In discussing weight or golf scores it’s easier to exaggerate the positive than to tell the truth. The same holds true when it comes to SAP ERP integrations. Integrating to any ERP system is hard work, but SAP integration around meaningful business processes can be much more challenging than integrating to even a back-office production scheduling system.
For one global truck manufacturer, the promise of SAP integration turned into a nightmare — and lessons can be learned from this company’s pain. At the core of the problem was the need to integrate front-office systems (quoting, proposals, pricing, order capture and front-end order management) by integrating to an SAP ERP system. Big promises were made and not fulfilled, leaving this manufacturer with work to do on over 70 percent of customized product builds.
If you’re looking at any front-office application that requires SAP integration, slow down and complete due diligence before moving ahead. Here are several key lessons from this manufacturers’ experience.
- SAP Internet Pricing and Configurator (IPC) expertise is essential for any customer-facing strategy. The core of any complete CRM implementation on the SAP platform makes use of the IPC, including mySAP.com deployment strategies. If you have IPC installed, you need to ask for a demo with live data staged in a non-production instance of your SAP platform.
- Create a replicated set of SAP data and qualify vendors with that test region. Replicate live SAP system data during final vendor qualifications and benchmark vendors on their ability to illustrate integration. Manufacturers have found Gamma Enterprise Technologies’ InfoShuttle product useful for this purpose.
- SAP integration expertise must be global. The truck manufacturer found that their platform vendor had SAP integration references in just one country, and the SAP instance did not serve business processes outside of that company. The result: After further investigation when its own SAP integration didn’t work, the manufacturer found that the customer had written the adapter themselves and resold it to the vendor.
- “How did you recruit your ABAP programmers?” Pose this question to the CTO of any vendor pitching SAP integration to you. India is snatching up ABAP programmers just as fast as signing bonuses can be EFT’ed to candidates’ checking accounts.
- Visit the top three references in person. You want to actually see the applications running, using SAP part numbers, interacting with SAP bills of materials, and, most importantly, interacting with SAP’s Internet Pricing and Configurator (IPC) module.
- Balance of references on mySAP and legacy R/3 platforms. When you are creating your short list of CRM, channel management, order management or pricing vendors to work with, this criteria will narrow the field fast.
Manufacturers of everything from heavy equipment to consumer products face a daunting task of trying to find out which vendors have true SAP integration expertise.
The Achilles’ heel of many of these companies is their inability to handle ERP integrations. Be sure to qualify vendor thoroughly on the claims of SAP integration before moving forward.
Louis Columbus, a CRM Buyer columnist, is a former senior analyst with AMR Research. He recently completed the book Getting Results from Your Analyst Relations Strategies, which is available on Amazon.com.