Streamlined for efficiency

Emirates Media (EMI) has carried out numerous revamping measures as part of an IT restructuring driven by a re-assessment of the company’s business goals.

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By  Sarah Gain Published  April 25, 2005

Emirates Media (EMI) has overhauled its IT infrastructure using Oracle’s financial and human resources (HR) applications. As part of the EMI Change Programme, the media firm re-assessed its key infrastructure requirements, identifying the improvements it required to meet its business objectives. EMI executives felt it was critical to focus on key business functions to enable, improve and enhance intra-business connectivity and communications between different business units. The company identified crucial areas where it could create decisive competitive advantages, including developing financial and HR systems and developing a ‘media anywhere’ ethos. The initiatives proved to be the major drivers behind the IT infrastructure overhaul. “A core switch revamp, new financials and ERP software package are part and parcel of a series of security and infrastructure implementations EMI is working on. These came about from us looking within [the organisation] and identifying its strengths and weaknesses,” says Derek Holland, head of IT at EMI. The enterprise resource planning (ERP) installation was part of a larger Change Programme, in which a major overhaul of EMI’s network and security infrastructure was undertaken. The project, in which EMI revamped its core IT platform by installing four FastIron 800 switches from Foundry back in December 2004, saw the media company up bandwidth at the core to Gigabit speeds with the potential to go up to 10Gigabit. EMI upgraded its IT security and bolstered network performance across the board to avoid network traffic bottleneck. EMI decided that Oracle financials would provide a comprehensive, scalable ERP solution that would meet its requirements well into the future. The implementation was aimed at improving the dated finance system, as well as enhancing the quality and integrity of financial data recording required for managing the organisation effectively. “EMI had the necessary skill set capable of managing Oracle relational database management system (RDMS) as well as Oracle functionality within the business environment, both of which made management and support transition smoother,” says Suleman Umer, Emirates Media’s finance director and project manager for the implementation. “We were aware that a local support structure was already in place, with a number of system integrators available to address our ongoing needs,” he adds. The primary objective of the overhaul was to improve the quality of financial data recorded and provided to the management for its decision-making processes. This, combined with the easing of pressure placed upon the finance department and complete integration with the purchasing and inventory departments, helped streamline EMI’s financial functions. The new solution has replaced the legacy system known as Best, a bespoke system based on FoxPro. The company had been using the old technology for five years and extracting quality data was becoming a challenge. As with all ageing IT products, system enhancement and product support were also becoming troublesome for the media company. An implementation team form Oracle, complimented by Hyperlink consultants, covering both technical and functional roles and responsibilities, managed the project over a six-month period. The approach of the project managers was one of total teamwork, according to Umer. “Due to operational workloads, it was not possible to have the ideal situation where full time EMI staff would have [managed] the implementation. However, we have some very dedicated staff in accounts, IT, purchasing and stores, who all contributed to ensure that project was successful.” There were a number of prerequisites for the implementation, according to Umer, who believes the skills within the organisation were key to the success of the project. “Resilience, focus, strong functional expertise and project management skills are important in this kind of venture. An understanding of the business’ issues and future requirements is also vital, as is an ability to turn the work around with quality and in a timely and consistent fashion,” he adds. “ At EMI, we have both the technical and functional skills to support this and are fortunate enough to have certified accountants. On the technical side, Oracle developers and DBA skill pools were available on request.” The standard data required for the ERP modules was migrated after extracting and cleansing. EMI transferred a cleaned set of supplier and employee data, as well as opening purchase orders, general ledger and accounts balances and fixed assets using tools such as application desktop integrator and macro uploads provided by Oracle. “Although set up as an English version, we decided that where possible we ought to attempt to show both English and Arabic fields to meet the missing end user requirements,” explains Umer. Today, all EMI operations in the region are linked through a wide area network (WAN) connection. Now that EMI has the technical finesse, the benefits of cost savings, cycle time reduction, the removal of inefficiencies and the creation of financial visibility are just some of the benefits the company is enjoying. “We see our roadmap as one of continuous improvement. Oracle’s scalability will be utilised to fit EMI’s expansions plans for its ERP solution and beyond,” says Umer. Furthermore, EMI hopes the revamped system will also avert issues relating to the delivery of critical financial data. “It is also critical to secure and mitigate the risks facing the capital investment and corporate data in the wake of external threats faced by organisations in today’s world of digital transactions,” he adds. Training was important to EMI; hence an extensive hands-on training for end users was undertaken. It was conducted at the desk to familiarise users with the new system in their existing surroundings. Technical training associated with the hardware platform supporting the application was also provided. “Knowledge transfer will be seen as a continuous and ongoing aspect of this project. We have built a relationship with the implementers and knowledge transfer is and will be a measure of this relationship in the future,” Umer notes. Company executives anticipate that EMI will see return on investment (ROI) almost immediately. They are expecting improvements across the business, from more frequent management reports to better quality of data. A reduction in the number of errors and an improved morale among staff are already evident. Umer says the acclimatisation of users and of the company as a whole to the new system is going well. “Our enhanced financial control, better visibility and improved processing speed will enable us to comfortably recover our investment.” Umer says that EMI will aim to leverage the new apps by ensuring that payroll and HR systems are interfaced effectively. “We are working toward a fully integrated business support finance function that can drive EMI to the next level and enable future expansion plans,” he says. Further down the line, EMI intends to consolidate all its IT practices. There are plans for an extended ERP solution. In addition, the company’s IT team is exploring ways n which it can align technology to the ever-expanding business needs. Enhancing and promoting intra-business collaboration are currently key concerns and tools associated with file sharing, as well as synchronous and asynchronous solutions, are being analysed and considered. “Information Technology is there to act as an enabler for our business today and in the future,” enthuses Umer.

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