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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

Is Now the Time to Change your SAP Support Partner?

Whether you already have had a long established relationship with an SAP Partner or whether your relationship is fairly infant, you could be in a position where you feel the level of service you are receiving is not what was expected. There could be many reasons you feel this way, we have experienced customers coming to us for examples of:

  • Issues with initial support set-up
  • Slow response times and heavy back logs
  • Decline in service quality
  • Lack of support expertise

One of our longer standing customers came to us for these reasons listed above. They had implemented an SAP Solution which comprised of ECC with following modules financials, sales and distribution, customer service, production planning, materials management, human resources and payroll as well as BI and XI. Based in the UK, the system was used by nearly 300 people across many regional locations. Our customer had a long standing relationship with an SAP Partner. They believed it would be a simple transition to let them lead the ongoing support for this system. However, shortly after implementation, cracks began to appear. Our customer commented;

“Post go-live, the relationship with our support partner deteriorated very rapidly. ItSpeech appeared that the partner had seriously underestimated the scale of the effort needed to effectively support the system during the crucial early stages. Because of their miscalculation, the partner was unable to provide adequate coverage – which culminated in delayed response times, a continually increasing backlog of change requests and some serious knowledge gaps which became apparent in a number of the consultants placed on the job”

After a passing year, and with the customer’s confidence rapidly decreasing, they found themselves reviewing their support partner and looking for a new company to take on the project.

After initial talks, the customer found that Invenio could identify the main problems and we managed to quickly fix some of the issues that had gone unresolved for a number of years. This then gave the customer their confidence to lean on Invenio for their support and quickly signed them up as their new SAP Partner.

“When we began working with Invenio, the cut-over went very well. The previous supplier hadn’t been onsite for quite some time, whereas Invenio had taken the initiative to familiarise themselves with the system as early as possible so the handover could happen with minimal disruption”

During the early stages of the project, Invenio worked tirelessly to ensure the customer’s negative experiences were put to rest. Performance began to improve and the backlog cleared. Invenio’s turnover of staff is also very low, because of this this allowed the customer to become very familiar with the team and having continuity made dealing with queries a lot swifter.

Invenio continue to impress and look forward to progress this relationship. With everyone being clear about expectations and priorities the relationship will continue to prosper. If you would like more information on changing your SAP Support Partner you can send us an email: info@invenio-solutions.com or call +44(0)330 440 1800

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.

Global and Local – Not VS – SAP Support

When it comes to SAP Support Services, you normally have two options to choose between: a global “one size fits all” supplier or a series of local, smaller services providers that deliver support across a few core areas of the system. This means you have to make the decision to break the contract down by location or have one huge support contract that you hope will service every area your business covers.

You’ll also naturally try and find the assurance that the partner (or partners) you select offer the right SAP expertise to help ensure your systems run efficiently. But finding these types of support suppliers can be a huge challenge. Not only do most support providers tie you into lengthy contracts, but they can make it difficult for your organisation to move on if the relationship doesn’t work. There may not be a dedicated team assigned to your organisation and, particularly in global service providers, you may find your team encumbered by unnecessarily prescriptive processes that negatively impact response times.

Invenio are different. We don’t normally shout about how great our SAP Support services are, (we don’t need to – our customers do this for us!). Since providing SAP Support, we have never lost a customer. And this isn’t because we tie our customers in – they are free to terminate their contracts at any time if they are not pleased with our service. This is because we provide a Global support service on a very local level.

For more details on our simplified, streamlined support services contact the Invenio team, we will be happy to run through our services with you. Contact Us.

The New Measures by which SAP Support Providers Should be Judged

A recent report by the technology analyst firm, Information Services Group (ISG), found that the number of IT outsourcing contracts that were restructured between July and September this year more than doubled over the same period last year. Commenting on the report, David Barker, IT Contracts Expert at Pinsent Masons, said: “Buyers are looking to change the scope of contracts and make the supply more relevant to what their business looks like today”. One of the key motivators for this change, said David, is “…the customer wanting ‘best of breed’ for each service they buy, rather than buying everything from one of the biggest players”.

In our previous post we talked about the advantage of “focus”, and how companies are moving away from large scale contracts to best of breed service providers that offer deep domain expertise over scale. In this post, we take a look at how those qualities that buyers cited as important are driving this trend. They are: agility, flexibility, vertical alignment, responsiveness and trust.

Agility
clockThe pace of business today is faster than ever before, and the technologies that support business are evolving at a rapid pace. A stark illustration of the pace of change can be seen in Research in Motion (RIM), the company behind the Blackberry smartphone. In the space of a few short years, RIM went from being top dog in the smartphone industry to an ‘also ran’. Shares slumped from an all-time high of $114 in 2011 to under $10 in May of this year as rivals such as the iPhone and Samsung out-innovated and out-performed them in almost every aspect. Although an extreme example, agility is fundamentally important across every facet of every business, everywhere. And service providers who support these companies must be able to match this pace to provide the right level of support for an agile business environment.

Evaluating Agility… Talking to a prospective service provider’s existing customers about their specific experiences is key here. Questions like: “how quickly do they respond to a change in support requirements”, and “are they prepared to accommodate requests normally outside the scope of your contract” can highlight how agile a support provider can be to a changing environment.

Flexibility

ThumbsupspeachBecause business today changes so fast, flexibility is paramount. Corporate business plans and strategies change, new markets and opportunities open up (and, of course, new challenges arise). This means that the ability to change accordingly helps to make a business less vulnerable when faced with an unpredictable business environment. Likewise, not all business decisions will prove to be right and so flexibility becomes a critical factor in making the necessary course corrections quickly.

To embed flexibility into an organisation means that every system that supports the business must match the speed at which it needs to respond to change. Software that allows a business to be more flexible is a critical factor in success, but so is how that system is managed and supported. Specialist providers, like Invenio, are usually more able to adapt and tailor the support they deliver to offer that level of flexibility. This versatility in delivering the right offerings is a critical aspect in allowing customers to maintain business as usual in an ever-changing environment.

Evaluating Flexibility… Overly prescriptive SLAs and an unwillingness to flex “standard” contractual terms during the evaluation and negotiation process is a good indicator of a service provider’s flexibility. However, it is wise to be wary of those service providers who don’t ‘push back’ on certain elements of the negotiations. According to Esteban Herrera, COO of HfS Research “Providers [who] don’t raise any objections or bother to delve into the details of the service agreement – that’s a red flag. The provider that says ‘yes’ to everything usually doesn’t know or doesn’t care what they are doing. At a minimum, they should seek clarification on some SLA and other performance commitments.”

Vertical Alignment
jigsawWe think it is better to do one thing really well – which is why we focus solely on delivering SAP services. But behind this focus lies another layer of expertise which can set best of breed service providers apart – and that lies in vertical (or industry) focussed service delivery. With so many different types of business and industry categories today, being able to offer deep domain expertise across a smaller number of industry verticals means service providers like Invenio can offer an enriched support service that takes into account the specific nature of a customers’ business. By having a detailed knowledge of regulatory and compliance practices along with common industry-specific workflows and processes, the support offered can be more specific and add more value to the relationship.

Evaluating Vertical Alignment… Ask the service provider to provide specific case studies and references of customers in similar industries. Requesting sight of the CVs of consultants that offer specific industry and SAP module knowledge will also help to give you a sense of the in-house skills available to support your specific requirements.

Responsiveness

timerAccording to the London Business School, customer responsiveness is “about being fast and being right”. Increasing competition, globalisation, digitisation and many other factors combine to make the business landscape more complex, and business decisions need to be made fast for a company to maintain its competitive edge. When systems fail and problems arise, fixes must be fast, efficient and effective. With the pace of change accelerating across every business, responsiveness becomes increasingly important and, with best of breed SAP support provision, deep domain knowledge means that customers can speak to the right person at the right time to get the problem solved.

Evaluating Responsiveness: How a potential service provider responds to your requests throughout the evaluation process can provide good insight into how they will respond if you decide to become a customer. A service provider that requests an extension or delivers a proposal late should be approached with extreme caution. “The inability to organise resources or meet timelines during the honeymoon period is a clear indication of bigger issues” said Ruckman of vendor selection consultants, Sanda Partners. Speaking to existing (long-term) customers about how a service provider beats – not meets – SLAs, is another key factor that should help influence a decision.

Trust

trustConsumer trust in many public and private corporations is at an all-time low. The authors of a report released by the Institute of Business Ethics states that: “Living up to the principles of trustworthy conduct across an organisation is a challenge”. Getting it wrong, they say, “can damage stakeholders’ trust, including that of employees, and also undermine the reputation of the organisation”. No service provider gets it absolutely right all of the time, but those providers that take the issues of trust and ethics seriously should be able to openly demonstrate how they build trust with customers by embodying the traits of trustworthiness and ethical behaviour right across the organisation.

Evaluating Trust: Ask to see evidence of how a potential service provider performs according to a stated set of principles and practices which prioritise relationships and ethical practices across the organisation. Seek out customer references that demonstate how a potential service provider deals with any failures and works to correct, protect and restore a customer’s confidence as quickly as possible.

If you would like to learn more about how Invenio can deliver a better support service for your SAP landscape please contact us.

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