Simplifying end-to-end business process integration and accelerating ROI
by Carol Hildebrand, May 2009
Robust growth may be great for the bottom line, but it can wreak havoc on a unified IT infrastructure. That was the reality facing Lincolnshire, Illinois-based Zebra Technologies, a US$976.7 million global provider of innovative technology solutions to identify, track, and manage the deployment of critical business assets. Each of the company’s 10 acquisitions brought with it another set of enterprise applications, until the company was finally faced with 140 disparate applications that needed to be consolidated onto a single global system.
“Zebra has changed dramatically,” says Don O’Shea, Zebra’s CIO. “High growth led to highly fragmented systems. We had islands of automation that didn’t talk well.” Not only did this make it difficult for the company to manage the flow of business information effectively, but the IT group spent nearly 90 percent of its time on integration and maintenance tasks, rather than strategic projects dedicated to delivering business value.
At the same time, the company wanted to avoid a “big bang” enterprise application installation, in which all modules simultaneously go live companywide. “We’ve seen too many of those turn into disasters for the customers and the companies,” says Jeffrey Hand, Zebra’s director of IT. “They are fraught with risk, extend the project timeline, and tend to delay ROI [return on investment].”
Zebra minimized the risk and accelerated its ROI through smart project management and a strategic selection of technology. The company is using a phased approach to implementing Oracle E-Business Suite 12, a strategy that lets Zebra flexibly implement modules based on business need and immediate payback. Moreover, by using Oracle Application Integration Architecture Foundation Pack as well as Oracle Customer Hub, one of Oracle’s master data management solutions, the company is cutting significant time and costs from integration tasks and increasing information visibility and accuracy companywide.
“What we see here with Zebra is a very good example of how you can take a phased approach to integrate existing assets into new Oracle applications and modernize the application portfolio,” says Jose Lazares, vice president of application development at Oracle. “In today’s environment, how quickly you get up and running is incredibly important, as it determines how quickly you get to ROI, and Oracle Application Integration Architecture provides an accelerated way to get there.”
A Project Takes Shape
Zebra was running Baan 4C4 ERP software—which was so highly customized that the company had difficulty upgrading to new software releases. Moreover, it was very tricky to bring acquired companies onto the corporate systems. “We had to do a new instance of Baan with every acquisition, creating complete new islands of information,” says Hand.
Oracle E-Business Suite was the successor, but because the project was designed as a three-year migration, Hand knew that the Oracle E-Business Suite modules would be running in parallel with many of the older systems, including Baan. This left him with several priorities when it came to building a rollout strategy. He needed to eliminate software customization to cut down on future custom integration requirements, reduce project integration time and costs, and increase data accuracy and information visibility during the rollout.
The IT team decided to address the first issue by implementing the software in a plain-vanilla format, a decision that required strong ties to business stakeholders. Most of the time, business sponsors will lobby strongly for unique business processes that require customization, but O’Shea was able to circumvent that problem from the outset.
O’Shea explains that during project setup, Todd Naughton, vice president of finance at Zebra, was selected to be the business sponsor. “We had a steadfast religious belief that we were not going to customize the software,” says O’Shea. “Business and IT were on the same page, 100 percent. It makes a huge difference.”