Customer Experiences in the Cloud

May 8, 2013 by Heather McIlvaine

Photo: iStockphoto

Photo: iStockphoto

On the following pages, three customers talk candidly about why they chose SAP Business ByDesign, when they implemented it, what they use it for, the benefits and challenges, and where they’d like to see SAP go next with the cloud-based ERP solution.

Bautzen IT was the first pilot customer worldwide and involved in the development stage

WL Plastics employees were familiar with R/3 and decided to stick with SAP in the cloud

Landi USA rolled out SAP Business ByDesign in less than 90 days

Next page: Bautzen IT was the first pilot customer worldwide and involved in the development stage

Bautzen IT: Harry Schweickert, manager BIT.Solutions

Implementation

We were the very first pilot customer for A1S, which later became known as SAP Business ByDesign. After launching the solution in 2007, we worked closely with SAP on improvements – really, I would say it was still in the development phase at that time – through 2008 and 2009.

Functionality

We use almost the entire scope of functionality that’s offered, from financials to CRM to project management to SRM.

Why SAP Business ByDesign

Our company was started in February 2005 with 25 employees. By 2007, we had 50 people, and we knew we couldn’t work much longer on the basis of Microsoft Word and Excel. It wasn’t giving us the oversight we needed across the business. We were considering SAP Business One as an ERP solution when we heard rumors that SAP would soon be releasing a cloud solution. This appealed to us because it would give us the flexibility we needed as a rapidly growing company. And we wouldn’t have to hire additional IT staff, which would have been the case with an on-premise ERP solution.

We also chose SAP Business ByDesign with the hope of becoming a channel partner. That means we wouldn’t just use the technology ourselves, but we would also resell it and act as a consulting and implementation partner for other companies. We accomplished that in 2010 and became a solution partner in 2011. So now we also develop industry-specific solutions on top of SAP Business ByDesign.

Benefits

In terms of flexibility, SAP Business ByDesign really delivers. Today, we have 250 employees, and it is very easy to add more users whenever we need to. While it may not contain all the industry-specific functionality for every niche industry, it is really ideal for companies in certain industries, like manufacturing or services. The financials functionality, for example, is just about perfect. And then you have partners that can deliver those industry-specific solutions.

Challenges

The idea behind a comprehensive ERP solution like SAP Business ByDesign is to get a complete overview across the company without having to integrate different applications. There are definitely advantages to this, and it’s been a selling point for a lot of customers. But now, there seems to be an industry shift towards deploying specific lines of business applications and integrating them after the fact. It’s like trends in the fashion industry. One thing is en vogue one year, and something else the next year.

Future

We’d like to see SAP have more customers share each server in the data center. This would reduce costs and lower the number of initial users, making SAP Business ByDesign even more attractive for small companies.

Next page: WL Plastics: Neil Briggs, chief financial officer

WL Plastics: Neil Briggs, chief financial officer

Implementation

We started our implementation in February 2010. By the end of April, the first plant was up and running on SAP Business ByDesign, and by early August, the whole business was running on it. We started with less than 25 users; today we have over 60.

Functionality

Financials and sales are two areas where we use the full functionality that SAP Business ByDesign offers. With every software upgrade from SAP, we add new functionality. Right now, we’re working on adding enhancements to the manufacturing side.

Why SAP Business ByDesign

I have worked with SAP for many years, back to one of the first implementations of SAP R/2 in North America. I’m very comfortable using it and so is my team, but an ERP suite of that scope would have been too costly for WL Plastics. And we didn’t have the support staff. So we knew we were looking at a cloud solution.

Even though SAP Business ByDesign was a new application at the time and a bit of a risk, I was confident that SAP wouldn’t leave us in the lurch. We chose to go with this solution because so many of our employees were familiar with SAP and several of our customers use it too. It also gives us the multi-country coverage we need, since we have plants in the United States and Canada. A lot of other cloud applications don’t support the multi-currency and multi-tax functionality that comes with SAP Business ByDesign.

Benefits

Flexibility is crucial for us as a growing company. In the past few years, we’ve expanded and added new plants. SAP Business ByDesign lets us do that pretty effortlessly. Before, when we were using QuickBooks, each of our plants had separate master files for customers and inventory. And it was impossible to keep them synchronized. We were having quality issues because the same product or customer would be described differently in multiple files. Now we have much a better control environment.

Challenges  

One area where we’re still struggling is getting functionality from partner solutions. Adding functionality – when it’s available – is not a problem for us because we appointed a “power user” at the very beginning of our implementation project. He’s an internal employee and the resident expert on SAP Business ByDesign. He can answer questions, train new users, and help with implementing enhancements and upgrades. Even with a cloud solution, where you technically shouldn’t need any in-house expertise, it’s still a good idea to have one go-to person. I think this has helped us avoid other potential challenges.

Future

We would like to see more integration between different applications. Since we’re constantly looking to add functionality that isn’t already included – like an EDI solution – integration is an important factor for us.

Next page: Landi USA: David Kang, chief financial officer

Landi USA: David Kang, chief financial officer

Implementation

We started our implementation of SAP Business ByDesign in February 2011 and were up and running within 90 days.

Functionality

Procurement, sales orders, service orders, invoicing, finance and accounting, logistics, inventory management, planning and production – we use just about every business function on offer. I’m in the data gathering phase right now for our first third-party add-on, for UPC barcoding and thermal scanning. So far, it seems that add-ons are very compatible with SAP Business ByDesign in the backend.

Why SAP Business ByDesign

We’re a subsidiary of Landi Renzo, a global company based in Italy, which uses an assortment of SAP products, including SAP ECC and SAP R/3. That was a major reason for us to go with SAP Business ByDesign. We’re not actually utilizing a two-tier ERP model at the moment, but if and when we decide to do so, we thought it would be easier to link SAP Business ByDesign with our parent company’s SAP ERP system. The fact that it’s a cloud solution was another deciding factor. We’re a small company and our growth is unknown. I didn’t want to invest in building an IT infrastructure that we might outgrow in two or three years – I’d much rather simply add users and space on an as-needed basis. And since it’s a cloud solution, SAP Business ByDesign doesn’t require a big up-front investment. For us, it’s a more manageable monthly expense.

Benefits

Before we implemented SAP Business ByDesign, we had to develop our business processes. The whole document flow that occurs when you enter a purchase order – having it link the data with the business services receipt, the supplier invoice, going to accounts payable, and so on – didn’t exist in our company at all. We were a new startup entity and we had been managing everything with QuickBooks up to then. So, one big benefit for us was that the implementation forced us to think a lot about internal efficiency and how to best streamline our business processes.

Challenges

One of the strengths of SAP Business ByDesign, and ERP in general, really, is the document flow associated with a business process that ensures there are checks and balances. For us, however, this presents a challenge. Our products must change rapidly to react to the market. In these cases, there are almost too many checks and balances, which is prohibitive to quick reactions and response times.

Future

One thing I’d like to see in the future is a standardized, central location for enablement. At the moment, you have the Help menu, the Idea Place, SAP experts, the business center… resources are available in different places.

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