Crossed Wires

SHOVING TOO MANY PLUGS INTO A SOCKET could result in gadgets that glitch. Similarly, when too many software systems are installed at one company, wires can cross, data can be overlooked and haulers are left with headaches. The Southeastern Public Service Authority (SPSA), Chesapeake, Va., was ready to pull the plug on its tangled software when it decided to outsource a technology specialist to integrate all of its information into one system.

The SPSA manages and operates solid waste collection, processing and disposal programs and facilities in southeastern Virginia. When the company recently examined its core business functions, it found that a number of separate software systems were responsible for various aspects of financial, administrative and maintenance functions. Those nonintegrated systems were technologically out-of-date and unable to generate real-time data, disabling SPSA's ability to make informed decisions.

When its current software providers discontinued system support, the SPSA decided to use the transition to implement a new system. However, there were major decisions to be made. For example, who would help SPSA integrate the system, and what was the right technology to use?

The authority decided to work with Norwalk, Conn.-based Siemens Business Services (SBS), whose roster of SAP-related resources met SPSA's technology goals. The SPSA wanted to have some control over the final configuration of its SAP system, so SBS kept the company involved throughout the project. SBS used its AcceleratedSAP (ASAP) methodology to address each phase in the planning, design, installation, support and ongoing administration. This approach enhances overall enterprise resource planning (ERP) for the SPSA.

The process, from initial planning through going live, was completed in nine months. The new system allows the SPSA to streamline core administrative and financial processes, as well as to standardize business processes and practices. The authority estimates the project trimmed nearly $3 million from its storeroom inventory, and 200 man-hours previously spent each week on time-care management have been eliminated.

Ideally, every company would have a designated staff member to handle large-scale system integration, but reality often requires companies to outsource the technical expertise for planning and initiating the move. Finding the right partner is critical to meeting the next challenge — adopting and implementing the best technology strategy. A good partner can work with companies to plan, develop and deploy processes to ensure that the chosen solution meets business and technical requirements, and be able to manage the system internally once the project is complete.

Once the partner and the strategy are in place, finding and implementing the right technology is the next step. It is critical that businesses work closely with their implementer to select tools that will meet both current and future needs, allowing room for organizational growth or changing goals.

For example, if the goal is to streamline processes and increase productivity, then the company may consider an ERP solution. Businesses should keep in mind that while it is possible to custom-develop a functionally integrated system, the process could easily take several years to complete. Customers can take advantage of rapid deployments, however, by using “pre-developed” ERP software. Software such as ERP offers information integration and opportunities to re-engineer business processes based on industry best practices. The benefits of integrating disparate software systems are numerous, and include:

  • Cost Savings. Primary savings are generated simply because maintaining multiple systems and eliminating data redundancy cost money. Integration reduces the additional staff that is necessary to maintain multiple systems, and it can reduce the error factor by as much as 98 percent.

  • Inventory Management. Using one system companywide means every department has one-touch access to other departments' inventory, which can result in reduced excess inventory, streamlined ordering and greater inventory control. Departments such as finance and purchasing and operations realize immediate benefit by cutting cost and excessive inventory levels.

  • Time Savings. Businesses will receive one cohesive time report each month, enabling senior management to see where time is being spent, where cuts can be made and where staff needs to be added. This is difficult to do when reports are pulled from multiple sources, as the documentation contains unintegrated, often illegible information, making it difficult to obtain a big-picture summary.

  • Better Decision-Making Capabilities. Moving to an SAP environment can help companies identify many inefficient, longstanding issues. By pulling every department under a singular technological umbrella and increasing the visibility into all departments, a business will have heightened accountability that will help in becoming more effective in doing business.

Of course, not every company will generate all of these benefits by moving to a single software system, and the level of benefit will vary. But with careful planning, expert advice and steadfast execution, most businesses will experience an increase in productivity and a decrease in expenditures by eliminating repetitive or non-core activities.

Like a good powercord, integrating software can untangle information for haulers so that trucks find their routes, invoices find their recipients and trash finds its way to the dump.