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Working with an SAP system - the AIB perspective Back  
AIB Group has worked with SAP for the past five years and General manager of operations, Michael Baume says he has found it to be robust, flexible and responsive to the needs of a fast changing business.

History
During 1994 AIB carried out a detailed evaluation of the offerings on the market. Many were able to provide cost management and purchasing functionality but did not have the integration and flexibility to support the Banks needs. SAP was selected for its ability to link with existing systems and because of the enhanced functionality it delivered. AIB choose SAP R/3 to deliver procurement, expense handling, financial management and reporting capability throughout its UK, Irish, Capital Markets and Group operations.

At the time this represented the largest base of SAP users in Ireland, but with changing concepts and a focus on shared service centres, the number of AIB users is contracting while the volume of business has continually risen.

AIB Project Manager, Linda Talbot says ‘SAP’s flexibility has assisted change within the business and provided solutions to externally driven issues such as the Year 2000 issue. We have periodically upgraded the software to gain the advantages of SAP’s continued investment in business applications.’

Challenges
But Talbot says that the SAP experience has not all been plain sailing. ‘The initial training and implementation was substantial, but once established the product has been reasonably straightforward to maintain and to upgrade. Too much unique customisation increases complexity, but the true benefit of SAP derives from its structure and flexibility to respond to the diverse needs of businesses which are growing fast. The more use you make of the modular structure the greater the data integration and the better the payback on investment.’

Implementation
AIB’s implementation of SAP was not designed to be used as a full enterprise wide solution but to complement the bank’s own substantial legacy systems which are at the core of its processing capacity and represent a substantial investment. AIB installed R/3 on Hewlett-Packard’s HP9000 Unix platform, but was subsequently required to upgrade both the software and the hardware as transaction volumes grew and the need for Euro compliance emerged. In addition, because AIB has itself made substantial overseas investments in recent years, it expects shortly to migrate to SAP version 4.6, which offers, amongst other benefits, Polish language capability. (AIB is now the fifth largest Bank in Poland following investments there in Wielkopolski Bank Kredytowy and Bank Zachodni).

Travel
‘When we started out with SAP we required new generation software to replace systems which were old and outdated. Now we turn to SAP when we look to expand our functionality or respond to the needs of individual users across the staff base. A good example recently was our wish to improve AIB’s travel management services. As an internationally expanding Group we have more people travelling than ever before and need to reduce the effort associated with managing travel budgets and processes. SAP offers software specially written for the purpose and which interfaces with the SABRE travel system used by travel agents. The result is that we can concentrate on our core businesses and rely on SAP to deliver solutions to our needs. Our history in using its products gives us confidence in the ability not alone to do the job to world class standards, but also to integrate with our existing applications running on the SAP platform.’

“e” revolution
Baume believes that SAP has been both proactive and foresighted in responding to the challenges and opportunities of the “e” revolution. ‘Concepts such as business to business procurement are fully enabled by the SAP solution which provides roles for staff to fulfil, tools to enable them to process their workload and connectivity from suppliers or customers to update them on developments and inform them of the progress of their order fulfilment.’

Paperless world
Particularly important to AIB was its need to focus on a paperless world - Baume says SAP was fully prepared to respond to the company’s needs. ‘In a globalising world, connectivity is also critical and with such a large installed base of clients around the world, SAP also assists us in making contact with other companies with whom we deal or have relationships.

It is my belief that the modern business world consists of only two types of organisation, the quick and the dead. SAP has shown their ability to move fast and we have gained substantial benefits from our relationship with them and from their responsiveness to our needs as customers’.

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