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Are SAP's Cloud applications right for your business? (Part 1)

Cloud ERP – growing New Zealand companies can run on SAP too

In this three part series, Soltius Cloud Line Manager Shay Lambert will take a look at SAP’s Software as a Service (SaaS) portfolio and discuss where the product set fits, for both current SAP customers and non-customers evaluating cloud options.

There is no shortage of information on cloud solutions these days – we are all constantly inundated with opinion pieces, white papers, blogs and LinkedIn posts telling us why and how we need to move to the cloud. With that in mind, I’m going to assume that you already have a general understanding of the cloud landscape and see the value of Software as a Service (SaaS) for your business. You may even already be evaluating Salesforce or Workday, or weighing up Netsuite or Xero and wondering, ‘does SAP have an equivalent product?’

In most cases, the answer is yes. SAP’s roots are undoubtedly in the very large ERP for very large companies – something they continue to do better than any other vendor on the planet. But over the past few years, either through in-house development or acquisition, SAP has built an impressive portfolio of SaaS applications that are designed to both integrate with their flagship ERP and, crucially, be viable standalone options for non-SAP customers.

Part one of this series will cover the most independent of the SAP SaaS offerings, the cloud business suite, SAP Business ByDesign.

In general, the benefits of Cloud ERP are increasingly being recognised, especially for growing companies who want to focus on their business and not on their IT.   In response, all of the well-established enterprise software vendors, from Microsoft and Oracle to regional vendors, now claim to have cloud ERP offerings. Generally, these are their traditional ERP solutions in a hosted environment, often with an annual payment option for the licensing. True cloud SaaS ERPs tend to be offered by newer, niche players. When weighing up their options, businesses often face a trade-off, between the security of a well-established vendor with a heavily customisable solution, and the affordability, and flexibility of a SaaS equivalent.

SAP Business ByDesign is a true SaaS solution, but it doesn’t require the same level of trade-off, with SAP’s 40 years of business process experience baked into the solution. ByDesign was created to be quick to deploy – 12 to 16 week implementations are typical compared to 6 months or more for the traditional SAP ERP - and simple to adopt, as all SaaS applications should be. But in order to deliver greater depth of out-of-the-box functionality than you usually associate with SaaS, SAP delivers predefined processes based on business best practices. This enables, for example, multi-step approval workflows to be a simple configuration exercise rather than a software development, as you might find with other cloud solutions.

Skull Candy, a successful and fast-growing audio gear manufacturer, once had a perception of SAP as only suiting “really really big companies”. They struggled to see the fit between SAP and their small, agile business, focussed on the surf, skate and snow market. However, with a desire to find the best technology to scale their organisation and keep up with 300% annual growth, Skull Candy chose SAP Business ByDesign, and the solution has been a successful platform for growth for the past five years. Closer to home, surf and sports apparel company Coastlines New Zealand also saw SAP Business ByDesign’s combination of proven business processes, agility and flexibility as a competitive advantage.

SaaS applications can also be customised and new functionality developed to meet customer specific requirements. SAP Business ByDesign achieves this with a Software Development Kit, which partners such as Soltius can utilise to extend the suite. This can include entirely new modules, for example a Plant Maintenance module that has now been deployed successfully many times around the world. The goal, however, is always to start with a core solution that is as standard as possible. Customisation is best left to those processes that give a business a genuine competitive edge and, in the case of most common requirements, there is more to be gained from the adoption of proven business processes.

To discuss any of this in more detail or if you have any questions, please email Shay Lambert at or call him on 0275007660.

Coming up in part two of this series, we look at how SAP is taking on the cloud CRM market - by doing one better than Salesforce.

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