Small Firms Like a Big Partner

Straton IT Consulting, based in Limburg, Germany, offers its clients the whole IT solution – software, additional development, platforms, and support – an approach which is often crucial in the small and midsize business (SMB) market.
The company has been an ongoing IBM business partner for the iSeries and storage products, and also works with Intel and Citrix. When Straton made a strategic move to support smaller companies that do not have an internal IT department, it sought a new software partner to support its goals. According to Thomas Kolb, Straton sales manager, its choice of SAP was based on SAP’s competence, know-how, and strong development capabilities that guarantee continuous improvement. Straton started selling SAP Business One in January 2003 as a sales and service partner and became a solution partner in December 2003.
Kolb remarks that the company sees a huge advantage in the overall SAP product line, where the technology is much more open than with other vendors. The fact that SAP is located close to Straton headquarters is a plus.

A quick start

During 2003, the firm concentrated on groundwork – improving skills, attracting resources, and building the infrastructure – and also signed 32 SAP Business One deals. The target for 2004 was 50 new projects – a target Kolb now expects to exceed, since growth has already surpassed expectations: After starting the SAP Business One partnership in January of 2003, he expected to close the first deals in April. However, Straton signed its first eight contracts while exhibiting alongside SAP at Cebit in February.
Kolb notes that partnership with a larger vendor is an excellent investment, especially following the company’s good experience with IBM. The solidity of partners like SAP provides a sense of security and confidence to Straton clients, showing the provider can offer high levels of both in-house and vendor service and support. “The SAP partnership also reflects the quality of our skills – it provides a ‘quality stamp,’” he adds.
He calls SAP Business One a perfect fit for the SMB market because of its short implementation times and easy customization – clients can expand the database using standard functionality, an important factor in the SMB market. Clients also need a minimum of training, since the same tasks can be replicated in different modules. Furthermore, many SMBs have accrued a multitude of installed solutions with no integration. The fact that SAP Business One offers full integration makes a big difference.

Fashion and diversity add-ons

SAP Business One is one of Straton’s biggest growth lines, and the firm intends to focus on both development and attracting new clients in the SMB market. The specific target segments include reseller and consumer products, and the metal and automotive industries. Kolb hopes that future releases of SAP Business One will open doors to other markets and vertical solutions.
Straton has developed two add-ons, one for the fashion industry, and one for businesses with a variety of different products. The company, which is working to build a network around the installed SAP Business One partner base, also offers these add-ons commercially to its partners, which number 50 in Europe. These contacts were gained through SAP.
Straton implemented SAP Business One for Vaihinger GmbH, a German family-owned business which produces cream-whipping machines. Its business, which gains almost 40% of its revenues from exports, needed an IT system that would support international business processes. SAP Business One has created a more transparent overview of the Vaihinger business processes, says Kolb, and provided much faster access to company data. Vaihinger employees, even those without experience, find it easy to use.

A win-win situation

Everyone comes out on top through the SAP partnership, according to Kolb: “All sides win in this business. When we sell licenses, SAP wins, and we get consulting revenue from it. Eventually, the customer wins the most if we are able to fulfil our side of the partnership efficiently and solve their problems.”
He terms the relationship with SAP “comfortable.” Straton employees “see the SAP focus as a new challenge and do not need a lot of motivation. Even though everything is new, they approach it with an open mind. They have close contact with SAP development and support and like to take steps jointly with SAP.” Straton plans to use its SAP marketing budget to set up further joint marketing campaigns, such as the presence at CeBIT.
Kolb states that there is always someone available at SAP when Straton needs technical support, and that marketing and sales support is also ample. He adds that Straton has been able to easily certify its employees through SAP training – online training is helpful, easy, and quick, and the partner portal provides copious information on the product and new releases.

Derek Davis
Derek Davis