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5/14/2013
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How SAP Helps SMB Tame Tough Sales Cycle

CEO of JAR Systems, which makes mobile carts for tablets, PCs and other devices, disrupts bigger competitors by using SAP and other tools to optimize a complex sales-and-service lifecycle.

Sales are usually a good thing for a business to have. Yet while they help the bank balance, they can sometimes cause technical pain, especially for small and midsize businesses (SMBs).

Such is operational life at JAR Systems, where sales are booming but the sales lifecycle itself is mind-bendingly complex. JAR makes mobile charging and storage carts for tablets and other devices. Public school districts spread around the country comprise its primary customer base, and the firm relies on resellers and other partners for sales and distribution help.

"We have a very convoluted and complicated sales process," JAR Systems president Axel Zimmermann said in an interview. The mix of resellers, partners, school districts and other stakeholders means there are plenty of cooks in the sales kitchen. "I've got seven to 10 to 15 people working on the same opportunity that can hit our desks at any point in time."

That gets tricky when moving a lead through the pipeline toward becoming a customer, and even trickier when it comes to things like ensuring the right people get paid the right commissions. JAR's 10 employees turned to SAP's Business One platform, plus HANA-enabled industry-specific add-ons from Boyum IT, to keep up. JAR's SAP implementation was done with MCS Business Solutions.

[ Want to know how to save money on SAP? Read SAP Customers May Overspend By 25%. ]

SAP unveiled Business One 9.0 on Wednesday at its Sapphire Now conference; the latest version includes enhanced development capabilities, new business processes and analytics features, and tighter integration with the SAP-owned Ariba supplier network.

Zimmermann's a happy customer to date, enough so that he was almost apologetic for his raves. Chief among reasons for that enthusiasm: The ability to customize the application to JAR's industry and specific business needs, with Boyum's help, is huge. Zimmermann said he's able to essentially mirror each step and variable in that sales cycle. The ability to write an application that does just that -- which Zimmermann knew would be necessary because "there's not going to be anything out there that matched our business" -- set SAP apart in Zimmermann's eyes.

"That's why we didn't use Salesforce or Sage or any of these other things," Zimmermann said. "You can't do all that as easy and as simple as you can do in SAP."

While Business One 9.0 can be deployed on-demand over the Web, Zimmermann will stick with his on-premises environment for the foreseeable future. That was also a factor in his SAP decision, too. "My data is my data; it's not the cloud's data," he said. JAR maintains its own servers, fully backed up, in part because of data and corporate security concerns. JAR's data is its business in many respects, according to Zimmermann. "I don't want it to be at somebody [else's] mercy. That is data that is so critical to our business. It has got to be mine."

IT is also a tactical force for Zimmermann and company; his comfort level with technology has enabled him to disrupt larger, older competitors in his industry, such as traditional furniture makers and other manufacturers that haven't been as quick to adopt and adapt to newer tools. He pointed to JAR's use of the inbound marketing platform HubSpot as an example of that strategy. JAR is currently working on a tighter integration of its SAP and HubSpot deployments, the two prime pieces of its technology portfolio. Mobility is another priority given JAR's small staff and nationally distributed sales network.

"I'm really focused on using IT to revolutionize how my competitors are doing business," Zimmermann said. "All my guys are running around with iPads that plug into SAP Business One [and other data sources]."

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