Whitbread rolls out Oracle in quest for standard processes

Food and leisure group Whitbread is planning an extensive roll out of Oracle's E-Business Suite, to implement group-wide...

Food and leisure group Whitbread is planning an extensive roll out of Oracle's E-Business Suite, to implement group-wide processes for the first time and cut costs.

Whitbread, which incorporates brands such as David Lloyd, Costa Coffee, TGI Fridays and Travel Inn, will start replacing all of its legacy systems with the Financials, Human Resources, Payroll and Supply Chain Management modules of the E-Business Suite next June.

Jonathan Eales, programme director at Whitbread, admitted that such a large implementation was unusual during the current economic climate but said the old systems have become difficult to manage.

"We needed to replace our financial and payroll systems anyway, and the company took the bold step of putting new systems in across the board," he said.

"We have put a lot of effort into proving the investment case and have identified a number of levels of return. If everything works out as well as possible, we hope to achieve more than 50% return on investment."

One of the main advantages of putting in a uniform system across the group is that it will allow Whitbread's board members to access information about the business as a whole without having to wait for weeks for the data to be collected, Eales said.

"We view this as a business and process change project as much as anything else," he explained. "For the first time we will be able to view company data that is updated in real time and is relevant company wide."

There are a number of hurdles to overcome before Whitbread will begin reaping these benefits, admitted Eales.

"The crossover period when the old and new systems are running in parallel will be complex," he said. "That is the scariest part of the project."

Oracle has faced criticism in recent months for having a complex licensing model, but Eales said the licensing was straightforward for this project.

"We made it clear which modules we wanted and Oracle gave us a simplified bundle," he said. "They gave us more than we wanted immediately but there are modules we will be able to exploit in the future, such as CRM."

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