“Ideal Components for Future Success”

What challenges will small and midsize companies face in the future?

SMEs aren’t exempted from the challenges faced by large corporations. They too need to handle business processes, whether in production or trade, ever faster, ever better and with ever lower financial overheads. This requires shorter order throughput times, better utilization of technical and human resources, cost savings, and leaner business processes. A further point is that day-to-day business is also becoming increasingly international for SMEs. This doesn’t simply apply to relationships to customers, suppliers, and partners, but is also true of the competitive situation that is becoming increasingly fierce as a result of globalization.

What role will IT play in this regard in future?

IT is required to create the conditions for a consistent flow of information, material, and values. Inefficient IT processes or unsuitable IT solutions can quickly put the future of a small company in jeopardy.

And what criteria does an SME solution need to fulfill?

The ideal solution fulfills the operating requirements, it functions smoothly, is economical, and does not present an investment risk. Flexibility is a new addition to existing criteria, which include high product quality, comprehensive service, and cost-effectiveness. On the one hand, flexibility means that an individual application can be easily adapted to any future process alterations or amendments to statutory provisions. On the other, an SME must be able to link up its various applications without expending too much effort. An example of this may be linking a PPS system or an online shop to a business management application. A further point worth mentioning is the seamless integration of different branches into a central SAP system.

How does the solutions portfolio supplied by SAP and its partners contribute to the future-proofing of SMEs?

The solutions portfolio from SAP and its partners provides the necessary components for dealing with a wide range of application scenarios, as SAP-based solutions can easily be integrated into one another. What’s more, modern business processes in the midmarket are just as complex as in large corporations. With the new SAP technologies, such as SAP NetWeaver, and their individual components, such as SAP Exchange Infrastructure (SAP XI), SAP has created an efficient means of integrating other manufacturers’ systems that is also cost-effective for SMEs. This includes both internal systems within the company and the systems of business and collaboration partners. Integration using the building block principle leads to more transparency in IT and therefore higher efficiency in (cross-company) business processes.

What main factors are decisive in an SME implementing an SAP or SAP-based solution?

First of all, the preconception that SAP solutions are too expensive, too powerful, and too complex is outmoded. And while you won’t find SAP solutions in the summer sales, they are a safe investment. This is immensely important for SMEs. The reason is clear – if the manufacturer of a supposedly low-cost corporate solution disappears from the market for whatever reason, this can be very expensive for the SME. It will have to change over or replace its entire IT, since its existing software will quickly become obsolete as updates and new release implementations are no longer performed and the software is no longer serviced. This is quite literally no solution for managing the future.

A further factor in favor of the SME solutions from SAP and its partners is that IT-based collaboration with customers and suppliers is on the increase in SMEs. Here, too, an integrative solution is most effective. SAP Business One and industry-specific solutions from SAP partners based on mySAP All-in-One represent a comparatively straightforward means of achieving this – step by step and precisely where it provides the greatest benefit.

What role do SAP SME partners play in this?

They form the link between SAP and the SMEs. It doesn’t matter how good the product is – if supplier and prospective customer don’t speak the same language, then both sides lose out. I refer particularly to regionally colored language and regional customs. This common basis generates the trust that is also essential in business. A further factor is the language of the company in terms of its size. Small and midsize companies prefer IT partners that don’t treat them simply as a number, but instead take them seriously.

Many SAP SME partners are SMEs themselves and are thus on the same “wavelength” as their customers. What they have in common is very direct contact to the market, the willingness to accommodate special customer needs, and short decision-making processes. This is reinforced by their specialist knowledge of specific industries, their jargon, and associated business processes. SAP partners and customers thus speak the same language. This industry-specific expertise of IT partners is an important precondition for carrying out projects quickly and with low implementation costs. Further, the IT partner and customer are in a relationship of interdependence. The SME partner receives the impulses that are necessary for the further development of the SAP solutions portfolio, while the customer receives the IT that fulfills its present and future needs. The situation is therefore win-win.

Dr. Andreas Schaffry
Dr. Andreas Schaffry