SAP for SMBs? You heard right

Midmarket technology executives tell true stories of becoming SAP customers -- and managing to find a good fit.

When Julie Sharpe's $50 million company went looking for new enterprise software, SAP wasn't even on the list of candidates because of its reputation of catering to large companies.

Disappointed by the first round of potential vendors, Sharpe started from scratch, adding SAP to the list. Eventually, her company chose SAP over the objections of an outside consultant.

You have to have good, clean, quality data -- or the system will just punish you.

Don Brekke, vice president of IT, Greenheck Fan ,

Sharpe was one of three IT professionals from midmarket companies contending with rapid growth and global expansion over the past decade. At SAP's Sapphire event, the company's annual U.S. user conference, they discussed why they chose SAP and advised IT professionals what to do in similar situations.

Sharpe is chief information officer for Fusion UV Systems Inc., a $50 million, 200 employee company with 10 offices worldwide. Fusion UV shines high-intensity ultraviolet light to seal items like windshields, eyeglass lenses and keyboards.

"We had a modern product, we wanted a modern organization," said Sharpe, explaining the upgrade from an MS-DOS system to SAP's ERP and customer relationship management systems.

SAP Project Tips

Here are some tips  on implementing SAP:

Treat employees who will use the new software like customers: Ask them what they want.

Communicate with employees at all levels about the pros and cons of the switch and involve them in the process.

Choose a small group to "champion" the change.

Though their products are very different, the three companies had similar needs: a scalable system to help streamline business operations and compete worldwide.

They chose SAP over companies like Oracle Corp., J.D. Edwards & Co., PeopleSoft Inc. and Siebold Systems for reasons ranging from SAP's solid financial situation to the global features of its products and scalability of its software.

None of them expected SAP to be interested in their business.

"In 1995 we couldn't get SAP to talk to us," said Don Brekke, vice president of IT for Greenheck Fan Corp., a $340 million company based in Schofield, Wis., that makes and sells fans, ventilators and blowers.

Brekke said he has seen a new push from SAP to win business from midmarket companies like Greenheck.

Brekke said his company currently has no way of matching production costs against the sale prices of its products, so it cannot determine which of its products make a profit for the company and which are loss leaders -- until the new SAP software installation is complete.


Barry J. Brunetto, vice president of information systems for Oregon Cutting Systems, a division of Blunt Inc., a $690 million company with 3,000 employees that makes and sells chainsaw components, looks forward to examining best practices among the scattered global offices, deploying resources more efficiently and tying together separate spreadsheets that detail inventory levels and customer information.

Sharpe, whose company focuses on custom-order products, discovered that roughly 30% of the prices her salespeople quoted to potential clients were incorrectly underpriced. Sharpe said the new SAP software allows her salespeople to custom configure and accurately price products while they are with their customers.

With an SAP implementation still under way at Greenheck, Brekke's biggest fear is getting good enough data out of his legacy systems to feed into the new SAP software.

"You have to have good, clean, quality data," Brekke said, "or the system will just punish you."

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