just four months.
And the benefits aren’t always quantifiable. Greenstein noted that the reputation of DITAN has been raised a notch or two. “We’ve gone from a lemonade stand to a real contender.”
SAP offers the best options in a high-growth environment, whatever the size of your business. Before you decide to replace your existing business management solution, listen to what the experts have to say.
Meiser believes that business owners and executives must understand what’s going on in their industry and how technology can help. He advises attending sessions like the SAP Business Forums, where industry trends are augmented with real-life experiences. He suggests taking advantage of the entire SAP ecosystem, including user groups, events, Web sites, and SAP business partners.
Blanchard notes that SAP solutions are “deceptively flexible and simply complex.” He advises anyone installing a business management solution to avoid getting caught up in complexities and complications. “Believe me, SAP Best Practices will meet your needs. Use them.”
According to Greenstein, SAP is now a player in the SMB market. “Forget the perception that SAP doesn’t fit SMBs. It plays well and plays cost effectively.” And he advises business owners and decision makers not to be hung up on the initial cost. “What you get as both tangible and intangible benefits makes SAP the better investment. It really is about the total benefit to the organization.“

What are you waiting for?

You’ve heard what your fellow business owners and executives have to say about SAP solutions. If you’re the owner of a small or midsize business, visit our Web site at www.sap.com/smb for information about SAP Business One and mySAP All-in-One.
Need a solution that’s scaled for your larger business? Visit our Web site at www.sap.com/solutions.

Brenda Mackay

Brenda Mackay

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