Carving out Niches

Ascent Technology has been an SAP partner since 1997. During that time, the company has evolved from being a generalist provider to delivering specialist SAP solutions to the sophisticated and design engineering sectors. For example, the mySAP All-in-One solution Ascent for Sophisticated Engineering is designed for engineering industries such as motor sport, aerospace and defense, and high tech. Overall, the company has 20 years of experience in SAP solutions, with a reference ERP client base of 650.
SAP business accounts for 20 percent of the company’s £23 million ($34 million) revenue at its five U.K. locations. Of its 2230 employees, 50 work as consultants on the Ascent Technology SAP team – averaging 15 or more years’ experience. For its consultants, the company leans toward experts with industry or general software knowledge, because it has found that clients in the SMB market rate industry knowledge over product knowledge. The majority of the company’s SAP consultants have a design-engineering or product-lifecycle-management (PLM) background.
Ascent Technology began focusing on the SMB market during the mid-nineties, initially with Sage solutions. However, when the need for a solution with more functionality became obvious, it chose SAP, based on its position as the leading ERP software vendor and as the vendor offering the most sophisticated products. SAP’s stability as a company and its proven track record have protected that investment, says Peter Lloyd, managing director, Ascent Technology. “SAP is a very professional, deep, and capable organization with huge ability to engage with others.”

Clouds before the silver lining

Ascent Technology’s early years in the partnership (1997-1999) were rough as it worked to establish its relationship with SAP. The boom market’s pairing of high customer demand with extraordinary growth pushed such relationships to the background, recalls Lloyd. But he adds that SAP learned from these experiences and should apply this insight to new partners in order to help them stabilize rapidly and painlessly. At this point, he says, there are sufficient business development opportunities for the two companies to make the partnership even more successful.
He describes mySAP All-in-One solutions as the right product for the SMB market because SMBs today are looking for the breadth and depth of functionality of a major ERP product, but packaged for quicker, less expensive implementation. The templated mySAP All-in-One approach meets these requirements, he says.
One of the company’s major strategic objectives is to double the profitability of its SAP business over the next three years. Lloyd sees this as feasible. “The competitive advantage comes from the mySAP All-in-One template and methodology – the fact that it is a repeatable, reusable solution. And the more business we are able to do with the preconfigured solutions, the higher our profit margins become.”

Fast development, fast sales

Ascent Technology builds its mySAP All-in-One solutions in-house, based on the experience gained from 40 SAP accounts. As an example, six of its consultants worked on the Ascent for Sophisticated Engineering solution for nine months – a total of 54 person-months. Despite the considerable investment, which also included sales and marketing costs, Ascent Technology realized a rapid return on its investment, selling the solution to five customers soon after it was completed.
The company won the 2003 “Global Channel Partner for Best Implementation” award from SAP for its Bookham Technology implementation. Bookham Technology needed a solution to be up and running within six months. Ascent Technology’s mySAP All-in-One template won out against competition from Oracle, PeopleSoft, and J.D. Edwards. But to complicate matters, Bookham Technology acquired another company, a deal which made it necessary to move targets during the implementation period. Still, the solution, which had to support 800 users across three global locations, met its new five-month target for going live, to the satisfaction of both the customer and Ascent Technology.
Lloyd says that the company is now poised to introduce a mySAP All-in-One solution into another vertical market closely aligned to the sophisticated/design engineering market. However, it will work in conjunction with SAP to choose any new market, since the partners plan to address these markets jointly.
Though the company also partners with Sage and Microsoft, Lloyd ranks SAP as its top partner, showing excellent strengths in sales support and training. In fact, SAP training and certification do much to make Ascent Technology more competitive. The company also values SAP’s account management approach and the regular dialogue with the SAP executive team. Lloyd says that SAP makes the extra effort to understand the company’s service delivery methods and to further internal development.
The SAP relationship will become even better, he says, if both companies can continue to focus on business development in the SMB market. It is crucial, he claims, to change the SMB market perception that SAP solutions only fit big corporations with big budgets. After all, Ascent technology has found that mySAP All-in-One solutions support the company in providing best-practice solutions with minimum risk, fast implementation time, and realistic costs.

Derek Davis
Derek Davis