Trends Implemented in Product Strategy

Feature Article | October 4, 2006 by SAP News

SMEs today find themselves increasingly involved in international competition. Long-term market success can only be ensured through a business management software package that meets market needs. It must be able to map business processes consistently and allow rapid adaptation to changing market requirements. “SAP Business One enables us to implement these requirements consistently,” explains Jürgen Kleinsteuber, head of Partner Management for SME sales at SAP. First, the application is designed for smaller businesses with between ten and 100 staff and small group subsidiaries. “Second, we are constantly developing SAP Business One and gearing it to the requirements of SMEs,” Kleinsteuber continues.

Customer requirements taken on board

To identify these requirements, the product management team for SAP Business One and SAP partners work together in collecting stimuli, suggestions, and requests from customers and consolidating these. These are supplemented by market analyses by independent market researchers who use surveys to identify predominant trends in SMEs – for instance Aberdeen Group, Yankee Group, or Techconsult – and by their own studies. These sources provide Kleinsteuber with a very precise picture of actual customer requirements, which are then implemented by SAP within the framework of its SAP Business One product strategy. “Functions that are relevant to a large number of SMEs across different industries are integrated directly into the core application,” explains Kleinsteuber. “Our aim is to enhance the application by adding new functions, while also keeping it very lean and thus attractive for smaller enterprises.” For this reason, industry-specific requirements, such as exist in the production sector, continue to be mapped via the certified add-ons from qualified SAP business partners.
This approach proved successful in the past when, for example, numerous customers requested additional analytical functions in SAP Business One. Users wanted functions that would support rapid, simple analyses from different sources such as general ledger accounting, sales, purchasing, stock management, or accounts payable and accounts receivable. In 2005 SAP AG acquired the Norwegian software house iLytix Systems and integrated the XL-Reporter analysis and reporting software into its ERP application.
“Recently two further trends have become apparent within SMEs, and these place additional demands on SAP Business One,” explains Kleinsteuber. First, small businesses are increasingly seeking to market their services or products via the Internet. Second, these businesses now have increased requirements on customer relationship management (CRM). These include campaign management functions, mobile acquisition of orders, and access to customer data for field-sales staff via a web client. “That was the signal for us to integrate powerful e-commerce and CRM functionality into the core of SAP Business One,” explains Kleinsteuber.

Buying in and integrating proven add-ons

Add-ons for SAP Business One

Add-ons for SAP Business One

SAP partner Praxis Software Solutions already supplied appropriate add-on products for SAP Business One in the shape of NetPoint Focus and NetPoint Commerce. Praxis Software’s add-on solutions are of high quality and have a proven track record in practice. The product is already being used by 100 customers around the world. SAP named the company, which is based in Minneapolis, “SAP Business One Partner of the Year”, and presented it with the “Pinnacle award” twice in a row. The decision to acquire Praxis Software Solutions and to integrate the add-ons fully in SAP Business One was therefore a logical step for Kleinsteuber, as: “Praxis Software’s products are an ideal match with the SAP Business One product strategy.”
Independent market researchers and analysts view SAP’s acquisition of Praxis Software positively. According to the Aberdeen Group, one of the greatest challenges that SMEs face is consolidating sales, stock, and customer data. Small commercial firms in particular would therefore benefit from the e-commerce and CRM functions integrated into the business management processes. For Sanjeev Aggarwal, senior analyst at the Yankee Group, close dovetailing of front and back office is a precondition for profitably managed SMEs. Further, e-commerce integration is “a key factor in increasing staff productivity and efficiency in SMEs.”

Online store without interfaces

The integration of NetPoint Commerce provides SMEs with comprehensive functions for setting up and operating online stores. These include design functions, layout forms, a shopping cart and online customer service. If a dealer creates a new product in SAP Business One, the relevant information, such as product data, images, or price, is automatically transferred to the store.
“If the dealer then changes or updates the prices in the product master data and these prices are saved in the ERP application, this change is automatically communicated to the store, where prices are then adjusted immediately,” explains Kleinsteuber. This considerably reduces the time required for managing product data as it only has to be set up or amended once. Furthermore, data exchange between SAP Business One and the online store is managed without the need for the interfaces previously encountered with add-on solutions. Thus, all relevant information and changes are available immediately and in high quality.

Direct line to customers

The CRM functions of NetPoint Focus in turn complement and enhance the existing CRM functionality in SAP Business One. They enable staff to access, supplement, and update all relevant customer data immediately, and also to take orders. If the customer places a product in the shopping cart and goes to the virtual checkout, the software uses the customer data required to make the purchase to identify whether the purchaser still has any unpaid invoices and if so to what amount. Staff use this data to check the order and specify whether a customer may pay via invoice or credit card or only against prepayment. In turn, the campaign management function controls which products are placed in the online store and which are sold at special rates. At the same time the system monitors which and how many of the products available in the online store are still in stock and which need to be reordered.
Smaller SMEs whose staff are heavily involved in field sales benefit from mobile access to SAP Business One via a web client. Sales staff can access the customer and product data recorded in a standard business management application at any time via their mobile applications during the sales talks. This includes information on sales, unpaid invoices, and contacts. Additionally, inquiries and orders can be accepted “on the spot”. These are sent to SAP Business One, checked – to determine for instance whether a product is in stock – and an order confirmation is immediately sent to the customer via e-mail or fax. “The data and information required for an order is only entered once,” says Jürgen Kleinsteuber, describing the benefits. “This dispenses with the need to manually enter order data from completed paper forms into SAP Business One. This not only saves time and costs, it also increases the quality of data and information.”

Exploiting the potential of e-commerce

Both add-on solutions from Praxis Software are fully integrated into SAP Business One via the Software Development Kit (SDK). SAP Business One and the new functions are made available to customers via an installation CD and, unlike add-ons from SAP partners, are implemented in a single pass. “This saves time and lowers implementation costs,” Kleinsteuber stresses. There’s another benefit, too. The add-ons from Praxis Software Solutions are currently available in eight language versions, which is particularly attractive to SMEs with international operations. SAP will make further language versions available if there is sufficient demand from individual countries.
“The additional functions mean that smaller SMEs can fully exploit the opportunities of online commerce with effective customer retention,” concludes Kleinsteuber. “They benefit from the comprehensive and transparent processes along the entire chain from the online store through stock control up to customer management and service. This cuts costs and increases profits.”

Dr. Andreas Schaffry

Dr. Andreas Schaffry

Tags: ,

Leave a Reply