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An extreme marketing campaign offers an extreme makeover

How a Canadian SAP partner used marketing funds for a million dollar ERP makeover contest

While it may not be worthy of a reality TV show, a Canadian solution provider’s extreme marketing campaign is proving successful for both it and for a family-owned company.

Contax, Inc., an SAP AG partner based in Toronto, held its million dollar enterprise resource planning (ERP) makeover contest in late 2011. “The extreme makeover campaign is something that we conceived in order to get attention and exposure and publicity around SAP solutions for small and mid-sized companies,” said Michael Pearson, president of Contax.

In February, Contax selected James Austin Co., a family-owned manufacturing company based in Mars, Penn. as its winner after receiving thousands of applications online.

“They had a very compelling business case behind replacing their legacy system with a new ERP system,” Pearson said. Contax will provide up to $500,000 of SAP software and up to $500,000 of implementation services, making its campaign a million dollar makeover.

It will implement SAP Business All-in-One, which includes ERP software along with customer relationship management (CRM) tools, supplier relationship management (SRM) software and business intelligence tools. It also uses SAP’s NetWeaver technology platform, which aims to allow for cost-effective add-ons as a business grows.

James Austin hadn’t upgraded its system in eight years and was looking for a refresh when its IT manager discovered Contax’s makeover contest.
Its legacy system included software from Macola, now owned by Exact America. James Austin had implemented that ERP system in 2004. “It’s similar to SAP, but it has a lot of faults,” said Harry Austin, president of the company, now in its fourth-generation of family ownership. “We have to do a lot of ancillary report writing to augment the system.”

“We were on the back end of their product life and then they came out with a lot of upgrades and we never installed them because we had already done a lot of custom report writing to make their system work.”

“We’re a medium-sized company that can take advantage of all the modules that are offering by SAP,” he said. Austin describes his family’s company as a mini-Procter and Gamble. With 245 employees, the company manufactures and distributes various cleaning products and chemicals.

It has four manufacturing facilities in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Florida. Each of those plants manufacture different products and the company ships among them to distribute to its customers.

The four plants are all managed from its Pennsylvania headquarters. “We’ll create reports here that are very useful, but the outside guys don’t know it,” Austin said. “The SAP system is going to allow us to let the outside factories have a more visual perspective of what’s going on in the business.”

Contax began its consulting process last month and has given a timeline of three to six months for completion. “Our expectation is that this will be not an easy conversion, but not extremely difficult,” Austin said.

It has since created a high-level project plan and is now moving into the blueprinting phase, or determining actual requirements for implementing the software.
Contax will likely have three or four employees implementing the project, which Pearson says speaks to a newer SAP, where lengthy installations with full teams aren’t necessary anymore.

“Training is obviously a critical part of the process,” Pearson said. Contax will train the power users at James Austin first, then teach them how to train the rest of the staff.

“We felt that there was a very strong commitment from management,” Pearson said, which helped solidify James Austin as the winner. “We need the full support and cooperation and investment of time and resources from the client as well.”

That commitment is also important for potential continual revenue from the customer. While there is no obligation for the winning company to continue its relationship with Contax after the initial implementation, the VAR was looking for a company that would potentially invest in more functionality down the road and that sees IT as critical to business growth, Pearson said.

“We had a lot of support from SAP,” he said. “We leveraged our marketing development funds to promote the contest through print, online advertising.” SAP also helped promote the contest through internal publicity.

Contax is planning another contest for 2012 and for the next months will be regularly documenting the implementation at James Austin on its Web site.