The Advantages of Going Dutch

CtacAlign, based in the Netherlands, specializes in business consulting and technology integration, as well as management and hosting of information systems. The company focuses on the high-end of the SMB market, companies with growth aspirations – a market which the firm says is still a largely untapped source of revenue in the Netherlands and has huge potential.
CtacAlign has been an SAP partner since its founding in 1992, before SAP began its official certification program. The company, 100 percent SAP-oriented, is now an SAP Business Partner, Service Partner, and Hosting Partner that delivers complete solutions – from presales and implementation to maintenance, support, and outsourced applications. Of 115 CtacAlign employees, 70 percent are certified SAP consultants.
“We can take care of the whole process, ” says Henny Hilgedernaar, CtacAlign CEO. “We can provide the training and management of processes, and we can co-own the solution. We create transparency in the production process. We aim for a long-term relationship, and we therefore aim to deliver excellent quality.”
The company’s business was started at a time of real growth for SAP specialists. Though the market was mainly served by the (then) Big 6 consultancy firms, CtacAlign identified a market need for more product and technical knowledge. SAP’s straightforward products combined integration capacity with SAP’s market leadership, adds Hilgedernaar. “The quality of the product is the most distinctive feature of SAP when compared with other vendors.”

The mySAP All-in-One route

mySAP All-in-One industry-specific solutions provide an expandable basis that can keep pace with a company’s growth, which makes them ideal for the SMB environment, he notes. He’s seen that most CtacAlign clients find it easier to implement a basic product, then continue with add-on modules as needed.
CtacAlign realized early on that to stand out on the SMB market, says Hilgedernaar, its implementations had to become quicker and cheaper, and that success came not from stripping a large application to its bare bones, but from prebuilding it to meet specific needs. This approach not only creates inexpensive solutions that can be implemented rapidly, it also leaves the client with fewer decisions to make.

SAP support

SAP provides broad support to the company – in sales, marketing, product development, and access to technical expertise – says Hilgedernaar, and the current SAP certification program lends extra legitimacy to the firm in the SMB market. Over the years, CtacAlign has received several SAP partner awards, including one for receiving the highest level of client satisfaction.
In the past, Hilgedernaar recalls, SAP tended to vacillate between various SMB strategies. Now, however, the software giant has established a clear, focused message for the SMB market. From an international perspective, the change in strategy along with focus on the SMB market has given CtacAlign easier access to SAP headquarters to keep abreast of new product and technology developments. In addition, he says, SAP works to strengthen partner-to-partner relationships, such as the one between CtacAlign and itelligence.
SAP has an inherently strong marketing message that should ensure that it realizes its mySAP All-in-One investments in the SMB market, he explains: “mySAP All-in-One is the appropriate product for the SMB market because it combines industry and implementation knowledge with experience.” Though CtacAlign has reviewed other vendors’ products, he says he has seldom run across the clear focus that SAP now communicates. Overall, he views the full range of support from SAP as more than sufficient and easy to access, which makes for an excellent relationship.

Next stop: powerhouse

CtacAlign is working to become known as an “SAP Powerhouse,” says Hilgedernaar. The company looks to excel in all areas of SAP craftsmanship – to be known for its experience and product knowledge as well as its market and industry knowledge. To sharpen its focus on the Dutch market, it recently closed its U.S. office, though its Spanish operations will continue independently. A secondary company goal is to strengthen its relationship with the local advisors who increasingly serve CtacAlign’s Dutch clients.
CtacAlign depends completely on SAP business, yet because of its strong visibility with Dutch clients, it has been able to sell over 20 SMB packages even in the current economic climate. Hilgedernaar notes, though, that the sales process must be adjusted for the SMB market: “What is needed is dedicated sales – sales that are comfortable on the market – to win the client’s trust.” It is crucial, he maintains, to have the right balance between presales and sales, in order to sustain “manageable” growth.

Derek Davis
Derek Davis