As part of the Real World Windows Azure series, I connected with Aleš Tancer, CIO at Akrapovič to learn more about how Windows Azure has provided the company with a platform that will support the high growth of their business and their global operations. Read Akrapovič’s success story here. Read on to find out what he had to say.

Himanshu Kumar Singh:  Tell me about Akrapovič.

Aleš Tancer:  Akrapovič is the leading global manufacturer of top-quality exhaust systems for motorcycles and performance cars and supports many of the world top motorcycle and car racing teams. Based in Slovenia, we are also an innovator in titanium and carbon fiber product manufacturing. Akrapovič aftermarket car exhaust systems can be found on leading global car brands such as Abarth, Audi, BMW, Ferrari, Porsche, Lamborghini and many others. Our motorcycle aftermarket or first fit exhaust systems are used by Aprilia, BMW, Ducati, Gilera, Harley Davidson, Honda and Yamaha, among others.

HKS:  How fast is your company growing?

AT:  We have a partner network that spans more than 60 countries and serves more than 3,000 partners and our innovative solutions and technologies and global brand recognition have driven rapid company growth.  Our goal is to increase revenue by 100 percent in the next five years and add several thousand new partners to our partnership network. To effectively support these ambitious development goals, we needed a comprehensive solution that would efficiently link all business processes related to B2B and CRM operations.

HKS: Who did you turn to for the development of this comprehensive solution?

AT:  We decided to entrust the development of our Akrapovič Business Platform system to Microsoft Consulting Services (MCS) Slovenia and Agito. Agito has already completed several projects for our company and has proven that they are among the most dependable, effective and competent partners for developing software projects by using Microsoft's technologies. The company is also renowned as a leading regional company for Microsoft SharePoint Server deployments, custom .NET development and different integration projects.

HKS: What role did Microsoft Consulting Services play?

AT:  Microsoft Consulting Services participated in all stages of the projects, which included the assessment of the existing environment and planning future business processes and solutions. Microsoft architects were involved in designing the features that would be best suited to our needs in terms of performance, availability, security and scalability requirements. Microsoft Consulting Services also cooperated in the integration stage of the project where Microsoft consultants took over the integration of individual systems while Agito provided integration interfaces.

HKS:  Tell me about the solution.

AT:  The Akrapovič Business Platform solution consists of several closely linked systems: Product Information System (PIM), Business Portal (BP), Internet Portal (IP) and CRM system integration. It supports all the most important business processes: management of customers, campaigns, opportunities, orders, contracts and payments. The solution also links these processes to research and development processes.

We wanted to take advantage of the benefits offered by using both on-site solutions as well as cloud computing. The result is a tightly integrated hybrid environment, where some systems, such as Dynamics CRM and BizTalk are deployed on-site, while a hosting provider hosts others. We also utilized Windows Azure, which means that the solution represents a realistic and gradual migration path from the local environment to the cloud.

HKS:  What other Microsoft solutions are you using?

AT: SharePoint Server 2010 enabled us to unify our Internet and Extranet platforms and to pave the way for deploying Intranet in the future. All collaboration processes and workflows that serve internal departments, teams, individuals, and external partners are supported by the system. The result of this approach are streamlined content management and content publishing processes.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 and Microsoft Office 2010 brought a fresh, yet familiar experience to our users in Marketing & Sales. The user experience that combines CRM and Outlook drives user adoption with a familiar and flexible user interface, helping to minimize resource and training investments. Many teams, especially in the sales department, have switched from SAP to CRM, where they have everything they need for their daily work.

Microsoft BizTalk Server 2010 was used to integrate SAP, CRM, PIM and the B2B Portal. Chosen because it is a mature enterprise product for integration and connectivity, BizTalk Server includes more than 25 multi-platform adapters and a robust messaging infrastructure to provide connectivity between core systems whether they are local, remote, hosted or cloud-based.

And we chose Windows Azure Content Delivery Network (CDN) to serve multimedia content and technical documents. Akrapovič products come with a huge amount of marketing multimedia and technical materials, which is ideal for cloud storage. Windows Azure CDN enables us to ensure that our partners all over globe share the same user experience in terms of download speeds.

HKS:  How are you rolling out this new solution?

AT:  At the project launch in Q1 of 2012 the first partners were given access to the new business portal and their feedback was very positive. Our goal is that all existing partners will be comprehended in the new business community, which means about 3.000 partners in more than 60 countries in Europe, North and South America, Asia and Middle East. In Q3 2012, the same solution will also be deployed in our American subsidiary. In the future, new Sales business units are scheduled to be opened in Europe, Asia and South America, where the same back-office solution will be considered.

HKS:  What are some of the internal business benefits you’ve seen with this new solution on Windows Azure?

AT:  The new solution provides us with better control over Marketing & Sales and Research & Development business processes, connects partners to all of our departments and people, and centralizes all information and content about products in one place, an important benefit for all partners.

Before the implementation of the new solution, all sales orders were taken by phone, fax or e-mail and manually entered into the SAP system. This process was very time consuming and required a lot of administrative work with much space for errors and uncertainty. Administrative burden was significantly reduced, resulting in a shorter and more effective sales cycle. Other benefits include a shorter sales cycle and more responsive marketing services, faster ordering process, and reduced time from ordering to distribution. We now also have a powerful marketing tool for executing campaigns or sending newsletters.

HKS:  What about the partner and customer benefits?

AT:  By implementing the new solution, we’ve been able to dramatically increase the quality and efficiency of collaboration in our partner network and to improve the control over our internal marketing, sales and development processes. The new solution provides a single point of entry and information source for all partners. The company is now able to provide richer and more up-to-date information to our partners.

HKS:  Are there also business benefits to your company?

AT: Yes, by using the information from the on-line ordering system, we are better positioned to plan production more accurately to reduce back-orders and warehousing costs. The new solution offers a high level of flexibility that enables us to implement different business approaches for different partner segments and offer high levels of localization. We are now able to run more accurate analytics, which in turn supports better strategic decisions.

The solution also enables us to expand our business operations, both from the volume as well as geographical point of view. Agents can easily introduce new dealers, importers, and distributors and manage them. One of the many benefits of the new information system are also its high availability and the ability to place orders 24/7, which is mandatory for global expansion. By implementing the system, we have established a platform that will support high growth of our business and our global operations.

 

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