Vion Food Group

Proving the business value of an SOA

by Tony Kontzer, February 2008

When Willem Bastmeijer decided that it was time for Vion Food Group to experiment with Oracle Fusion Middleware, he knew he'd have to do it on a small scale. As director of corporate information and communication technology for the Netherlands-based company, Bastmeijer knew he needed to prove that the concept of a service-driven approach to IT would deliver the desired business value.

So Bastmeijer worked with Deloitte Consulting to roll out an Oracle SOA framework within the Rousselot unit of Vion's ingredients division, best known as one of the world's leading manufacturers of gelatin. The goal? To develop a business case that would demonstrate the benefits to be reaped from turning outdated point-to-point integrations between the company's IT systems into a more-flexible service environment.

The biggest challenge Vion's Rousselot unit faced revolved around the transferring of thousands of budgeting, planning, and billing records each day between its JD Edwards EnterpriseOne enterprise resource planning system and its Hyperion business intelligence application. Not only was the point-to-point integration between the two systems preventing Rousselot's staff from receiving prompt exception reports about discrepancies, but the unit was also limited to running its 18-hour invoice generation process on weekends. That was the only time there was sufficient system availability to generate the required electronic data interchange (EDI) transactions without bringing other systems to a halt.

With the Oracle SOA in place, Vion's Rousselot unit has been able to reduce process errors by receiving real-time exception reports and has shortened the invoice-generation process to just one hour, enabling it to invoice customers daily—which, in turn, has improved cash flow. The access to real-time exception reports has also helped the company reduce invoicing errors.

Such results provided a clear indication of the business value of Oracle's SOA technology to Vion's board of directors, and Bastmeijer was given the go-ahead to expand the pilot project to the retail unit of Vion's convenience foods division. That support has fueled his plans to make the Oracle SOA the foundation for transforming IT into a service-driven organization backed by a strong IT/business alignment.

"We are going to a very transactional, open environment from a very old- fashioned way of working within IT," says Bastmeijer. "This middleware solution from Oracle also gives us the possibility of linking to other Oracle products such as its master data management software."

Stef Oud, a partner in Deloitte Consulting BV in the Netherlands serving Deloitte's Oracle consulting business in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, says Vion is very well positioned to modernize its IT infrastructure now that it has an SOA based on Oracle Fusion Middleware. "Now that this is in place and there's trust within the company on the business side that this will work, I think there's a huge increase in flexibility for the future," says Oud.

What's more, the benefits of Vion's SOA implementation serve as a proof point for the growing number of European companies considering SOA technology. Says Oud, "This is service-oriented architecture brought to life."

For More Information

Oracle Fusion Middleware
Oracle SOA Suite

Tony Kontzer is a business and technology writer in Silicon Valley who has contributed to InformationWeek, Investor's Business Daily, CIO Insight, and Network World.

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