PCMS Group, a UK-based software and services firm, delivers point-of-sale (POS) and supply-chain solutions to the retail sector. Founded in 1982, the company has 450 employees in three key business units, with offices in three UK locations and one in the U.S. (Cincinnati). A network of distribution partners covers Europe, North America, and Asia-Pacific. A key element is their Vision product suite – a set of applications to help manage retail and distribution enterprises across the complete supply chain, from supplier to POS.
Several years back, the company recognized a growing opportunity within the SMB segment of retail and distribution. Until then, its focus had been on Tier 1 clients in these industries, but it was becoming clear that the Tier 2 and Tier 3 segments would offer the best growth potential. However, the company needed a software solution to meet the needs of this market. It became an SAP Business One partner in the first quarter of 2003 and has since sold five solutions. PCMS sees its extensive experience in the retail and distribution sector as a key competitive asset in further building its business using SAP products.
Going with the skills
The choice of SAP hinged in part on an earlier deal. In 2002, PCMS signed a five-year outsourcing deal with Apollo Metals, a supplier of supply chain solutions to the aerospace, defense, and high tech industries. PCMS acquired SAP skills from Apollo, making the choice of software vendor to address the SMB market a lot simpler. In other determining factors, the company views SAP products as superior to other solutions; SAP skills are available through an outsourcing contract; and SAP partner space is not overcrowded.
PCMS is focused purely on SAP in the SMB segment. The company looks forward to key support in marketing activities and, since PCMS is dedicated to the retail sector, to SAP support for designing retail solutions that will integrate SAP Business One with PCMS’ existing application suite. The firm would also like to see SAP recognize partners who carry SAP products exclusively by providing preferential treatment in sales support and lead generation.
According to Michael Hill, PCMS sales consultant, SAP Business One combines considerable functionality in a cost-effective, easy-to-implement package. This “deliver and go” potential fits the company’s SMB requirements, with its projected implementation time of two to three days and little consulting. However, in practice, he has found that a fair amount of consulting work is needed, which puts pressure on available resources.
Part of the problem, he stresses, may stem from the low quality of business processes in UK organizations, an issue that has to be tackled prior to implementation. Also, he sees a certain degree of confusion about the ongoing development of SAP Business One: As more functionality is added, the distinction between SAP Business One and mySAP All-in-One may become blurred.
Ready to go
PCMS sees SAP Business One as a ready-to-go solution but has developed both an interface between SAP Business One and its own POS solution, and a fashion module (together with a third party) for Downunder Wear. The company has no other plans to develop industry-specific modules or additional functionality. PCMS has completed five SAP Business One implementations, some sold on a fixed-price/fixed-time basis, others at fixed-price only.
The project for Downunder Wear, which included both SAP Business One and the extra fashion module, underlines the fast implementation times and technical quality of SAP Business One. Implementation took 20 days – within the planned timescale – and the process went smoothly with no issues. “Our fashion module speeds up their data input of seasonal products and enables simplified stock and inventory management,” says Hill. SAP Business One replaced a Hansa product which had been installed 12 months earlier but which was unable to provide the functionality required in product ordering and distribution.
PCMS aims to be the leading provider of retail solutions in the UK, and with customers such as Waitrose, Dixons, Budgens, Krispy Kreme, and Orange, it has already established a strong presence. For growth, the company expects to focus on SMBs and views SAP Business One as the key to increasing its penetration with smaller clients. “SAP Business One is an asset to businesses in the SMB market and with continued improvements to its functionality will become the leading software in this market,” says Hill. The clear indications from SAP that the SMB market is a key focus area strengthens the firm’s belief in SAP’s commitment to the SMB space.
Despite a generally positive relationship with SAP, Hill indicates that communication could be improved and that increasing pressure from SAP to meet quarterly sales targets has been a source of irritation for PCMS. However, PCMS is totally committed to SAP. “If we receive a lead, we will offer an SAP product,” Hill emphasizes. “There is no risk that the lead will be used to sell a competing product.” In his view, partners who can make this commitment should receive priority treatment.
In marketing, SAP has taken significant steps to build awareness of its products, including a major marketing campaign, presence at trade shows, and providing marketing funds. However, in Hill’s view, SAP still has a way to go to gain mindshare in the UK’s SMB market.
Hill indicates that SAP Business One training is expensive and certification difficult to achieve. Additionally, the company feels that the decision to no longer allow partners to provide training was not a good one. Many of its clients are based in the north of England, and traveling to London for training is unattractive.
SAP technical support is considered to be of very high quality but geared to large implementations and large clients. SMB clients need a quicker response time, says Hill.