Manufacturers: Use the SAP Terrain to Your Advantage

The power of home field advantage in B2B manufacturing

What can B2B manufacturers learn from history? A whole lot.

Today we’ll reflect on “home turf” and what it means for manufacturers who are looking to get into ecommerce. We’ll look at the 1939 Winter War—when Finnish soldiers used the bogs and lakes of their native land to repulse Soviet invaders who outnumbered them in manpower and firepower. We’ll take 5 lessons from this inspiring story and apply them to B2B manufacturers who are considering ecommerce.

But first–a quick overview of the Winter War.

The Winter War: Full frontal assault vs. agility and intelligence

As The Art of Manliness explains, the Finns had a severe disadvantage on paper. They had 1/3 as many soldiers and 1/100 as many tanks as the Soviet invaders. The Russians expected a quick surrender—but they knew nothing of Finland’s topography.

Finland is riddled with small lakes and bogs. The Soviets had prepared a full frontal assault, but this terrain stopped them dead—literally. While the invaders moved at a snail’s pace and got stuck in the mud, the Finns used judicious sniper attacks and improvised explosives to decimate them.  

The Finns worked with limited resources, too. They had very little ammunition, so every shot had to count. They couldn’t waste anything.

Finnish soldiers displayed incredible agility in the Winter War. Their agility provides 5 lessons for B2B manufacturers looking to launch ecommerce while using their home turf to their advantage.

Lesson 1: Define your IT home turf as a manufacturer

The Finns didn’t mount a full frontal defense against the Soviets—it wasn’t possible on their home turf. Manufacturers have a home turf, too. Usually, it’s the supply chain—everything that goes into creating the products that give you clout in your market.

The supply chain lives in SAP. From an IT perspective, then, a manufacturer’s home turf is SAP.

Manufacturers considering ecommerce should stick to their home turf and use it to their advantage.

Lesson 2: Stick to your IT home turf

Imagine if the Finns had tried a full frontal defense against the Soviets. If they had thrown soldiers and tanks at the Soviets in a traditional formation, the Finns, too, would’ve gotten stuck in the mud.

What would’ve happened then? The Finns would’ve gotten clobbered.

There is subtle wisdom here for manufacturers. The supply chain and SAP are a manufacturer’s home turf, but not all manufacturers use that home turf efficiently. Many manufacturers are not “at one” with their ERP implementation and the supply chain. Master data is a mess. Business operations depend on a lot of yellow stickies and tribal knowledge.

Manufacturers need to stick to SAP. And when it comes to SAP ecommerce, that means getting your SAP house in order so your ERP system accurately reflects the processes in your supply chain. That way, you can launch SAP-integrated ecommerce that reflects all the business rules in your SAP system without duplication or redundancy.

That’s what the digital revolution is all about. When your SAP house is in order, SAP-integrated ecommerce is a seamless addition.

Lesson 3: Innovate in UX and integrate to your home turf (SAP)

We’re seeing this more and more in the market. As a manufacturer, you can go off and innovate with UX (user experience)—you can launch beautiful, best-of-breed ecommerce stores—but if they’re not integrated to SAP, you’ve strayed from your home turf.

At the end of the day, the only thing that differentiates you as a manufacturer is your supply chain. And that supply chain lives in SAP.

You need to integrate ecommerce to SAP in real time.

Yes—many B2B manufacturers need rich content. They need product configurators, color previews, related products, and more. But all that phenomenal UX is dead in the water if it isn’t integrated to SAP.

Lesson 4: Stick to your home turf and purchase ecommerce integration as a commodity

Focus on your supply chain and your ERP system. It’s your strength, and it’s the reason you win in your market.

While you focus on that, engage a trusted advisor to express your SAP data on the web through ecommerce that’s integrated to SAP in real time.

At Corevist, we like to say we’re the commodity here. We sit between the things that differentiate you and the market—between your supply chain data (SAP) and your UX (ecommerce). That’s because we integrate the two in real time for accurate data on contract pricing, available to promise, credit status, and more.

Lesson 5: Consider yourself invaded

Back to the Winter War for a moment: the Finns were invaded. Things would never be the same in this do-or-die fight against the Soviets.

As a manufacturer, you’ve been invaded, too.

The invader is the distributor—maybe Amazon, maybe another distributor. Whoever it is, they have the power to disintermediate you. Substituting another manufacturer’s product for yours is incredibly easy for them if you rely on them to provide the ecommerce UX that your customers need.

Will your customer know when another manufacturer’s product has been substituted for yours? Depending on how commoditized your products are, the customer may not know. They may not even care.

That’s what’s at stake. It’s also why you can’t back down from the fight. It’s why you need to launch ecommerce and get closer to the end user of your products.

Though the fight may feel daunting, remember that you have an advantage—your home turf. In reality, the market can’t do without manufacturers. You actually create the product. No manufacturers means no distributors. When you use your home turf to your advantage (supply chain and live SAP data in your ecommerce store), you reclaim ground against distributors who threaten to substitute another manufacturer’s product for yours. Ultimately, you win.

Moving forward: Case study

What does this look like in real life? LORD Corporation launched Corevist Commerce while sticking to their home turf—SAP and the supply chain. Jane Mascia, Sr. Bus. Systems Analyst, put it this way: “Our motto is, if you can do it in SAP, that’s where it should stay. We wanted our [ecommerce] website to be a reflection of our SAP system, not a recreation of it.” Download this case study on LORD Corporation to learn more.

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Case study: LORD Corporation

Learn how LORD launched ecommerce that reflects their SAP system in real time.
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Image courtesy of the Military Museum of Finland. Licensed under Creative Commons 4.0.

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About Author

George Anderson

George serves as Digital Marketing Manager. A blogger and journalist with a passion for B2B ecommerce, he has written for the Magento blog, Digitalcommerce360, Supply & Demand Chain Executive, ERPgenie, and others.