Ready to Go!
Oracle Business Accelerators speed implementation, growth at three midsize companies.
by Karen J. Bannan, November 2008
Agility is important to JR286, a licensee of popular youth brands such as Under Armour, Speedo, and Fila to an often-fickle group of consumers: kids, athletes, and anyone who loves stylish clothing and accessories. After all, styles change in the blink of an eye, and what’s hot today may end up in a bargain bin tomorrow.
The ability to adapt to those whims was key to what Ruben Inofuentes, JR286’s chief operating officer and CIO, calls “explosive growth” at the company over the past five years. The proof is in the numbers. JR286 has more than 13,000 retailers in its customer base, and last year alone, the hats, gear bags, protective equipment, and other merchandise sold for more than US$140 million in retail stores. That kind of volume has helped the privately held company see growth of up to 30 percent year over year, according to Inofuentes. But something happened recently that could have brought the company’s momentum to a complete halt: JR286’s customers started complaining.
“Sports Authority told us that we were the worst vendor they had,” says Inofuentes. In spite of the company’s rapid growth, JR286 had no back-end IT infrastructure in place—no software to track financials, no supply chain management, and no warehouse management. “We had no warehouse system,” Inofuentes explains. “There was nothing. We were all paper-based. It was just people walking around our distribution center all day long with pieces of paper. We knew that if we wanted to continue to grow, there was no way we could do it with what we had.”
To handle the upward-spiraling pace of production and distribution, JR286 needed a system that would give it control over product quality issues, create consistency around its labeling and packaging, and give its retailers visibility to inventory changes.
Inofuentes knew he needed a new enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, but he couldn’t just go out, purchase new software, and install it. Cost was a consideration, as was speed. Inofuentes couldn’t spend too much time prepping and testing the system because the company’s peak selling season—May through December—was only a few months away. He also couldn’t take the chance that there would be a service disruption resulting in even more problems.
Running Ahead of the Curve
The issues facing JR286 mirror those of other fast-growing companies looking to make a technology change, says Simon Jacobson, senior research analyst with Boston-based AMR Research. Speed is important because missing even a day’s worth of business can be costly. “The overall driver, especially in midsize companies looking at rapid implementations of an enterprise product, is simply to establish the application in a time frame that doesn’t inhibit the ability to respond to both customer and internal business needs to maintain a competitive position,” he says.
Inofuentes looked at several solutions, but the only one that made sense, he says, was Oracle E-Business Suite. This was because he’d be able to use Oracle Business Accelerators—rapid-implementation tools that help feed and integrate information from the end user and company into the new software program. Oracle Business Accelerators provided Inofuentes with a framework for getting his system up and running quickly. They also helped him test the system, letting users get comfortable with it before it went live. Inofuentes knew early on exactly what functionality his end users were looking for, and his system integrator, DAZ Systems, was able to meet those requirements.
“These are tools developed over years and years of working on end-to-end business flows,” explains Tony Kender, senior vice president of Oracle’s Global Accelerate Program Office. “More than 1,200 business flows go into making Oracle Business Accelerators work. After helping companies implement our software for years, we have a good idea what 80 percent of business flows will look like for professional services companies, just because we know what industry they’re in. And since we know that 20 percent of flows are specific to a given company, we’ve created a wizard to allow them to specify those flows. The wizard, coupled with our preformatted business flows, makes it possible to automate almost everything that goes into installing software.”
Companies use these wizards and preformatted business flows to input all the necessary configuration data to establish a completed baseline of Oracle E-Business Suite. Once data is entered online through the accelerators.oracle.com Web portal, implementers can download the configuration instructions automatically to create an instance of the software that is ready for testing and completion of the remaining go-live activities, says Mark Keever, group vice president of Oracle’s application business flows and Oracle Business Accelerators group.