SAP 'way of life' a welcome change

Change management issues have often hampered SAP enterprise resource planning deployments for many companies, but Radio Frequency Systems had been looking for an excuse to abandon its business processes.

Four months since the deployment of SAP R/3 on IBM xSeries servers, Bhagwan Hassaram, project director for Radio Frequency Systems (RFS) said change management was a high priority. "We weren't happy with our processes . . . we were quite happy to do things the SAP way."

SAP is the "system of choice" for the RFS global group. Hassaram said the company had a desire to implement a global ERP system.

However, like all companies deploying any IT project, hindsight is a wonderful tool, he said.

"We still underestimated the change management impact of the system. But we had to [implement SAP] to learn from it."

Hassaram said going live was just a "milestone" and the IT team has since been concentrating on "tweaking" the system.

"This is just the fourth month we've had the system; it will be a lot longer before we will be utilising the system in full."

Even though the project took nine months to roll out throughout the Australian office in Victoria, the IT team has had a lot of "reworking" of processes to do before it could move on to the next agenda item.

Previously, RFS, which specialises in designing and manufacturing antennas, filters and high frequency components for the broadcast, cellular, land-mobile and microwave markets, used manual systems for many of its business processes.

"The original issue driving the decision [to implement an ERP system] was that we had outgrown Tims (Geac's The Integrated Manufacturing System) which we'd had for close to 10 years. It was a previous generation system with green screen and was not very user friendly."

Hassaram said the business unit instigated the project and designed it. The company contracted IBM Global Services to assist in the $2 to $3 million project.

Hassaram said there was a ratio of close to 1:1 of IBM and RFS staff working on the project. RFS provided six people from the business side, two from IT and a project director. IBM supplied a consultant for each module and one person to look after the integration issues.

Hassaram said the business unit instigated the project and designed it.

"It was good getting the six people together to ensure end-to-end business processes."

Since the system has only been operating since April, Hassaram said savings had not yet been quantified; however, a payoff is expected within three to five years.

"We are just in the process of identifying the benefits of the deployment. We did not have a clear ROI as the deployment had other tangible outcomes."

This included having a tier one system to match systems in the company's European offices.

Achieving "one system and common business processes" across the Asia-Pacific region is the next goal for the IT team.

The IT team of six, which is based in Victoria, is responsible for the Asia-Pacific region, including Shanghai, Beijing and Taiwan. Another two IT personnel are located in Shanghai.

A rollout of the ERP system is planned for China next year in which both the Australian and Shanghai IT teams will be involved.

"What we want to achieve is ambitious."

Also in the planning stage is a disaster recovery system for the region utilising the ERP system.

"We want to have a server in Shanghai and one in Melbourne with a VPN connection via the Internet to replicate data."

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