The graduate electrical engineer began working for AUCOTEC in 1997 as an account manager. He was then appointed Quality Manager for Engineering Base (EB) in the Development department, later heading this department for four years. André Lidolt has been managing the Professional Services division since 2013. This brought him back into closer contact with customers all around the world.
Mr. Lidolt, does every EB customer need customizing?
No, in principle, no special customizing is required. I know some customers who virtually use EB "out of the box" in its original form. And many individual customizations can be developed quite easily – even by customers themselves – via the C#/VBA interface integrated into EB.
What's special about your department?
Its proximity to customers and its flexibility, I'd say – not to mention the high level of expertise! We provide customers with all services related to our software, from individual demonstrations via process analyses and ROI calculations for interested parties to implementation, training and integration following the decision. So of course we need to have a keen understanding of customer requirements. And we're very quick when it comes to deciding, in consultation with the customer, whether we're creating a customer-specific development. However, customer support has changed radically in recent years. Flexibility is a major requirement. So we've responded by becoming considerably more flexible.
What has changed?
Projects have become much more complex. When a customer implements the cross-disciplinary EB platform, it normally affects more than one department. And these departments may even be located in different countries, which requires a decidedly international approach. This approach is also necessary given that an increasing number of our customers are "global players".
The integrative aspect of our work has also grown considerably – thus integrating external systems such as SAP, automation tools and so on. Our responsibility with regard to the IT environment of EB has also increased. This concerns Citrix optimization or performance analyses, for example, which are part of the implementation process. On top of this, we're increasingly called to provide more consultation services than initial briefings, and far more of our training sessions have to be tailored to customer requirements.
How have you responded to the new requirements?
Partly by restructuring and introducing new processes, and partly by recruiting and further training. As a result, we now have a wonderful blend of experienced colleagues and recent graduates with fresh ideas. This is what makes us so strong.
How does this impact your services?
Our portfolio of services has expanded greatly. Starting with classic help desk support, which is always an important part of the service, via process consulting, customizing and highly tailored training sessions which take real customer data and internal workflows into account, to standard product training, developments via VBA and C#, and complete project management. This covers all levels, from "kick-off" to "go live". But the most striking changes here have been the huge increase in individual adjustments and the growing demands of internationalism. This is because many of the customers for whom we perform customizing operate on a global scale.
For this purpose, you set up a quick-response task force, the "Individual Solutions Team", some time ago. Why?
The main reason was that planning the further development of standard software is geared towards rigid version cycles. Assessing individual customer requirements and implementing them "in passing" was becoming increasingly challenging. Even issues which really ought to have been dealt with quickly often got caught up in a complicated prioritization process, or failed because the Product Management and Development departments didn't have the capacity to deal with them. So something had to change.
The Development department has assembled a team of employees in order to be able to respond much faster and more flexibly to customer requirements. The new team is highly agile and liaises in part directly with the customer. Thanks to the fact that we now have this team, customer requirements are no longer channelled via the standard process, but are dealt with directly in our Professional Services department – according to their level of urgency.
What exactly does this Individual Solutions Team do?
The team focuses exclusively on customer-specific developments. Most cases involve integrating them into third-party systems such as PDM/PLM, automation systems or the customer's own tools. Some cases involve workflow wizards, import/export functions for Office products or special data output formats for customer reports.
What have you achieved since establishing this quick-response task force?
A large number of customers have already benefited from the fact that individual requirements can be implemented much more quickly. In addition to the aforementioned tasks, the new team has also dealt with the ECTR link and Workflow Wizard. Both have now become standard solutions, and are thus easy for all customers to adapt.
What was the most specific solution that you have developed for a customer?
There are some that were also very complex, but I particularly remember a reputable compressor manufacturer for which we linked EB to all SAP modules it had in use (CRM, Hybris, PdM). We also developed a solution that enables EB to provide all of its compressor systems with their basic configuration.
What projects are next on your list?
That depends on what customers need. We're flexible.