Aigle prepares financial systems for ambitious global expansion with SAP and IBM

Published on 04-Feb-2013

"The IBM and SAP solution will seamlessly absorb the growing volumes of data, enabling a clear view of global financial performance without the need to add headcount in the finance function." - Yves Trousselle, Chief Information Officer, AIGLE International s.a.

Customer:
AIGLE International s.a.

Industry:
Retail

Deployment country:
France

Solution:
Business Resiliency, Enabling Business Flexibility, Information Integration, Virtualization, Virtualization - Server

IBM Business Partner:
SAP

Overview

Famed for its handmade wellington boots, AIGLE International s.a. (Aigle) of France also offers a range of fashionable footwear and clothing for men, women and children. The company, part of Maus Frères, which also owns Devanlay Lacoste and Gant among others, manufactures 4,000 pairs of natural rubber boots daily.

Business need:
To support its ambitious growth plans, particularly in Asia, AIGLE International s.a. needed greater centralization and standardization of financial-management processes and a real-time global view of key financial metrics. Producing consolidated financial reports from the variety of systems used in different countries required significant manual aggregation and transformation of data, introducing delays and the risk of human error.

Solution:
To prepare for the tighter integration of its worldwide operations, without impeding local flexibility and autonomy, Aigle worked with IBM Global Business Services to deploy the financial components within the IBM Express solution for SAP Business All-in-One for Consumer Products, and to optimize existing processes. The combination of a highly experienced IBM project manager and the IBM Express methodology enabled Aigle to go into production within just eight months - precisely on schedule.

Benefits:
Accelerated deployment using the IBM Express methodology within budget, including transformation of existing finance processes. Provided high flexibility and resilience. Increased control over financial processes such as purchasing and billing. Improved visibility of key financial information such as outstanding invoices. Enhanced ability to generate metrics such as interim cash-flow forecast. Accelerated financial analysis and reporting.

Case Study

Famed for its handmade wellington boots, AIGLE International s.a. (Aigle) of France also offers a range of fashionable footwear and clothing for men, women and children. The company, part of Maus Frères, which also owns Devanlay Lacoste and Gant among others, manufactures 4,000 pairs of natural rubber boots daily.

Aigle sells its goods in its own branded outlets and through retail partners in more than 30 countries worldwide.

Aigle sees strong opportunities for growth in the coming years, both in Northern Europe and in Asia. Its core Asian markets of Hong Kong SAR, China, South Korea and Japan currently account for approximately 20 to 25 percent of global annual revenues.

Over the next five years, Aigle is aiming both to increase this proportion to 50 percent of the total, while also increasing its overall revenues.

“To support our ambitious international growth plans, the future structure of the company needs to be more strongly centralized,” explains Yves Trousselle, Chief Information Officer, AIGLE International s.a.

“On the financial side, we aim to have a common set of processes and standardized global reporting, so that there will be complete transparency and a real-time central view of financial performance and growth. In practical terms, the first step was to introduce a new common financial system that would offer global standardization without impeding local flexibility.”

Facing up to the growth challenge

In France and in a few other European countries, Aigle had a standard financial accounting and reporting tool, but particularly in Asia there was a wide variety of systems in use. To understand its performance in different markets and to provide a complete and accurate global picture, the corporate finance team had to aggregate data arriving in multiple formats from multiple different systems.

This data consolidation process was time-consuming and slow, tying up valuable staff resources in frustrating and potentially error-prone manual processes, and delaying the production of accurate metrics on financial performance. While the problems were not especially acute, Aigle knew that its existing approach would scale poorly as the business expanded.

“The existing finance system was completely adapted to the French market, and not particularly well-suited to our European activity,” says Yves Trousselle. “It would have been even less appropriate to impose it on our Asian operations, where it would not have coped with the different legal and regulatory structures, and where we would have been unable to provide effective system support.”

To help enable its planned business expansion, Aigle wanted a single global standard for financial processes and reporting, underpinned by a common financial-management solution. The solution would need to be capable of supporting multiple languages and jurisdictions, and global support was a must.

“We needed a solution that we could roll out globally, that would support local legal and accounting standards, and that would also offer consolidated global reporting,” says Yves Trousselle. “There were only really two or three vendors that could offer such a solution. The key reason for choosing SAP was that we found several references for companies in our industry which had successfully deployed SAP financial solutions with help from IBM.”

Choosing a joint solution

Aigle visited several IBM reference sites for fashion retailers that had deployed SAP solutions, noting that they were happy both with the software itself and with IBM’s work in deploying and integrating it. “It was really a choice for IBM and SAP at the same time, almost as a packaged solution,” recalls Yves Trousselle.

“We felt that IBM would be capable of deploying SAP rapidly and within our tight budgetary limits, and we asked them to work with us on a study to confirm the feasibility of our plans. Based on the outcomes of this study, we were confident to go ahead without the cost and delay of running a formal RFP process.”

IBM® Global Business Services® helped Aigle to deploy the financial components within the IBM Express solution for SAP® Business All-in-One for Consumer Products. The SAP solution at Aigle was deployed as a one-for-one replacement for the original financial system in France, taking its place alongside two other key systems: a legacy sales system running on the IBM i platform, and an industry-specific ERP solution providing functionality across material management, manufacturing control, purchasing, supply chain management and warehousing. IBM integrated the SAP solution with these existing systems.

There are currently approximately 30 users for the new SAP solution in France: ten for the financial-management solution (SAP financials), four for cost accounting (SAP controlling) and the remainder for purchasing (SAP materials management).

The latter component also employs SAP Business Workflow to manage purchasing approvals where two signatories are required. The purchasing of raw materials for the manufacturing side of the business continues to be handled in Aigle’s industry-specific ERP system; the SAP element is used for non-core purchases such as IT infrastructure, office equipment, office furniture and so on.

Next on the rollout schedule are the UK and Germany, followed over the course of three years by the remaining country operations. The total global user base for SAP at the end of the rollout is expected to reach approximately 50 people.

The SAP solutions at Aigle run on Microsoft Windows Server 2008, virtualized on VMware vSphere and hosted on IBM BladeCenter® servers. The SAP production and test landscapes each run on an IBM blade with two quad-core Intel Xeon processors running at 2.53 GHz, with 8 GB of memory. VMware vSphere is used to create four virtual processors across the two Xeon CPUs.

The SAP quality assurance landscape runs on an IBM blade with a single quad-core Intel Xeon processor running at 2.83 GHz, with 4 GB of memory. This processor is also set up to appear as four virtual processors to the operating system. The powerful and reliable IBM BladeCenter servers provide a high-performance, high-availability platform for the business-critical SAP systems, while the use of VMware virtualization enables extremely flexible utilization of the computing resources.

An IBM System Storage® DS3200 array provides reliable high-performance data storage for the SAP databases, which run on Microsoft SQL Server 2008, also virtualized on VMware. The use of server virtualization enabled Aigle to create distinct virtual environments for its SAP production, quality assurance and test/development landscapes, while minimizing the number of physical servers it required. Virtualization also enables greater flexibility; Aigle can effectively borrow virtual resources from non-production environments if it needs greater capacity for the production systems.

Tried-and-trusted path to success

Aigle sees the experience of the IBM Global Business Services project manager as a key success factor in its deployment of its SAP solutions. “We asked to work with the same consultant who had managed the deployment of SAP at the customer reference sites that we viewed,” says Yves Trousselle.

“He was a highly experienced project manager with a very good understanding of our industry and deep experience of integrating SAP with our industry-standard systems.”

“The best thing about working with the IBM consultants was their permanent presence during the deployment,” comments Carole Debernard, SAP user manager for Financial Activities, AIGLE International s.a. “The IBM consultants encouraged us to think differently and challenged our existing financial-management processes during the validation stage, which enabled us to refine them as part of the deployment.”

Knowing that Aigle had a strictly limited budget and wanted ultimately to accomplish a staged global rollout that would deliver fast ROI at each stage, the team proposed the IBM Express solution for SAP Business All-in-One for Consumer Products. This solution includes a number of templates and accelerators that can significantly reduce time-to-value. The IBM Global Business Services consultants ran a series of workshops with both business and IT stakeholders, using the IBM Component Business Model to build a picture of the ‘as-is’ and ‘to-be’ states and to facilitate gap analysis.

“For each parameter of the solution, we identified the two or three gaps that we most needed to focus on,” says Carole Debernard. “IBM then came up with suggestions for how to close the gaps with the smallest possible amount of customization in the SAP software. We made the decision early on to adapt our processes to those embodied in the SAP solution, rather than spending time and effort customizing the software.

“It was a very pragmatic approach: IBM said, ‘This is how it will work in SAP, and this is what you’ve got to do.’ We then carried out change-management activities to adapt our processes and make them more structured.”

Rapid deployment as the first step in a global rollout

Thanks in part to the pre-packaging and templating work carried out by IBM and the IBM Express methodology, Aigle completed its rollout of the SAP finance components to its operations in France within just eight months, keeping within the planned budget.

“Both Aigle and IBM were committed to speed and discipline in project management,” recalls Yves Trousselle.

“We did everything we could to remain within the standard SAP functionality and data models, and we were to the second and to the Euro in terms of timing and cost compared to what IBM originally proposed. The speed of the rollout was pretty stunning.” He adds, “There was a very good fit between us and the IBM team; having a good working environment was certainly an element in our success. And on the IBM side, the project methodologies seemed to be very well adapted both to SAP and to our business. Another important success factor was the control over the financial and timing aspects of the project. Part of that was due to IBM’s competence, and part was due to having a finance project leader on the Aigle side who was very closely involved and able to make decisions almost in real time. This meant that we never really encountered any roadblocks. We also had clearly defined roles, to avoid people doubling up work or treading on each other’s toes.

“Finally, Aigle was committed to the SAP deployment at board level, as a strategically important project. People in the business were prepared to accept the necessary changes, and the Finance Director made sure that the right people were able to attend the appropriate project meetings. We created the right environment at Aigle to minimize the risk and maximize the effectiveness of the project management, and this is now the model for how we will run major projects in the future.”

Ready for new horizons

With the SAP solution now fully operational in France, Aigle is ready for real-time global financial control and reporting. It is also better prepared for group reporting, as its parent company (Maus) also uses SAP, as do other Maus subsidiaries, including the renowned Lacoste brand.

“We are now fully prepared for global reporting and analysis,” says Yves Trousselle. “With interfaces to our ERP systems, we can look at – for example – outstanding orders that are not yet billed, and produce interim cash-flow forecasts much faster and with less effort. We took advantage of the SAP rollout to put in place better invoice controls,” says Carole Debernard. “Everything is now more structured. The reporting and analysis are much faster, and those are the really important elements in terms of supporting the global expansion. On the data-capture side, we anticipate introducing new approaches including optical character recognition [OCR] to accelerate the process and minimize manual administration.”

As its global SAP solution is backed by two of the world’s largest enterprise-technology companies – IBM and SAP – Aigle has significantly reduced the risk associated with its financial systems, which were previously supplied by a small niche vendor.

“Rolling out the SAP financial components with IBM Global Business Services has been a transformational project and an investment for the future,” says Yves Trousselle. “In the past, we were managing to consolidate the global figures without too much difficulty. However, we knew that our manual workarounds would not be able to scale in line with our projected growth.

“The IBM and SAP solution will seamlessly absorb the growing volumes of data, enabling a clear view of global financial performance without the need to add headcount in the finance function.”

Products and services used

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

Hardware:
BladeCenter, BladeCenter running hypervisor - VMware, Storage, Storage: DS3200

Service:
GBS ISV Community: SAP, GBS Strategy and Change: Business Strategy, GBS Strategy and Change: Technology Strategy, IBM-SAP Alliance

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