“Part of the Worldwide Know-how Network”

Wolfgang Kemna
Wolfgang Kemna

Steeb has over three decades of experience with midsize companies. Why are you now turning an eye toward small companies?

Kemna: With SAP Business One, we have an adequate solution for small and very small companies. In addition to independent sole proprietorships, we’re also interested in companies linked to enterprises, such as group subsidiaries, distribution or sales offices, and service stations. We can completely integrate these types of linked units to the central office with SAP Exchange Infrastructure. We see ourselves well positioned to cover the requirements of midsize companies comprehensively.

How do you support users of SAP Business One?

Kemna: Although the processes triggered by users are extremely complex, the applications on the front end must be able to be understood and operated intuitively. And, of course, the applications must offer the best support for business processes in midsize companies. That’s why our focus with SAP Business One is on preconfigured midsize solutions with a defined scope of services for numerous industries and branches of industries. This approach enables us to guarantee our clients quick implementations and fixed prices. Today, one of our clients is a car dealer with an attached repair shop. He was able to set up SAP Business One without the support of an IT service provider. He felt that the implementation was simpler than taking a motor apart and rebuilding it.

How important are education and training?

Kemna: Education and training are still important. But the preconfigured solutions for midsize companies are easier to operate. That makes the learning curve for users relatively short, which also increases acceptance in international markets. Of course, we can’t assume a uniform and highly qualified training level for users in all regions. The training and continuing education systems are far too varied. Our clients are also instructed to let employees work with SAP applications within a short time.

The automobile industry is currently the forerunner in the integration of processes. Can the key figures and procedures, the best practices, of this industry be transferred to other industries?

Kemna: We’ve realized successful projects in the automobile industry and with its supplies for many years. We can also use the know-how developed during numerous implementation projects for other industries. That’s why we develop comparisons of selected business processes for various industries. For example, a procurement process, from a purchase requisition to delivery, lasts about three weeks in one industry, while the best-in-class process at an automobile supplier lasts only three days.

How is knowledge transfer between Steeb and SAP organized?

Kemna: First of all, knowledge transfer is a real benefit for out clients. We can access not only the reference customers and projects at Steeb, but also link to the worldwide knowledge network of SAP. For example, we get information on similarly situated projects in other countries and industries, which we can then discuss internally among our employees and with our clients. Clients have often told us that they never thought of an approach we had suggested and that they wanted to try it right away.

How do you help your clients survive in international markets?

Kemna: We see our task as one of supporting small and midsize companies in selling their products and services successfully in often multinational, value-added chains. Out partner, Seeburger, helped a supplier in the automobile industry use all the common EDI standards required by automobile manufacturers for e-business. Steeb has also developed a payment engine for SAP Business One that can process payments for more than 20 countries and almost 80 invoice formats. And with our logistics solution, Steeb Be-Opt, we can set benchmarks in inventory optimization to increase deliverability and lower warehouse stocks.

How is the software set for the expanded European Union?

Kemna: Language versions are available for the new members of the EU; the SAP solutions map the typical commercial standards in those countries and meet country-specific legal requirements. An auditor in Lithuania or Slovenia needs only to test a monthly or annual closing statement created with SAP software. It’s typical at SAP to map changes in national law in the solution as promptly as possible. Examples here include tariff law, profit and loss accounting, or the valuation of stock. Despite EU law, each country legislates these matters quite differently.

What are the leading topics for 2004 and 2005?

Kemna: Integration for sure. And that means both technical integration with SAP NetWeaver and integration among the solutions. With SAP Exchange Infrastructure, processes and data from SAP applications and non-SAP systems can be integrated within and across companies. The question revolves around end users: what do users experience when they log on to an SAP solution and can access a portal? In midsize companies, the integration of information also plays a significant role. Integrated ERP and business intelligence solutions also enable midsize companies to process data in real time and say goodbye to managing a company with Excel spreadsheets.