SAP Business ByDesign 1808 shipsSAP positions its Business ByDesign as an intelligent cloud ERP “suite in a box”. It is targeted at Small and Midsize Businesses (SMBs) who don’t want the complexity of a traditional ERP. It comes with over 36 built-in business processes and as a cloud-based solution is quickly configurable. This latter point is important as SAP seeks to attract customers who have previously seen its products as too complicated.

The latest release, SAP Business ByDesign 1808 has now arrived. The claim, from SAP, is that this release will unlock the Intelligent Enterprise for SMBs. This is certainly a bumper release. It contains a number of interesting updates and new features. These are all designed to make data more secure, improve financial controls and speed up the order, sales and delivery process.

CRM and Analytics get the most updates

1808 sees new features and updates across the product. Users will see big updates in two areas: Customer Services Management (CRM) and the built-in analytics.

Customer Relationship Management: Invoicing and contracts are the main focus areas for new features and updates. The invoice updates include a better ability to handle non-billable items and management of data on invoices. One of the features will reduce the amount of time spent preparing paperwork for shipping. Warehouse workers are already able to add invoices to packing lists. They can now add additional data for shippers that includes costs for insurance purposes.

New web services will automate the creation of contracts as part of a customer order. This will speed up the processing of orders and ensure that order and contract are properly linked.

Built-in Analytics: One of the key messages for SAP Business ByDesign 1808 is ‘unlocking the Intelligent Enterprise for SMBs’. SAP is already providing some of that with its built-in processes and reporting. It has now improved the integration between Business ByDesign and SAP Analytics Cloud. This delivers more analytic capabilities and built-in for SMBs to use.

To improve the usability of the analytics, SAP has added features to make it easier to filter and sort data, especially on dates. It is now possible to use dates in the formula editor and add them to data sources. This will improve reporting on lead times among other things. The work around dates continues into the way they are handled within the HTML5 UI. Customers can now use dates to group data together.

Other improvements in the UI are new charting elements within on screen reports. This will reduce the need to create printed reports to get better visualisation.

What else has been updated?

Some of the other highlights are:

Financial Management: The two new features are Direct Debate mandates (two new web services) and easier confirmation of external payments. There is also several updated features for IFRS 15 / ASC 606 reporting. This includes support for zero standalone selling price and new templates to deal with a deviating tax party. Another new feature covers revenue recognition especially when customers cancel contracts.

Project Management: The two new features are better holiday management in Gantt Charts and personalisation in Gantt Charts. There are updates to Project Stock Orders that allow them to be cancelled and to be downloaded into Excel. There is also better visibility of project expenses and how they are recorded. This will help SMBs ensure that they are not losing money by failing to record expenses against projects.

Supplier Relationship Management: The updates focus on purchase orders, maintenance of price lists in multiple languages and better workflow from PO to invoice. The new feature is the ability to update a PO sent to a supplier without having to cancel and reissue. This allows new purchase requests to be added to the PO.

Supply Chain Management: The changes here focus on greater automation in stock control management and better supply planning. There are also updates to the way that delivery notifications are handled and support for new data sources in the Inventory Balance Report.

Localisation: The updates here are all around finance. They include how VAT is handled in Italy and managing tax returns in the US. In all, there are updates for six countries.

SAP aiming for better integration and AI for the SMB

SAP has a synchronised release number system. It recently released SAP S/4HANA 1808. The only relationship between the two releases is the release number. They don’t even share common code. This does not mean that they cannot be integrated. We asked SAP about the integration between Business ByDesign and other SAP products.

Rainer Zinow, Senior Vice President: Product Management, Business One & Business ByDesign, SAP
Rainer Zinow, Senior Vice President: Product Management, Business One & Business ByDesign, SAP

Rainer Zinow, Senior Vice President: Product Management, Business One & Business ByDesign said: “Integration and especially on the semantical layer, is essential to ensure end-to-end process flows across system boundaries. This has less to do with aligning code bases and releases and has a lot to do with a unified middleware strategy based on SAP’s Cloud Platform Integration and the related iFlows”

This should mean that SAP customers, big and small, should have an easier time with their Digital Transformation projects. As process flows begin to move across organisational boundaries, data will follow. Although SAP allows customers to create their own user defined fields, the majority of elements in the solutions will be the same. It mean that importing and exporting data will require far less data transformation than in the past.

We also asked Zinow about AI. SAP has invested a lot of effort in delivering AI-based solutions for its large customers. He said: “Machine learning scenarios find their way from proof of concept into production releases as we speak. SAP Business ByDesign will introduce document recognition of supplier invoices as a first scenario in one of the next feature packs.” At present, there is nothing on the roadmap so it will be interesting to see when this happens.

What does this mean

SAP is beginning to bring enterprise features into Business ByDesign. In addition to the features in 1808, it is planning more integration with 1811 which is due in November 2018. It will also add in replication capabilities with SAP SuccessFactors in 2019.

Bringing these features down to the smaller products is critical. Customers grow and historically that meant changing their software provider in the ERP space. When Oracle acquired NetSuite it did so to not only gain access to the SMB market but also to grow customers into its wider product ecosystem. SAP is doing the same.

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