Case study: More than accommodating


19 Sep 2005

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There has been much noise from IT vendors about scaling down their large enterprise systems to meet the needs of small businesses. But can they really deliver the same efficiencies to organisations of less than 100 people? Ask the question of NeedaHotel.com, a hotel reservation company that adopted SAP’s small business platform, and the answer is a resounding yes. “I wanted a system that would grow with us,” says finance director Ann Keogh. “You spend your money and you hope to God you won’t outgrow it. SAP’s Business One is going to keep moving with us and that’s extremely important.”

In the past year the company sold more than a million rooms in over 100 countries. Not bad for a company that started in 1994 when entrepreneur Sarah Newman identified the opportunity for an independent Irish company to offer hotel reservations to travel agents through a call centre. With the growth of the internet came other booking channels and the business flourished.

Today the company employs 80 people at its Glenageary, Co Dublin, premises. Key to its growth has been an IT system that can accommodate the firm’s three distribution channels: its NeedaHotel website, the websites of Ryanair.com and Aerlingus.com (both airlines had entered into long-term contracts with the company) and bookings taken through travel agents and tour operators in Ireland, UK and Germany.

“Business One records every single sale,” explains Keogh, “and it’s driving the business. Before we got it we had to manually input the bookings into our accounts system. Now we just do an import into SAP every day. The integration is fantastic.”

When Business One was deployed two years ago NeedaHotel.com became one of its first users in Ireland. Keogh was bowled over by it and holds no truck with the argument that big vendor solutions for small firms can be as unwieldy as a juggernaut on a garden path. In fact, she believes SAP’s large enterprise experience is invaluable to smaller firms that aspire to grow. “SAP is used to big, sophisticated systems and it has applied a lot of that knowledge to its small systems. It doesn’t matter if you’re a big or small company, you still need that level of detail,” she says.

“Our company has grown in the past five years from a turnover of €1m to almost €100m but the things we did then are the very same as we do now. Unlike other systems I have experienced, SAP has the right approach — it looks at how a system can grow with you.”

SAP’s pitch for its Business One platform is all about driving down costs and enhancing productivity, but the solution is only as good as its deployment. Experience had told Keogh that the synergy between the vendor and its channel partner is crucial.

Irish International Sales was the Irish firm that implemented the system and Keogh can’t praise it enough: “It has been one of the driving forces of the system. I’ve dealt with numerous companies over the years that sell you a package, take your maintenance fee and walk away. Irish International Sales listens to what you say and provides brilliant support.”

She’s equally impressed with SAP’s upgrade path. “You get as many as four releases a year. There’s always something new and it is always willing to listen to what we want from the system,” she concludes.

Pictured: Andrew Collins, managing director, and Ann Keogh, finance director, NeedaHotel.com

By Ian Campbell