SAP the best kept secret for manufacturing SMEs?

3 mins read

SAP, through its partners, is all about SMEs – and while that does not represent a change of course, the software giant is determined to change the 'only big corporates welcome here' perception.

So says according to Eric Duffaut, SAP's president of global ecosystem and channels, who, at a round table event in London yesterday (8 Septemember) insisted that 80% of SAPs business is with SMEs – with no fewer than 32,000 companies on its Business One ERP solution alone. For Duffaut, the message should be clear: SAP has the heritage and expertise to innovate on business systems, platforms, mobile technology and cloud offerings, while the SAP ecosystem (partners) provides industry-specific, functional and service add-ons and support. As Duffaut put it: "We are leveraging our partners and thinking of them as an extension of our own sales force." And he might just as well have added, an extension of SDAP's R&D. Because the approach espoused involves SAP providing the evolution for Business One and its cloud-based Business By Design – its chief ERP offerings for SMEs – as well as business intelligence software through SAP's strategic acquisition of Business Objects. "Business Objects was a great acquisition. Where ERP is the system of record, BI is the system of engagement, and we have dedicated versions for SMEs," states Duffaut. His point: with a range of software and platform choices, partners to provide wrap-around service as well as serious add-ons, and a choice of on-premise, on-demand, on-device or a mixed model implementation, manufacturing SMEs can buy into serious ERP-plus now and never worry about running out of steam. As you might expect, SAP had lined up its big guns to keep the round table on message, and John Antunes, SAP UK and Ireland director of SMEs and channels, did not disappoint. Pointing to the Sunday Times Fast Track 100 list of SMEs from 2001, he noted that 53% of those big hitters are no longer with us – and used that factoid to claim that the winners then and now are those able to embrace 'innovation' and 'adaptability'. Critics might argue that 'innovation' and 'adaptability' haven't typically been words synonymous with the image of SAP – but they would be wrong. Certainly, that is, if the manufactures wheeled into SAP's round table (admittedly by SAP) are to be believed. Keith Ross, company secretary with aerospace seats manufacturer Ipeco, reports that his SAP Business All in One solution – which started life at the firm back in 2005 and was rapidly rolled out to nine sites across the UK and US – has been and remains "very successful". This is a 600 employee, £55 million turnover business, yet the initial implementation was done and dusted in 10 weeks, while the ninth site implementation was performed almost entirely in-house. Ross also challenges those who cast aspersions upon SAP, suggesting that would be users think of the system as "shining a bright light on data in dark corners where people hide things" and insisting that the power is in SAP's persistence with business processes in the face of complexity. Meanwhile, Andrew Leese, IT director at Tennants Fine Chemicals, which went for SAP's Business By Design cloud approach, and has only been live for a few weeks, also reports success. In his case, the organisation needed to get out of the then parent company's SAP R/3 system in Brussels preparatory to its divestiture. "We needed a system in fast and we wanted to be able to use the system to run the business, not spend money managing the technology," comments Leese. He says that going the SAP cloud route has not only been pretty stress-free but has also saved well over "35% of the yearly running costs for this business". And that's with the system running this process-centric business all the way from manufacturing to sales and finance. "Before I came here, I noticed a bunch of production efficiency reports coming out of the system so when I get back I'll be looking at those." Why weren't you looking at them on your mobile device, Andrew? That aside, Leese concedes that selling the idea to the board wasn't trivial but insists that it was the right approach – and that SAP (he dealt direct) has been a good partner. And by the way, SAP partner 2E2 reckons that it's done more than £250 million worth of work on cloud-related business this year – albeit only £25 million on SaaS (software as a service), the rest being what the firm's head of solutions, David Maitland, described as "traditional stuff". Interestingly, Maitland sees the potential for huge growth and uptake here. And that's not only because of manufacturers' one-time substantial cost savings that spring from cutting out the whole infrastructure and IT people upfront capital cost. He raises the point about manufacturers' opportunities to evolve new business processes very fast, given the sheer flexibility and adaptability (did you see what they did there?) of Business By Design, with cloud provisioning and the rest.