by Keri Allan

DP World fuels global business transformation with ERP cloud migration

Aug 28, 2021
Cloud ComputingERP SystemsIT Strategy

As part of its dream to transform the global supply chain logistics industry, DP World is undertaking a cloud migration project – replacing 160 disparate on-premises systems including ERP applications with a single, unified global cloud suite.

Mohamad Absar
Credit: Mohamad Absar

With 53,000 employees, 128 logistics businesses and 90 shipping terminals around the globe, DP World is one of the world’s largest port operators — and plans to get even bigger. To support its global expansion, it’s undertaking a massive, global cloud migration project with ERP at its core.

DP World provides logistics services in 60 countries and is in the process of broadening its business model with recent acquisitions including that of supply chain solutions provider Syncreon, and launches of new services such as global wholesale e-commerce platform

These support the UAE-based company’s goal to transform and lead the global supply chain logistics industry. To do so, it’s key that the organisation remains agile, a challenge for any international business, let alone one working across multiple verticals, each with their own locally deployed systems.

In order to achieve this goal, the company understood the need to overhaul its back office. It began a major cloud transformation project to replace 160 disparate on-premise systems across departments such as finance, supply chain and HR, with a single, unified global cloud suite as part of its “One Strategy” initiative.

Fragmentation causes communication issues

Prior to this ERP migration project, the company had to deal with frustrating slowdowns and unnecessary costs due to communication issues among teams. It would often struggle to bring together the necessary information to make important, strategic decisions quickly. Furthermore, the connection and digitalisation of systems became even more important with the arrival of the pandemic and the need to facilitate remote working wherever possible.

“The leadership understood that as our business model was changing it was very important to connect all our business verticals and provide a seamless end-to-end solution. They knew that as we acquired these new businesses around the world, we had to integrate all their geographically dispersed solutions in order to bring real value to the business,” says Mohamed Absar, head of projects and solutions at DP World.

“Consolidating all the different systems gives us multiple benefits. Not only are maintenance costs reduced, but also having a single source of truth enables us to access information quickly and make fast decisions,” he points out.

DP World chose to make the move over to Oracle Fusion Cloud Applications, which it did during the first half of 2020. Although it was also dealing with the consequences of the pandemic, it was able to stay on track and managed to launch cloud-based applications while also moving staff to working from home and continuing with business as usual.

Oracle was chosen due to not only the vendor’s breadth of offerings, but also its history with DP World —  back in 2005 the company had deployed Oracle E-Business Suite across the UAE.

“We started this journey with Oracle a long time ago. [In the case of the ERP migration] we evaluated multiple solutions and found that Oracle is the leader in some of the areas we’re looking to embark on. Also, as we’re trying to implement solutions across the globe, we wanted to have a partner who had the capacity to cover all those areas. From our due diligence, Oracle kept coming up top and ‘Fusion had all the required components to run a large enterprise,” says Absar.

Standardisation provides global efficiency

DP World knew it wanted a system that could be rapidly deployed across the globe. It started the project with end-user discussions across the business to establish the system’s  specific requirements and begin creating a “global design” that would provide standardisation across the business.

The system design can be modified regionally where needed, but provides the business with a “cookie cutter” solution that can be delivered within 15-20 weeks across specific regions, verticals, departments or acquisitions. This provides significant support for faster growth, as getting a complete on-premises system up and running in a new location used to take up to a year.

“Having a global design supported standardisation of processes across the business, from finance and supply chain management through to human capital and enterprise performance reporting,” says Absar. “Of course, there’s flexibility to meet regional legal, regulatory and tax requirements etc, but we’ve essentially got a global out-of-the-box solution. We didn’t introduce customisation because the solution came with such rich functionality. Also, if we had, we’d have lost out in the long run as Oracle updates its solution every quarter.”

Change management is organisation-wide

 Although at its heart an ERP migration project, the undertaking became something bigger; a change management process that looked to optimise information flow across the business and eliminate any redundant processes.

“This is a transformational journey. It’s not a change or upgrade to your systems, it’s a change to how you do business. Technology is a part, yes, but the most important is people,” says Absar.

In order for transformation to be a success, a company must have the buy-in of employees, and so it was key for DP World to bring its staff along on the journey. It did this by communicating the value the changes would bring to the business, to help staff understand and embrace the changes being made.

“We’re taking our organisation to the next level and the transformation’s going successfully because each person in the organisation has been shown how they contribute to the bigger picture, the higher purpose of our organisation. When you see how your work helps improve the supply chain, and supports humanitarian efforts like the transportation of Covid vaccines for example, that feeling of purpose is contagious. We show them our dream and how they can be a part of it,” Absar says.

Training is key for staff success

 This is backed up with staff training, to ensure employees are comfortable with the new solution and understand how to get the best from it.

 “Rolling out Oracle Fusion requires huge change management activity and training is an important part of this. We’re using Oracle University to empower users in terms of training, and provide them with certification,” says Absar. “We’re also using a number of other training tools from Oracle — in fact we’ve used Oracle for many change management activities. They’ve helped us develop online training, and short training videos that answer specific questions users might have, for example.”

To date, the cloud ERP migration has taken place across 60% of the business, with Fusion having gone live across DP World’s businesses in India, Africa and the Middle East. The company’s already seeing many benefits; for example, it’s been able to eliminate the majority of its data centres, saving significant maintenance costs. Furthermore, staff are no longer required to work on maintaining or upgrading on-premises systems, freeing them up to work on other projects, and consolidating to one solution has reduced licencing costs by 10%.

Benefits have also been seen within specific departments through Fusion’s implementation. For example, it’s enabled finance to cut the time needed for budgeting by half and procurement can now process invoices 50%-60% faster.

But this is just the start of the journey, says Absar, who’s excited to see how the company will evolve going forward.

He points out that Oracle now updates its ERP system on a quarterly basis. “This is another example of the business needing to be agile and open to change – traditionally you’d install and run the same system for four or five years, but that’s no longer the case. Continuous innovations will come in, and we will continue to look for ways to respond to the needs of our customers,” he concludes.