The rise of AEPEX Business Consultants is something of an SAP success story in itself. In 1997, five IT consultants formed the company in Gorinchem, The Netherlands. Since then, it has grown rapidly into a successful midsize business with 75 consultants. In less than a decade, AEPEX has established itself as an expert in mySAP Supply Chain Management, SAP Enterprise Portal, and SAP Business Intelligence, and has attained SAP Services partner status. This achievement resulted from the ability to help customers leverage their SAP investments for greater, faster payback – for instance, through comprehensive integration of systems and processes.
Continuous Business Improvement
AEPEX will not be content to rest on its laurels. “Continuous business improvement” is the key message of its mission statement. And AEPEX backs up this mission statement with concrete action – like the implementation of SAP xApp Resource and Program Management (SAP xRPM) packaged composite application, SAP’s solution for strategic project-portfolio management (PPM).
PPM is currently a key issue for companies such as AEPEX, which have to juggle a large number of tasks for many different clients. Many of these organizations often lack management-level visibility across their entire project portfolio, and the functionality to back up decisions with action. “We simply didn’t have any direct, online information on our portfolio,” says Menno Koen, managing partner at AEPEX.
In essence, the company could not keep on top of the complex demands placed on its resources. AEPEX consultants often work on several projects simultaneously. To determine consultants’ availability, the resource manager had to call or e-mail them — a time-consuming and inefficient process.
Decision makers couldn’t assess the extent of overall risk exposure without a lengthy information-gathering process, nor could they identify projects swallowing up money and resources. What’s more, they were unable to spot which activities were returning the most value, and had no means of prioritizing projects based on their own business objectives.
Project managers also had to manually document progress every month. And because the information took a tremendous amount of effort and time to organize – information that was also sometimes impossible to attain – the reports were always incomplete.
In early 2003, AEPEX made the decision to become one of the world’s first enterprises to implement SAP xRPM. SAP R/3, SAP BW, SAP Enterprise Portal and mySAP Customer Relationship Management were used that time at AEPEX. The project took place under the auspices of SAP Ramp-Up, a program that guides early adopters through successful implementation.
In June 2003, AEPEX dispatched a full copy of its SAP environment to SAP headquarters – to a team made up of three of its own consultants and two consultants from SAP. The team completed blueprinting, installation, configuration, testing, and training in just two months, the fastest implementation of SAP xRPM to date.
Transparency, Control, Efficiency
SAP xRPM now gives AEPEX instant clarity and control over its project portfolio. “We often have lots of projects and subprojects at the same customer location. SAP xRPM helps us spot opportunities that we previously could not see, and enables us to leverage synergies for our own benefit and for the benefit of our customers,” says Menno Koen.
AEPEX can now deploy, redeploy, plan, and forecast resources at the touch of a button, and can quickly find the right staff member for each task. xRPM is fully integrated with SAP R/3 Project System, SAP BW and the portal, which makes it easy accessible for the users. “We rely much less on the old boys’ network nowadays,” quips Menno Koen. The resource manager has up-to-the-minute data on availability, and can notify consultants and project managers of new tasks automatically. “SAP xRPM helps me efficiently staff projects by giving me a day-to-day view of actual and potential projects and their resource needs. As a result, I can spend more time on further professionalizing the organization,” says Marco Boon, resource manager at AEPEX.
The project “dashboard” provides decision makers with an up-to-the-minute rundown of all key facts and figures, including a complete list of projects. They can check if targets are being met and prioritize activities based on strategic importance, and can align their projects with broader business objectives.
With SAP xRPM, lengthy reports for monthly meetings are now things of the past. For example, when project managers meet, they simply hook up a PC to a projector, and beam real-time data directly onto a screen. “It is very important to us as project managers at AEPEX to have insight into progress and profitability. SAP xRPM also gives status information during our meetings and saves us a lot of time in gathering, sharing and comparing data,” adds Emiel Obdeijn, project manager at AEPEX.
Leading by Example
AEPEX believes in leading by example. A company that sells and implements SAP software should naturally be a user itself. AEPEX plans to use its own solution to demonstrate the rich capabilities of SAP xRPM to potential customers. Managing partner Menno Koen urges others to follow its lead: “SAP xRPM is ideal for any organization with a large number of projects. It is a great help and a very valuable system,” he concludes.