Six times lucky

For most enterprises, implementing an ERP system once is traumatic enough, but EII had the experience six times - yet its executives survived to tell the tale.

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By  Eliot Beer Published  March 9, 2008

For most enterprises, implementing an ERP system once is traumatic enough, but EII had the experience six times - yet its executives survived to tell the tale.

The recently-formed Emaar Industries and Investments (EII) is an investment company aimed at boosting the UAE's industrial sector, and buys in to various firms across the sector.

Currently with 12 subsidiary investments, at the time of the ERP implementation EII had five subsidiaries - each of which also required the ERP system.

With the five subsidiaries, you have to bring everyone together for a meeting, and this was hard. Everybody has their own work, and you have to get them all to agree on one time.

"We started planning in around February 2007 - we appointed KPMG to help us with the system selection," says Jalal El Jazzar, chief financial officer at EII.

"We looked at many systems - we took into consideration the maintenance, the staffing required, how the system would actually fit into our requirements."

"We didn't want to bring something in that would be beyond our requirements - a lot of services, a lot of maintenance. From this exercise we ended up choosing Microsoft NAV, from Columbus IT."

According to El Jazzar, another key reason for choosing NAV was its user-friendly interface, which made it easier for users throughout EII and its subsidiaries to accept the system.

This was a major plus compared to other systems the EII team looked at, which included SAP Business One, Orion, and Microsoft's Great Plains.

After selecting NAV, EII chose Columbus IT as its implementation partner, having shortlisted Columbus and Fujitsu from a wider field.

Following the selection procedure, EII's team began working on the detailed plan to implement NAV in the company itself and its five subsidiaries.

"We place our own financial controllers in all of our investments - every financial controller should have a strong track record, and a very good background," explains El Jazzar.

"Once we'd done the initial configuration of the new system, we brought in all the financial controllers, five at that point, around one table to discuss the requirements of the individual subsidiary companies.

"Every subsidiary had its own requirements - the systems that could be unified, we unified, to have a consistent system across the subsidiaries. Then we worked on whatever had to be retailored to suit the particular requirements of a subsidiary," he adds.

Although the decision to customise the system for the individual needs of particular subsidiaries potentially could have resulted in a massively complex project, EII took the opportunity to optimise the operations of its subsidiaries, so simultaneously reducing the amount of customisation, and improving the performance of its investments.

"When we buy into a company, we look into its organisation structure, and its policies and procedures and processes. Accordingly, when we started the ERP project we conducted an exercise in streamlining these processes and procedures, from finance to purchasing to operations," says El Jazzar.

"At the point of the implementation, these requirements were outlined, although this is a continuous process - you can never have a completely successful ERP implementation on the first attempt. It's an ongoing exercise - but so far the results are very satisfactory," he adds.

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