Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solutions provide the digital backbone for companies seeking operational transformation and efficiencies — but they are inherently complicated, and notoriously challenging to implement. When successfully executed, an ERP upgrade has profound business implications that can directly improve a firm’s profitability.

For Australian companies seeking expansion in global markets, identifying the need to digitally transform their operations with a robust ERP solution will become more commonplace.

Nuseed is one such Australian firm that achieved measurable benefits directly attributable to its ERP systems overhaul. As Australia’s largest crop protection company — and a growing subsidiary of Nufarm — Nuseed’s 300 employees operate globally across 100 countries. The agro-based firm determined the necessity to upgrade its ERP systems to enable real-time visibility of its global operations’ large data and inventory as a basis for better decision-making.

After a two-year digital transformation journey, Nuseed was able to address many challenges that beset its multi-market operations by implementing a single cloud-based ERP system. The result has been a significant improvement in its operational efficiencies, with 17 per cent reduction in costs. The company now forecasts growth of over $300 million in next two years.

Which-50 chatted to Justin Majcher, global director for business systems and IT at Nuseed, about his firm’s experience in rolling out a new ERP solution.

MG: How do you make a company-wide business case that an ERP solution is a necessary investment? Moreover, how do you estimate the business benefits and efficiencies that a robust ERP solution can deliver?

JM: As a seed company operating in multiple countries, we needed a better process to run our global business more efficiently and standardise our systems and processes. Previously, we had too many ERP systems that were not integrated, and this made decisions challenging as the data was in too many places.

MG: How do you ensure that an organisation has adequately budgeted for an ERP solution investment?

JM: We worked very closely with our consulting partner and vendor — Oracle NetSuite — to understand our processes and the potential level of complexity to implement an ERP for our global business. We then completed a top-down budgeting process and went through an internal review process.

MG: How do you decide what individual specialist applications to integrate into the ERP solution? What are the challenges of implementing specialist applications into an ERP stack and how can they be overcome?

JM: Our overarching goal was to consolidate as many systems as possible into the ERP to streamline our IT support and delivery models. We had many unique systems that were built from the ground up that we needed to understand their true business purpose and how we could standardise them globally in our ERP. There was a deep partnership between IT and the business to consolidate our systems and globalise our business processes.

MG: An ERP solution forms the application backbone of a business for at least the next ten years. What was your strategy for keeping the ERP solution to as close to ‘out-of-box’ versus implementing a specialised configuration of the ERP infrastructure?

JM: Our goal was to customise and configure only where our business processes demanded it. This applied globally so that all of our entities could leverage the same processes. Having an out-of-box solution helped reduce complexity and minimised the risk of overrunning our budget or timeline.

MG: How do you overcome common challenges and pitfalls in rolling out an ERP solution so that it delivers the transformational benefits to the company that was planned for when the original investment was made?

JM: We accomplished this through strong project management and close engagement with our stakeholders. Our stakeholders were close enough to the implementation to ensure we had proper change management procedures and user adoption to drive the benefits in the business case. All of our project team members were aware of the business benefits of implementation and were empowered to ensure the new solution realised those benefits.

MG: How do you manage to roll out an ERP solution keeping to timescales and budget?

JM: This was managed through strong project management principles with a balanced project team ranging from key subject matter experts to the leadership level. We empowered the right people to make decisive decisions while also keeping a global lens on our other entities. We also had close engagement with our implementation partner and Oracle NetSuite that provided guidance and expertise throughout the implementation when we required it. Any decisions that could deviate from budget or timeline were escalated to our steering committee for guidance.

MG: How do you train employees across the business units to use the newly rolled out ERP solution, and to maximise its functionality?

JM: The project team had a well-defined communication plan to ensure the right users were trained at the right times during the implementation. Many users were part of the testing team, so they were able to provide real-time feedback and understand the new system before it was fully implemented.  This ensured the users had buy-in early in the project and there were minimal disruptions during the go live.

MG: What have been some of the most significant business gains Nuseed has seen in rolling out a new ERP solution?

JM: We have seen a number of benefits. The biggest is having all of our subsidiaries on one ERP instance that drives consistent, global processes. We now have the ability to see consolidated financial numbers (revenue, gross margin, expenses, inventory) based on our corporate currency as well as at the currency at the local level. This drives better decision-making as we can identify trends through data analytics and helps us drive efficiency through clean master data.

MG: How do you manage system upgrades and the ability to apply patches?

JM: We work closely with our vendor to test the system upgrades in our sandbox environment before the production changes are rolled out. Oracle NetSuite gives us ample time to plan and execute on our test plans to ensure our users are minimally impacted once the upgrades and patches have been implemented.

MG: What were the particular functionalities of your chosen vendor that made it the appropriate solution for Nuseed versus competing vendors?

JM: The biggest factor was it being a true cloud solution. Oracle NetSuite would handle all the infrastructure, disaster recovery, backups, redundancy, etc. that we required, without us having to invest in internal resources to manage this. The second factor was the speed to implement with a robust cloud provider.

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