SAP ERP went into productive operation at ITML in mid January 2007, after the company took less than three weeks to implement the release upgrade from SAP R/3 Enterprise to the new ERP solution. The upgrade was carried out shortly after Christmas 2006 and had been completed within just one week. As part of the process, the SAP consulting firm switched to a 64-bit system environment, which is based on an IBM eServer xSeries with two Intel Xeon Dualcore processors and an eight GB RAM working memory. Oracle 10.2 is installed as the database, Microsoft Windows 2003 Server as the operating system. The subsequent test phase lasted a mere two weeks.
“As a medium-sized SAP consulting firm, we use just a few, simple processes and were therefore able to implement the upgrade to SAP ERP in a very short space of time,” explains Uli Gauweiler, member of the executive board of ITML GmbH. The company works largely in the SAP standard system with functionalities for financials, controlling, sales and distribution, materials management and human resources with working time maintenance and travel expenses reporting. Everything ran as planned from a technical point of view, too. “The changeover from SAP R/3 Enterprise to the current SAP ERP release was as smooth as could be,” says Gauweiler. He puts this down to the stability and reliability of the software, among other things.
Passing experiences on to customers
One key reason why the IT service provider upgraded to SAP ERP was so that it could pass the experiences it gathered from the upgrade on to its customers. A rapid and smooth upgrade is an important argument in its favor, particularly for small and medium-sized enterprises. In addition, the SAP partner, based in Pforzheim, South Germany, is also able to communicate the benefits of the current release convincingly based on its own hands-on experience of the system.
According to ITML manager Gauweiler, the advantages include the role-specific user interfaces provided via SAP NetWeaver Portal. This gives every user predefined points of access to SAP ERP, allowing all employees to complete their day-to-day tasks more easily. In the future, the IT service provider wants to set up specific roles and work centers for employees in the internal sales or purchasing department. These automate and simplify routine tasks, from the purchase order and order receipt right through to billing.
Direct time recording on the desktop
Role-based interfaces also improve cooperation with external partners. The IT service provider frequently works with freelancers in its projects, for example. With SAP ERP, freelancers can call up their cross application timesheet (CATS) in the ITML system through user-specific portal access in order to enter their hours, regardless of their location. All they need is a web browser and online connection. The company used the scenario with Employee Self Services (ESS) in SAP ERP. “With our new solution, we are bringing time recording to the freelancer’s desktop and are able to replace our previous, largely paper-based processes,” states Gauweiler. The online entry of working times significantly reduces the workload in Accounting, as the data is available immediately in the system and can be processed and analyzed there at any time. As the role-based interfaces are based on the users’ tasks, the training needed for new employees is also reduced, saving ITML time and money.
The medium-sized SAP consulting firm is also benefiting from the changeover to the current ERP release in other areas. For example, the company manages and maintains its customer relationships with its own service-based customer management software ITML > CRM. This is based on SAP NetWeaver Application Server, is fully integrated in SAP, and is adapted to the latest SAP ERP release by ITML. The application also uses master data from the SAP solution, so separate data maintenance is not necessary. The add-on solution could therefore be smoothly connected to SAP ERP. “The time needed was minimal, because the time-consuming modification of interfaces that would otherwise have been required was not necessary,” says Gauweiler. This is also true of the add-on solutions from the ITML > Solutions portfolio, which are also based on SAP NetWeaver.
New general ledger simplifies parallel accounting
Gauweiler sees the new general ledger as a further advantage of SAP ERP. This permits parallel accounting in accordance with the German Commercial Code, the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), and US-GAAP without major changes to the chart of accounts. In the near future, ITML GmbH wants to switch to parallel financial statements in accordance with the German Commercial Code and IFRS, because accounting that complies with the international accounting standards makes it easier to draw up comparisons with competitors in tendering processes, for example.
For many of ITML’s medium-sized customers that operate abroad, accounting in accordance with IFRS could be an important competitive factor in the future. “If a high-tech or manufacturing company from Germany needs to present its financial statements to a customer in the United States, for example, figures based on the German Company Code might not bode well,” says Gauweiler. Over the long term, there will be no way around IFRS anyway, as the EU also wants to set up uniform and those comparable legal rulings for financial statements, and these regulations will also apply to SMEs.
ERP core solution stable over the long term
Thanks to the current version of SAP ERP, ITML GmbH is also profiting from an ERP core solution that will be stable over the long term, because standard maintenance will be offered until 2013. In addition, upgrades will be possible without interruptions to day-to-day business and can be tailored to specific requirements. This will be achieved through enhancement packages, which are scheduled and shipped on an ongoing basis, something valued by SMEs, in particular. The outlook is good!