A Quick Start in Austria

b1 Consulting GmbH (b1) was founded in 2003 to provide SAP Business One services to Austrian SMB companies with less than 50 employees – one of the largest growing markets in Austria. The firm offers solutions and services ranging from consulting to project management, training and implementation. Its main revenue comes from services.
Helmut Hochberger, the company’s CEO, sees SAP as an established market leader. b1’s founders already had SAP experience, he recalls, as well as experience with other products such as Navision and Sage. When SAP came up with a new SMB-oriented product and was building a new channel, b1 decided this was the product to move forward with. Beyond SAP’s strong and reliable brand name, it made sense to work with SAP, he says, because SAP Business One is easy to use – an excellent sales argument in the SMB market – it has all the functionality that b1 clients look for, and it is easy to implement
Thanks to SAP’s proven track record, training and support, b1 gained 15 customers in its first nine months. 50 percent of these customers came from SAP; the other 50 percent were picked up by the company itself. The Austrian SMB market, says Hochberger, “makes objective decisions. They do not get into a lengthy process of product evaluations – they do not have the time or budget to do so. If they like what they see, they are inclined to make their purchase decision within a very short time. Two pro’s – simple yet powerful – make the product an excellent fit for those SMBs that do not have the time, budget or environment to implement large ERP packages.”

Not planning additional development

b1 is satisfied with the functionality that SAP Business One already offers, though Hochberger expects that some resellers will develop additional functionality. His own company has not developed any add-on functionality and has no intention to do so, he says. Where necessary, it will acquire functionality from other SAP partners.
An early b1 highlight was an implementation for EFP Holding, which has several locations throughout Central Europe. b1 provided a customer relationship management-oriented SAP Business One solution to work on top of an existing mySAP All-in-One solution. “It is a ‘smart’ solution because it is making full use of the interface with mySAP All-in-One, and because of the limited time it took to implement,” says Hochberger. “It also supports multiple languages, which shows the strength of the product for smaller international-oriented vendors.”
b1 would like to become the number-one implementer and reseller for SAP Business One on the Austrian and Central European markets, aiming to attract 200 new clients within the next three years. In 2003, the company broke even and Hochberger expects it will end 2004 with a profit.

Tying in to SAP R/3

b1 plans to address the market both through its direct sales force and by attracting partners to serve existing SAP R/3 clients. For the latter, Hochberger says, the company expects up-sell opportunities to smaller business units or branch offices that do not need SAP R/3 but might use SAP Business One as an interface to their headquarters. b1 already has three partnerships in place, one of which is a joint venture.
Hochberger has been pleased and surprised by the amount of effort SAP has made to support the company and the results SAP has produced. “They have been able to provide unique and localized support,” he says. SAP has developed a good PR and marketing campaign to build awareness for SAP Business One – “something we never would have been able to accomplish on our own” – which has resulted in excellent lead generation. He feels that b1 can also leverage SAP’s broad infrastructure to enable the company to talk to all SAP R/3 partners. SAP and b1 have developed several joint marketing initiatives, including one targeting services companies.
The company plans to add two to three salespersons this year, focusing its recruitment on industry knowledge and expertise, rather than SAP knowledge; Hochberger notes that the technical skills necessary for SAP Business One can be learned fairly easily.
In general, he is satisfied with the support the company has received from a marketing and sales perspective, but says that training needs some fine-tuning – especially since partners are required to pay for training. The information it receives from SAP is more than sufficient – even, at times, an overload.
“Overall, SAP is really easy to deal with, and the support staff is very reliable,” explains Hochberger. “Our consultants are very positive about the SAP partnership as well. They had expected a bit more arrogance from such a large company, but instead they find the partnership and SAP people to be open and friendly.”

Derek Davis
Derek Davis