As a pioneer with an experienced partner at your side, you can operate with confidence even in unfamiliar terrain. This was the experience of Nedbank Group Ltd. when they upgraded to SAP ERP 2005. The bank is the first in South Africa to switch to the new corporate solution, and SAP Ramp-Up gave them the assurance that everything was taken care of. The program allows customers to introduce new SAP solutions before they are launched on the mass market. Meanwhile, their feedback is directly incorporated in SAP’s development process. So Nedbank was able to gain a competitive edge without running the risks this would normally entail. It’s a good feeling, says Chris Cullen, Group Software Services Executive in Nedbank Corporate’s Property Finance IT department: “As an SAP Ramp-Up client, we effectively enjoyed production quality support, even though we were working in a new version environment.”
The SAP pioneer at Nedbank – one of the four largest banks in South Africa – was the Corporate Property Finance division who has been using SAP R/3 business software since 2001. The division happens to be an extremely successful one: Corporate Property Finance isn’t just one of the most profitable areas of the Nedbank Group but also the South African market leader in commercial and industrial property financing. It’s a leading role that the division fully intends to retain. To make sure it had the right technical equipment for the job, it decided to fully update its corporate solution with an upgrade to SAP ERP.
Seizing a unique opportunity
The decision to take advantage of the SAP Ramp-Up program for the upgrade to SAP ERP was an easy one, as Cullen recalls: “SAP asked if we would like to be an SAP Ramp-Up customer,” says the Nedbank Executive. “I asked, ‘How much does it cost and what’s in it for us?’ SAP said it would cost us absolutely nothing and that it would provide the best service possible and ensure we got exactly what we wanted. It was just too good an opportunity to miss.”
The finances worked out beautifully and the upgrade to SAP ERP went without a hitch: “Through SAP Ramp-Up, we were able to get new capabilities up and running smoothly and showcase our operation as a strategic role model within the Nedbank Group,” says Cullen, who adds: “We’ve had enormous support from SAP, we met our timeline and came in 20 percent under budget. The value that SAP Ramp-Up gave us was that it assured us of success. SAP wanted our upgrade to work just as much as we wanted it to work.”
Setting out to succeed
The project began in late 2005 and six months later the new solution went live. By taking part in the SAP Ramp-Up program, Nedbank profited from the expertise of experienced coaches in direct contact with the SAP development team – not to mention the special support provided by the software manufacturer. “To get that sort of attention was a really important assurance to me that we were setting out to succeed. Failure was actually not even an option. And we found that”, says Cullen.
The virtual SAP Ramp-Up team responded to the bank’s questions immediately, making life much easier for Cullen and his colleagues: “When we logged messages, it was almost as though the people in Germany were anticipating and waiting for them, because sometimes they’d respond literally within seconds. We had our own project manager driving the process and a Ramp-Up coach managing all issues that required assistance from SAP. Our SAP Ramp-Up coach knew our business inside out. We had meetings every Tuesday morning, and every time he came to the meetings he was armed with answers and proactive lists. The service was superb.”
Key business data ready in no time
The functionality of SAP ERP 2005 also lived up to expectations. The management had made it a condition of their approval for the upgrade that customers should in the future be able to carry out bank transactions online. SAP ERP provides this option using SAP NetWeaver. “We upgraded to SAP ERP to take full advantage of the functional enhancements for our current and future business requirements”, explains Cullen. “The new version provided multiple small enhancements to the loans module as well as positioned us to investigate and deploy, as appropriate, the Flex-GL and implement information broadcasting using SAP NetWeaver Business Intelligence.”
Around 500 Nedbank users currently work with the solution. Role-based access ensures that every employee has access to all the necessary transactions and information. The bank uses the entire functionality offered by SAP ERP Financials. SAP NetWeaver Business Intelligence, for example, enables the bank to produce reports on profits, interest due, legal requirements, risks and budgets.
User feedback on the new ERP software has been excellent, as Cullen explains: “They rave about it. The value of the management information that they get from SAP ERP far exceeds the amount of effort they expend putting data into it.“ As he says, the solution enables Nedbank Corporate Property Finance to handle any given financial process – ultimately benefiting clients too.
For Cullen, the upgrade has resulted in an entirely positive bottom line. “It was a huge success. We succeeded in making the upgrade a nonevent in the lives of the business users. I would absolutely recommend the SAP Ramp-Up program and its related services to anyone planning a similar exercise.”