Looking to close key strategic and tactical gaps in its contract management process, AVEBE initially faced two daunting propositions: customize its existing SAP ERP system or develop a custom application with .NET. Fortunately, a third, faster, and more agile alternative emerged: Mendix's application platform. Using Mendix, AVEBE quickly delivered a multi-device app that seamlessly integrates with SAP to structure and streamline contract management.
With a complex sales cycle that stretches around the world, AVEBE was at a crossroads. The company – a world leader in the production of potato starches used in food, paper, textiles, adhesives, and other applications – relied on SAP to manage many administrative aspects of its operations, but in many ways, contract management remained a troublesome blind spot. Many early parts of the process remained paper-based and some contracts weren’t even being registered in the SAP environment.
Mendix's application platform really enables us to be a more agile organization. Mendix is far quicker than .NET, that’s for sure. We are also producing better results, as we have better collaboration between IT and the process owners who can work together to create the right application. We’re building working prototypes in a single day.
“With our older process, we suffered from strategic and tactical gaps,” said Jilt Bakkes, chief information officer for AVEBE. “Strategically, we didn’t have the visibility into order history or insight into our clients’ buying patterns, preferences, and needs. And tactically, the manual processes meant we had unacceptable variances in pricing and discounts. Approvals were inconsistent. And we had legal and audit risk exposures.”
To address the challenge, AVEBE knew it needed an automated solution, but the initial alternatives were far from appealing. “The SAP environment itself is great at automating our core back-end processes, but it’s very difficult to modify,” said Bakkes. “And those development cycles are expensive and time-consuming.
“We previously had used .NET for development projects of this nature, but it often felt like building in concrete – once you made a design decision, it seemed irreversible. Instead, we wanted a faster, more agile way to create an application that at the same time seamlessly integrated with our SAP back end. Then, ROND Consulting, our development partner, showed us Mendix's application platform.”
Faced with the daunting prospects of customizing SAP or developing with .NET, AVEBE’s decision to select Mendix's application platform was easy.
“We really like the flexibility that Mendix's application platform gives us,” said Bakkes. “It’s cloud-based, easy and fast to develop with, and a superb choice for delivering multidevice apps. With Mendix, the development cycle can be led by business users, not IT. We can be nimble and easily change business rules based on new market conditions – without requiring a re-start or needless schedule delays.”
After AVEBE put in the up-front work to design its business process, the development cycle itself was rapid – just 30 days for the first version of the application.
“Mendix's application platform really enables us to be a more agile organization,” said Bakkes. “Mendix is far quicker than .NET, that’s for sure. We are also producing better results, as we have better collaboration between IT and the process owners who can work together to create the right application. We’re building working prototypes in a single day.”
The new app – running on both laptops and tablets (with smartphone support coming soon) – enables salespeople to handle most of the contract management function outside of SAP, including approvals, authorizations, routing, and more. Sales reps create a new contract in the Mendix app, which applies numerous and changing business rules and then routes the proposed contract for the necessary approvals. When all of the workflow requirements have been met, the final output from the app is an approved contract that’s created in SAP using Web Services and SAP’s Process Integration Layer.
“Now we have standard terms, conditions, and provisions,” said Bakkes. “And if there are exceptions, we can identify and approve or reject them. We have a much better handle on our business.”
“The app we created with Mendix's application platform enables us to efficiently process several thousand contracts annually – all with management control and complete auditability. This also improves our long-term forecasting and planning.”
Looking ahead, AVEBE will continue to leverage Mendix's application platform to increase its business agility. “Other vendors talk about agility, but Mendix truly enables it,” said Bakkes. “Now that we have the platform in place, future developments and modifications will be incredibly fast and
AVEBE is the world’s leading potato starch company, creating and marketing solutions for food, feed, paper, building, textiles, and adhesives industries using this unique, renewable resource. AVEBE continuously improves existing starch applications and creates new starch ingredients to help customers innovate. AVEBE operates worldwide, has production locations in the Netherlands, Germany and Sweden, and employs 1,300 people.