For years, debitel AG used an electronic procurement system based on Lotus Notes. Although this solution contained a product catalog from which articles could be selected and electronically authorized, the catalog – which corresponded to a Lotus Notes database – had neither management tools nor modern search functions and had to be managed manually. Not only that, the master data had to be managed in SAP R/3. The crucial disadvantage of this solution, however, was the fact that it had no interface to the SAP R/3 system and the purchasing department had to transfer the data manually.
To tighten up the procurement process, debitel therefore made it a priority not only to introduce an e-procurement solution integrated in SAP R/3 and based on SAP Material Management (SAP MM), but also to develop an optimized product catalog. The company chose BugsEye from Requisite Technology for its catalog software. As external consultants for the introduction of the new technology, debitel chose Mummert Consulting AG.
“The product catalog lies at the heart of the procurement solution. The acceptance of the whole application depends on it”, says Karl Ritter, Head of the SAP department at debitel, who understands the catalog’s importance. That’s why it was essential to ensure that the required articles can be found quickly using the catalog and that all information required for making purchasing decisions is provided. Before the new system was introduced, all the articles needed in the various departments had to be entered in the catalog. To do this, the consultants worked closely with the technical catalog administrators and the purchasing department. It was also necessary to arrange pre-defined shopping carts for particular suppliers, so that buyers could help themselves the items at the agreed prices. Plain-text orders were only to be accepted in exceptional cases.
For the debitel purchasing department, this was part of an overall project aimed at optimizing procurement. The project team worked systematically on the preparations for implementation. Mummert Consulting and their colleagues from Gerd Kerkhoff Consulting used a product group analysis to assess how the products for procurement should be cataloged. These were assigned to the different procurement processes. Then the project team identified the product groups that needed to be included in the catalog. Working closely with the e-procurement solution development team, they defined the sequence and the mapping of the processes and, consequently, of the product groups. Office materials came first, followed by magazine subscriptions, stationery, packaging material, corporate entertainment, equipment, furniture, marketing, services and IT hardware.
The Importance of Catalog Management
Once the catalog engine BugsEye from Requisite had been installed, correct catalog data needed to be obtained or created. The consultants drew up a specification for this which described precisely all the formal requirements and technical formats for the catalog data. This documentation was made available to the suppliers. debitel acquires its office materials from large suppliers and because these suppliers had prior experience of the requirements of e-business, they were quickly able to provide high-quality up-to-date article data. It was a different story, however, for smaller local suppliers who did not have the data in electronic form. In these cases, the project team had to create the necessary article data and some of the catalog still has to be managed manually.
When managing the catalog data, care must be taken to ensure that the data provided by the suppliers includes debitel-specific information. Only if this information is provided can process steps in the e-procurement/back-end system be automated. To do this, the internal product groups (and material numbers and account codes, if required) must be managed.
In the catalog engine BugsEye, the various departments now have the means to manage the relevant parameters and monitor the data directly. Contents can be cleaned up (normalizing), data quality and consistency monitored and data bundled and organized (mapping).
System in Use all over Germany
To ensure that the central investment in catalog management pays off as quickly as possible, debitel installed the electronic procurement solution not just in its headquarter in Stuttgart, but also in its Ettlingen, Kaiserslautern and Saarbrücken branches. The system went live in May 2002. The company took the additional step of installing the system in the sales company and its various branches throughout Germany by July 2002. debitel is very pleased with the results of the project. “A modern catalog system is the only way to manage a central catalog”, says Karl Ritter. “It is important that the catalog views can be controlled so that the needs of specific shopping carts in different regions, company divisions and functional areas can be taken into account.”