Complex markets, increasing competitive pressure, legal requirements, disproportionately high data growth, heterogeneous data sources. These are just some of the challenges that the midmarket has to face. “SAP is committed to the future viability of small and midsize enterprises. This drives us to develop new technological platforms, industry solutions, and best practices for the sector,” says Andreas Naunin, member of the SAP Germany executive management team with responsibility for small businesses and midsize companies. He sees the key to success and competitiveness in the right use of information technology.
Processes get stuck in a rut
“Changes,” says Naunin, “affect the positioning and sustainability of companies – and they are triggered by IT implementations.” However, the problem is that IT implementations do not actually change anything at all in many companies, he continues. The processes still run as they did before, because the business objectives were not clearly defined in advance.
According to Naunin, the correct use of software solutions is closely linked with an analysis of current status of the company in which specific objectives and topics must be identified. Then processes can be designed and put in place that trigger changes. The central questions are:
- Where is my company today?
- Where does my company want to be in the future?
- What does my company need to do to get there?
Naunin says that top management’s involvement is particularly important. Its tasks are to:
- Define the company’s objectives
- Determine the goals of the IT project
- Analyze processes
- Describe roles
- Make agreements
- Provide resources
Using IT as a strategic tool
“With clear objectives, a clear structure, and concepts effectively aligned to them, software solutions can be implemented successfully,” explains Naunin. Used as a strategic tool, he says, IT can:
- Reduce costs and sources of error
- Accelerate business processes and decisions
- Increase controllability
- Enable new processes and business models
As an example of a successful IT implementation, Naunin cites the chemicals company Chemische Werke Zell-Wildshausen in Düsseldorf, Germany. The company with a workforce of 33 and sales of €8 million (2006) produces semifinished products for the chemicals industry. By implementing the SAP Business One application, it slashed its lead times from four days to one and cut its IT costs by half.
Listen. Understand. Act.
Investing in IT is one thing, but finding the right IT service provider for the job is another. A popular choice for small businesses and midsize companies is Steeb Anwendungssysteme, a wholly-owned subsidiary of SAP based in Abstatt, Germany. “We listen to midmarket customers, understand them, and give them tailored, tried-and-true, and calculable solutions. What’s more, we are personally committed to our customers’ success,” says Dr. Alexander Arnold, Steeb’s managing director.
Listen and understand: Together with the customer, Steeb clarifies the expectations and the objectives to be met. As a hub for all IT services, it connects customers, partners, and experts through its extensive partner network, its expertise in special areas, various events, and its participation in special interest groups of the German-Speaking SAP User Group (DSAG).
Act: To overcome technical and business challenges, Steeb provides an industry-specific solution portfolio comprising SAP ERP, SAP Business All-in-One solutions, SAP Business ByDesign solutions, and special Steeb add-ons. Furthermore, in close collaboration with customers, experts, and partners, Steeb works on special projects that benefit the entire sector.
One such example is the cockpit that Steeb developed with the VDMA (German Engineering Federation). This solution enables VDMA key performance indicators to be taken from the SAP system and prepared for many different types of reports – and it is already being used by a pilot customer in the industry.
For Arnold, the desire for greater transparency is one of the most important topics for the midmarket, because, with competition getting increasingly tough, companies need perceptive analyses of their business activities. Until recently, business intelligence was a highly complex topic that user departments took a long time to get to grips with. Now, the solutions from Business Objects, an SAP company, provides easy-to-use tools, opening a window to a world of information.
“Our vision is to be the first choice for the midmarket and to act as a hub for all IT-related services. With products and services for the SAP environment, Steeb helps small companies and midsize enterprises to become more competitive and successful in the long term,” says Arnold.