The Strongest Relationships are Borne through Baptism of Fire

When things go wrong, you know who your friends are and who you can trust. This is true in life, but so too in our business relationships and in the alliances that we forge with partners and suppliers. It’s one thing to provide a customer with a good, consistent service when things are on track, but what about when the ship hits the rocks? When projects unexpectedly de-rail and unforeseen complications occur, the best suppliers become trusted partners. Some of the strongest relationships are those that are borne through baptism of fire.

As a Global SAP support provider, there are two key trigger points at which a new customer engages with us as an SAP partner. They are either going through a mandated review process at the end of a fixed-term contract, or they’re in a crisis situation in need of immediate help and resolution. If you can prove yourself in the latter scenario, then the relationship will be often be stronger, longer lasting and more collaborative as a result.SAP_Gold_Partner But, how can organisations turn a fire fighting exercise into a long term business relationship?

Understand the customer and their market

As with any new customer project, getting up and running quickly is essential. Increasingly, expenditure on IT projects – and in our case, SAP implementations – has the eyes of the board firmly on it. As such, the project must run as smoothly as possible, and deliver ROI in the shortest time possible. When a partner is stepping into an already fraught situation, the need for quick resolution is greater than ever. Integral to this is knowing the customer and market inside out. What is a company’s specific pain point?

What are the wider market pressures impacting their bottom line? How is their market evolving and how can you support this shift? Senior decision makers need the confidence that comes from having a partner who understands the unique intricacies of their industry and the challenges they face. In the SAP sector, suppliers and partners need deep technical knowledge of SAP solutions, coupled with specialist knowledge of – often complex – vertical markets. Not only is this knowledge beneficial to solve short term crises, but through a consultative, integrated approach the relationship is built to help plan long-term growth and strategic change.

Be transparent and keep it simple

Market trends and budgetary constraints mean that IT strategy towards partners and suppliers can vary dramatically. Strategies oscillate between the desire to consolidate the number of suppliers and consultancies they use to establishing a broader portfolio of ‘best of breed’ suppliers who offer a range of services.

However, in either scenario one thing remains true. IT managers and decision makers want to work with suppliers who provide a transparent and simple service. Especially if stepping in to resolve a crisis situation – time spent wrangling with procurement is time wasted. An open and transparent approach to any relationship is key. This should be felt throughout the duration of the relationship. Consider the following things: does a supplier have a simple and straightforward contract that clearly outlines SLAs and deliverables?

Do they have a support function that is efficient and effective and embraces technology to maximise efficiency? Is there a consistent and committed account team who reacts to your needs? An engagement model based around openness and transparency between vendors and its customers is a significant differentiator and helps to cement relationships, even in the most testing of times.

Choose experts

In today’s rapidly changing business environment, keeping on top of new developments, technology and legislation is challenging. It’s important to build relationships with partners who can remove this headache, and have expertise in specific technology areas. They can then utilise and deploy solutions in the most effective way to deliver meaningful business impact.

As an example, Invenio only supports SAP implementations. As an SAP Gold Partner, our consultants live and breathe SAP. Companies that can provide value-added consultancy services and move away from commoditised solutions will prosper. This is particularly the case when working on IT projects. Typically the lifecycle of upgrades and new solutions is high, and so by working with an organisation who has the relevant expertise engrained at the heart of their business will prove beneficial and ensure you don’t fall behind. Indeed, choosing a partner who is proactive in managing version upgrades, security patches, new deployments etc. will minimise the potential for IT failure in the future.

To conclude, IT decision makers need to partner with vendors and suppliers who differentiate themselves by taking a wholly customer-centric approach. Today’s economy demands suppliers that can deliver focused, transparent and flexible solutions. They need vendors who have the expertise to react to short term crises, but the vision to then deliver sustained, successful, long-term deployments.

Trust is Imperative. If Your SAP Support Supplier Doesn’t Have Yours, Move On.

Trust is an important factor in any relationship, maybe even more so when working with external stakeholders. As you generally cannot see your external SAP Support team, businesses can tend to overlook this as an important factor. However, SAP Support should work seamlessly with your team and without any problems or risk to your organisation.

We wanted to know from our customers what else was important for them and why they choose to work with us. As a company, from our beginnings, we have never lost a support contract so we wanted to understand why and how we can continue to be a great SAP support partner to our customers.

We interviewed one of our long standing clients, Bhavesh Godhania, IT Director, AMCo. This is what he had to say

“When looking for an SAP partner, I knew I wanted a strong, open and honest relationship. Anyone can give you SAP support, but it is true partnership and trust that’s important. That’s what Invenio gives us”.

Watch his full interview here

 

For more details on how we can help with your SAP Support Partnership, please contact us using the contact form found here

Struggling to Keep Your Organisations ‘Lights-On’ with Your SAP Support

For organisations everywhere, just keeping the lights on within your support capability is no longer enough. Your IT support needs to deliver greater value to the business – optimising operations and freeing up more resources for innovation is where SAP support offerings help meet that challenge.

Do any of the following questions ring true within your organisation?

• Are you working with an SAP Partner who lack knowledge and experience?
• Are your global SAP systems difficult to maintain?
• Are you confused about managing a global SAP estate to maintain ‘business as usual’
• Do you suffer cultural and localised variances that are difficult to manage?

If yes, then read on.

As the economic outlook starts to improve even further through 2015, many executives in global organisations are, once again, thinking about expansionary strategies. This in turn, places additional demands on your SAP business systems to keep them operating optimally and respond to changing conditions, while your business seeks to capitalise on new growth prospects.

Strategic support engagement with an external provider can often feel torn between these demands.
For example, lines of business want to quickly leverage the latest technology to augment existing capabilities and support innovation, leading to constant requests for new functionality to address current business challenges. On the other hand, the finance department wants to save money and increase efficiency, resulting in never-ending efforts to minimise IT budgets.

Caught in the middle of this tug of war, IT has learned an important lesson: Finding new ways to do more with less. Easier said than done you scream! But wait, what if there is a way of increasing efficiency and shrinking the cost of daily operations?

In our experience, SAP Support provider’s need their absolute focus to ensuring support is optimal, and provide impartial advice about what new solutions and technologies will help you succeed as your business evolves. In addition, the responsibility of the relationship should be managed 24/7 without any ‘light-out’ times.

By increasing operational efficiency within the support function, it can help you reduce the percentage of IT spend leaving room for more funding of innovation projects. And wherever possible, you can unlock the value of existing investments and introduce new innovations in a swift manner that minimises risk.

For more details about our SAP Support Services please fill out this contact form found here

Customer Story – Success factors for Integrating IT Systems after a Merger

A company that is expanding at a rapid rate and involved in a merger or acquisition can be faced with a weighted task of trying to achieve seamless operations.  The culture, vision and direction of the organisations could be extremely different, – alongside all of this, it is likely that the software systems are different across each business.

Our customer – a newly merged company, were experiencing just this. They had rapidly expanded and needed a system and partner to support them. They found that their systems were ‘creaking at the seams’ in terms of supporting their new business processes.  As one of the merger companies had already installed SAP, they made the decision to implement this across the two merged companies, they then needed an SAP partner that would assist throughout the transformation to make this as pain free as possible.

In a brief interview, we asked our customer: “What were the key considerations were when looking at SAP and Invenio?”

Why SAP and why Invenio?

The customer had implemented SAP several years previously and having proved successful, they were looking to bring the merger company on board with SAP.  This would however involve the implementation of a new SAP System.

Invenio were involved in overcoming some of the pain and risks associated with the implementation of the new SAP system. The level of knowledge that the Invenio team held and the backing of the management demonstrated that Invenio could support the customer for these sort of activities.  Partnering with Invenio was during a phase of rapid growth and expansion for their customer. It was important that Invenio supported the UK market as well as having good support capability globally.

Why standardise SAP across the newly merged business?

The customer looked at various systems on the market but ultimately selected SAP as it had a strong record in their industry. The customer believed that there were many benefits from using SAP in terms of operational efficiencies across the merged entities. It offered inbuilt, industry-specific business processes and meant there would be no initial problems with large scale re-engineering of core processes.

Which business functions does SAP support?

SAP supports the customers many business functions. However, the customer set a number of KPIs that they wanted to achieve by deploying the system.  One particular KPI was set around stock management and reducing the time between purchase requisitions to delivery.  It also demonstrated how quickly stocks could be booked in and released for sale.  These KPIs really helped to measure the impact of the SAP system and its significant benefits.

Most importantly, the customer was able to automate reporting.  Prior to SAP there was a lot of manual intervention needed to generate reports such as management and statutory accounting.  With SAP, a single system is able to generate reports that are pretty much real-time and that is very key for the organisation.

What have been the major business benefits you have seen from deploying SAP?

SAP is now a key part of the organisation; it helps the customer make more informed decisions.  For example; seeing how the business will benefit, or how it will impact, and how they can then ensure that it can roll out to the rest of the organisation.  Another key benefit is that with more acquisitions and the possibility of further mergers, the SAP model is very flexible.

The customer, with Invenio’s help, discovered that there are more modules that they can acquire to help the business become more efficient.  The customer is seeing great opportunities for improving financial efficiencies through SAP budgeting, planning and consolidation tools that will help improve cashflow, forecasting and budgeting processes.

What process did you follow for selecting the right SAP Partner? 

An SAP support partner needs to work closely with the organisation and really feel like part of the team, they need to react when a customer needs them to react, and be very attentive.  After reviewing a few partners, the customer discovered that partners on a larger scale weren’t able to give the same attention as a small or a medium partner could do.  Invenio, were always on hand to help.

One of the areas that the customer struggled with was customer relationship management software.  Invenio were able to pass knowledge from other industries based on best practices for using CRM and how it might benefit the organisation.  As a result they have now implemented SAP CRM and are currently using this quite successfully.

Next Steps:

Invenio and their customer will continue to work seamlessly together and carry on improving the company’s performance. Invenio keep the best interests of their customer’s core to their business philosophy.

Invenio deliver services for a thriving international customer base that includes multi-national media organisations, national governments, consumer product companies and global manufacturers – through to small, local firms that provide a range of goods and services to their domestic marketplace.

For more details on our SAP Support services please contact us by using the online form

Managing Global SAP Teams

400_dreamstime_10053595In global organisations today it is not unusual to find large SAP teams working across different time zones, cultures and languages, and these types of working environments are growing. As projects develop within the organisation; internally and externally, there is a need to be able collaborate these global teams and streamline the working environment so the teams are working as one and not as separate entities.

Although global teams offer many benefits, they can also pose a number of challenges such as:

  • How you develop effective global leaders
  • Keeping remote employees engaged and informed
  • Managing successful recruitment
  • Retention of global teams
  • Monitoring distance employees
  • Developing a global voice which all the company understand.

Global teams are valuable to businesses; because of the social and cultural fit for working business environments which has an impact how business growth and sustainability. Without local knowledge and resource it can be very difficult to work with customers who have a local need.

Building successful global teams usually requires the support of the CEO and other executives. Invenio Solutions run SAP Global teams in many countries across the world, for internal purposes but also for their international clients. There are 5 elements which Invenio Solutions use to manage and develop their global teams thus, enhancing their servicing of global clients in the most effective way. We will discuss each one individually:

1. Employ trusted, local, global team heads

Like every business, Invenio strive to employ the best people at any level in our organisation, we use our in-house built techniques and qualifications to really delve into a person’s employee history and personality. This is especially important when recruiting global team heads. Invenio employ local employee team heads so they understand the cultural environments and for ease of employee engagements, there are a lot of different elements when meeting east with west so the team leaders should also have knowledge of the international business landscape.
Each global team head we employ has to make sure the relationship between his or hers team and the organisation works simultaneously and this should be portrayed when dealing with global clients. It is the job of the global team head to develop strong relationships with other international team leaders and push the true voice of the company.
Action points:

  1. Draw up a Global Team Head persona for an ideal candidate, this should be matched within the job description and interview questions should form around the requirements
  2. The team head of local departments should have frequent calls scheduled into their diaries to discuss company activity and relay this back to their teams

2. For new employees, have a structured introduction process which is consistent across the globe

It is important to really introduce new employees to your company so they don’t feel out on their own or unsure of what the company really stands for. Invenio have a global hand book which is adapted to the language of the local office. We also have a structured internal system to bring on new employees. We suggest that employees travel and work from our different locations at some point in their first year to really understand how other team operate however, this is not compulsory.
Action Points:

  1. Create a “Welcome Pack” for your new employees, include information about the business, its history, growth plans, senior staff members, locations etc.
  2. Put new employees in touch with each other so they can share helpful advice and collaborate between themselves
  3. Think about creating an internal social platform or intranet to hold company standardised documents and information

3. Create trust and collaborate, keep employees up to date and part of the organisations “family”

When teams are spread around a vast area it is very important to feel that you can trust every single team member and rely on them to represent the organisation in the most appropriate manner.
Teams should be kept up to date with regular group emails and messages to make sure everyone is aware of the goings-on within the organisations. As a company which is only 7 years old, Invenio have grown extremely quickly ad have found that the importance of keeping employees informed has a huge impact on operations.
Action Points:

  1. Try creating a quarterly internal news bulletin to keep everyone informed and up-to-date
  2. Make sure you have a group email address account set up for when emailing ALL employees and add new started when they join
  3. Make sure all of your team understand your brand and how your company wants to be viewed from an external point

4. Have regular virtual team meetings and introduce team building incentives

Invenio run monthly international team meetings where we are able to share news, updates, ideas and a few jokes to keep the teams involved and talking. We introduce new starters and any new client updates. We run a yearly team building days where we encourage our international employees to attend.
Action Points:

  1. Schedule in some virtual group meetings where you can introduce new employees, clients, ideas etc.
  2. Have regular team building events locally and if possibly globally

5. Have a structured monitoring system for all employees across the global teams

It is very important that you are able to monitor and record your employees individually and as a team, it is vital that CEO’s and/or other executives keep themselves involved with employee performance and manage those correctly who continue to fail. This type of task involves a lot of collaboration between team heads and the executives, they need to continually be aware of the goings-on, on the ground work force level.
Action Points:

  1. Have regular virtual meeting with executives and team heads
  2. Create a global employee review system so discussions and viewpoints remain consistent

It is very evident that there are many challenges with building and managing effective global teams, but in fact, they are becoming more prominent and vital in organisations today. Global team management and development requires a lot of commitment from your CEO, Global Team Heads but also all other team members.

Invenio Solutions feel that they execute SAP Global team management successfully for their internal teams and for their customers, it is not easy and takes time and perseverance but once you have a good, robust system in place the rewards can be remarkable.

If you would like to know more about managing global SAP teams please contact us.

Global Rollouts for SAP – The Recipe for Success

You are the CIO of a global organisation which has recently spent a lot of money implementing an SAP solution. You have gone through a long period of intensive work introducing changes in the way your organisation works. Now the immediate task you are faced with is rolling out SAP to all countries. Now you not only have the task of running and supporting the current SAP solution, you now need to plan rollouts in other countries without disrupting the current solution! The three key elements of this are:

  1. Ensure smooth operations of the current SAP solution
  2. Implement continuous improvements in the current solution
  3. Plan and deliver global rollouts

This is a common problem faced by large organisations where IT is becoming a driving force rather than a support function to business. The true realisation of the benefits of investing in SAP are derived once it is deployed across the global footprint. In this blog you will find information on developing and executing successful global rollouts.

The three key objectives of a successful Global rollout strategy are:

  1. Low total cost of ownership
  2. Fast deployment of a solution across countries
  3. Minimum disruption to running solution
Introducing a global template

Successful completion of a SAP implementation within your head office gives you a repository of business processes, interfaces and custom developments. These can be readily adopted by the subsidiary or other locations. This repository can be converted into a template which can be used for delivering a successful rollout.

The first key step in rollout preparation is to build this knowledge from your current solution into a global template. An expert consulting team works to package the current solution into actionable blocks which are to be used in a rollout project. These can be broken down into following:

1. Program Management

2. Solution Management – documented repository of solution components which comprises of

– Global organisation structure – a sample organisation structure which can be adopted by subsidiary companies
– Global master data – key required data
– Global business processes – a core of common processes to be used globally
– Global development objects – these comprise of interfaces, reports and programs which can be used
– Data conversion kit – conversion templates which will be used to upload data

3. Infrastructure requirements

As well as these key considerations, the global template also needs to cover change management, training considerations and security concepts. Once all the aspects are tied in and documented clearly. A global ready template is available to be deployed across all countries.

Blog-global-rollout

 

Rollout – implementation models and decisions

A global template provides us documents and ready repository to accelerate the rollout. The way in which the template is used depends on the complexity of each territory. A pre-study should be done before hand to understand the potential conflicts from the global template and the local requirements or localisations.

Gaps and localisations:
Gaps – these are the differences in the global template, such as business processes, organisation structure and master data.
Localisation – legal and statutory requirements which are required to be implemented.

Program management will need to decide on the extent of the gaps and localisations to be approved. The criteria for approval should be:

  1. Gaps – business benefit it gives to the local subsidiary in terms of value
  2. Localisation – normally all legal and statutory requirements are to be implemented.

localised-gaps

 

The consulting partner provides his expertise in this area by provide in depth analysis of the gaps and localisations and guides the program management in taking an informed decision.

Phasing rollout execution

Rollout execution can be phased out in following ways:

Single country rollout – for countries where the complexity is high in terms of gaps and localisations. If user base is large, a single country rollout is the best approach. This means the design, development, testing and training can be covered properly.

Multi country rollout – countries with a smaller user base, low complexity and geographical proximity can be grouped together a rollout at one time, this gives savings in time and money.

A successful global rollout of SAP solution brings immense material benefits for global organisations in terms of:

  • Providing fast and smooth implementation
  • Cost savings by re-use of solution components
  • Making organisation more responsive to global changes
  • Giving management global view of operations

Invenio are experienced in assisting clients worldwide, to find out more about Global Rollouts with SAP, please feel free to contact us to discuss.

Locked-in. Calling Time on the Multi-Year Support Contract

The challenging economic climate of recent years has affected every one of us. Businesses large and small have had to face the consequences of the credit crisis, and tackle issues that no business continuity plan can prepare them for. We’ve seen the demise of many household names and, despite a recent uptick in many country’s economies, some industry commentators suspect there may be more to follow.

For IT executives and their teams, delivering ‘business as usual’ support through these challenging times may feel like a bit of a misnomer. But, whatever the economy is doing – whether it’s up, down or stagnating – IT still must provide stable, robust systems that can cope with the rigours of an ever changing environment. Many IT departments have coped admirably in balancing a flatlining budget – ensuring that maintenance and support costs are kept in check and investing only in projects where a good return can be made.

One challenge that does seem to persist for many IT executives however, is in the effective renegotiation of multi-year extended support or services contracts that no longer reflect their business reality. These contracts lock-in IT departments to an agreed set of services delivered over a period of several years.

Extended Contracts – the Upsides

Extended contracts are often a result of having agreed terms in better times when planning horizons were longer and companies more confident of long term performance. Indeed, agreements for support services that span several years do seem like good business logic for many reasons. For one, the total value of the contract is usually offered at a highly preferential rate, as the longevity of the contract provides a service partner with guaranteed revenues across the period of several years (meaning that they don’t need to incur cost in finding new business). It also helps the service partner to plan their workforce more efficiently and allocate resources in a more predictable way. For the IT Department, not only is the price more attractive, but the contract longevity means that once the knowledge transfer is complete, it’s a task that doesn’t need thinking about for some time.

The Renegotiation Challenge
In today’s uncertain business climate there can be significant drawbacks to signing a multi-year agreement. Renegotiating the terms of an existing contract due to a change in business conditions is very difficult unless there is some kind of ‘quid pro quo’ factored in – a recent example of which can be seen in the HMRC Aspire contract which was recently renegotiated to include an extension until 2017.65Percent

Indeed, the findings of a survey carried out by sourcing company Alsbridge in June 2013 concluded that almost two thirds of senior IT executives do not think their suppliers would be open to renegotiating IT decision makers outsourcing contracts. The survey, based on the inputs of 250 senior IT decision-makers in mature European markets, said that 65% of respondents believed that suppliers would not be open to renegotiating and 48% think the suppliers would ‘kick up a fuss’ if asked to renegotiate.

Commenting on the findings, Alsbridge Managing Partner, Rick Simmonds says: “…if the business need or the technology world has changed, then it is incumbent on suppliers to be receptive and not keep their clients in the stranglehold of an outdated contract”. The survey findings however, suggest this is not always the case.

In a similar vein, an article in Computer Weekly on the subject of contract renegotiation cites the economic conditions as a driving force that is seeing many buyers looking to cut costs and improve the performance of services suppliers. Kit Burden, head of technology sourcing at law firm DLA Piper said: “As a customer’s business has constricted during the recession, the pricing regime hasn’t flexed as much as intended and so the deal has become uneconomic”. Economics alone however, is not always the key driver for renegotiation, with Peter Schumacher, CEO at management consultancy Value Leadership Group, pointing out that “A typical problem is that incumbent suppliers – offshore and traditional – become complacent over the years. Contracts are often renegotiated or a second supplier introduced to keep the prime supplier on its toes and create a wake up call”.

Calling Time on the Multi-Year Contract

There are a number of ways in which companies can attempt to extricate themselves from contracts that are delivering on neither value nor performance, but it’s not always straightforward, and in almost all cases, it will involve some goodwill on the part of the supplier. There is plenty of advice available online, and of course there are many professional service companies and law firms specialising in just these issues for those who are currently considering their options.

Moving forward however, there is a way to eradicate the issue altogether – and that is not to sign a multi-year contract. Sounds simplistic and actually, it is. At Invenio, we encourage our customers to opt for a one year contract period. For customers who prefer the security of a contract that maps out service and support provision across a five year period, we simply insert a break clause that clearly states the customer is free to curtail the contract at any time – with no penalty. Crucially, whether it’s a one – or five – year contract, the cost is the same (thereby alleviating any concerns about whether or not a customer has secured the best deal for their company!).

A ‘no lock-in’ policy brings other benefits too, in that our support teams must be at the top of their game – day in and day out. There is no room for complacency to set in and therefore no cause for our customers to terminate their agreements with us. The result of this approach is that all our customers have had the freedom to choose our SAP support services over many years – and all of them have chosen to stay with Invenio.

Whilst this may be a radical departure from the norm – we think it’s a good one. After all, supporting ‘business as usual’ sometimes calls for an unusual approach.

In our next piece we’ll be taking a closer look at how those involved in ‘business as usual’ can help minimise the disruption of a new system implementation.

 

Points to Consider When Choosing a SAP Support Partner

As pressure continues to grow within organisations to rationalise support and maintenance spend, it is now more important than ever to mitigate as many risks as possible when choosing your SAP Support Partner. The last thing any IT Head or CFO wants to do is try to justify expenditure on support providers that can’t deliver.

As part of the selection process, you will want reassurance that the partner(s) you are considering have the right expertise and experience necessary to provide the service levels you need. You need to be confident that your partner can deal with every eventuality that may arise, promptly and effectively, so that you can ensure your critical SAP applications can maintain optimal levels of operation.

However, with so many partners in the market, finding the right one for your specific needs can be a challenge. To help you get a sense of what you need to consider, here are the top three points our customers considered critical when looking for a new partner:

1. A responsive, knowledgeable service
All consultants dealing in any aspect of support must be fully trained and qualified for the job. Sounds like a simple request, but many companies may use inexperienced or under-qualified staff as resources on projects. As an example, many customers came to Invenio for help because of frequent call escalations and delays in previous query resolutions. A primary culprit for this was in dealing with junior personnel who lack the required depth of SAP knowledge.

Potential support partners should always make it clear to you how they go about recruiting, training and also retaining their staff. And they should always commit to only deploying fully trained, experienced consultants as a part of your agreement.

2. A commitment to service standards
SAP sets clear standards, guidelines and accreditations for a good reason. There are many companies in the market today that claim to have the right SAP implementation and support expertise, but fail to deliver on that promise. This is why SAP introduce accreditations such as the SAP Partner Centre of Expertise Accreditation (PCoE).

The certification process itself is a rigorous assessment that covers a SAP Partner’s entire support centre, including support staff, support processes and infrastructure. Certification validates that a support organisation can meet every requirement needed to provide high-quality services to its customers, and it is now a mandatory process that partners must achieve when selling and delivering SAP support. If your support partner of choice isn’t showing this badge, consider why and whether they are the correct support partner.

3. A proven track record
Finally, you want to look for a support partner that has a proven history in delivering and supporting high quality, well managed projects. A support partner needs to be transparent with its customers. Reassurance should always be sought by soliciting customer references on how well a partner is meeting their service and support commitments. Any company that hides this information is hiding something for a reason (and probably not a good one!)

Next steps…
If you are looking to find a new SAP Support partner but are unsure about the options available for your business, Invenio offer in-depth, advisory meetings to help you explore the most suitable option available for your business. For more information contact us