Newman’s Own, the food and beverage company founded by the late actor Paul Newman, which gives away all of its profits to help kids facing adversity, needed a technology upgrade to improve its operations. Many CIOs in similar-sized businesses will empathize with the plight of its CIO, Angelo Fischetti, as he describes the issues he faced:
A lot of the problems were mixed solutions supporting multiple businesses. Integration was an issue, insufficient supply chain tools, and lack of some visibility that would help in transparency. Those were the key pain points that we needed to solve. Plus, the business wants to grow — every business wants to grow. We have new strategies in place to support that growth.
But to do it on the platform we had kept me up at night — because if I made a change over here, it impacted something over here. Now we have a platform with capabilities to scale. Having gone live and looking at the tools that are in place and the roadmap, we're in an advantageous position, because we are just behind the curve. We can take advantage of the learnings and the maturity of the tools as we go and move into some of the new capabilities.
The business went live with Oracle NetSuite earlier this year, replacing its miscellany of older technologies and bespoke connections with the cloud ERP solution. The operational impact was immediate. Fischetti says:
Every order had to be looked at and processed in batches in the old world. Today, there's just a small quantity of orders that have to be [dealt with] manually. The workflow manages and processes the orders through, kicks them out where appropriate for reconciliation, or error handling. So there's a lot less hands-on orders.
Supply chain visibility
Paul Newman is best known for his roles in movies such as The Road to Perdition, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and The Hustler, but his legacy also lives on in Newman's Own, which he founded in 1982 to raise money for children in need from the profits made by selling a range of wholesome, junk-free food, sauces and drinks. As a food manufacturer, visibility into the supply chain is crucial to the business and this is where the new system will have the biggest impact. Fischetti says:
We'll have greater visibility into what's at a location, what status it's in. It was hard to get that visibility in the past. That's going to have, I think, the biggest impact in terms of how we manage inventory, the cost of carrying inventory, and the ability to service customers.
Having been through previous ERP implementations at other companies, Fischetti says the experience with NetSuite made a refreshing change:
This one, by far, was probably the most successful that I've been on ... We had glitches, we had things we had to work through, but it was mainly in the integration space. NetSuite behaved perfectly.
Like any complex operation that goes smoothly in the end, careful planning played an important part. Key preparation points included:
- Cleaning and consolidating the data.
- Preparing the supply chain for the new tools.
- Working closely with the business, first to define requirements, and then throughout.
- Having early adopter power users train colleagues.
The partnership with the business extended to letting them take the final decision as to which solution to select, within IT's overall technology requirements. He says:
We worked closely with the business to define the requirements that they wanted — what they really wanted. We involved them along the whole journey [and] they picked the solution. Our technology requirements were part and parcel of the overall requirements, but they had the heavy weight of the requirements on what they wanted to do.
There was careful planning too for the changeover itself. He goes on:
Like any implementation go-live, it was planned down to the minute. So how we wind down and close out all of our business in the old system, bring over just the new or open orders into the new system, and then we slowly started ramping up, a single order at a time, connection to this customer, this partner. Then we just slowly started to scale it over a few days. So the plan was, by the third day to be fully operational. It was the smoothest implementation that I've ever been involved with.
Project success factors
Fischetti outlines the what he sees as the key success factors he would recommend to others:
You have to have incredible stakeholder support from the top down. If it's not supported from the top down, don't even attempt it.
You have to do thorough due diligence.
You have to bring the business along on the journey to select the tool. It's not a technology project. It's a business project.
You need to be incredibly tight with scope. What we struggled with along the way, especially in the design phase was, 'Well, while we're here, let's do this, this, this and this.' I think that's where you can fall down the most — I've seen it in my career.
Managing your project methodology, so you're tracking these RAID items [Risks, Assumptions, Issues, Dependencies]. You have a strong backlog and you provide confidence that you're going to attack that backlog following on the implementation.
You want to have your strongest and brightest on the project to help design what the new processes are going to look like. Optimally having them 100% dedicated would be your best option, but given the financial constraints and resource constraints, it's not possible. But we managed using our best people and found a balance.
Another factor is being ready to retire the old way of doing things and adopt more streamlined processes enabled by the new solution. He explains:
Our CEO ... did not want [us] to just reinvent what we had. There were cases where, as we were going through design, we would take a decision to go live with what was provided, and then see how it worked, and then tweak it appropriately.
We absolutely took the opportunity to change processes from what we had, so it wasn't just trying to copy what we had — which was bespoke and built for another day.
Looking to the future
The next step is to implement the NetSuite planning and budgeting tool, which will eliminate another tranche of spreadsheets currently in use. The CFO is keen to automate routine processes and free up resources to focus more on analysis. As for Fischetti, he's looking at further opportunities to consolidate the IT landscape and take advantage of more of what the NetSuite platform has to offer. He says:
I have a lot of hopes. I'd love to look at reconciling some of our application base, to see if there's a suite app or other capabilities that we can leverage. We're a small company [with] tight resources, so we want to be as efficient as possible with those.