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Sapphire Systems building digital operations platform proposition

Firm identifies opportunity to target mid-enterprise market with an offering that touches on finance, asset management and supply chain

Sapphire Systems is a company on a journey, and with a clear sense of where it is heading on that journey, as it looks to carve out a strong position in providing more visibility and intelligence to mid-enterprise customers.

The firm has evolved over its almost three-decade lifetime, from specialising in financial management platform provision, then moving into SAP, where it has secured a significant position as a partner, and then taking the plunge into enterprise asset management. Through those moves it has developed the platforms to monitor finance, supply chains and asset operations.

Horizon Capital invested in the business in December 2019, backing a strategy that was based around the assumption that the enterprise resource planning (ERP) SAP market was consolidating across the channel and there was an opportunity for Sapphire to be part of that, adding depth to its own business as well as moving into fresh areas.

“If we’re helping finance operate, we’re helping supply chain operations operate, we’re helping asset maintenance and all those things operate, can we help other parts of our customers operate? Operations, processes, platforms, people, that kind of thing, would be logical,” said Chris Gabriel, chief strategy officer at Sapphire Systems, as he explained the progress the business had made.

As things stand in 2022, the firm is following a “digital operating platform” strategy, pulling together all its expertise with a clear target of fulfilling demand in a mid-enterprise market that is ripe for such support.

“I used this term a couple of weeks ago – ‘Accenturising’ the mid-market. If you look at the enterprise space, the Accentures and Deloittes, they do that for the FTSE 100 and the global enterprise players. You don’t have to drop too far down to find companies have got an ERP partner, a finance partner, an asset partner and an IT partner. We can consolidate the ERP space, but we could also expand out and help companies operate in other areas,” said Gabriel.

“Today, we operate in five key operational areas for our customers. We’re $100m now, with the UK and US markets we are focused on, so we could consolidate other geographies in the future or we can just keep growing and consolidate other operating platforms. We have become a platform business, not just a digital operating platform, but we see ourselves as a platform business to further consolidate in the UK in the US,” he added.

Still in its early stages, the strategy started in earnest with the acquisition of ServiceNow partner ITOM in December 2020. It then followed that up with OpalWave, a data analytics planning partner, and SAP Business ByDesign player InCloud, further expanding its depth and range. 

“We’re helping companies operate more efficiently, which drives their success, growth and optimisation, but also fundamentally in things like supply chain resilience, reliability, we’re in productivity, we’re genuinely in digital transformation,” he said.

Gabriel added that it also had good insights into what customers needed, working with 1,000 company clients. “We don’t do one big project a year – we’re working with businesses on a regular basis and we’re doing that across all of our different business units,” he said.

Gabriel said the firm was looking to stay in line with the needs of customers, which continued to evolve as they expected their ERP systems to deliver more functionality.

“Go and talk to your average CFO, and [ask if] they want a system of record or a system of cash flow, a system of insight, a system of productivity, a system of automation and a system of predictive debting from customers who may or may not pay based on data,” he added.

“I’ve spoken to a load of our customers – every single one of them wants to be progressive in how they run, whether it’s finance, operations, maintenance or IT, because they are the people trying to run that function.”

He said others had recognised the opportunity at the top end, but at the mid-enterprise level there was plenty of room for growth. “Why is the mid-market, a £250m business, any different to a £2bn business? They’ve all got a finance system, they’ve all got a supply chain system, they’ve all got assets, they’ve all got IT and everyone’s got some level of digital thinking now.”

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