SAP's Business One solution made its U.S. debut this week, designed to extend the company's software expertise to a new segment of the small and midsize business (SMB) market. At the same time, SAP also announced that the Tax and Business Services (TBS) unit of American Express is ready to distribute and support services for SAP Business One.
SAP Business One is an enterprise resource planning (ERP ) application for small and midsize companies. The solution, first released to European organizations in March 2001, is used worldwide by more than 1,300 businesses today. Business One is a popular solution, because the SAP software is easy to use and can be implemented quickly.
NextiraOne Federal , an enterprise networking solutions provider focused on the federal government, was able to replace multiple software applications with SAP Business One. The communications company was able to get 15 users up and running on the SAP Business One system in only two weeks time.
Duane Taylor, NextiraOne Federal vice president of finance, said it was important that the company to work with an industry leader like SAP.
"With SAP Business One, we were able to streamline multiple solutions down to just one and, simultaneously, achieve much wider functionality than we had previously," Taylor said.
Inside Business One
Bill McDermott, president and CEO of SAP America, said SMBs want what big businesses want - an affordable, simple and powerful solution. As a result, SAP Business One features intuitive navigation, a familiar Microsoft Windows environment, and multiple customization tools.
"SMBs want a trusted advisor that focuses on delivering a real value," McDermott said. "And they want it priced right and functional out of the box."
Using open standards, SAP Business One easily integrates with other systems. Its "Drag & Relate" feature allows users to drag information from disparate data stores and link them on the desktop. Gadi Shamia, SAP Business One vice president, demonstrated just how versatile the software is. In one example of sales force automation, Shamia showed how management control tools immediately notified the appropriate manager when a business rule was broken. In this case, the business rule was margin, and at 11 percent the sales representative had some work to do to sell the deal to the sales manager - all onscreen and in real-time.
In another example, the same sales manager was able to add a data field to an invoice, then drag and drop the newly created data field into another part of the system, which produced new business intelligence in the form of a report based on the data field that was just created. Suffice to say, SAP Business One could take a three-day nightmare of a quote, to order, to invoice process and turn it into a 15-minute dream.
This level of closely-knit integration opens up new dimensions to other business management systems. It also shortens users' learning curves, since they don't have to master new tools to learn how to handle analysis and marketing tasks.
While many small and midsize firms have invested in multiple software applications, they often lack the ability to access the information they need, when they need it. SAP Business One was designed to address these problems in an affordable, easy-to-implement solution. McDermott said the solution's integration capabilities help small and midsize businesses streamline their operational and managerial processes.
"More and more small business owners are recognizing that business software is a tool not only to help them improve efficiency, but also to improve collaboration with customers, partners, suppliers, and distributors, ultimately giving them a competitive edge," McDermott said. "SAP Business One offers a technology entry point for growing organizations hoping to achieve that edge."
SAP Business One supports companies with as few as 10 and as many as several hundred employees, and the solutions can be implemented in about week. Pricing starts at $3750 per user. Business One features an integrated sales force automation system for pipeline tracking, opportunity management, strategic selling, and contact management. Key functions also include comprehensive financial management, a complete inventory management system, complete with kitting and multi-level price lists, as well as a comprehensive reporting module.
The relationship between SAP and American Express involves two major components. American Express is serving as a key reseller of SAP Business One and is also building its own national network of highly qualified channel partners. In addition, American Express is working with SAP to develop specialized versions of SAP Business One, to be offered exclusively by American Express.
Gerry Golub, American Express Tax and Business Services senior managing director, said the company has been involved in helping small and midsize businesses make IT decisions and implement solutions for more than ten years.
"We have an in-depth understanding of their needs," Golub said. "We have a staff of 150 outstanding consulting and IT professionals in major metropolitan regions across the country committed to serving SMBs."
As part of the deal with SAP, American Express will provide qualified business partners that join the larger national network with day-to-day support on account management, as well as assistance in all aspects of marketing, sales, implementation and support.
Working with SAP, American Express is already building a specialized edition of SAP Business One that will meet the unique needs of distribution and wholesale firms. Golub said the first vertical solution would be ready to be released sometime in the third quarter of this year.
SAP is not alone in courting SMB clients. Over the past several months Oracle and Microsoft (through its CRM and Great Plains initiatives) have repositioned their businesses to embrace smaller organizations.
Read more about SAP ERP here.