Combining offshore and onshore for ideal team mix

With high labour costs and skills shortages in Australia, SAP services partner BPSE Consulting has found a new way to provide its clients with the high-quality skills and service they expect at a competitive price.

For enterprises looking to add to or refresh their ICT landscape, the top priorities now, particularly for those in the supply chain arena, are agility and mobility, according to Alandre van Vuuren, BPSE Consulting group CEO.

With many of its staff having a background in engineering, for BPSE, taking an Agile approach is second nature, and this has been incorporated in their approach.

“Most of us are mechanical and industrial engineers. So we have been able to use that capability we have and make projects much more agile for our customers,” says van Vuuren.

He says customers are showing a strong preference for quick-win, lower risk projects, and traditional 12-18 month
implementations are seen by many as a thing of the past.

“So many customers go onto cloud solutions for expense or recruitment management, and they are based on a month or two to go live. To be able to compete with that, instead of saying, ‘Let’s build a whole train for you in the next 12 months’, the customer is saying, ‘Why don’t you build me a carriage and let’s see how that comes out?’ So we
build the first one, and we can now actually measure the benefits for the business. We can quantify those benefits, and we have now scored some extra money to go onto the next phase.”


Adding mobility to core competencies

While BPSE traditionally has been focused  on supply chain management and application lifecycle management, more customers are seeking assistance with mobility and UX projects such as Fiori and SAP’s Field Service applications, the company  needed to broaden its offering.

Having formed an alliance with Agile Business Technology in South Africa, a firm specialising in user experience design and rapid application development. This led to the acquisition of the company by BPSE in February, broadening its capabilities into these areas.

“Agile is a design company that has created terrific solutions for many South African customers, and they are brilliant
designers of user interface and applications, so they were a perfect marriage for us,” van Vuuren says.

BPSE is now also utilising the capabilities of the Agile team to help deliver services to ERP and supply chain customers at more competitive prices.

“With about a 30 to 40 per cent reduction in cost, we have been able to  source boutique SAP and UX design skills in South Africa and deliver those services remotely. Our customers are happy and it works well for us – we can deliver the same quality of service but at a lower cost,” van Vuuren says.

He believes that other Australian SAP partners may consider similar models, given the high onshore labour costs and the wealth of skills that are available in other locations around the globe.

“With the more old-fashioned ERP and APO skills, which are the commodity skills now, I think Australia certainly needs to think about what they are going to do. Otherwise we might go down the same path as manufacturing, where we have just become too expensive,” he says.

“There is such a good pool of highly skilled people in Australia around the niche products such as cloud and user experience, but I think Australia’s service industry needs to think about how it can be more cost-effective.”

One of the reasons BPSE chose to partner with a South African company rather than source skills from the Phillippines, India or China, was not only that there were fewer language issues, but that many of the South African consultants had business backgrounds prior to specialising in SAP, whereas in other countries many consultants had
pure IT backgrounds.

BPSE now combines their onshore and offshore resources, with Australian-based architects on projects for 10-20 per cent of the time, with the balance using their South Africa-based consultants, who then travel for key workshops or milestones such as testing and go-lives.


Following the buzz

In the SAP space, van Vuuren sees HANA, alongside cloud, as still holding some of the strongest potential for transformation – but this often isn’t fully understood.

“I think there is a lot of value to be squeezed out of HANA, but I still get customers thinking it’s just the new BW tool. They don’t actually see how they can transform their business processes using this in-memory capability. So there is an exciting task there for us to explore,” he says.

BPSE is putting this into practice at the moment with a project for Weir Minerals, delivering a hybrid model with SAP ERP and SCM on-premise and the rest of their solution suite in the cloud, and reporting via HANA.

Peter Atkinson, head of IS, Minerals Division, Weir Minerals, and program director of the company’s global SAP deployment, speaks highly of how the BPSE model has worked for its project.

“BPSE’s hybrid model has blended well with Weir Minerals’ offshore model, providing high quality technical expertise and management in key areas of the program in a cost effective manner,” Atkinson says.

And as the company takes full advantage of their new capabilities and competitiveness, combining these areas of expertise will also yield some exciting results, according to van Vuuren.

“We see ourselves really becoming a leader in the supply chain area, by giving customers big scope deployments that help make it easier to do business. Particularly in the supply chain capability link with the user interface, that’s where we see ourselves growing.”


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