Clearing the legacy thicket

After 18 months of trying to streamline corporate reporting through a data warehouse integration, Redeal opted for a fresh approach that is now paying dividends. Multiple legacy systems were the challenge for group IT manager Peter Jameson. When it came time to produce reports for either the local operation or the company#8217;s Paris head office, data had to be extracted from four servers and, depending on complexity, the process would take half a day or longer. Then, if a combined result was required for the entire organisation, these reports had to be merged using Excel. The process was #8220;time consuming and prone to error#8221;, says Jameson.

Redeal, the local subsidiary of global electronics distributor Rexel, inherited the multiple systems as a result of acquisitions. Jameson says his initial task was to create an IT infrastructure to link the businesses acquired by Rexel which are now using Redeal#8217;s administration function.

For over a year, the New Zealand office worked on a group project trying to integrate the data warehouse. #8220;But it never quite satisfied our requirements so we could never get it working quite reliably. It was just one problem after the other. We had to do something#8221;.

Options explored

Redeal worked with SAP and reseller Realtech in exploring options for a local deployment of a data warehousing system. They used SAP business maps and engagement tools to assess the environment and the applicability of an SAP NetWeaver platform based system. The team decided on deploying the SAP business information warehouse (BW).

For Redeal, this was a cost-effective decision. #8220;We had SAP licensing which gave us the right to use BW. It was just a question of implementation.#8221;

Jameson says the project was estimated to take six weeks consulting time, but was completed in four weeks and was under budget. #8220;The implementation team really helped us think through our options and make some sound business decisions around our IT requirements.#8221;

Jameson says this allowed the team to use the extra budget to get additional features like a purchasing cube for the legacy system and realignments processes to cater for customer, product and vendor coding in the legacy system.

Another factor that eased implementation was support for the project from Redeal#8217;s managing director. #8220;He was extremely frustrated by the delays we were experiencing when we were trying to implement the overseas data warehouse so he was very keen to support it.#8221;

Following the go-live date, Redeal spent two months fine-tuning the product and is now starting to reap benefits from the systems integration. #8220;Never before have we had a single view of the organisation#8217;s sales figures for analysis and the capability to take that further into our purchasing figures,#8221; says Jameson.

In the past, reports were specific to the different companies, and sending a report to the Rexel office in Paris involved a complicated process of merging documents and creating complex spreadsheets. Based on the complexity of the data required, the new data warehouse produces reports within 30 seconds to two minutes.

One lesson he can impart to enterprises contemplating on a similar project is the need to plan and prepare the data needed to be moved. #8220;This is a huge step. There is a degree of rubbish in there [the legacy systems] and would impact on the reports. Do anything you can to tidy that up.#8221;

With hindsight too, he says the team could have spent more time on defining the initial reporting requirements.

#8220;If we had defined more of that early on, we could have done more cleaning up in one go.#8221;

Copyright © 2004 IDG Communications, Inc.

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