Decisions on demand

Faisal Bin Qassim Al-Thani & Sons Holding Company (FBQHC) has implemented Oracle's E-Business Suite in an attempt to streamline its business processes and improve financial management.

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By  Matthew Southwell Published  February 25, 2003

I|~||~||~|Faisal Bin Qassim Al-Thani & Sons Holding Company (FBQHC) has completed the first phase of its Oracle E-Business Suite implementation. Designed to streamline the Qatari company’s business processes and improve its financial management, the project has been carried out by an inhouse team and consultants from Ernst & Young.

“We required a solution that could not only enable managers to accurately analyse the performance of the whole group, but which could also enable each individual subsidiary to manage its finances in the most effective manner possible,” explains Ehsan Idrissi, group IT manager at FBQHC.

“Oracle E-Business Suite provided the ideal integrated system to tie our financial data together and deliver greater control over processes,” he adds.

The E-Business Suite replaced a range of legacy and off the shelf applications while also centralising the organisation’s IT systems. According to Idrissi, this eases management and gives each subsidiary the tools it needs to run its business more effectively.

“When I joined two years back there was no IT at the group — it was just legacy systems that were fragmented across the group. We had some small applications that were developed inhouse and some of our companies, even the big ones, were using off the shelf packages that couldn’t serve their needs. Their people had to try their best to do it themselves, but they ended up not being able to deliver real business benefits,” he says.

“Not only was it difficult to manage, but when we tried to consolidate the balance sheet of the group it took a long time and was very difficult,” adds Idrissi.

The Oracle implementation was carried out in accordance with a plan devised by the group IT manager and Ernest & Young. As part of this plan, the inhouse team took responsibility for implementing the smaller modules, such as general ledger and accounts receivable, while specialist consultants handled the larger projects.

“What we did was segregate the heavy load projects from the smaller ones. This meant that if a company required the inventory or distribution models, or heavy data conversion, then we let Ernst &Young, in coordination with our own IT team, do the job. However, we completed the smaller implementations ourselves,” explains Idrissi.

FBQHC’s inhouse team also took responsibility for migrating the bulk of the company’s data from its legacy applications. To simplify the process, it developed its own software that allowed the data to be imported via Excel spreadsheets.

“It was a huge job because we also did a lot of data cleansing to ensure the integrity of the data, however, we wrote the macros that we needed in order to upload the data through Excel sheets,” comments Idrissi.

||**||II|~||~||~|At the same time as migrating the data, the inhouse team also took charge of training end users in each of the Qatari group’s subsidiaries. Helpdesks played a key part in this, as they were able to both educate end users and guide the implementation, ensuring that it met each company’s individual requirements.

“The helpdesks let us know what the situation was in each one [subsidiary]. They also made time to sit and discuss the project with employees, which helped us a lot,” comments Idrissi.

The implementation of Oracle E-Business Suite has necessitated both a hardware and network overhaul. To address the former, FBQHC has implemented IBM RISC/6000 machines in a server farm, which also runs a storage area network (SAN) environment. It has also installed a number of different specification PCs.

“We evaluated what [PCs] we had and tried to phase out old machines or reallocate them depending on the users’ needs. For example, a secretary can use an old Pentium III while an accountant needs a Pentium IV because they are more power hungry,” says Idrissi.

However, while the company was able to upgrade its hardware, the network had to be built from scratch. Idrissi explains that when he arrived at the company around two years ago there was “no network within the offices.” As such, the IT team put together a network design, which was certified by Cisco, and set about building the company’s IT infrastructure with the vendor.

“If you have a strong network then you can implement software more easily. This is why we designed the network and got Cisco in Dubai to certify it. Now we have a range of different networks. For the subsidiaries that are data hungry we have implemented a frame relay and in other sites we have used ISDN. In the three main sites we ended up with Catalyst 4506 Switches and Cisco 3745 Multiservice Access Routers,” explains Idrissi.

Moving forward, FBQHC plans to improve the quality of its reports by using data warehousing and analytical tools. “We want to do more sophisticated reports… so we are inviting different people from Oracle to demonstrate different types of tools to the management. Implementing these [tools] will help build an even better view of the company for our users,” explains Idrissi.

The Qatari company is also looking to boost access to its core business information and is currently evaluating Oracle’s portal technology. Although any implementation is unlikely to begin until the rollout of the E-Business Suite is complete, Idrissi says such access is paramount for both senior management and certain subsidiaries.

“Some of the companies, especially the pharmaceutical ones, need to look into their sales figures directly without getting someone to do it for them. While we could send them a statement each month, it would be better if they have direct access to a portal where they can look at their figures,” he explains.

“At the same time, portal technology will allow individual management to look at key performance indicators (KPIs). This is important because it gives the company the power of information. With that power the management can make strategic decisions based on real knowledge rather than nothing,” concludes Idrissi.||**||

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