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Business ByDesign gets thumbs up from early adopter

MindWorks, one of SAP Business ByDesign's early customers, appreciates the product's features and pricing but says it still has room for improvement.

If SAP is going to reach its stated goal of 100,000 customers by 2010, it needs to win over companies like MindWorks Inc., an early adopter of Business ByDesign that has been impressed with the application so far but sees room for improvement.

SAP might seem a natural choice for MindWorks, an SAP consultancy -- based in Broomfield, Colo. -- that specializes in implementation, training and remote support for midmarket companies. In fact, a different SAP application might have been its first choice.

"If we could afford SAP ECC [ERP Central Component], we would've implemented it a while ago," MindWorks' chief operating officer Matt Rausenberger said. "But it will be a long time before we can afford the cost and the time and resources to implement something like that."

So the company looked at cheaper alternatives and settled on SAP's new on-demand product for midmarket customers, Business ByDesign (BBD).

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MindWorks counts 20 full-time employees, as well as 40-50 external contractors, with revenues growing at a rate of 40% to 50% per year for the past couple of years. With this growth, the company needed to replace its mishmash of, QuickBooks and Excel spreadsheet applications with a more cohesive product.

MindWorks first considered extending and using some available composite applications to interface with QuickBooks, but the QuickBooks solution didn't address MindWorks' need for reporting and forecasting functionality and better customer service, according to Rausenberger. So when an SAP representative approached MindWorks early this summer about Business ByDesign, the company listened.

SAP now has three products for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) -- Business ByDesign, Business One, and All-in-One. Despite the potential for SAP's midmarket products to compete with one another, that wasn't an issue for MindWorks.

All-in-One was too expensive and involved for MindWorks, Rausenberger said, and Business One had other issues.

"Business One would've been the only other offering [we would have considered]," he said. "I don't think it had everything we needed from recruiting and HR management."

Having grown with, MindWorks appreciated the uptime and worry-free system backups and administration that an on-demand delivery model like BBD can provide, according to Rausenberger, who also acknowledged that since MindWorks is an SAP consultancy, it made sense to choose an SAP product.

The company signed on as one of the first BBD customers and went live with phase one of its implementation in September, including HCM (human capital management), personnel administration and internal project management.

MindWorks has not done a full ROI analysis yet, but Rausenberger already sees some improvements. One example is paid time off (PTO) tracking, which many SMBs don't have.

"When people leave the company, you say, 'Wow, did they really have 24 weeks of PTO built up?' because we never tracked it," Rausenberger explained. Having a central location where employees can enter their information has improved the company's ability to manage PTO and other employee data.

"A lot of the things we had to do manually in QuickBooks just flow automatically through BBD," Rausenberger said.

The product has some weak spots, however.

"The performance still needs to be improved," he said.

BBD uses a lot of Java applications for scheduling, drag-and-drop organizational charts and other features, according to Rausenberger, and some of these "heavier" applications need to perform better. Likewise, the end-user experience, while more intuitive than other SAP products, also needs further fine-tuning, he said.

"The application has to be designed with a small business in mind," he explained. "The functionality and ease of use on some of the processes needs to work a lot easier [in BBD] than it does in some of SAP's other [products]."

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