Despite having SAP in place, major outdoor gear retailer, Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI) used to spend an average of two hours per order generating retail allocation data for promotional product buys. As a solution, they designed a Microsoft SharePoint
driven process to integrate with REI’s backend SAP system to create a Business-Critical SharePoint (BCSP) solution that reduced the average order allocation process to 17 minutes, improved productivity across the organization, and increased return on investment
Recreational Equipment, Inc., better known in the United States as REI, is a popular retailer of sporting and outdoor equipment. The merchandising division that is responsible for buying and replenishing products to the company’s retail stores primarily
uses a centralized distribution model to allocate promotional event product from inbound purchase orders to over 130 retail locations. As the business has grown over time, the pre-existing processes for managing and distributing these orders were outgrown
by the scale and strategies of the business.
||We have created a business-critical solution for our order allocation process that … cuts down on process errors by 90%.
| Kentner Cottingham
Senior Business Analyst, REI
For an end user in the merchandising division, the process for managing order allocations previously required numerous manual steps and time consuming data validation in SAP and other business systems. The process was unclear in accountability, lacked standards,
and had minimal governance which resulted in user confusion and/or unexpected executional results.
On average, each order allocation request was processed in two hours of effort (roughly 30 minutes of pre-work plus 1.5 hours of data entry and validation). Additional user work was also required to manage the numerous missed allocations that, for a variety
of reasons, were not processed properly prior to receipt of goods.
To improve the execution of promotional event order management, the process was re-engineered from the bottom up with a user-centric focus to maximize ownership of results while simultaneously automating and managing system and business requirements.
This Business-Critical SharePoint solution presents critical line-of-business data to the users for analysis and action. The solution was deployed for approximately 70 staff members. In addition to Microsoft SharePoint 2010, the solution integrates Microsoft
Excel (part of the user interface), Winshuttle™ (data validation and automated access to SAP), and SAP (Enterprise Resource Planning or ERP system of record).
Using a SharePoint-driven workflow and management solution to interact with REI’s backend SAP system through Winshuttle managed data files, the process supports a robust and scalable solution. The entire process is possible through implementation of workflow
to support required user interaction and deadlines, careful inclusion of scripting for validation of business rules, automation of time consuming manual steps, and simplification of a complex and multifaceted user interface on top of extended data sets.
Automating the complex, error prone, and time consuming interactions of this process in SAP has yielded quantifiable results that span across the company.
Increased Accountability and Governance
Rethinking and redesigning the order allocation process end-to-end allowed REI to accurately align merchant needs with system requirements, set clear expectations for users, and to efficiently govern the process.
Measured Time Savings
Based on a sample of 2,600 order pre-allocations processed in the first three quarters of 2012, an 86% reduction in user/system time and effort was realized through the new process. What had previously averaged two hours of user effort has been reduced and
focused into 10-20 minutes of strategic analysis per request. The pre-work for each allocation was reduced from an average of 30 minutes to 2 minutes, and the work of data entry and validation was reduced from an average of 90 minutes to less than 15 minutes
Minimized Change Management
By creating a scalable process and tools built upon familiar software and interfaces, the user experience has been empowered and is rapidly adaptable with minimal training required.
Company Wide Benefits
Due to tracking and visibility via the SharePoint workflows, missed allocations were reduced by 93%. Additionally, through the updated and automated process allocation, errors were reduced by 90%. These process improvements have reduced triage workload in
the distribution centers, for retail store employees, and IT support.
In the words of Kentner Cottingham, Senior Business Analyst for REI’s merchandising division, “Combining SharePoint, Microsoft Excel, and Winshuttle, we have created a business-critical solution for our order allocation process that reduces end user effort
by 86% on average and cuts down potential process errors by 90%. The new process has actually far exceeded our initial expectations. Because we, as the business, deploy and manage this solution ourselves we now have a rapidly scalable, consistent, and accountable
tool to manage this key business process.”
Business-Critical SharePoint (BCSP) is a Microsoft partner program that includes top solution and service providers who focus on LOB
integration with SharePoint.
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