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Posted Date: 8/1/2003

Sapphire 2003 Explored Global Issues, IT Innovation

By TRACY HAISLEY

Sapphire 2003, SAP's annual software users' conference, extolled the virtues of cross-industry learning while presenting attendees with the latest word on globalization, the economy and new SAP products and implementations.

Held in mid-June in Orlando, FL, the meeting drew 7,000 attendees from the utility, retail, defense, automotive, pharmaceutical and apparel sectors, among others. More than 165 presentation sessions covered a wide range of topics, including ERP, supply chain management, customer relationship management (CRM), technology and services. A goal of Sapphire was to demonstrate how one industry can learn from another.

Opening the general session of the event, talk show host and political commentator John McLaughlin moderated a panel featuring: James Rubin, former assistant secretary of state and chief spokesperson for the U.S. Department of State; Alan Keyes, former ambassador to the United Nations Economic and Social Council; and Stuart Varney, former co-host of CNN's "MoneyLine News Hour." Discussion from the panel centered on the uncertain political, social and economic climates companies are forced to navigate.

The question was posed: How do companies focus on long-term strategy when they are concentrating on short-term survival? The panelists agreed that IT is the answer. IT empowers companies, they stated, noting that it allows them to capitalize on their assets and speed up the entire process of conducting business. Most importantly, IT gives companies a global reach, enabling them to ensure the best product at the best price, they said.

Furthermore, the panelists concurred that companies with clear identities can benefit from market turmoil. "Uncertainties are advantages," noted Keyes. "They are opportunities for companies to position themselves as the company to be relied upon."

Another prompt questioned the possibility of reverting to protectionism in light of growing geo-political uncertainties. "Globalization is not a policy, it's a fact," responded Rubin. "You must be aware of the way in which globalization can be used against us and find a way to counteract that."

The importance of innovation also was stressed at Sapphire. "Uncertainty is a constant, and it's not going away," noted Henning Kagermann, chairman and CEO of SAP's executive board. "We need to adapt and adjust and not wait for recovery. If we want growth and success, we need innovation."

Kagermann said companies should invest in areas related to customer intimacy and product leadership.

Included in the new products on display were SAP's NetWeaver, an interface application, which uses XML and Web services to provide connectivity, and Meta More Enterprise Solutions' supply chain management solution. Similar to SAP's R3 product, Meta More's solution is aimed at mid-sized companies with approximately $50 million in annual sales.

Among the presentation sessions garnering much attention was one led by adidas Salomon AG. The global sporting goods firm, which had $7.5 billion in sales last year and employs 14,700 worldwide, discussed how it leverages its customer interaction center with the mySAP CRM system, which is in a pilot implementation.

"We fitted the business process to the functionality of the customer interaction center," said Gerben Otter, CIO, adidas Salomon AG, explaining that the objectives of the pilot were to increase the competency of the center's personnel and therefore improve the business process. "We also sought to increase the productivity and improve/optimize the resource planning," he added.

Hans Ruprecht, director of customer service for adidas in Germany, noted: "MySAP CRM enables us to increase internal productivity with the current number of staff [members]." In addition to increasing productivity, the company also has optimized the back office, planning, production and logistic processes, he added.

Another session that drew crowds concerned Metro AG's implementation of RFID labeling technology in its Extra Future Store groceries in Germany. Though the technology is in its earliest pilot stages, Metro sees this as a "new level of collaboration between the manufacturer and the retailer," noted Wolf Gerdman, Metro project manager. Metro, which owns supermarkets, hypermarkets, specialty stores and the Kaufhof Galeria department store chain, would like to roll out the technology throughout its businesses, noted Gerdman.

In a session on implementations across global enterprises, VF Corp.'s Ellen Martin, vice president of supply chain strategies, discussed how VF has rolled out SAP to another of its divisions efficiently. "We were working with two divisions that do things dissimilarly, Jansport and The North Face. So we had to get both of them to agree on common processes, common programs, common screens and common reports," noted Martin.

After spending approximately one year working on design code and configuration, VF conducted user acceptance training at Jansport from October to December 2002, and then went live in January 2003. Once that was completed, the company began user acceptance on the system at The North Face in April 2003 and then went live with that division in May. "It was the same system," Martin noted. "We were not making system changes during that time. We did the whole system and then we just had two rollouts of it."

TRACY HAISLEY is associate editor of Apparel and may be reached at thaisley@apparelmag.com.

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