Supermarket Sweep

Majid Al Futtaim (MAF) has embarked on a massive JD Edwards One World implementation that will see the enterprise resource planning (ERP) application rolled out across all of its Carrefour hypermarkets in the Middle East.

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By  Matthew Southwell Published  September 24, 2002

|~||~||~|Majid Al Futtaim (MAF) has embarked on a massive JD Edwards One World implementation that will see the enterprise resource planning (ERP) application rolled out across all of its Carrefour hypermarkets in the Middle East.

During September, the first phase of the project went live as the company’s Shindagha store opened its doors with One World’s financial modules fully functional. The group’s Sharjah store will go live sometime in October, while MAF’s Ajman and Deira hypermarkets will finish deploying the ERP application by the end of November.

Although MAF has been using JD Edwards as its preferred ERP solution since 1994, its joint ventures, such as the Carrefour hypermarkets initiative, typically use the systems of its foreign partners.

However, RS Natekar, group IT manager at MAF, says the company saw an opportunity to convert the French company from its GAV/PROFI system to JD Edwards as it lacked a centralised IT strategy.

“We usually fall back on the joint venture partner because we do not want to reinvent the wheel. However, they [Carrefour] did not have a standard system because they have different IT strategies for different geographical regions. They use PeopleSoft as their back office financials application, but we convinced them that JD Edwards could bring a lot of advantages,” explains Natekar.

Among the advantages the One World suite delivers is ease of use and integration with MAF’s existing IT infrastructure. Natekar is particularly fond of the solution’s soft coding features, which allow the group’s IT department to cut down the application features without having to alter its core.

“JD Edwards has good soft coding features. This means we can customise the system without having to touch the programmes. One World can be tailored very easily and it is possible to make it feel as though the application was made for the identified user,” says Natekar.

“It is important to do this, so you can control the options the user gets and hide the functions that they do not need. We make it work logically for them and make it flow easily,” he adds.

Although the One World application has yet to be integrated with the group’s supermarket software and IBM 4693 point-of-sale (POS) hardware, Natekar says this will be a simple process, as “JD Edwards uses an open file structure, which makes it fairly easy for any third party software to interface with it.”

In fact, the hardest part of the roll out to date has been the migration of data from MAF’s existing AS/400 DB2 database to the SQL 2000 database on which One World runs.

“The biggest challenge is the existing data that has to be converted to JD Edwards. In the case of Shindagha, there was pre-opening store data on an AS/400 DB2 database, which had to be converted to the JDE Client/Server SQL 2000 database… However, One World is a fully integrated system that is easy to use and it is very user-friendly because it allows you to work with a Windows-like interface,” explains Natekar.

Despite the migration issues, MAF opted against running its AS/400-based application in parallel with One World. Natekar says this was due to the confidence the group’s IT team had in both the application and its implementation partner, Dalma Computer Systems (DCS).

“In our environment we need to be very careful, however the stability of the JD Edwards Financial System is such that one can avoid the tremendous hassle of parallel runs… Furthermore, a cut-off date is always taken for the existing stores for roll out and if all the groundwork is pre-defined and all probabilities are taken care of, it is easy,” says the group IT manager.

Currently, each Carrefour store is connected to MAF’s centralised IT department by direct leased lines. This allows store data to be sent back to a centralised repository where the group employs an executive information system (EIS), called CARAT, to consolidate results. This in turn helps a central purchasing team get the best deals for the hypermarkets.

“The EIS tool helps to provide benchmarking results by store. Retail compares the buying results of what has been bought and we have a central negotiation team that negotiates for all of our stores. This helps to get the benefits of bulk purchasing and supplier rebates,” comments Natekar.

Although MAF’s leased line connections are working well, the group is considering moving to an IP-based virtual private network (VPN). Not only will this reduce costs, but it will also allow the IT team to remotely manage the back end systems of its stores elsewhere in the region — such as the Carrefour Hypermarket it is planning to open in Egypt. “We have leased lines across all of our remote sites... However, we are testing VPN because the internet is a very cost-effective solution,” says Natekar.

The group IT manager explains that migrating One World to VPN should be simple, as the solution is already web-enabled. However, because the internet leaves the group more exposed to security threats, Natekar is keen to ensure that the integrity of the ERP application will remain before running it over the VPN.

“The internet is exposed to intruders so we have to make sure that we have a secure environment that can identify each user… Fortunately, JD Edwards has comprehensive security built into the system and One World provides a very strong secured environment that can go to ‘option’ and ‘field’ level security,” he says.||**||

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