Global agricultural systems developer and manufacturer Tru-Test (which employs more than 400 staff and develops milk metering, electronic livestock weighing systems and electric fencing systems among other things) is reaping the benefits of using vanilla, off-the-shelf ERP applications after years of relying on heavily-customised software. Tru-Test group IS manager Claudia Vidal says with products distributed to more than 70 countries worldwide and nine legacy software platforms, Tru-Test needed to standardise and consolidate its software applications to aid business processing and create new efficiencies.
“With consolidation come tangible business benefits. As CIOs we hear all the time that IT strategy should be aligned with business strategy. We wanted a unified and global business process. Because we are a global company, we knew that we would gain from standardisation because with standardisation comes compliance,” says Vidal.
She says standardised ERP supports a unified architecture and means one IT team can look after the same system; any company that assumes it needs to customise its software should challenge that assumption, says Vidal, as customisation makes maintenance and support of systems harder. However, she agrees that customisation can at times be beneficial.
“Customisation is still valid if it really gives you a business advantage, but you have to think hard about it. Software systems today come modularised, so why disturb the order of something that already plugs together?”
Tru-Test sought a major ERP designer and used an RFI process, before deciding to standardise its ERP and business processing applications on the JDE/Oracle platform to achieve one central system.
Vidal says the ‘tipping point’ in the selection of JDE came when IT management visited a similar manufacturing operation in the US that uses the JDE platform. And she says Tru-Test had few problems with a common CIO nemesis – change management. “We are in a good place with change management because we have very enthusiastic users. The system is theirs, so it is good to have them involved and incorporated. Also when we add systems, as we have with business intelligence software, it’s now not a problem because all the data is in one place,” says Vidal.
She says the cost of maintaining an ERP is “not cheap” and requires a business contingency plan, but is nevertheless business critical for manufacturers.
“Without it we can’t run the company. You can’t view the cost savings and intangible benefits in isolation; you need to view them in context with overall IT architecture and business processes on a global scale. I would say the journey we went through is logical.”
Claudia Vidal was a speaker at the CIO New Zealand Conference 2007 organised by Fairfax Business Media.