Drinks company William Grant & Sons, best known for its Glenfiddich scotch whisky, is to complete a rollout of the IFS ERP Suite in July – the conclusion of a year-long global deployment.
The private company, which has annual sales of more than £950m, is consolidating multiple enterprise applications used across some 40 countries worldwide, in a bid to improve management information and efficiency.
"William Grant currently has 11 different systems that it has acquired over the years. Each of these systems has a different chart of accounts, different definitions of how we make up our net sales value and our gross contribution. And they are all based on a different set of business definitions. So it makes it very difficult for us to make like-for-like comparisons of brands between different countries," said John Brown, the programme director for the Global Business Model at William Grant.
Different enterprise applications had been allowed to proliferate due to a combination of acquisitions and a business strategy that encouraged operational independence. "In the past, different geographies, countries and regions would pretty much do their own thing in terms of systems," said Brown.
The need to update disparate ageing systems, said Brown, combined with management's need for better information meant that no significant business case had to be made for the new system.
"There is no return-on-investment case for the project in the traditional sense. That was a conscious decision. We needed better information about running the business, but how much more effective it makes our investment decisions would be very difficult to quantify," said Brown.
The software rollout is intended to help manage resource planning across the company and, hence, its commercial and financial forecasting and reports. "We start with demand planning and we do pretty much everything that spins off the whole of supply chain and manufacturing [modules].
"So we do demand planning and everything that flows from that, through to master scheduling, into manufacturing, logistics and distribution. Then, we do all of the custom ordering, order fulfullment, invoicing, and all the financials that go around that," said Brown.
Also unusual, perhaps, was the decision made early on to mould the majority of business processes around the way that the IFS suite worked out of the box, and not the other way round.
"We have seen too many examples of projects like this that go drastically over-budget, over-time and which under-deliver," said Brown. "So we made this conscious decision at the outset: We would find a system that does all of the things that we needed to do, but we wouldn't be terribly concerned about how it did it. We would change our business processes rather than change the system."
As long as it had a customer ordering function, for example, the company would take that and modify the processes rather than spending time and money modifying the system, except with regard to legal or regulatory requirements.
In many cases, that meant persuading staff to change the way that they did things, perhaps for the first time in a decade or two.
"My view is that all of the industry-leading ERP vendors have been designing and modifying their systems for decades, often around customer feedback. That often reflects best practice because many man years of working out the best way to do things is built in," said Brown.
The company had considered SAP and Oracle – as well as cloud-based alternatives – before selecting IFS.
Indeed, cloud was only briefly considered – and rejected. "We are starting to put some services out to the cloud, but I think for the foreseeable future we are likely to keep it for commodity-type services. For example, we are well down the road to putting email out in the cloud, but something we feel is a ‘value add' for us, something differentiating, we just feel more comfortable being directly in control of it," said Brown.