Any company tasked with organizing the world’s largest IT convention on a site spanning a million square meters had better have its own software in order. That’s why Deutsche Messe AG chose to switch to SAP ERP 6.0 and SAP Customer Relationship Management (SAP CRM) 7.0 – at the same time, no less.
What initially sounds like a nerve-wracking proposition actually makes sense upon closer examination. After all, individual release upgrades entail the same testing requirements. “When you’ve got a handle on the complexity involved, a combined approach reduces the required costs and effort,” explains Michael Frankrone, head of CRM consulting at Lynx-Consulting GmbH.
It was Lynx that took care of the dual upgrade for Deutsche Messe. The corresponding project, which began in January 2010, saw the two applications go live on August 23 of the same year. Around 500 employees have been working with them ever since.
Avoiding maintenance surcharges
To stay current, Deutsche Messe modernizes its application landscape on a regular basis. The advantages of doing so are simple: an adequate functional scope and fewer maintenance surcharges, which the company would incur if it ran older versions of SAP’s software.
Tested under real-world conditions
Deutsche Messe’s preparation for the project included an extensive prior examination of its situation in 2009. In a sandbox system – that is, an isolated runtime environment – the company determined the type and extent of the tasks that would be required. “Based on a real system, not on theory,” emphasizes Oliver Werner, head of system development at Deutsche Messe.
Lynx-Consulting then carried out a prototypical release upgrade to SAP CRM 7.0 to demonstrate how to do so in a live environment. In the process, it became clear that porting over Deutsche Messe’s custom enhancements and modifications would require a significant amount of effort.
However, the consultants from Lynx also showed that these added functions would already be covered in the standard version of the new release. By returning to the SAP standard, Deutsche Messe would also guarantee its ability to upgrade to future versions.
Next page: Mobile CRM and standardized master data
Standardized customer master data
“The SAP CRM upgrade really changed the core elements of our application,” Werner says. In the past, many of Deutsche Messe’s sales employees had bemoaned how difficult it was to use the application. The new browser-based interface and added usage options now present many new freedoms in this regard, but did also require careful introduction.
Another key aspect of the SAP CRM 7.0 implementation involved Deutsche Messe’s customer-side contact management. Previous versions of the application were unable to fully meet the company’s complex requirements, which is why it had been using a custom development – one that in some cases led to redundant customer-data maintenance, however. SAP CRM 7.0 now maps master data on contacts in a standard-compliant fashion.
Just ask the users
Due to the nature of the aforementioned changes, Deutsche Messe’s SAP CRM users were involved in the project from the beginning. They contributed in particular to the conception phase in early 2010 and worked intensively on helping design the user interface and process flows.
Deutsche Messe’s approach was pragmatic: Instead of writing up elaborate papers, its project team immediately began implementing each individual step in the sandbox system and presenting the results directly to the users affected. “Treating it like a workshop proved to be the right method. The users got to know the application early on and influenced its design with their feedback,” Werner recalls.
After the extensive design phase, Lynx carried out the technical release upgrade to SAP ERP 6.0 and SAP CRM 7.0 within Deutsche Messe’s existing three-system (test, development, and production) landscape.
When the applications went live in August 2010, Deutsche Messe had already commissioned Lynx to handle its next project: implementing CRM2Go, an add-on for SAP CRM 7.0 based on SAP Interactive Forms by Adobe. In the future, field sales employees will have the ability to access PDFs containing all the information they need from SAP CRM while on the move.
Meanwhile, these employees will also be able to use Microsoft Outlook to transfer the results of their work in PDF format to a centralized system, where the information will automatically be assigned to the appropriate processes. The prototype in question was development between June and October 2010.
Next page: Summing it all up
In summary: more functions, simpler integration
Deutsche Messe’s initial experiences with its modernized application landscape have been nothing if not positive. Compared to SAP CRM 5.0, version 7.0 offers a new Web client and a simpler, more intuitive user experience. In addition, workflow options and a modified data structure make it possible to map all customer-related processes. Occasional SAP CRM users in particular extol the new version’s improved ease of use.
Meanwhile, the application is still fully integrated into SAP ERP 6.0 and boasts connections to other software, as well; its groupware integration with Microsoft Outlook, for example, has been significantly simplified. “It’s been a lot of work; converting information on some 400,000 contacts to fit the new structure pushed us right to the limit of our capacity,” Werner admits. All in all, however, he believes the switch – and the return to SAP standards – has been a worthwhile endeavor for Deutsche Messe.