JD Williams’s core apparel customers rely on paper catalogues, yet the future lies with younger purchasers who rely almost totally on digital channels. How could the company revitalize its brand appeal?
The company is embarking on complete transformation of its processes, based on Oracle Retail Merchandising System and Oracle ERP solutions, to become a true multi-channel retailer.
Will transformmultichannel retail capabilities
Enablesenterprise-wide standard chart of accounts
Cutsmonthly reporting and consolidation time
Business challenge story
Reaching out to new markets
Part of the N Brown Group of home shopping retailers, JD Williams focuses on plus-size fashion and style, sold in a department-store format. Group revenues are around £818 million, generating operating profits of some £93 million. JD Williams employs 3,000 people, and is one of the flagship brands for N Brown.
While printed catalogues have formed the core of the business, the market has moved dramatically to online purchasing, particularly on mobiles and tablets. In the back office, JD Williams relied on multiple separate systems for finance, procurement and a host of business management tasks. In the days of paper catalogues these systems worked well and reliably, with well-practiced routines for collecting and analyzing sales, stock and related data.
As online sales grew, it became clear that the lack of back-office integration was a potential brake on JD Williams’ growth. Consumers purchasing via tablet and mobile phone tend to be younger than the company’s traditional customer base, and JD Williams wanted to maximize the opportunity to revitalize its brands to capture these new shoppers.
David Hilary, Programme Manager & Finance Transformation Manager, explains, “JD Williams is moving from a catalogue company to a modern multichannel company, and the business is focusing on its power brands. The strategic business transformation program, named ‘Fit for the Future’, aims to move the company to a truly ‘digital first’ mindset, based on innovation. We recognized that various elements of our supporting systems were technically and functionally holding the business back. At the group level we chose to migrate to an integrated, industry-standard core Finance & Procurement platform that could scale effectively and allow us to grow the fashion retail business itself, the consumer credit business, and help us meet regulatory requirements that we struggled to satisfy with the old systems.”
IBM® Services was contracted to deliver the first release of the program, Finance Transformation, designed to provide a back-office baseline which the enterprise program can use as a secure foundation for growth. IBM Services was responsible for all aspects of the design and build, and the majority of the testing of the solution (application and integration). IBM Services was also responsible for data migration and change management including training development and train the trainer.
Nicola Mead, Group Finance Systems & Effectiveness Manager, adds, “In particular, our finances were not integrated with anything else. We wanted common financial practices across the group, such as procure-to-pay and order-to-cash, which in turn implied using a standard chart of accounts. The group had chosen Oracle Retail Management System, and our task was to deploy Oracle Fusion Finance and Oracle Fusion Procurement in a Finance Transformation program as the key enablers for our retail transformation.”
Steering an enterprise-wide transformation
The combined team considered the new chart of accounts, and the best approach to standardize processes across the enterprise. JD Williams wanted to simplify procedures, for example with standardized management reports, automated cash and bank processing, and self-service procurement. With so much of the later implementation phases of the Oracle Retail Management System dependent on the Finance Transformation project, JD Williams selected IBM Services to help it deliver on this critical first phase.
Andy Haywood, Chief Information Officer, says, “We chose IBM Services to deliver this release because of their expertise and track record in Oracle Back Office implementations. Oracle Fusion is new to the market and IBM Services gave us confidence that they had the necessary skills to deliver a quality solution on time.”
David Hilary confirms, “IBM offered a compelling mix of Oracle implementation experience, with clear capability and a strongly competitive commercial offer. For JD Williams, the IBM Services team working with us occupied the sweet spot between understanding the products combined with having the business acumen. For example, some IBM Services resources had accounting qualifications, and we also had specialists on board for each area such as Receivables, Payables and General Ledger.
“We found that IBM Services consultants were very approachable and professional. In particular, IBM brought the attitude ‘whatever it takes we will hit the dates,’ and were always open, honest and transparent in their dealings. Very rapidly, IBM Services became a trusted decision-maker, helping us find the best route for JD Williams.”
Working in true partnership, JD Williams implemented a range of Oracle Fusion solutions, including Fusion Financials (General Ledger, Cash Management, Receivables, Payables and Tax), Fusion Procurement (iProcurement and Purchasing), Fusion Middleware (to integrate with legacy systems including a new third party scanning bureau), and OBIEE Dashboards (Financial Analytics, Procurement & Spend Analytics) for management information.
David Hilary continues, “Part of the partnership is that IBM has helped us learn how to deliver programs of this nature. This has helped us to transform the culture to think on a much greater scale. Remarkably, even at a time of significant reorganization at JD Williams, IBM Services kept the program on track. This was not about under-promising and over-delivering; IBM Services simply promised and delivered.”
Nicola Mead remarks, “We worked through the challenges with IBM Services, and completed both the Oracle Fusion Finance and Oracle Fusion Procurement exactly on schedule. IBM Services was intimately involved in planning and preparing the new chart of accounts, and the time spent in preparation and subsequently in training certainly paid dividends.
“JD Williams engaged IBM to provide training, train the trainers and change management advice, using both on- and off-shore resources in a very successful combination. This was a first-of-a-kind implementation for both JD Williams and Oracle, and as with any project there were hurdles to jump and timelines to hit, and IBM provided assistance with accessing the Advanced Customer Support (ACS) service at Oracle to ensure we gained traction.”
Ready for multichannel
The Finance Transformation program represents the foundation of the larger journey to revitalize the brands, with full multichannel retailing enabled by Oracle Retail Management System.
Nicola Mead explains the future benefits, “By establishing an enterprise-wide chart of accounts and standardized financial processes, the company will see the benefits of centralized business data. Using Oracle Fusion Finance and Oracle Fusion Procurement will greatly simplify the month-end routine, and in time we will attach stock valuation and planning solutions to help us gain a full picture of operations across the enterprise.”
Nicola Mead continues, “By linking stock, planning and procurement solutions, we will be able to optimize our performance and efficiency, helping us to gain economies of scale and supplier discounts. This will apply to all goods not for resale, and in turn provide the foundation for the Oracle Retail Management System, handling fashion and goods for resale. The Oracle Fusion Finance and Oracle Fusion Procurement solutions give us the capability to respond to change, enabling us to support the strategic business transformation of the company.”
David Hilary adds, “For example, IBM Services was very involved in integrating a third-party invoice-scanning solution that enables us to capture invoice data direct to the financial system. IBM Services pinned down the business process and mapped the technical integration points. Even with many late additions to the scope, IBM delivered a great service.
“The dedication of the IBM Services team to meet the deadlines and release dates, combined with great attention to detail, produced an excellent result. The culture at IBM Services clearly delivers on what they promise, with true consulting value-add. The consultants express their opinions in a way that is not domineering and allows scope for discussion and choice, supported by deep technical expertise, creating a solution that really works for JD Williams.”
Andy Haywood concludes, “The program proved complex and challenging, but despite this IBM Services provided the leadership, resources and commitment to get us to the go-live. The IBM team went above and beyond in both their responsibilities and working hours to ensure we delivered. The team demonstrated excellent behaviors, flexibility and commitment, which was much appreciated by JD Williams.”
About JD Williams
With over 140 years’ experience in distance shopping, JD Williams and Company Ltd sells fashion clothing and footwear alongside household and electrical goods in a department-store format. JD Williams also provide financial services to its customers, including flexible credit plans.
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- IBM Global Business Services