The leasing industry is still laboring under the misconception that the business processes of individual providers differ widely from each other. As a result, many companies use custom software, the development and maintenance of which eats into resources. However, many standard software solutions cover the typical leasing processes, such as the acquisition, approval, and procurement phases or the management phase.
While the acquisition phase involves customer acquisitions, business costing, and the submission of offers, the approval and procurement phase relates to the customer’s credit standing check, the procurement of funds, and the acquisition or creation of the object. In the third or “management” phase, incoming invoices are processed, costs are monitored, and contract amendments and terminations are carried out.
Exceptions in real estate leasing
These processes are all similar in equipment leasing and are mapped by conventional standard software solutions. However, the situation is different when it comes to real estate leasing, where there are many company-specific requirements which are not covered sufficiently by many of the standard solutions. This includes support for the building phase of a real estate object, the sales tax option, or customer-specific contracts and their representation in the IT system.
SüdLeasing GmbH was looking for a software platform that offered all the advantages of a standard solution but took account of the special requirements of real estate leasing. The company found what it was looking for in the form of SAP R/3. “The advantage of this ERP solution is that the system can be enhanced to include the specific functionalities required for real estate leasing,” states Herbert Meinzer, application support manager at SüdLeasing GmbH. The company therefore implemented the Financial Accounting (FI), Asset Accounting (FI-AA), Real Estate (IS-RE), Treasury and Loans Management (TR-LO), Controlling (CO), Corporate Finance Management (CFM), and Project System (PS) modules in December 2001 supported by SAP consultants with real estate leasing experience. Today, SüdLeasing’s real estate leasing business is mapped to a large extent in SAP R/3. However, after the successful implementation, SüdLeasing was faced with the question of who should support the solution. The company itself only has a small IT department. “It was therefore clear that we would not be able to avoid the question of outsourcing,” says Meinzer describing the situation at the start of 2002.
Outsourcing replaces time-consuming internal maintenance
The maintenance of all systems and applications by internal employees could never be a long-term solution, since it tied up valuable human resources that were needed for the company’s core business. Outsourcing was an obvious alternative. In addition to relieving employees from maintenance tasks for the IT landscape, it offers another advantage, according to Johannes Kronauer, data processing manager at SüdLeasing: “An external partner can locate areas for optimization more effectively.” SüdLeasing therefore decided to enlist the support of a renowned outsourcing partner.
“It was important for us to have a service provider who was not just familiar with SAP and non-SAP applications, but also understood the leasing industry,” states Kronauer. At the moment, in addition to the SAP modules, the company runs Lotus Notes applications and custom-developed solutions for equipment leasing, and has interfaces to the IT system of its parent company LBBW. In addition to technical expertise, SüdLeasing was keen to have the “right chemistry” with the IT service provider. “A relationship based on trust is absolutely essential, particularly when it comes to the management of business-critical data,” stresses Kronauer. Another important selection criterion was future security. “We wanted to be sure that our partner would still be on the market in 10 years time.”
With these selection criteria in mind, and following a three-month selection process, the company decided in favor of cellent AG. The cellent consultants got to know specific technical and business features at SüdLeasing in an eight-week training phase, and initially supported SüdLeasing in the installation of the SAP solution, creating clients and user roles, for example.
Service review as a knowledge forum
With productive start-up of the SAP solution, SüdLeasing handed the applications in the IT infrastructure over to the outsourcing company step by step. On January 1, 2002, cellent took over basic administration of SAP R/3 for SüdLeasing GmbH for second level support for the whole SAP system landscape, and six months later, the outsourcing company also took on second-level support for the SAP R/3 application service. Remote access via a virtual private network (VPN) was established for handover of the application service.
Basic administration and the application service involves the customizing of functionalities, the further development of the applications, and various reports, for example. The cellent creates a service review every six weeks, which reports on the services performed over this period. The cellent consultants analyze problems that occur, and among other things work out possible solutions, the implementation of which is discussed in a joint meeting. The review is also used to improve cross-location and cross-department processes and provide IT support for these. One example of this is the new “Hire Purchase” business model, which is now fully mapped in the ERP solution. The results of the service reviews are recorded and provided to management and the relevant departments electronically via the Intranet. As a result, the employees who cannot participate directly in the service review also benefit from the knowledge expansion. “The service review is a type of knowledge forum, which draws together a number of possible solutions to a particular problem and provides all employees with the same level of information,” states Meinzer, highlighting the added value.
The service processes between SüdLeasing and cellent are clearly defined – from notification of faults through troubleshooting to feedback and documentation. 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. was defined as the service window for SAP applications, while the user service is available up until 7 p.m. Depending on the problems involved, contractual response times range from 2 to 16 hours, or are agreed on a case-by-case basis.
High demand for user service
In the third step, the user service was activated on April 1, 2003. “The user service works very well,” in the opinion of the 450 SAP users at SüdLeasing. Every four weeks, the cellent consultants meet with the SüdLeasing employees in order to pinpoint areas of potential optimization in the user service. Detailed feedback and fault statistics are provided centrally. “For the first time, this gave us information in black and white that we previously only suspected, for example that there were recurring problems with the PCs,” says Kronauer. “On the basis of this, we jointly decided to strive for standardization with regard to PC lifecycle management. We now have a more or less standard PC, which causes far fewer problems than in the past,” he states. For him, services are an important step towards efficient and qualified user support. The benefits are already making themselves felt, even if there are no concrete figures at the moment to back this up. “Our employees are available for strategic tasks,” he says. Further steps with cellent are planned, for example, the LHS Group, which has been part of SüdLeasing since July 2003, is also going to be given a user service.