Snack Foods sheds legacy system

Snack Foods Australia will replace its 20-year-old in-house legacy system with an Oracle e-business suite and redefine the role of its IT staff in the process.

In an undisclosed, but estimated multimillion dollar upgrade, Snack Foods Australia will build on its Oracle Financials systems and upgrade to Oracle 11i, deploying Oracle supply chain management applications, specifically process manufacturing, purchasing and order management.

The grocery company's legacy system was comprised mainly of an in-house built mainframe system developed in the 1980s, plus various extensions from multiple vendors resulting in 26 disparate systems.

In order to expand the company's B2B capabilities and respond to the demands of its customer base, which is shifting towards Web-based transactions, as well as ease the strain on its IT staff, Snack Foods Australia will deploy the Oracle applications across all its business division in a tiered process.

Simon Rowell, managing director of Snack Foods Australia, said that although the system functioned efficiently, IT staff spent an increasing amount of time in maintaining the system rather than developing it. The integration issues between the disparate systems led to slow implementation cycles, often leading to bottlenecks. "There was a limited ability to interface with external customers and to integrate between the systems," Rowell said.

With the upgrade of its system, Snack Brands, a division of Snack Foods Australia and the distributor of Thins and CC's, will now Internet-enable its day-to-day functions such as purchasing, scheduling and automated invoicing, which will facilitate customer ordering and overcome difficulties connected to supplier system, Rowell said.

But the sweetest plum in the pie for Rowell is the better use of IT staff resources.

The new, low-maintenance system will change IT support staff roles and allow IT to take on a greater role within business units.

"Now the role of developer will evolve from analyst programmer to business analyst," Rowell said.

"Our IT support staff are highly skilled, but had to spend their time fiddling around with code with every change, which was a complex process. Now, with a seamless integrated platform, we are fee to use IT staff as business analysts and build on their technical skills, rather than as straight programmers. Our IT staff have a high technical knowledge, but were limited to using it in a narrow sense; now, they can go out into the business more to deliver benefits from the system," Rowell said.

IT manager, Robert Pinn agreed. "An integrated ERP solution will help us overcome the support nightmare we have today.

"We wanted to make the solution as vanilla as possible," Pinn said. "This is certainly aided by the fact that developers only need one common skill set, rather than a mixture of legacy skills and Oracle skills which lead to a duplicity of roles."

With the seamless integrated system, Pinn said developers will be able to work with business units to re-engineer business processes, rather than simply cut code.

At the moment, during the implementation process, Snack Foods Australia IT staff resources are stretched. Rowell said implementation of Oracle, while fairly straight forward, still takes a lot of configuration and will use an enormous amount of resources as IT staff work on their everyday activities and the implementation project.

Along with the IT staff, Snack Foods Australia will also use specialist consultants in the process. Rowell estimated the most expensive aspect of the implementation was consultant fees, which will account for some 50 per cent of the upgrade spend.

However, Rowell expects the implementation will lead to a lowering of long-term operational costs as staff will no longer need to constantly monitor the system and spend massive periods of time reconfiguring complex software systems.

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