Schouw Informatisering, a Dutch provider of vertical software solutions that integrate with Microsoft Dynamics NAV, sought ways to improve customer satisfaction, grow its business, and achieve a sustainable competitive advantage. Market research helped the company streamline implementations of its vertical solutions and develop a structured, consistent approach to establishing partner relationships, training and empowering partners, and taking vertical solutions to customers in other countries. Today, with a growing network of channel partners, the company produces ever-increasing revenue and serves vertical customers across Europe with fast, dependable implementations.
|Microsoft Dynamics NAV gives us a sound, scalable foundation; with a strong vertical solution, a thriving partner channel, and deep industry insight, we profit from a sustainable competitive advantage.|
|John Schouw, CEO and Founder, Schouw Informatisering|
Schouw Informatisering, founded in 1998, is a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner headquartered in Etten-Leur, Netherlands. With branch offices in the Netherlands and Belgium, the company employs 75 people devoted to enterprise resource planning (ERP) consulting, software solution development, partner education, and employee training. In its first year of business, Schouw Informatisering provided ERP solutions based on Microsoft Dynamics NAV to approximately 10 customers of which eight were in the food and beverage industry. Finding that food and beverage industry experience made it easier to engage with other customers, the company decided to follow a vertical-market strategy that focused on food and beverage wholesalers who supply supermarket chains, restaurants, and food service operations.
John Schouw, CEO and Founder of Schouw Informatisering, explains the company’s vertical approach. “We saw that we could add value in the food and beverage industry not only with technology solutions but also by helping to improve the business processes of our clients.” Over the next few years, the company decided to increase its understanding of the challenges that its potential customers faced. In addition, it established a research and development center that taps the expertise of Wageningen University, an institution renowned for its food studies, and Capgemini, a global IT consultancy. The Schouw Informatisering research and development center, which studies developments and trends in the food and beverage marketplace, includes an education center where the company trains ERP consultants.
Increasing its standing in the food and beverage industry helped Schouw Informatisering add customers and grow the business. Schouw Informatisering wanted to address two concerns and achieve a stronger competitive advantage. First, even with the company’s rich industry knowledge, it sometimes took a long time for its ERP consultants to define solution functionality for clients. Schouw Informatisering treated every customer project uniquely, which required the company to build to specifications after discussions with clients. The result was that engagement teams could handle only a limited number of projects at a time. Second, management saw that the company would soon saturate the food and beverage wholesale market in the Netherlands and Belgium. “To take our business to the next level, we wanted to find ways to engage with customers more efficiently while simultaneously expanding into new geographical areas,” says Schouw.Solution
Schouw Informatisering conceived a multipronged strategy to serve food and beverage industry customers more efficiently while growing the business to achieve a sustainable competitive advantage.Offer an Industry-Specific Solution
In 2003, after extensive research revealed hundreds of food and beverage requirements that are not available in standard ERP solutions, Schouw Informatisering took advantage of highly customized functionality in Microsoft Dynamics NAV to develop SI Foodware. The vertical product, in combination with Microsoft Dynamics NAV, forms a fully integrated ERP solution specifically for food and beverage companies. This well-defined solution keeps costs manageable with a minimal amount of customizations. “Our consultants already understand 90 percent of the customer’s concerns and required ERP system capabilities when they have the first conversation with a potential customer,” says Schouw.Create a Partner Network
In 2007, Schouw Informatisering founded a channel of Microsoft partners that could help reach customers in other European countries. Together with Wageningen University, Schouw Informatisering conducted a study to identify countries where businesses were most likely to see the value in Microsoft Dynamics NAV together with SI Foodware. The next step was to approach Microsoft Dynamics NAV partners with food and beverage expertise in the target countries. Because of this effort, the company has teamed up with Microsoft partners in six European countries: the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, and Sweden. Bianca van den Hooven, International Sales and Marketing Manager at Schouw Informatisering, explains, “We didn’t wait for Microsoft partners in other countries to find us. We confidently followed our own country-by-country strategy to build a channel and grow our business.”Provide Partner Enablement
Schouw Informatisering considers partner enablement critical to its success. In an efficiently structured partner certification program, the company provides business development assistance, case studies, product documentation, and best implementation practices for Microsoft Dynamics NAV and SI Foodware. Schouw Informatisering experts also join partners during the first three implementations to ensure that the training comes to practical fruition.
It takes only about three months for a new reseller to perform fast-moving, dependable implementations. The French Schouw Informatisering partner completed a complex installation for a customer with 90 users in just five months with very few issues requiring support from Schouw Informatisering. “It makes sense to invest significant time and effort in our partners because if they are profitable, we are also more profitable,” says Schouw.Benefits
Forming a channel of vertically focused partners in Europe has enabled Schouw Informatisering to quickly generate growth beyond its own practice, building a strong brand with many delighted customers.Increase Customer Satisfaction with Sound Solution
Schouw Informatisering has raised the satisfaction level of its food and beverage industry customers, who receive a repeatable, proven solution in a short time, at a reasonable cost, and with a fast road to tangible benefits. Schouw Informatisering’s channel partners experience great efficiencies in the implementation projects and can advance their competitive edge by enabling customers to operate effectively and take control of their businesses. “We and our partners prove that a vertical strategy accelerates the value generation of implementations of Microsoft Dynamics NAV,” says Schouw.Reduce Cost and Complexity of Implementations
Schouw Informatisering offers its partners an implementation methodology that combines disciplined project management discipline, standardized workflow templates, and field-tested best practices. This approach has enabled the company and its partners to cut average implementation times in half compared to those of competitors such as SAP Business All-in-One and Lawson M3. Schouw Informatisering and channel partners can take on more projects, and customers gain the benefits from the solutions faster than they might expect. “Ten years ago, we asked customers how they work and treated their concerns with great specificity,” says Schouw. “Now, after studying the industry and launching a vertical channel with many successful implementations, we still address their particular concerns, but we also help them find the most efficient ways of working and taking their businesses forward.”Generate Sustainable, Fast Growth
Although Schouw Informatisering’s implementations of Microsoft Dynamics NAV and SI Foodware in the Netherlands and Belgium continue at the same rate, most of the growth comes from the channel partners. Schouw Informatisering is on track to see 1,500 implementations of the integrated solution by 2015, a 900 percent increase over today’s number of customers. “We have only scratched the surface of the growth opportunities we can capitalize on with our channel partners,” says Schouw. “Microsoft Dynamics NAV gives us a sound, scalable foundation; with a strong vertical solution, a thriving partner channel, and deep industry insight, we profit from a sustainable competitive advantage.”