Maurizio Stroppa, Group IT & Logistics Director, Oberalp Group Spa
In today’s fast-moving environment, there is just one word that more than others, allows companies to survive and evolve—innovation. IT and software technologies are often the drivers for the innovation process, allowing important organizational changes and enabling information integration. In particular, ERP solutions, which consist of different software support modules, represent the backbone in which the company defines its process and provide the essential support for the daily work of every company user. ERP systems improve the performance of companies by increasing the visibility of the business activities, by enhancing communication and by integrating the whole supply chain in one system.
Every ERP has its structure, based on the “state of the art” in a specific moment: today’s world moves faster and an outdated system, even with a high level of customization, sometimes cannot be enough to compete in the market properly. In those cases, you need something else, namely a modern, forward-looking, dynamic and ready to new business system.
In Oberalp, different factors pushed to evolve the actual ERP system, which was implemented 15 years ago and therefore, outdated for the modern business challenges. As of today, the company wastes time with avoidable manual tasks, uses Excel in many cases to cover the holes of the actual ERP and have constantly added patches to the system to try to cover its failings. These factors are preventing the company from reaching a new level and do not ensure a sustainable competitive advantage. Unsatisfied employees, pressures from the top management and a highly competitive market were all inputs that pushed for a change. It was time for Oberalp to take a leap in the future and adapt to the market’s best practices.
Many considerations were made before taking this decision.
First of all, we had to consider the health of the company and take into account the risks that this project brings along with it. In this regard, the Oberalp Group has experienced steady growth in the last few years, with increasing volumes and an ever-growing turnover.
Good project management has to avoid any kind of conflict and opposition and has to foster a collaborative and transparent environment
These factors gave us the security to be able to cope with the costs of the investment and to take a long commitment to the project. At the same time, the growth experienced by the Group had led to increasing complexity, due to the increasing number of markets served and the wider range of products and brands managed. These elements made even more clear the need for a change and speeded up the decision process.
A second factor that influenced the decision was the lack of flexibility caused by our outdated ERP system. Over the year, in-house developments made the system highly customized. On the one hand, these developments helped us to solve many of the daily challenges; on the other hand, this customization brought two big risks that had to be faced. First, a highly customized system does not allow the system to upgrade to the new versions; second, strong customization increases the dependency of the company towards some key persons. Centralized knowledge made us vulnerable, creating serious risks for the future.
Finally, further consideration was related to the industry in which Oberalp is operating. The fashion industry is changing fast, and the challenges of the market cannot be faced with the solutions of the past. The need to shorten the lead times, the use of multi-channel strategies, the increasing complexity of supply chains and the urge of integrated information and solutions are some of the sector-specific factors that led us to rely on external consultants to apply the sector best practices.
All these factors were just some of the drivers that brought us to the kick-off of the ORTLES Project, which took place in November 2018. This project aims to implement Dynamics 365 in the Oberalp Group, replacing the outdated Navision. After economical and technical consideration, the choice fell on a cloud deployment, which will reduce the risks and will allow us to benefit from the new features and services provided by Microsoft.
For the partner selection, we decided on a mixed team approach. Each of the partners evaluated had significant deficits, and therefore, the best team possible was created using the resources from different partners. This approach could provide us with the needed industry expertise, with full coverage of functions, with the necessary consulting resources and with the right local know-how.
Together with the opportunities, this project organization presents many challenges: cultural differences, language barriers, geographical distances, different approaches; all these aspects must always be taken into consideration and require strong project governance and efficient communication.
Internal challenges have also to be taken into account. A complex project like ORTLES is highly resources demanding, and the internal team has to combine the daily work with the commitments on the project. Here the people make the difference: good project management has to avoid any kind of conflict and opposition and has to foster a collaborative and transparent environment. People come first, and the success of the project depends substantially by how human interaction and relationships are managed. At the end of the day, projects are driven by teamwork, and every team member has to pull in the same direction.
The road to success is still long, but the project team is confident about the quality of the people involved in the project, and we see a bright future for the new ERP and the Oberalp Group.
Again, People first!