User Group Think how Beta Group got a grip on SAP

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For those of us that aren’t large enterprises, technology can prove a bit of a handful. We still need to use it: however, when it comes to purchasing, managing and upgrading these products we can find ourselves at something of a disadvantage compared to larger enterprises with comparatively bottomless pockets.

For example, take us at Beta Group. As a filtration and engineering specialist for the Heating, Ventilating & Air Conditioning (HVAC) and vehicle spraybooth industries, we’ve used a number of different software tools to manage our various business processes since our founding in 1987. These include Opera for accounts, Telemagic for CRM and Resultware to handle mobile service engineers. However, we grew and diversified we needed a unified solution to keep control over all of these business processes. After studying many systems, we settled on SAP Business One (B1) as it combined the ERP, Service, CRM and Accounts tools it needed, essentially acting as a one-stop-shop that covered almost all of our business process needs.

Coping With Dejection:

When implementing a project such as this, the hope is that the product will keep up with the business as it grows further. However, if key functionality is lacking then this can cause a problem. For example we found that several B1 functions vital for Beta Group, such as its Service Module and calendar, lacked a number of what were, for us, vital features. While any organisation can bypass such issues, this adds extra layers of complexity to the tasks. When you’re a smaller organisation often working to very narrow margins, this can create problems of its own. Yet there are even bigger issues.

Training staff to use these solutions, and any workarounds, to their fullest extent is another hurdle, both due to cost and the need to take users away from productive work. Yet the main problem can be the difficulty of sourcing the correct technical advice, enhancements and training for a product.  While we wouldn’t expect the likes of B1 to automatically be all things to all men, Beta Group for one has felt that we weren’t receiving the expected level of technical support from SAP. Indeed, they couldn’t deal with us directly as they only supply and support B1 through approved resellers. While this might be understandable – with around 5 million SMEs in the UK alone catering to every single one would be beyond the most of most organisations – it still doesn’t help those of us at the sharp end.

Strength In Numbers:

What is needed are communities of specialists and other end users that can offer technical advice and support.  For our part, this has been provided by the UK & Ireland SAP User Group. While some might primarily see such groups as a forum to vent their frustrations, for many they can be an invaluable resource. For example, they can provide information on development and product roadmaps, offer advice on training and technical issues, provide a unified voice on product and service issues and pool resources to deal with common problems.  Indeed, in the interest of full disclosure, Beta Group has become so involved and seen such value in the SAP User Group that we have taken on chairmanship of its B1 Special Interest Group to ensure that other members get the same benefits that we have.

It is this pooling of resources that provides the most valuable aspect of a user group such as SAP’s. For example, pooling expertise and knowledge helps plug any functionality gaps without the need for complex work-arounds. Advice from fellow users at conferences and other events can also help plug training gaps: while not always a replacement to “official training, it can certainly cover the same ground on many occasions. Lastly, user groups can improve communication, both with vendors and resellers. An SME on its own is a voice in the wilderness: too easy to miss. As part of a user group it becomes part of a clear demonstration of strength in numbers, not only in raising issues but also through getting a better understanding of how communication with the vendor or reseller actually works. Essentially, through joining a user group SMEs can be sure that products such as SAP Business One are the benefit to the business that they were always meant to be.

For our part at Beta Group, we are in no doubt: B1 is a great product and definitely the right product for us. However, joining with other like-minded organisations in the SAP User Group has ensured that we’re definitely getting the best from it and not simply accepting that we might be happy with less.


Boxout: the UK & Ireland SAP User Group Conference

For those SMEs using Business One or other SAP products who want to know more about how the UK & Ireland SAP User Group works, there’ll be a perfect opportunity at this year’s User Group Conference in November. With product demos, seminars and keynote speeches from SAP officers, users and independent experts it provides a perfect forum for Business One users, and indeed SAP-using organisations of any size, to experience the difference that acting in unison can make.

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