Corporate Express Australia Limited solves the challenges of growth

Switching to integrated software creates new opportunities

Published on 06-Aug-2012

Validated on 03 Feb 2014

"With the new SAP software we can scale the business at a much more rapid rate, with fewer resources, which will allow us to be more aggressive in going to market. The IBM Global Business Services team provided us with the robust infrastructure that we can rely on to support the business as it continues to grow." - Garry Whatley, Chief Information Officer, Corporate Express Australia Limited

Customer:
Corporate Express Australia Limited

Industry:
Retail

Deployment country:
Australia

Solution:
BA - Business Intelligence, Enterprise Resource Planning, Information Integration, Small & Medium Business, Transforming Business

IBM Business Partner:
SAP

Overview

A wholly-owned subsidiary of US parent company Staples, Corporate Express Australia Limited is one of Australia and New Zealand’s leading single-source suppliers of business essentials. The company employs more than 2,500 people at some 38 locations throughout the region. Corporate Express offers products and services ranging from IT solutions to office products, and provides a reliable one-stop-shop for all business supply needs.

Business need:
Corporate Express Australia is a steadily-growing company, having acquired some 71 different businesses to date. Acquisition had led to a lack of consistent processes across the company. Corporate Express wanted to move from this environment and introduce a standardized set of company-wide procedures.

Solution:
Corporate Express mapped out an extensive business transformation project to deal with these challenges. As part of the business transformation process, the company engaged IBM® Global Business Services® to deploy a comprehensive suite of SAP ERP applications, as well as SAP Customer Relationship Management and SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence solutions. Two IBM Power Systems™ servers host databases for the SAP applications, which are housed on Cisco Unified Computing System servers.

Benefits:
New SAP applications provide a common platform for company-wide processes, enabling Corporate Express to enhance efficiencies, improve order completion rates and better manage inventory availability. Reduced the amount of backlogs in order processing system by 30 percent. Increased the average dollar value per invoice by three percent overall. Cut the number of transaction errors by approximately 16 percent.

Case Study

A wholly-owned subsidiary of US parent company Staples, Corporate Express Australia Limited is one of Australia and New Zealand’s leading single-source suppliers of business essentials. The company employs more than 2,500 people at some 38 locations throughout the region. Corporate Express offers products and services ranging from IT solutions to office products, and provides a reliable one-stop-shop for all business supply needs.

Lack of standardization threatens growth
Corporate Express was experiencing significant growth as it steadily acquired more and more businesses. However, this expansion was being threatened by a lack of consistency across the business, as Garry Whatley, Chief Information Officer at Corporate Express Australia, explains, “There was a real lack of standardization and integration across a large number of our business processes. In some cases, we had 40 ways of doing the same thing, which was hampering the business from being as efficient as it could be.”

Corporate Express was experiencing difficulties with its existing legacy system, which it had been using to manage its business processes. The system had been introduced following an acquisition, and had been heavily modified throughout the years. The company was concerned that the legacy system no longer had the capacity to deal with the increasingly large number of transactions processed by the business. Order backlogs were growing, and there was no immediate way to increase system capacity.

Garry Whatley continues, “Our previous system was really meant for a small-to-medium business and as we expanded, we simply outgrew the solution. More than 17,000 modifications had been made to the system throughout its lifetime, and it was becoming a challenge to support and maintain. The longer we remained on this system, the more risk it posed to the business and the more it hindered our growth.”

Corporate Express undertook a business review, which identified the need to move to a more centralized model and introduce greater levels of standardization and efficiency at all levels of the business.

As a result of the review, Corporate Express created a project called ‘nXtgen,’ designed to introduce major business transformation to the company and maximize transactional and analytical process efficiency. To make this possible, the company would move to a new generation of technology.

Michael Westenberg, nXtgen Business Program Manager at Corporate Express explains that the company had a number of goals for the new solution: “We wanted to have the entire business operating on the same processes from end to end. It was essential to simplify procedures, and to fit our diverse ways of working into a standard process.”

Delivering a comprehensive SAP system
Corporate Express opened a tendering process and, after evaluating a range of proposals, decided to engage with IBM to implement SAP ERP software.

Garry Whatley says, “We had already established a good relationship with IBM, and knew from experience that IBM had the capability to give us a really good perspective on the business side of things, and not just the technology. We were further reassured by the fact that IBM had a proven record of success with similar SAP implementations and were impressed by the innovative ideas they proposed for running the project.”

IBM Global Business Services worked with the Corporate Express Project Management team to jointly manage the SAP implementation, providing advice, expert SAP knowledge and thought leadership at every stage of the process. A comprehensive suite of SAP ERP applications was implemented, including Sales and Distribution, Materials Management, Warehouse Management, and Financials and Controlling, as well as SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence solutions.

Managing the implementation
The project comprised two phases: the first was centered on business transformation, and involved designing, building and deploying the SAP platform. A key focus of this phase was ensuring integration of the SAP software with Corporate Express’ business processes and systems.

In particular, the IBM Global Business Services team was able to ensure seamless integration between the new SAP systems and the company’s online portal, called NetXpress, that allows corporate customers to browse the Corporate Express catalogue and place orders.

Michael Westenberg comments, “For us, it was essential to integrate our NetXpress system with the new SAP software without affecting performance or causing any downtime to our users. The website is a critical part of our business strategy, as more than 70 percent of all our sales are made via NetXpress. IBM built and deployed a robust SAP platform, highly integrated with NetXpress and our other business processes, which range from online marketing applications to service and warehouse management systems.”
The second phase consisted of migrating all Corporate Express business processes from the legacy system to the new SAP platform. A pilot implementation was carried out in New Zealand in April 2010, followed by an Australia-wide “big bang” implementation that covered 38 locations and some 2,500 users.

Garry Whatley comments, “IBM supported us in handling what could be seen as a very risky single-implementation project incredibly well. We had told some of our customers about the implementation beforehand and they weren’t even aware when it was completed, because it all went so smoothly. The fact that we were able to complete an implementation project of this scale with minimal impact to our customers was a huge plus.”

Robust, reliable SAP environment
The new SAP platform offers superior stability from end to end, and the system immediately proved its reliability. On the first day after the Australia-wide single implementation, Corporate Express Australia processed a record number of customer orders in its major warehouses and received 150 percent more inquiries on its NetXpress customer portal.

Thanks in part to the high level of integration between the SAP software and the NetXpress application, the system smoothly handled the dramatic increase in capacity and by the second day, the backlog in orders had been cleared in all warehouses, with no major incidents raised.

The improved performance capacity of the SAP platform allows Corporate Express to boost transactional efficiency and subsequently process more orders, more quickly. Furthermore, sales teams have improved upon company benchmarks, increasing the average revenue per invoice by three percent, and reducing the number of transaction errors by approximately 16 percent. Backlogs in order processing have also been reduced by 30 percent on average. With these improvements, the company can now focus more intensely on driving up sales and expanding more aggressively, with the solid support of the SAP system.

Enhanced integration and insight
The improved overview of transactions and processing provided by the SAP applications enables Corporate Express to identify areas that are not operating efficiently and enhance accountability across the business, helping to improve staff productivity. The SAP systems deliver accurate, reliable data, driving more incisive analytical insight that managers can use to make more informed, and potentially more viable, business decisions.

Garry Whatley states, “One of the biggest benefits we have seen has been around the quality of the data from the new SAP system. With the improved levels of integration, we are able to capture more data, and better quality data, which drives rigor at all levels of the business and gives us valuable insight that we can use to get a better view of the business and ultimately run the business more efficiently.”

Sustaining future growth
The new SAP applications provide a solid platform for future expansion at Corporate Express, and have eliminated the risk of relying on an outdated legacy system.

Garry Whatley concludes, “With the new SAP software we can scale the business at a much more rapid rate, with fewer resources, which will allow us to be more aggressive in going to market. The IBM Global Business Services team provided us with the robust infrastructure that we can rely on to support the business as it continues to grow.”

Products and services used

IBM products and services that were used in this case study.

Hardware:
Power 570, Power Systems

Service:
GBS ISV Community: SAP, IBM-SAP Alliance, IBM Global Business Services

Legal Information

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