Banking on ByDesign

With a strong heritage in Microsoft application development and management, Artis Group has moved into the SAP space with a focus on SAP Business ByDesign.

Artis Group was launched in 2005 as an applications and infrastructure business by the former directors of Aspect Computing and KAZ Group, which was snapped up by Telstra back in 2004.

About three years ago, the group sold its hardware resale business to a competitor, leaving it to focus on Microsoft application development, SharePoint, and SQL Server Database as a Microsoft Gold Partner.

According to Artis managing director Chris Greatrex (pictured), the timing couldn’t have been better to focus the business in the applications space.

“With cloud computing, the margins were getting thinner, the hardware was getting more commoditised. It was starting to look like a brutal business, so with a little hindsight, it was the right decision at the time,” says Greatrex.

While the group had an existing ERP practice in the Microsoft Dynamics area, it first dipped its toe in the SAP pond when a group of consultants joined Artis from Praxa in 2013, bringing capabilities in SAP Business ByDesign and BusinessObjects.

“We are well known as almost a pure player in the Microsoft space, so we weren’t particularly looking to add a new vendor,” says Greatrex. “I honestly think that if the [Praxa] guys came across with traditional SAP skills, we wouldn’t have bothered, but when you’re looking at the nature of ByDesign, and then you’ve got the SuccessFactors element, you’ve got the hybris element and you start to connect these new acquisitions in the cloud environment, it’s a very interesting space to be looking at.”

The fact that ByDesign is conceptually a different product from others in the sector and that it is now generating some positive buzz has led Artis to make a play in this market, becoming a member of the SAP PartnerEdge program.

“The interest we’ve had has taken even a cynic like me by surprise. When you start to see it getting deployed in an operation and how it fits certain customers, it all starts to make sense. Our commercial pipeline is very strong, and we have a lot of significant businesses that are some way through the six-step process to see if they’re a good fit. So we think this is worth backing full on,” Greatrex says.

With NSW Trade and Investment – certainly the most high-profile ByDesign project in Australia – rolling out, the momentum for the product is good, he says.

“It’s clear that that strategy is starting to pay off. We expect that as time goes on, that will become more and more of a benchmark followed by government departments.” 

In the meantime, Artis has had a successful first ByDesign implementation with Redflex Safety Cameras, which moved from Microsoft Dynamics GP. Having no previous SAP exposure was actually a positive for Artis, in that the company had no preconceived notions about the differences between ByDesign and the traditional on-premise solution. Greatrex also says ByDesign is differentiated by the fact that it was designed for the cloud from the ground up.

“Because they have built it as a cloud product from day one, they’ve thought a lot more about how to deploy all the training and familiarity as part of the [implementation]. All the project plans and training are automated, as you check the different boxes about which functionality you require,” he says.

As a consultancy, working with cloud solutions does require a change in the business model, as there is no need for heavy customisation of the system.

“We have quite a large application development support operation here. But if we’re going to get into the ByDesign space, we have to become more of a consulting and sales organisation. The system basically trains people through the process, so it is just about providing some guidance, and convincing the legacy guys why it’s OK to do things slightly differently,” Greatrex says. “Once the system is completed, that’s it. They don’t have to come back to you for more customisations and more change – that just comes out with the product itself. So that’s a major shift.”

However, where customers do want customisation to the solution, the Business ByDesign Software Development Kit, which is based on Microsoft Visual Studio, provides a means to expand its capabilities.  

While the company’s Microsoft solution portfolio will still be very important to its success, Artis envisages a much more cloud-based future for customers in the mid-market.

“We can see that we’ll having clients running ByDesign up here in the cloud, they might be running some bespoke applications on Amazon, using a bit of SharePoint and Office365 for their email. Basically we think there are going to be a lot of mid-tier companies and government organisations like regional city councils, who can eliminate quite significant personnel costs by having everything served up in this cloud manner.”

This article was published in Inside SAP Winter 2014.


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