SAP has a goal of selling a large number of its SAP Business One (SAP B1) software package to small-to-medium sized companies. If SAP is making any headway, Robert Mayerhofer's book is one that should be flying off the shelf at Galileo Press (interestingly enough, a printing company owned by SAP). I ran across this book when I was doing an implementation at a company (let's call it Bone S) and the customers were getting stymied with all the variations (2004 versus 2005 versus 2007) in the SAP provided documentation. At first, I was able to use the book only sparingly with so many things going on during the implementation. It was only later in the implementation that I was able to get into the book and appreciate what the author has written.
In the first ten pages Mayerhofer tells us where he is going and you better pay attention to these pages, because the ride is going to cover a lot of territory. This book can and should be used by every beginner and "super user" in your company, as the author claims. But, from my experience, only AFTER some initial training has occurred. It is not the kind of book you put in front of users without some initial prep and say "go for it".
But my bet is that the book is best placed in the hands of the person ravenous to know everything they can about SAP B1. You know - the one who stays after hours just intent on finding any kind of minutia no one else knows about and tells you ALL about it the following morning before you finish your first cup of coffee.
Of course, no book can tell you everything, but "Introduction to SAP Business One" is a very good springboard. The author presents a good flow from a business stand-point as a "jig-saw puzzle" and he cuts out a lot of fluff that is really not needed. I like his philosophy of not duplicating some information just to be filling pages. For example, he covers the screens associated with purchasing in great detail, but when he gets to the screens in sales, he tells us frankly he is not going to do the same. The reader only gets differences and unique information about the sales screens. Why? Because as most folks will discover after using SAP B1, the screens are so similar; just substitute "AP" for the "AR" on the invoice screen and you have the same screen layout doing very similar things (except in reverse). Instead of using the typical author filler trivia, he presents excellent examples, notes, tips, and information in the "grayed" portions of the book. The descriptions of how certain transactions are processed and their internal effect is invaluable for companies coming from fragmented processes and workflows. You have to know SAP B1 to appreciate what is shown for "Sales Document Effects on Inventory Quantity and Accounting for Inventory Items" (page 193). Chapters 8 thought 10 are worth the cost of the book alone for some small-sized companies.
But in my opinion, and much more important, the author gives us some "gotchas" where an erroneous setting or entry can cause great pain (see page 106 for a good example). These are the kind of mistakes made early on where customers have literally lost brain cells trying to figure out what was done wrong. It is NOT that the system is hard to use, the real reason is that the system is so robust and there are so many possibilities, it can take a lot of thought and a long time to understand what has happened (except for that person staying after hours - he will let you know he knew that all along). There are lots of pages with step by step (and numbered) instructions on what to do with this or that function, setting, or window - checklists - what a concept!
It is a very well written book in lines of a technical book, but not one you want to sit down and read for any extended period of time. It is scholastic, straight-forward, and get to the point. But in the author's defense, there are not many technical books I can think of that keep my attention (or my eyes wide open) for a long period of time. But maybe Mayerhofer took that into consideration and that is why he gets down to brass tacks and the bottom line on each subject. That is also why Bone S bought three or four copies so everyone would have it around - to find the needed information and find it fast.
The book is so well structured and organized that maybe SAP should hire this fellow to work on the SAP documentation available from their portals and web site. They are in dire need of someone who is organized and able to eliminate the duplication. I am serious - Walldorf call him!
My copy is falling apart from how much I have used it, and I have had to staple some pages back in to keep them around. With those users who have the book, they constantly refer back to it for quick checks on what they need to know. During some implementations I have given "assigned readings" after the introductory training to users. It's a great book for those looking for good reference and explanation.
I cannot hold out much longer for the next printing that, hopefully, will cover the new SAP B1 2007 or 8.8 version. When I called Galielo Press, they said a new edition in German will be out in June 2009, so I might have to break down and buy another English copy. No plans for when the new German edition will be translated.
There are a few suggestions I would make directly; a list of SAP B1 tables as an appendix, a little description of the Query capabilities, giving us a heads up about how the Inventory Audit Report can update prices, maybe "explosion" icons next to those "gotchas", and even a bit more on the reporting capabilities. Those are probably just my personal preferences. Other folks might have other ideas, but it is great testimony to the author that my suggestions do really go beyond an introductory frame.
I would love to give this book a five-star rating; I am tempted, but Mayerhofer already KNOWS why I have not - he even tells us why. He earns a five-star (and a high five) when he provides those "topics" he writes about in the last sentence on page 15! Maybe if he gets hired into SAP's headquarters (in Walldorf) he can find the time to add them into a newer edition?