Newman’s Own, a food and beverage company founded by the late actor Paul Newman, which donates all of its profits to help disadvantaged children, needed a technology upgrade to improve its operations. Many CIOs in businesses of similar size sympathize with his CIO, Angelo Fischetti, when he describes the issues he faced.
Many problems were hybrid solutions that supported many businesses. There was an issue of integration, lack of adequate supply chain tools and some visibility to help with transparency. Those were the key pain points we had to solve. Also, the business wants to grow – every business wants to grow. We have new strategies to support that growth.
But to do it on the platform that we put in at night – because if I make a change here, it affects something here. We now have a scalable platform. If we go straight and look at the tools in place and the roadmap, we’re in an advantageous position, because we’re behind the curve. As we move on to some new skills, we can take advantage of what’s been learned and the maturity of the tools.
The business went live with Oracle NetSuite earlier this year, replacing a variety of legacy technologies and interfaces with a cloud ERP solution. The impact of the work was immediate. Fischetti says:
Every order had to be seen and carried out by a group in the old world. Today, there are only a small number of orders to be had. [dealt with] By hand. The workflow manages and processes the commands, exiting them where appropriate for reconciliation, or error handling. So manual orders are very less.
Supply chain visibility
Paul Newman is known for his roles in such films The path of destruction, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance KidAnd HustlerBut his legacy also lives on at Newman’s Own, where he started selling a range of wholesome, waste-free foods, pans and drinks in 1982 to raise money for children in need. As a food manufacturer, visibility into the supply chain is critical to the business and is where the new system will have the greatest impact. Fischetti says:
We’ll have more visibility into what’s in a place, in what state. This visibility was difficult to achieve before. That, I think, has the biggest impact on how we manage inventory, the cost of shipping inventory, and serving customers.
Having previously done ERP implementations at other companies, Fischetti’s experience with NetSuite brought a new dimension:
This one, by far, was probably the most successful I’ve been on… We had glitches, we had things to work on, but it was mainly in the integration area. NetSuite performed perfectly.
As with any complex operation that ends up going smoothly, careful planning plays a vital role. Key preparation points include:
- Data cleaning and consolidation.
- Developing a supply chain for the new equipment.
- Working closely with the business to first define requirements and then overall.
- Train colleagues of early adopter power users.
The partnership with the business allows them to take the final decision on which solution to choose within IT’s overall technology requirements. He says:
Requirements – We worked closely with the business to determine exactly what they wanted. We had them with us throughout the journey. [and] They chose the solution. Our technology requirements were part and parcel of the overall requirements, but they had a heavy weight on what they wanted to do.
He had a careful plan for the change itself. to be continued –
Like any implementation go-live, it was planned down to the minute. So how do we destroy all our business in the old system, bring the new or open orders to the new system, and then gradually a single order, a relationship with this customer, this partner. After that, we slowly started to weigh in over a few days. So the plan was to be fully operational on the third day. It was the smoothest implementation I’ve ever been involved in.
Project success factors
Fischetti lists what he recommends to others as key success factors:
You must have incredible stakeholder support from the top down. Don’t even try if it doesn’t support the top down.
You must take due care.
To choose the equipment, you must bring the business on the trip. It is not a technology project. It is a commercial project.
You have to be incredibly strict with boundaries. What we struggled with along the way, especially at the design level, was ‘well, while we’re here, let’s do this, this, this and this.’ I think that’s where you can really fall down – I’ve seen it in my career.
Managing your project method, so you’re tracking these RAID items. [Risks, Assumptions, Issues, Dependencies]. You have a strong backlog and you trust that you will attack that backlog in the implementation.
You want to have the strongest and brightest on the project to help you design what the new processes will look like. Ideally, 100% dedication is your best option, but given financial constraints and resource constraints, this is not possible. But we used our best and found a balance.
Another reason is to be ready to let go of the old way of working and adopt the improved processes in the new solution. He explains.
Our CEO… didn’t want to. [us] Just to refresh what we have. There were times when we were going through a design, making a decision to live with what was presented, and see how it would work, and then adjust accordingly.
We took the opportunity to change from the processes we had, so it wasn’t just trying to copy what we had – that was said and done for another day.
The next step is to implement NetSuite’s planning and budgeting tool, which will eliminate the other spreadsheets currently in use. The CFO wants to automate routine processes and free up resources to focus more on analytics. As for Fischetti, he is looking at additional opportunities to strengthen his IT landscape and leverage more of what the NetSuite platform has to offer. He says:
I have high hopes. I’d love to see if there are any capabilities we can use to reconcile, sweet-up, or other applications to some of our app houses. We are a small company [with] Tight resources, so we want to be as efficient as possible with those.