Partnership at All Levels

command AG, a German firm founded in 1978, focuses its software and associated services in the SMB market space, with particular strengths in the food, pharmaceutical, and utilities segments. The company divides its core solution-providing business between two platforms, IBM and SAP.
command has been an SAP partner since 1995. At that time, it had only a single business line and was looking for new market opportunities in the SMB arena. The company saw SAP as a market leader for enterprise applications. Also, command is located close to SAP’s Walldorf, Germany, headquarters, and the firm felt that this proximity would be an advantage. Taken together, the fit seemed right. Since the partnership was cemented, command’s certified SAP personnel have grown to number 80.
The partnership decision proved a wise one, according to Holger Behrens, member of the executive board, command AG. “We have been able to grow our revenues from around 17M Euro in 1995 to over 25M Euro,” he notes, “and much of this growth has been attributed to the SAP-focused business unit.” During the first years, he adds, SAP stabilized the company’s business, improving not only profits but general competitiveness. Today, he says, mySAP All-in-One solutions combine industry-specific solutions with SAP experience and best practices to form an excellent SMB offering.

Experience and staff morale

SAP’s broad experience has been a major factor in command’s success. The software giant has provided command with focused market data and analysis – information the company would find it difficult to garner on its own – to zero in on the best opportunities and blueprint how to take advantage of them.
Behrens points to certain SAP initiatives, such as bringing partners in different countries together to address multiple-geography issues and opportunities, as demonstrating a strong commitment to partners in the SMB arena. In addition, SAP provides strong support in training, information, and technical areas, he says. For all of that, command intends to keep sales under its own control as a key element in building its market image. Therefore, Behrens says, command views joint marketing activities more as a lead-generation instrument than a way of picking up leads directly from SAP.
The SAP partnership also provides concrete advantages for the command AG staff. “Being a partner of one of the leading industry players gives our employees confidence when dealing with clients,” says Behrens, “and knowledge of SAP products and solutions is seen as a general professional advantage which supports staff development and career opportunities.”

Customer input to mySAP All-in-One

To date, command has developed several MySAP All-in-One solutions, based on extensive customer input. As Behrens describes, the process, once the firm and a customer have hashed out specific needs, they work together to build a solution, often incorporating the customer’s existing internal best practices. Once fully developed, an initial solution becomes the basis for providing similar solutions to other customers in the same industry. They, in turn, add their ideas and practices to the blend.
This cumulative process helps command to continue learning from client engagements and fine-tune its mySAP All-in-One solutions. Behrens indicates that 70-80 percent of the functionality required by a new customer is ready out of the box, with something over 20 percent customized.
Customers are generally proud of having been part of the process and of seeing their expertise used in the solution, he says. As a result, they seldom have a problem with their work being included as part of a solution delivered to others in their industry segment – even potential competitors.

Food for thought

The prefigured nature of mySAP All-in-One solutions leads to some interesting economies. One client in the food sector who came to command had only one employee with working knowledge of SAP, so command agreed to include 15 days of training in its contract. But then the customer wanted to implement the solution on its own, without help from command. Naturally, command was concerned about whether the implementation would go smoothly. As it turned out, the client successfully completed the implementation and the solution went live in nine months. Reviewing the process, command saw the quality of the preconfigured solution and the quality of the training as the keys to success.
command’s long-range goal is to become the leading mySAP All-in-One vendor to SMBs in its chosen industry segments. Behrens notes that the firm can now promise its customers short implementation times at a fixed price. At a time when many consultants have lost their jobs, he says, freelance specialists have flooded the marketplace, offering bargain-basement consulting rates. However, when the time they need for solution configuration is added in, preconfigured mySAP All-in-One solutions can come in at a lower overall price. Therefore, the company sees the SAP partnership as providing a unique, long-term level of stability and a platform on which command can grow.

Derek Davis
Derek Davis