Homebase considers the cost and risk of moving from R/3 to MySAP

DIY retailer Homebase is balancing the cost of testing and the potential disruption it faces against the benefits of upgrading...

DIY retailer Homebase is balancing the cost of testing and the potential disruption it faces against the benefits of upgrading from its SAP R/3 enterprise resource planning systems to the newer, web-based MySAP.

At last month's Sapphire user conference, SAP chief executive Henning Kagermann said 5,000 of the company's customers were still using R/3 ERP systems, but that it expects 1,000 businesses a year to migrate to MySAP.

Homebase said it was satisfied with its current R/3 system, which took four years to implement, but it would consider moving to the web services-based MySAP ERP in 18 months if it could make an adequate business case.

The biggest problem facing Homebase was the amount of testing that was required, said Darrol Radley, SAP support organisation manager.

"As with any business we cannot afford any disruption. If we are going to turn a lot of resources onto testing, we cannot do so much development, and this may disrupt our plans to engage with new initiatives. Cost will come into it, and a compelling business case is crucial at the end of the day," he said.

Radley added that MySAP's new business analytics were of most interest to the retailer and its business partners. SAP has been working with Macromedia to make the interface of its next-generation analytics tools more user friendly. Homebase uses SAP Business Warehouse for its business intelligence, and Business Objects as its data extraction and reporting tool.

"It is not as user-friendly as we would like it to be, and takes longer to configure some of the more complex reports," said Radley. He added that the move to MySAP would reduce the amount of bespoke ABap programming, which would reduce costs significantly. ABap is the language used to develop R/3 processes.

Last year, Homebase moved from decentralised store-level systems to central replenishment managed with SAP. There were some problems with the move, which did not involve the IT system itself, said Radley.

"It was basically a training issue. When you take on central replenishment, people managing it at the centre have to understand their accountability for making sure every store has the replenishment. We were facing too much or too little," he said.

In the past year, Homebase has enhanced its SAP Enterprise Portal to speed up orders. It integrated the portal into the till system so staff only have to enter data once. This has meant customers spend less time waiting at the store counter.

The company has also developed additional functionality in its call centres. This will give better visibility of product order status via the SAP system, both for Homebase agents and call centre agents of sister company Argos, which is not a SAP user.

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