The “Big and Little” Shuffle

Steffen Informatik AG, based in Spreitenbach, Switzerland, has over ten years’ experience on the enterprise resource planning (ERP) market. Its three main business lines are software solutions (ERP), system integration, and outsourcing.
Following a history of implementing Europa 3000 solutions, Steffen Informatik became an SAP Business One partner in 2002, making it the first in Switzerland to do so. The company had been looking for a new ERP solution to offer its SMB customers, but it had to meet specific criteria: The product should be at the beginning of its life cycle, employ state-of-the-art technology and match Steffen Informatik’s technology knowledge.
The company chose SAP Business One based both on the brand and on the fact that it could run on Sequel Server, a technology in which Steffen Informatik has great expertise. Other key determining factors included SAP’s extensive experience in ERP, its ability to support products over the long term, and its commitment to continuing the development of new versions of SAP Business One – and on different platforms (Windows, Linux, and others).
But it was critical for the firm to see “if big SAP and small Steffen Informatik could work together,” explains Jürg Aerni, director of software solutions. So far, this has been the case, although the difference in size and mindset between the two companies can sometimes be felt.
Aerni expects SAP’s image for high quality to help heighten market awareness of Steffen Informatik and lead to more business in other regions. He further sees SAP Business One helping to generate cross- and up-sell opportunities for the company’s other offerings, such as system integration. The fact that SAP Business One is highly integrated and supports a database widely known and used on the SMB market makes the technology easily accepted, he adds.

Good for staff and clients

The partnership makes the company’s employees think “bigger” in the sales process and see possibilities for international deals, according to Aerni. Since the partnership is intended to be long-term, Steffen Informatik has instigated commission plans to focus the sales force on creating revenues from SAP Business One.
The company has implemented customized functions for most of its SAP Business One customers. So far, these customizations have been customer-driven, however, the firm plans to develop specific industry solutions, for example, in the chemicals industry.
One successful implementation involved a company in the chemicals sector which had extensive requirements for additional functionality. These provided added revenues for Steffen Informatik, which was able to cover all the customer’s needs – an achievement Aerni does not think any other partner could have met. The partnership with SAP worked well through this implementation, with Steffen Informatik keeping direct contact with developers at SAP. It went live in January 2004 after a period of five months.

Betting on controlled growth

With regards to the SAP partnership, Steffen Informatik would like to become an SAP competence center, offering solutions aimed at specific industries that are not available elsewhere. The goal is to have its solutions certified by SAP and advertised on the SAP website for other partners to resell. In the past, Steffen Informatik has not invested much in marketing, notes Aerni. However, as it moves into industry-specific solutions, it will increase its marketing efforts.
Steffen Informatik has seen many other companies of its size shoot up, grow fast, and then disappear. The company prefers to continue growing in a controlled and healthy manner, Aerni explains. To support this strategy, it focuses on building long-term partnerships with its customers – it will not “sell and forget.” One of the main reasons for its customer wins with SAP Business One, he suggests, has been the firm’s ability to adapt the solution to the customer’s needs with extra functionality.
SAP has provided good marketing support, though it tends to think of Switzerland as one market. According to Aerni, with its different languages and regions, this is not the case. The company is happy with SAP technical support and in general with the whole partnership, despite some initial difficulty trying to “figure out where we fit in,” he recalls.
He describes the partnership as “an honest relationship” which is improving. Since Steffen Informatik was on board as an SAP Business One partner so early on, it was part of the debugging process, he says, and SAP listened to its suggestions for corrections. One problem area is the often overwhelming amount of information, which provides little differentiation between mySAP All-in-One and SAP Business One.
Steffen Informatik has made a huge investment, notes Aerni, some of it in adding functionality missing from SAP Business One. The company would like to see SAP acknowledge and provide compensation for these extra expenses.

Derek Davis
Derek Davis