Online catalogue enables small firms to reap SAP benefits

British Pepper and Spice, one of the UK's oldest companies, has streamlined its accounting processes by using software modules...

British Pepper and Spice, one of the UK's oldest companies, has streamlined its accounting processes by using software modules downloaded from an online SAP catalogue.

SAP, once seen as only offering complex enterprise software for large companies, is now keen to target smaller businesses, such as British Pepper and Spice, which manufactures seasonings, herbs and spices.

The company was using the Report Corners software to generate reports, such as sales order analysis, within two weeks of placing its order.

Finance director Andrew Hetzel, who runs British Pepper and Spice's IT function, said the company's main goal was to make better use of the data held in its SAP systems and give customers better, more timely information. British Pepper and Spice has been using SAP R/3 Financials, Sales and Distribution, Warehouse Management, Materials Management and Purchasing modules since 1999.

It now takes British Pepper and Spice just one transaction to get a report from its SAP systems, compared to three or four transactions with the previous system. The improved sales order analysis and ability to check stock balances means customers can contact the company and find out where their orders are more quickly.

"The SAP reports help us to be a bit more proactive and identify problems before they occur," said Hetzel. For instance, it can inform customers in advance of potential delays to their orders.

Analyst Gary Barnet of Ovum said the launch of SAP's catalogue-based model earlier this year showed that the ERP supplier has been listening to what SMEs want from a supplier - and other big software suppliers should take note.

"It is a kind of 'stoop to conquer' strategy and it has a hint of the on-demand idea, where the user does not pay for stuff they do not need," he said.

British Pepper and Spice identified the products in the SAP Direct catalogue, ordered them via e-mail, received e-mail confirmation and then downloaded them in Zip file format from a secure website ready for testing. The catalogue contains a range of fixed price, off-the-shelf products, all of which come with a 30-day delivery guarantee.

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