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Considering Upgrading Your SAP Landscape?

Why not grab yourself some free advice?

AMS2Whether you are just considering the idea, or looking to drive improvement through your SAP landscape to support your business, it’s very clear an SAP upgrade is worthy of serious consideration for any organisation seeking to reduce risk of their business operations.

An SAP upgrade could simply be a stepping stone to achieving more business value from a current SAP investment but for other organisations, the SAP upgrade is seen as a building block for a whole new system expansion into other functional areas.

Since it is often difficult to gauge the impact of an upgrade on your existing environment you will need to understand the estimated costs and effort involved, including project duration, downtime and the impact on other systems. You will also need to understand the road map, architecture and technological impact of the upgrade, and provide good understanding of what transitional services and operational support services are required.

Come along to our free SAP Upgrade education event. This event offers you the opportunity to exchange ideas for managing an upgrade and roll-out initiative, as well as actionable plans to drive innovation strategy agendas in their organisations.

Event Date: Thursday, 14th May

Time: 9:30 – 12:30

Event Address: Invenio HQ (Winnersh, Reading)

Who:  IT Directors, Operations Directors, Head of IT, Head of SAP

Agenda

9.30 – Coffee & Registration

10.00 – Introductions and agenda

10.15 –The Business Challenges & Why Upgrade?

10.45 – Coffee break

11.00 – An exclusive client success story (XP Power)

11.30 – Why choose Invenio as your preferred strategic SAP partner

12.00 –Roundtable Q&A session with leading SAP experts

12.30 – Lunch at The Caprice Restaurant and Terrace

On a Roll with SAP

Invenio Helps XP Power Successfully Roll-Out SAP in their US Operations

XP Power, a leading supplier of electronic power needed to improve business performance and visibility. XP wanted to streamline their operational processes and eliminate inefficient practices.

XP called upon Invenio again for help to successfully roll-out SAP in their US operations. Watch this video with Michael Laver, President of World Wide Sales, Marketing and Executive Director at XP Power.

Are You Future Ready?

Invenio Help Leading Electronics Power Supplier to Upgrade to SAP ERP 6.0

XP Power, an electronic power supplier with a turnover of $170 million needed to upgrade their current SAP platform. The current system XP were running was an old 4.7 XP which was no longer supported by SAP and the costs of the software maintenance was extremely high.

Watch this interview with XP’s Operations Director, Anne Honeyman talk about the success of the upgrade project.

 

We can help


Get in touch if you would like further information on our SAP upgrade services. Call us today on +44 (0)330 440 1800, or complete our online enquiry 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 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.

Why bigger is not necessarily better when it comes to SAP Support

Exploring the advantages of focussed SAP Support providers.

Scale versus Specialisation?

For years, large global SAP customers have chosen to deal with large global SAP service providers. The reasons for doing so usually start with scale – a large IT estate needs a diverse team of people to provide skills across the many domains, products and functional areas that SAP offers. In addition, peripheral software applications, IT architecture and infrastructure are often subsumed into the same contract – the rationale being that combined support can be delivered at a lower cost through economies of scale. But as technology evolves, and as system complexity grows, can these all-encompassing contracts continue to provide the responsiveness and expertise that delivers best value? Or in trying to be ‘all things to all people’ is buying scale over quality becoming a sacrifice too far?

An article in CIO Magazine a few weeks ago reveals there is a growing shift from tier one outsourcing providers to midsize IT services players. Scale and price, they say, are no longer the sole interest of customers seeking these services. Instead, customers now value traits such as agility, flexibility, vertical alignment, responsiveness and trust — all of which are more likely to be found in smaller, more focused providers.

Commenting in the article, Hansa Iyengar, a sourcing and vendor management analyst with Forrester Research said “As deals get smaller, scale as a major differentiator is losing sheen. The cost arbitrage argument played in favour of larger vendors based on the economies of scale principle. But the tables are turning now, and skills are being valued more than cost.”

Benefits of Focussed Service Providers

Specialisation, in particular, is viewed as a major benefit of breaking down these large-scale contracts into specific components. Today, no large-scale service provider can afford to focus solely on SAP if they are to maintain margins and grow market share. Instead, they must offer an extended set of solutions and services, from many different vendors. This dilution of focus can impact quality. SAP technologies evolve and adapt at an incredible pace and, without significant and continuous investment in education and new skills, quality suffers. The relentless pursuit of growth can also compound this problem. Investment decisions are usually based on areas which offer the greatest profit opportunities. This means that traditional offerings like ERP can be neglected in favour of new product and service categories. So by adopting specialist partners, SAP customers can not only tap into the very specific skills needed to support today’s SAP landscape, but they can access the focussed expertise that will help plan and support their future SAP development road map.

Responsiveness and trust are other key factors that companies prioritise today in choosing suppliers. Responsiveness, to an extent can be captured and analysed in most Service Level Agreements, but trust is a factor that cannot be directly measured. Bhavesh Godhania, IT Director at life sciences firm AMCo benchmarked several large IT providers when seeking a new SAP support partner. He said: “[support] needs to be very responsive. One of the issues that I faced when looking at large-scale companies was that they weren’t able to give me the same level of attention as a small or medium company”. AMCo have been supported by Invenio for some years now and, of the trust that has built up over the years he says: “For me, it’s important that the relationship is strong and open. Anyone can offer SAP support. They’re all SAP consultants. They’re all certified. But the relationship you build, the bond you build and the trust you build is what counts”.

“One Neck to Choke”

Another advantage of implementing smaller, focussed contracts is that the transition from one supplier to another becomes easier. In an article appearing in PC Advisor earlier this month, Thomas Young, a Partner at outsourcing consultancy firm ISG said: “Back in the day, with the big ‘one-neck-to-choke’ model, when you switched providers you had to switch everything. But as the services supply chain continues to fragment all the way down to out-tasking and implementing point solutions, customers are much more likely to switch out those components. It’s the difference between switching out the stereo in your car and switching out the whole car”.

One more benefit to be found in mid-size service providers is good old-fashioned customer service. Forrester estimate that about 95% of [mid-sized firms] engagements are less than $5 million in value. This means that they must differentiate from scale in order to win (and retain) business. Factors that include specialisation, flexibility, agility and attentiveness become key when differentiating from large scale providers. These attributes are what customers today look for – making firms like Invenio, an ideal partner for those looking for a better SAP support service.

Customer First

At Invenio we have an important and unbreakable rule “Customer First”. It’s true to say that no organisation will say that they are not customer focused – but this is much easier to implement when you don’t need to worry about external shareholders or service delivery across a multiplicity of other vendor product lines. Focus and autonomy gives us the freedom to put our customers at the heart of any business or investment decision we make. We are also careful to hire people not just for their technical expertise but also for their attitude. Our low attrition rate and considered growth strategy also means we are not under constant pressure to sacrifice quality over quantity when it comes to our new recruits. These and many other small actions that we perform on a daily basis means that the “Customer First” ethos is firmly ingrained into our culture, allowing our customers to experience a service that cannot be easily replicated by a large firm, with so many other interests to take care of.

In our next blog post, we’ll be sharing our thoughts on how the new measures by which SAP Support providers should be judged. In the meantime, if you’d like to learn more about how we can provide you with a better SAP Support service contact us.


 

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.