The Answer to ERP Challenges for SMBs

Feature Article | August 18, 2004 by admin

SAP Business One pricing module

SAP offers SAP Business One in a very simple “named user” pricing program. For a very reasonable “user price”, the customer pays a fixed amount per named user and this covers all of the SAP Business One modules. Most of the industry charges by user count and then by module, so as companies progress with their implementation and desire new modules for other parts of their business, they are required to purchase the additional modules. SAP provides any newly developed modules at no cost so long as the customer is up-to-date with the maintenance fees. Considering the rate at which SAP is developing new functionality in SAP Business One, customers benefit from a one-time investment in both present and future software.

Simple user interface

SAP Business One displays a very unique user interface, which makes navigation and learning the system very simple. Not only is the navigation clean and simple, there is plenty of “one button” access to Microsoft Office products as well as e-mail and text messaging. A closer look reveals design features that make the system even simpler to learn. For example, traditional systems have various entry points for virtually the same types of data. Rather than learning an accounts payable module and an accounts receivable module, SAP Business One provides conventions like a business partner module and a banking module. All customers, vendors and prospects are entered on one screen, not to mention banking which is also done on one screen. Money is either coming in or going out, but SAP has figured out that you don’t need two separate functions on the menu to execute payments and receipts.

Adaptability

An attractive feature of SAP Business One is its ability to be easily adapted to any number of environments without extensive modifications. Several features make this possible. First, the user can add an unlimited number of user-defined fields (UDF) to the system. These fields may be added to static data files, document headers or even to the body of documents. The fields can be simple input fields or can perform complex structured queries. Most systems reserve a few fields that users can define, but the fields are usually limited and don’t respond to queries and reports the way that native fields do. In SAP Business One, the UDFs respond just like the native system fields do, meaning that processing is not compromised when displaying the UDFs. Users also don’t have to be concerned with subsequent versions because the upgrades auto-protect the integrity of any pre-existing UDFs. Finally, the UDFs can be used to enhance even the line items within documents and the user can quickly (within minutes) change the user interface on complex input documents.
Along the same lines but even more powerful is the fact that SAP Business One also allows the use of unlimited user-defined tables as well as user-defined objects. This combination of features offers adaptability for businesses that do not have extensive resources for customization. All printed documents within SAP Business One can also be modified through the use of a document editor that allows users to use drag-and-click features to build an unlimited number of document formats for any number of users.

Workflow management

Another unique feature of SAP Business One, and maybe the most significant, is the ability for SMBs to “manage by exception” while using SAP Business One. This is particularly powerful given that small business managers operate almost exclusively this way. SAP Business One has an embedded workflow management tool that can be used in virtually every area of the system. Users can quickly and easily define alerts based on their own business rules. The user can also determine who gets those alerts and by what method the alerts are sent. So, for example, if a salesperson attempts to enter a quote where he or she has discounted an item by more than an acceptable level, the system can immediately and automatically send an alert to a sales manager who can then, with one click, see the document in question and take corrective action by sending immediate feedback to the salesperson. This is a fairly simple example but users can also easily define very complex alerts as well. Let’s say that a distributor has particular items that are extremely critical. A user could easily set up an alert to trigger when the available quantity for those items hits a certain level. The alert could be routed to the particular purchasing agent who is responsible for purchasing the items, and possibly even the salespeople who sell them. The alerts can be sent via SAP Business One or can be routed to e-mail, fax or text-messaged to a cell phone.

Embedded CRM

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is almost a misnomer in SAP Business One, for it works just as well with vendors as it does with customers or prospects. SAP Business One’s CRM capability is very well designed to sit within the application rather than being “added to” the application. In SAP Business One, the CRM requires no additional server or even additional training. In fact, the CRM is almost a by-product of the day-to-day processing of transactions. Salespeople can easily track their opportunities and prospects by scheduling reminders for callbacks and events. Accounts receivable managers can use the same functionality to help with collections, and purchasing agents can use the functionality to track vendor quotes and manage vendor relationships.

Reporting features

SAP Business One gives users a multitude of reporting options to allow customers dynamic access to data. First, there are a series of standard reports that come with the system. This sounds fairly standard until you actually see one of the reports. Every report within SAP Business One is displayed with a series of orange-colored “hot keys”. Wherever a user sees a “hot key”, they can click on that key to see the detail behind a certain reported item. For instance, if you print an inventory stock status report, each item will have a “hot key” next to it. Upon clicking that “hot key”, you can see all of the information available about that item. From all open orders for that item to every historical order ever placed for that item, warehouse data, pricing info, everything about that item is available without changing screens or navigating menus. A simple click on the “hot key” reveals the data.
The next reporting feature offered within SAP Business One is the Reporting Wizard, which allows users to create custom reports without the need to learn a reporting tool such as Crystal Reports. The wizard walks the user step-by-step through the selection of talks and data fields in familiar, easy-to-use language. The reports that are generated can then be saved for repeat use and also come with the same “hot key” feature that is used in the standard reports. The wizard creates the reports in SQL code, which can be easily edited and expanded for users who wish to enhance the reports through SQL code.
SAP Business One also has a built-in feature called “Drag and Relate”. The “Drag and Relate” feature is something you won’t see in other systems. SAP has patented this feature and it clearly is a competitive advantage over other systems. “Drag and Relate” allows users to select a field of data with a mouse click and then drag that field to almost any menu item for an instant report that displays the relationship of the selected field to the selected menu items. For instance, a purchasing agent who is in the middle of entering a purchase order for a particular vendor might want to know something about past purchases from that vendor. He or she simply has to click on the vendor and an immediate report pops up on the screen displaying every purchase order ever generated for that vendor.

Global product

The fact that SAP is a global company requires that SAP Business One be a global product. As such, SAP Business One supports nearly 20 languages and an unlimited number of foreign currencies. It is also important to note that there are not multiple versions of SAP Business One for the various countries supported. The language and currency features sit within SAP Business One and SAP only has a single version of the code to support the entire world. The obvious benefit for SMBs is that, as their business grows and expands, they are able to support the local languages and currencies for those countries that they wish to do business in.
In summary, SAP has positioned SMBs to benefit from the software giant’s years of dominance at enterprise level. SMBs can now compete with much larger companies with huge IT budgets. For the first time, SMBs can take the next level of advancement with a product that will not only meet their needs today, but will also grow with them in the future. In summary, and at the end of this discussion, the key elements of SAP’s success with SAP Business One lie in the six key benefits that customers will gain.

Daniel A. Carr

Daniel A. Carr

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