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Kenneth Cole tailors a plan for implementing SAP

Kenneth Cole chose SAP for Retail in late 2005. It developed a careful and thorough blueprint for deploying the technology.

During its recent SAP implementation, shoe and apparel maker Kenneth Cole found that a comprehensive blueprint is just as important on technology projects as it is in construction.

Careful advance planning can help ease installation, but it needs to involve people across the organization, according to Harry Kubetz, senior vice president of operations for Kenneth Cole Productions Inc.

"Blueprinting should be a very aggressive process, involving multiple people from the business and multiple people from IT or the [Project Management Office] whenever possible," Kubetz said. "Because we definitely have instances where we've gone back and looked, and the blueprint had something that was not what we wanted."

SAP and Oracle's retail battle
SAP: Triversity, Khimetrics
Oracle: Retek
Example customer wins
SAP: Sport Chalet, Jo-Ann Stores
Oracle: Iron Age Shoes

When the New York-based company signed with SAP in late 2005, it was a big win for SAP in the retail market, where SAP and Oracle have waged a heated battle in recent years. Oracle acquired Retek in April 2005 before SAP bought Triversity and Khimetrics later that year, with both companies also trumpeting retail customer wins (see sidebar).

Just as important as avoiding mistakes in the blueprint is cutting down on errors of omission.

"All best-laid plans don't mean you've considered everything you should have," Kubetz said. A project blueprint lays out everything that will be included but does not explicitly list what will not be included, making it easier to leave things out, he explained.

For example, project managers assumed Kenneth Cole would have the capability to email reports when SAP was installed because that functionality was part of SAP's demonstration of the product, but it was not explicitly included in the original project blueprint. It turns out that report emailing is a configuration issue, so Kenneth Cole did not have it automatically.

The problem was fixed in the configuration phase of the project, but each omission that needs to be addressed can affect a project's timeline and budget, according to Kubetz.

He suggests that using a third-party consulting firm -- and sticking with it -- can be a real help in blueprinting.

"It's very hard, over a period of two and a half years [of an implementation project], to provide consistency between all the people that were involved in the demo process, all the things they said, and all the people looking to sign off and get done with it," Kubetz said. "It's easy to have things lost in translation."

One way Kenneth Cole gained some consistency was utilizing the same third-party consulting firm for all stages of the project. The company used Atlanta-based Kurt Salmon Associates (KSA) to help write the request for proposals (RFP) and evaluate the proposals that came in, a process that required KSA to spend a lot of time learning Kenneth Cole's retail division processes.

So it was only natural that KSA would be involved in the implementation.

"When we entered the implementation process, we wanted KSA involved in multiple roles," Kubetz said. Kenneth Cole utilized KSA to supplement staffing, and KSA acted for the company in some project meetings.

On implementation projects, SAP suggests that customers should take people from different roles in the organization, "scoop them up" out of their day-to-day jobs and insert them into a project role, Kubetz said. Kenneth Cole did not have the organizational depth for this approach, so it turned to KSA again for the implementation.

This method is not unusual, according to Michael Doane of Peachtree City, Ga.-based Performance Monitor LLC. He described two ends of the project ownership spectrum: client ownership, where the client actively partners with the systems integrator in order to hasten the go-live and knowledge transfer; and client acquisition, where the systems integrator completes the implementation with minimal client input or collaboration.

"Client acquisition is clearly the more prevalent scenario at SMBs [small and midsized businesses] when compared to large enterprises, which have more employee 'fat' to participate in an ownership scenario," Doane said.

An approach between the two extremes, like Kenneth Cole's -- with 2006 revenues approaching $550 million, the company fits into SAP's SMB definition -- is the norm. According to Doane, smaller companies often lean on their systems integrators more heavily -- the client acquisition model.

Kenneth Cole will put these lessons learned to use when it starts up the next phase of its implementation, SAP Apparel and Footwear (AFS).

With the first of its SAP products -- SAP for Retail, SAP Triversity point-of-sale (POS) and SAP Multisite Workforce Deployment -- up and running since earlier this month, it is too early for Kenneth Cole to have any real, measurable ROI.

"I don't think that we'll actually start measuring the ROI for at least four months, and more realistically six months," Kubetz said. "That doesn't mean we're not starting to enjoy the benefits, it just means we won't really see it in terms of margin and retail performance for a while."

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