Computer Im Buro (CIB) became an SAP partner at the beginning of 2003 when its founder and CEO Dr. Fred Grüneberg saw some of the smaller solutions disappearing from the German market. At the same time, the company’s existing partner Lexware had decided to focus solely on print management systems. When CIB discontinued its relationship with Lexware, it was approached by several vendors to establish a partnership.
The company was introduced to SAP and the SAP Business One solution at Cebit 2002 and made the decision to partner with SAP for several reasons, says Dr. Grüneberg. First, SAP offers a complete range of solutions, from small (SAP Business One) to those for bigger SMBs (mySAP All-in-One) right through to those for large companies (SAP R/3) and can provide CIB with growth opportunities. Second, SAP solutions offer the best integration to SAP R/3, a dominant system in Germany.
Third, “SAP is specialized, extremely good at what it does and a global player with subsidiaries all over the world, which means it can also support companies all over the world,” says Dr. Grüneberg. Finally, he sees SAP as having the best chance of survival on the ERP market as smaller companies consolidate, leaving only two to four larger vendors.
Though CIB also liked the product offered by Navision and the company itself, it already had an established channel in place, so CIB would not likely get the attention and support it required. And local vendors were not a reasonable option, since the money and resources needed to develop suitable products for the SMB market could prove more than they could handle, Dr. Grüneberg notes.
Of the SAP Business One product itself, he says, “SAP Business One is an integrated solution that provides a client with everything it will need, based on standard technologies, and for a very good price. In addition, we feel that the functionality the product offers is excellent.” For example, CIB completed an SAP Business One implementation at K.I.C. Automotive that met all the customer’s requirements in an effective way in just five days including special programming.
Skills and specialization
Dr. Grüneberg founded CIB 13 years ago to focus on ERP systems in Germany. CIB’s strengths, he says, lie in programming and customizing skills, highly skilled personnel with university degrees, and specialization in trade and services companies. From its single location in Berlin, CIB covers all of Germany through a network of partners who provide hardware and infrastructure services. As its interest has widened to the SMB market and international businesses, the company has decided to concentrate solely on SAP solutions, specifically SAP Business One.
CIB now has a solid customer base of 15 clients and is in a position to provide broader services to them, since many aspects of the SAP Business One solution benefit from added services. Clients need additional advice, training, and workshops, says Dr. Grüneberg, and “customizing the standard solution in a very effective way to meet the special needs of the customers.” Since the product is built on a matrix principle, he explains, it is easy to tailor to specific circumstances.
CIB has developed additional functionality for SAP Business One that helps companies rate themselves on their Basel II compliance, using metrics produced by Ernst & Young. The module also provides “what if” scenarios to compare the outcome of different actions. CIB saw a strong need for this kind of tool in Germany, according to Dr. Grüneberg, where a lot is being said but not much is actually being done about compliance. Since SMBs have little time or money for external ratings, this functionality gives them a good solution to do the rating in-house.
The complete solution took six months to develop and test. The SAP Systems Development Kit was still in its first version, and many improvements have been necessary to make the solution compliant with the latest releases of SAP Business One.
Expanding the partner network
The company aims to become the top ERP solution provider in the Berlin region, and eventually in Germany, says Dr. Grüneberg. The current eight partners will help CIB gain coverage throughout Germany, and he hopes to sign more partnerships before the end of the year. The plan is to sell 250 SAP Business One licenses in 2004, a goal he is confident the company can reach, based on its previous experience in managing this kind of growth as a Lexware partner.
SAP, he says, is making a concerted effort to engage with the partners, and CIB receives help from SAP in all areas – training, consultancy, and marketing. “If you explain why you need the help, and you have a solid and sound reason, you are certainly going to get all the help you need from SAP,” he says. The SAP support center in Ireland provides excellent support to meet client needs. And since CIB also uses SAP internally, employees are constantly exposed to an SAP environment. Nevertheless, he would like to see more speed of execution in some of CIB’s dealings with SAP.
CIB employees expected more arrogance from SAP, a “big” player, he recalls, but they feel that SAP really listens to their requests. “We have been truly surprised and pleased by SAP; they show a sincere interest in the company and in our business issues and often ask for our feedback.”