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It’s been more than 10 years since the first ERP boom swept through
corporate America,
changing the face of IT departments large and small. With that reflection comes
a scary realization for many companies—regardless of current economic
conditions, it’s time to upgrade or replace aging ERP systems.

“Many companies are still limping along on outdated legacy systems rolled
out over 10 years ago,” says Sam Sliman, president of Optimal Solutions
Integration, an SAP-exclusive partner. “We
were telling customers back then that these ERP solutions had a 10- to 15-year
lifecycle, and we’re rapidly approaching the end of that cycle.”

The problem, Sliman says, is that budget cuts and uncertainty about
long-term economic prospects have left many organizations hesitant to invest in
new or upgraded solutions, especially among midmarket customers.

While Optimal has had incredible success focusing on midmarket customers—which
they define as customers that bring in under $1.5 billion in revenue—the large
upfront cost required to purchase and integrate a new SAP
solution was becoming more daunting in a tough economy.

“Midmarket businesses pay differently than a large company,” Sliman says.
“When they’re in a very stringent cash conservation mode, it’s difficult for IT
departments to get approval for large capital expenditures like this,” he says.

To counter the pricing obstacles, Optimal Solutions Integration has rolled
out what it’s calling the FlexChoice Advantage Program for SAP’s
Business All-In-One solutions. The FlexChoice Advantage Program allows
customers to purchase Business All-In-One solutions from Optimal and pay for
them over a three-, five- or seven-year period, rather than making a large
expenditure all at once, Sliman says. The price can vary depending on customer
size, but includes the SAP software license,
maintenance, implementation, hardware, hosting (if needed) and support, he

“The concept is like Burger King’s slogan—’Have it your way.’ Customers have
the ultimate flexibility to decide how to roll out SAP
and how to pay for it,” Sliman says.

SAP Business All-In-One solutions are preconfigured
deployments of Business All-In-One that are optimized to include standard
features and settings for specific vertical markets, offering solution
providers a turnkey software solution that can easily be integrated with
midmarket customers’ existing business.

“If you buy SAP off the shelf, it’s not
configured, but a Business All-In-One solution has meticulously mapped out
every process imaginable that could apply to a number of industries and
solutions,” Sliman says.

In essence, Business All-In-One solutions come 80 percent configured, just
waiting for the customers’ data to be introduced. Companies don’t have to start
from a blank slate, and can accelerate their return on investment by easing the
startup and integration processes, Sliman says.

Optimal’s goal is to offer these SAP
solutions using a model that’s very close to software as a service, and to that
end offers a hosted Business All-In-One option as well as the choice to have
the solution implemented on premises. In both cases, Sliman says, Optimal takes
care of running the solution for customers and feels that added value makes
deployment a no-brainer.

Currently, Optimal offers Business All-In-One vertical solutions for mining,
manufacturing and professional services, among others, and also a horizontal
solution called Finance One for financial services. Sliman says Optimal is
working on several more solutions that are currently in the process of being
certified by SAP.

“Our belief is that every existing and potential customer would roll this
out if they could make it quick, affordable and didn’t involve tapping into
credit lines or depleting cash reserves,” Sliman says. “We developed these
solutions so there are no obstacles for customers wishing to deploy. It’s kind
of like buying a car that comes with a driver,” he says.