Northern Rail was formed from a merger of two train operating companies in December 2004 and inherited an ageing SAP system for running its financial and purchasing functions – a legacy from the early years of rail privatisation. It was soon apparent that the system had limited useful functionality and no scope for adding value to current systems. The extended maintenance for the old system was due to expire so the board was recommended to move the business forward by upgrading the system.
A competitive bid process was run to draw out innovative approaches, which balanced risk mitigation with delivery within aggressive timescales.Bluefin’s approach was chosen as the one which best matched Northern Rail’s demanding criteria. “Bluefin engaged at all stages of this project, providing focused project management, invaluable knowledge transfer and in-depth technical advice”, said Ian Bevan, Finance Director of Northern Rail. “This support enabled us to make our own informed decisions as to the future direction of SAP and the business itself”.
The first step was a week’s upgrade scoping of the current systems and working procedures. Bluefin’s Functional and Technical Consultants held an upgrade workshop with key Northern Rail employees, followed by on-site analysis of the current systems. The remainder of the analysis was completed offsite, and the results were assembled for a project proposal presentation one week later. Bluefin’s proposal comprised:
- A detailed project plan
- A project organisation structure
- Project scope
- Key risks and issues, and suggested mitigations and actions
- Costs and benefits of the project
- A fixed price quote for delivering the upgrade
Following the presentation, Northern Rail felt confident in Bluefin’s recommendation to make the biggest change that it could – an upgrade to SAP ERP, including SAP NetWeaver BI and SAP NetWeaver Portal.
Upgrade or Re-implementation?
Due to the age of the legacy SAP system, performing a technical upgrade was considered to be risky because of the large gap between versions. Furthermore, Northern Rail wanted to use the opportunity to cleanse the configuration that had been inherited through various organisational changes since privatisation. To de-risk the situation and provide some benefits over and above a simple as-is re-implementation, Bluefin recommended cleansing and copying the current configuration to a new installation of SAP ERP. Enhanced financial reporting using SAP NetWeaver BI was also included for Northern Rail as part of its fixed price contract, which provides a strong foundation for any MIS programmes that may occur in future. This is delivered via SAP NetWeaver Portal.
The project time frame for the re-implementation was aggressive. Indeed, Bluefin was the only organisation prepared to commit to delivering for the end of the year and with a fixed price contract. Bluefin’s functional consultants commenced work on 25th September 2006 and the new system went live on time for the new rail year on Monday 8th January 2007. From this foundation, additional modules and extension sets can be added to create a personalised SAP ERP solution. This means clients can choose to utilise the most up-to-date SAP functionality such as Human Resources, eProcurement and Asset Management to enhance their systems. “Prior to this project I saw Bluefin as purely a data warehousing provider,” commented Bill Adamson, SAP programme manager at Northern Rail. “But their efforts in supporting the delivery of this upgrade have shown me that their skills are much broader than that. They showed great professionalism, determination and enthusiasm in helping Northern Rail deliver a very successful project in a very short timescale”
Northern Rail is one of the first SAP ERP implementations in the UK, which puts the company in a strong position for the future. Even though the technology is leading edge, the decision is also a decision in favour of stability, because SAP has committed to ensuring no major new releases until at least 2010 – although, of course, enhancement packages will be deployed in that time. “Working with Northern Rail has been a great experience”, says Dan Hawker, Director of Bluefin. “I believe there are some compelling reasons why companies should choose Bluefin for SAP ERP, and I’m grateful to Northern Rail for allowing us to prove it. It demonstrates it is possible to work collaboratively to implement SAP ERP in a way that is low-risk to customers and delivers benefits early. I look forward to working with Northern Rail in future to build on this initial success.”
Bluefin provided Northern Rail with a stable solution on leading edge technology, implemented in a little over three months at a fixed price. The benefits include a system that is now in mainstream maintenance, 90 percent less customised objects, cleansed configuration and master data that makes the system simpler for users, and a powerful new SAP NetWeaver BI solution to provide a platform for future MIS programmes.
Source: Bluefin Solutions