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ERP Implementation in Tanzania for A Leading Diverse-Business Group

Business Background

Client is a leading Business Group in Tanzania with major investments and successful operating companies in all key business sectors. The Group employs more than 20,000 people across the country and has diverse interests in Trading, Agriculture, Manufacturing, Energy & Petroleum, Financial Services, Mobile Telephony, Infrastructure and Real Estate, Transport & Logistics and Distribution.

The company commenced its business operations with its trading operations in the 1970’s and trading remains one of the Group’s core businesses. It has an extensive network of stores and distribution outlets in Dar es Salaam, as well as branches in over 30 regions of Tanzania, giving it a significant competitive edge in all the trading operations. Client imports several commodities such as rice, sugar, wheat, maize, cement, fertilizers, etc. They also deal in liquid commodities such as palm fatty acid (PFAD), palm stearin, crude palm oil and olein. The general trading products’ portfolio consists of more than 200 products and client also imports substantial quantities of consumer goods such as toilet soaps, safety matches, dry cell batteries, bubble gum, hurricane lanterns, sewing machines, air conditioners and second-hand clothing amongst other things. Client is also one of Tanzania’s largest and most diverse exporters and commands an impressive network that consists of people, infrastructure, technology, market intelligence, logistics and distribution.

Objectives of ERP Implementation

Client’s organizational structure before ERP implementation was a decentralized one, where individual locations and Branches were not integrated with any network. Most of the data / records were maintained in MS-Excel spread-sheets or in an accounting software at individual locations. There was no way to do any analysis or consolidation of stock or accounts until and unless the data was supplied from all the locations on demand. The stocks were managed more on trust basis than on facts. All the activities at the branches or offices were out of sight of the management and no information was available unless it was asked for. Hence, this became a major hurdle for corporation’s growth. In order to control the business with better efficiencies, the company decided to go for a web based centralized ERP to enforce controls and processes laid down by the MD and the Operations Manager.

Solution Choice

Client had a difficult time to selecting the right solution for their needs as they had a specific kind of requirement which was not possible in an ERP without customization in the ERP. In fact they had taken a chance earlier trying to implement an ERP but had not been able to do so because of their typical requirement. After a lot of discussion and brain storming they decided to go ahead with ebizframe ERP. The main reason behind this decision was that the implementation, customisation and support was being provided by the principle company, Eastern Software Systems (ESS) and ESS had a direct presence in Tanzania for so many years. Moreover the licensing policy of ebizframe ERP is such that in the long run the TCO comes down drastically compared to any other global ERP. This was also an important factor behind the decision as MeTL already had a large number of companies and this was increasing every year.

Implementation Architecture

Earlier it was decided that ebizframe ERP being a web based application, all the users from various locations will punch their data directly to the central server while accessing the ERP thru the internet. This would enable the management to get real time information about every location on the click of a mouse. This would also ensure discipline within the organization and restrain the workforce from delaying the job at hand. But looking at the less reliable connectivity solution available in the areas where client was operating, it was decided that apart from the Central Server, specific modules of ebizframe would be installed at the various locations as well so that there may not be any interruption in the day to day business even if the internet was down for some time and the users could enter their data and carry on with their work. ebizframe ERP is developed on a 3 – Tier Architecture and hence the users have no direct access to the data. This feature of the ERP increases the security of the data which was an important asset for the organization and about which client was seriously apprehensive about. ebizframe ERP has certain inbuilt features which helps the organization to communicate with the users sitting in distant locations using the intranet or the internet at no extra cost.

Ebizframe ERP Implementation

The Order for the Implementation of ERP was signed in January 2011 for the core operations. A full-fledged Gap Analysis and SRS was done and signed off before the actual implementation commenced. After the changes were made in the software and onsite implementation was done with fine tuning the teething problems client went live in August 2012 with a few modules and gradually went live with the rest of the modules. ebizframe was customized as per the finalized documentation and some re-engineering of their business processes was also adopted as the organization moved from a decentralized semi computerized system to an on-line centralized system in a controlled operations environment.

Benefits Derived

The post implementation scenario at client’s end is completely different from what it was earlier. Currently the information from all the locations is stored and processed at the Central Server and the information is available at the click of a mouse to the users with adequate viewing rights. This also helps the management to take informed decisions for any specific functional area and/or branches. This has also increased the control on the invoicing and the payment cycle, ultimately resulting in greater running capital rotation. Some other benefits derived from this implementation are a) generation of invoice in a controlled environment, b) efficiently monitoring of man-power at various locations or branches and the calculation of their pay-outs, c) monitoring of the availability of stocks more efficiently resulting in proper supply-chain management.