With SAP TechEd Berlin and Las Vegas right around the corner, one of the most watched stories is the evolution of SAP Business ByDesign. ByD is one area I plan to focus on in the next couple of years. As always, a major theme of my work will the skills issues that impact consultants and internal project teams. This gets juicy with ByDesign because many of the skills and implementation approaches used for “on-premise” SAP aren’t relevant to ByD/SaaS.
It’s fair to say there are as many open questions about ByD as there are answers. To get more of my own questions answered, I sought out another ByD customer from that “first 100” – Pinkberry Frozen Yogurt. (My first ByD customer interview Podcast: Business by Design – Eric Brown of Johnson Products Shares Their SAP ByD Story). I had met Judson Wickham of Pinkberry at SAPPHIRE, and it was great to have the chance to continue the conversation in this 22 minute podcast.
Judson’s situation is of particular interest because he was a PeopleSoft pro who made the transition to SaaS ERP. He’s also got that techno-functional skills mix that makes it possible for him to speak to not only the process and change management issues invoked by a ByD install, but also to the technical issues like data integration – not to mention the eagerly-awaited ByD Software Development Kit (SDK).
We covered a lot of ground in this podcast, and Judson was frank in his assessment of the strengths of ByDesign and also where he’d like to see the product improve from here. I know he’d be interested in your feedback, so after listening to the podcast, please comment below. As usual, some text highlights from the podcast are included with timestamps for those who are looking for a quick skim.
(If for any reason the player doesn’t work, you can download the podcast using the “download media” link on the right hand side).
1:34 Judson’s background as a global PeopleSoft Financials consultant, working on large ERP installations.
2:02 Judson compares PeopleSoft and ByDesign: totally different timeframes. ByD implementations are 12 weeks long or shorter, and he’s never been on a PeopleSoft implementation that was less than a year.
2:30 What accounts for that difference in timeframe? Judson: It’s basically the on-premise versus SaaS models. Running everything on-premise takes a lot of time and support to implement.
2:50 Judson’s role on the Pinkberry Frozen Yogurt ByDesign project: he was the Project Manager on the Pinkberry side, working with the Project Manager on the SAP side.
3:40 Why did Pinkberry need ByDesign in the first place? Judson: We had many different systems where we were doing transactions for financials, we had two separate accounting packages, we were doing our fixed assets in Excel, all of our CRM was in Excel and all of our HR was in Excel. We wanted to have a scaleable solution, because we are growing very quickly right now.
4:42 Tell us about the actual implementation – how long did it take and were there any trouble spots?
5:14 Did you need to hire any outside consultants? Judson: No – SAP was our implementation partner, so technically they were outside consultants. Most of the actual hands-on work was done by Pinkberry and our business users.
5:40 How hard was it to get business users up to speed?
6:19 What areas of ByDesign did you install? Judson: We are running CRM, the full suite of Financials and HR, and we’re about to deploy the compensation and payroll process work centers.
6:26 Other early ByD customers have said that one of the biggest challenges of the ByD install is the tight controls imposed by an integrated ERP system on a growing business – was that the case for you Pinkberry and how do you deal with it? Judson: that definitely was the case here – the way that we dealt with it was to frame the implementation based on our values of profitable and responsible growth. We needed to sacrifice that freedom to be able to have a controlled environment that we could scale and grow – that’s our main goal at Pinkberry, to open stores.
7:23 Can you retain that dynamic company culture, that vital startup environment, when employees are used to playing it looser than you can with a system like ByDesign that imposes tighter controls?
8:14 Give us a “before and after” of how Pinkberry Frozen Yogurt is different now that you’re on ByDesign.
8:58 Some ERP users won’t allow anything to pry Excel out of their hands – were you able to get rid of it?
9:40 So are there any benefits there for users – are there benefits they get in exchange for being more accountable? Judson: yes. For example, for our CRM processes, we use sales orders to track our new store openings, which we couldn’t do effectively before.
10:30 You’re a classic techno-functional type – so you’re ideal to talk about how ByD is different from an on-premise solution in terms of systems administration and maintenance – what have you seen? Judson: With ByDesign, transactions flow from end to end automatically, and since it’s SaaS-based, there isn’t a lot to maintain.
11:30 In theory, that frees you up to pursue new business opportunities using ByD functionality – is that how it’s worked out for you so far?
12:00 I talk with a lot of “old school” ERP folks who have interest in SaaS approaches – you’ve made that transition from SaaS to PeopleSoft, what would you say to others about the changes they might expect?
14:15 It’s more than just advising though, right? It must be good listening, too – helping companies to pull out requirements and make sure they will work with the new system?
15:05 You’ve had some good discussions with SAP, but here’s your chance to have your say: If SAP flew you in and sat you down with global product leads, what would you tell them about improving ByD? Judson: I’ve actually had the chance to sit down with SAP, as all the pilot customers have, and they have been listening to us. A few things: a more configurable user interface, where users could define their own workflow in the system- that would eliminate the need to click around and users could do workflow from one screen. Second: have a more open platform so that it would be easier to integrate external systems and data with ByD. The third thing is more specific: a lot of our executives have asked for data-driven notifications.
16:40 So what could be improved with the open platform?
17:30 You’ve been using version 2.0, and you’re due to be upgraded to 2.6 in January 2011, that’s the target, so what are you looking ahead to?
18:55 So what’s your advice to other prospective ByD customers about how to ensure a successful implementation? Two things: your business requirements because that translates into your configuration, and get your data migration solid, get that data extracted, clean it up, and make sure it’s ready to go so there are no surprises at go live.
19:35 We have SAP TechEd coming up and I’ll run into a lot of developers there eager to learn more about the SDK, part of the 2.6 release/rollout – are you as a customer interested in the SDK? Why or why not?
21:10 Looking ahead, you have an aggressive growth strategy – can ByDesign grow with you, or will you outgrow it?
22:00 Last words? Judson: I’m happy with the way SAP has been partnering with the early adopters and I’d like to see them continue to do that. Listening to customer and what they want is what’s going to make this product really great.