By Martin Lewis, Managing Director, Beta Group
Since its foundation in 1987, Beta Group has used a number of different software tools to manage its various business processes: including Opera for accounts, Telemagic for CRM and Resultware to handle its mobile service engineers.
However, as the company grew and diversified it needed a unified solution to keep control over all of these business processes. After studying many systems, both independently and through third-party consultants, Beta Group settled on SAP Business One (B1) as it combined the ERP, Service, CRM and Accounts tools it needed.
“What attracted us to B1 was that it could provide us with a one-stop-shop that covered almost all of our business process needs,” said Martin Lewis, Managing Director of Beta Group. “With a wide variety of functions our hope was that the product would be able to keep up with our business as we grew further. However, we soon found that several of the key modules didn’t offer the depth of functionality we needed.”
The B1 Service Module and calendar were vital for Beta Group, yet they were lacking a number of key features that the company needed. For example, B1 only provided visibility of 7 engineers at a time, when Beta Group needed a constant view on where all engineers were at any given point in order to correctly assign jobs. Similarly, there was no job costing functionality meaning that Beta Group lacked the flexibility to cost jobs on a case-by-case basis. Whilst these issues could be bypassed, they added extra layers of complexity to Beta Group’s work and prevented its operations from being as streamlined as possible. At the same time, Beta Group was finding it difficult to train staff to use B1 and other third-party solutions to their fullest extent. While the cost of training and need to take users out of productive work was an issue, the main problem for Beta Group was the difficulty of sourcing the correct technical advice, enhancements and training for its SAP B1 product.
“While we couldn’t expect B1 to automatically be all things to all men, we felt that we weren’t receiving the necessary support with our issues from SAP,” said Martin Lewis. “Indeed, SAP couldn’t deal with us directly as they only supply and support B1 through approved resellers. We ended up spending many hours on the Internet trying to find both official and unofficial online resources to help us solve our B1 problems. At the same time we made contact with the UK & Ireland SAP User Group, where we quickly found a community of specialists and other end users that could offer technical advice and support.”
Benefits & Development
Initially, Beta Group saw the User Group as a forum in which to vent its frustrations regarding SAP. However, it instead soon proved to be an invaluable resource to Beta Group, helping Beta deal with its B1 issues through actions such as providing information on SAP development and product roadmaps, offering advice on training and technical issues, providing a unified voice on SAP issues and pooling resources to deal with common problems. Indeed, Beta Group has become so involved and seen such value in the User Group that Martin Lewis has now become chairman of the B1 Special Interest Group to ensure that other members get the same benefits from the user group that he has.
Firstly, through regular meetings and events such as the annual UK & Ireland SAP User Group Conference, Beta Group has been able to pool advice and resources with members suffering the same shortcomings with various modules. As a result, it has been able to plug the various functionality gaps it encountered in the Service Module and calendar thanks to recommendations from other users.
Secondly, the User Group has been invaluable in plugging the training gaps for Beta Group’s SAP users. By attending the B1 Special Interest Group Beta Group’s users have learned how to get really valuable business reporting out of the solution thanks to advice from fellow users, cutting down on the need for costly external training.
Finally, Beta Group has found that being part of the User Group has improved its communications with both SAP and its reseller. By combining Beta Group’s voice with other B1 users’, the User Group makes it easier to ensure that issues with SAP’s products are dealt with. At the same time, through sharing information it has helped Beta Group develop a clear view of how SAP’s customer and reseller relations work, meaning it has full visibility of the path between it and SAP and can then make requests or comments to the appropriate body.
“The benefits that the User Group has brought us have been so significant that taking part in actually running and guiding the User Group seemed the next logical step,” said Martin Lewis. “Its value as a forum, as a source of knowledge and as a vital extra voice has been proven time and time again. Without our User Group membership, we may well have still been struggling with using B1 to its full capacity. Our users may not have been able to use the tools provided to their full capability. Lastly, we may have still lacked the knowledge needed to make sure we were getting everything we needed from SAP. However, thanks to the User Group we have been able to ensure that B1 is the benefit to our business that it was always meant to be.”
Beta Group initially approached the User Group for help with fire-fighting its initial problems with B1. Its longer-term goal is now both to ensure that its instance of B1 is the best it can possibly be and, through the User Group, help other B1 customers squeeze the maximum value out of what is to most a massive investment and give them guidance on how to best engage with SAP.
“We are in no doubt: B1 is a great product, and definitely the right product for us. With assistance from the User Group we have the knowledge to start extracting even greater value. For those B1 customers struggling to get a grasp of their usage we would whole-heartedly recommend joining the User Group as it is a very cost-effective way to get the most out of the product,” added Martin Lewis.