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Restaurant chain stumbles, then finds SAP BPC implementation groove

One of the nation’s largest fast food companies has learned that when it comes to implementing SAP BusinessObjects Planning and Consolidation, it’s easiest to take a two-step approach.

When it came to implementing SAP BusinessObjects Planning and Consolidation (SAP BPC), one of the country’s largest fast food companies bit off more than it could chew.

Roughly two years ago, the Carpinteria, Calif.-based CKE Restaurants Inc., which owns the Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. fast food hamburger chains, began replacing Oracle Hyperion Essbase with SAP BPC for its planning, budgeting and forecasting operations as well as for financial consolidations. SAP acquired the software when it purchased OutlookSoft in 2007.

But as Ryan Hanawalt, the company’s finance manager put it, simultaneously deploying the software and changing business processes to accommodate BPC’s more advanced features proved to be too much. 

“I’d love to tell you that everything was peachy-keen and that it all went great, and we did exactly what we said we wanted to do in the time frame we wanted to do it in, but that’s just not how it happened,” Hanawalt said.

From Oracle to SAP BPC
CKE Restaurants began the move to SAP BPC after concluding that its Oracle software was too rigid and too limited to do what the company needed it to do, according to Hanawalt. 

When it came to the forecasting process, for example, CKE would get one spreadsheet monthly from each of its roughly 100 cost centers

“We would then have to take those 100 to 200 spreadsheets, pull that data into one consolidated data source in an Excel spreadsheet, do a pivot table or analysis based on that spreadsheet,” Hanawalt said.

The company considered upgrading its Hyperion software and weighed that against deploying new software from SAP or MicroStrategy, ultimately deciding to go with SAP. 

“We came away with the best feeling for the BPC tool,” Hanawalt said.

SAP BPC, he said, has proven to be a much nimbler system. The tool is also Excel-based, which means that managers can put their numbers directly into the system. Once they add their information, members of the finance department can then export the data directly into a report format and immediately start analyzing those reports.

“BPC has allowed us to get the data into the system quicker,” Hanawalt said.

'We tried to tackle the bear'
When the implementation began in 2009, Hanawalt said they envisioned being able to implement BPC as well take advantage of the application’s more advanced features and capabilities.

That became too much -- especially with the company's ambitious time frame. To make matters worse, CKE Restaurants hadn’t set aside dedicated resources for the project, which meant that finance department employees were left to juggle the implementation along with other daily duties.

Ultimately, the company decided to step back and split the initiative into two steps, getting it up and running first and then improving processes later.

"Once we got that through our heads, to kind of throttle back a little bit, we were able to do exactly what we needed to do,” Hanawalt said.

That meant first getting the system to pull in data they needed for the forecasts and other kinds of financial reports they had always prepared. And since both the old and new systems were Excel-based, it wasn’t much of a change for the average user.

Six to eight months later with reporting in place, CKE began using some of the templates that come with BPC as well as its more sophisticated processes. 

Hanawalt said the company is pleased with BPC but would have gone about implementing the software differently if it had to do it all over again.

“We tried to tackle the bear,” Hanawalt said. “We tried to everything at once.”

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