Interview: Over-the-Counter Software

Prof. Horst-Fritz Siller und Jens-Uwe Holz von Itellium
Dr. Horst-Fritz Siller and Jens-Uwe Holz of Itellium How did the cooperation between Itellium and Siller come about?

Holz: We have a common colleague who has worked in the field of SAP for many years and knows our company very well. He felt we’d be a good match in quite a few respects, which is how he came up with the idea of us cooperating. We took his advice and met for dinner one evening. It quickly became clear that the chemistry was right, both in terms of business and our personalities.

Siller: We hit it off immediately! (laughs) Our organizations are very similar in how we handle employee qualifications and demand a high level of quality. Plus, after an initial discussion of the nuts and bolts involved, the benefits of working together were obvious. After these first meetings, how much time passed before you put the finishing touches on your cooperation?

Holz: After getting to know each other, we exchanged some concrete ideas in early 2010. From an organizational perspective, everything is now set, including the contractual structures. All in all, we wrapped things up pretty quickly.

Siller: It wasn’t long after our teams met that we already knew all of the topics we could address together. Our SAP industry solution RetailFit forms the basis of our cooperation, which we plan on continuing in the solution’s ongoing development. In the course of our teams’ joint discussions, it was soon clear that we had a good fit on a business and personal level in this respect, as well.

Holz: I’d even say that my employees were quite excited about RetailFit. It’s a complete, self-contained solution perfectly tailored to our target market. Now that the stage is set for your successful cooperation, how exactly do you think you’ll benefit?

Holz: Previously, Itellium has worked mainly for large retail companies. We now want to bring our competence in processes and technologies to the sport and fashion segments of the midmarket retail industry, as well. We’ve offered a number of solutions for these fields in the past, but none have been that single end-to-end product that gives small businesses and midsize companies one platform for all their business processes. Together, we can offer our customers a unique kind of added value – not just the right platform and experience, but the right solutions and skills for growth-oriented companies.

Siller: In our case, there was a simple lack of the personnel necessary to handle the tasks we were facing. We would have had to create at least 10 new positions demanding very different competencies over the next two years, which probably wouldn’t have been feasible. In RetailFit, we’ve designed a successful SAP solution for a very specific market segment. We would have had to pass on larger companies, though. Our partnership with Itellium enables us to provide more flexible customer support and cover a broad spectrum of processes.

Read on: What midmarket customers want to see from SAP

Further articles on this topic: So SAP is a core element of your cooperation. Do you have any suggestions or requests for SAP, particularly with regard to your work together?

Siller: We’ve noticed a sea change in SAP’s retail solutions in recent years. Some time ago, our customers looked at us with a wary eye when we mentioned SAP, but now they’re excited when we show them everything the software can do. That said, I do have one major recommendation for SAP: Please eliminate the customization your midmarket products require.

Holz: That’s a good idea. Large companies need customizing to flesh out their business processes and gain leverage in positioning themselves among their competitors. Small businesses and midsize companies, however, live by their responsiveness. If you first have to make adjustments to a solution, you can’t start using it right away – which means you can’t use it at all. As IT service providers for the midmarket, we’ve already taken care of all the customization RetailFit needs. In its key areas, the solution already contains processes based on best practices. We can, of course, make individual adjustments down the road, but the most important thing is that RetailFit is ready to use right from the start.

Siller: SAP should also focus its message more on the midmarket. If people are to trust SAP solutions, they have to feel like the company is addressing them and catering to their needs. It’s clear that you’re very familiar with the midmarket and take it seriously; after all, Siller AG has focused on small businesses and midsize companies in the retail industry for nearly 35 years. What challenges are your customers facing now and in the near future?

Siller: Right now, companies should start planning and making investments again – in IT, for example. It’s time that many of them replace their old systems and solutions with new and better ones. In retail, however, broad infrastructural investment is also needed, such as in the development of new store locations.

Holz: I agree that a lot of small businesses and midsize companies need to revamp their IT landscapes. Another major retail opportunity lies in online shops, which haven’t even begun to reach their full potential. Other countries are often ahead of Germany in this respect. Online stores are part of our cooperation – and a perfectly integrated component of RetailFit, of course.

Read on: E-commerce and other retail trends So what role do online shops play in comparison to brick-and-mortar stores?

Holz: It’s difficult to describe in general terms, because it depends on each individual company. We have noticed, however, that a very high percentage of small businesses and midsize companies in retail still don’t have an online store – and sometimes not even an online presence to speak of. These companies are missing a great opportunity to increase their revenue. On the other hand, those running antiquated systems shouldn’t open an online shop just like that, either.

Siller: That’s true; plenty of retailers think they can just do a little online business on the side, but successful sales on the Web involves a lot of work. Those that want to get into e-commerce have to plan for the investment required. To sum things up, e-commerce is an area that offers significant possibilities to small businesses and midsize companies in retail. What technologies will this entail going forward?

Holz: I think mobile devices are a very interesting subject for retailers; our customers are also giving us the impression that such devices are going to play a major role. The technologies involved are already quite powerful, and it’s hard to fathom everything they’ll be capable of. Here, both of our companies are contributing expertise to the future benefit of our customers. You also have to view things from the customer’s perspective: Many now expect today’s companies to cater to them on the Internet. In the medium term, what’s now an opportunity will become a necessary accouterment of business.

Siller: Both Siller and Itellium have internal teams of developers focusing specifically on the topic of mobile computing. We’re optimistic that our combined knowledge will enable us to offer a solid range of products in this area. Besides mobile computing, are there other trends you’re betting on?

Siller: We’re excited for the debut of SAP Business ByDesign, which we think is tailor-made for the midmarket. It’s based on a coherent concept: In the end, small businesses and midsize companies want to see the direct benefits of the solution right away – not worry about computer technologies. For SAP and partners like us, the challenge will almost certainly lie in finding the right way to place the product in the market. Do you plan to take on this challenge together? And can you foresee expanding your cooperation further in the future?

Holz: SAP Business ByDesign definitely falls within the scope of our current cooperation. We’re going to use it to address our customers together. I can also easily imagine expanding our cooperation; I already have a few ideas on how we might. Right now, however, we’re concentrating on achieving our goals in the midmarket retail industry. And what do these involve, exactly?

Siller: Sharing in strong growth in this sector. By combining our skills, we’re much faster and more efficient in carrying out customer projects.

Holz: Working together ultimately enables us to offer a much, much greater pool of experience, which obviously benefits our customers. Above all, I expect this to inspire our clients and make them our partners for many years to come.