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SAP Business One spells success for Goodwill stores

A chain of California Goodwill stores needed to bring POS, warehouse and accounting systems together. SAP Business One proved to be the answer.

When Goodwill Industries of San Joaquin Valley (GISJV) upgraded its point of sale (POS) system from paper, pencil and generic cash registers in its 17 retail stores, managers were excited. However, it became apparent not long afterward that the growing central California nonprofit needed more features from its systems to track donations, inventory and sales.  CEO David Miller launched a search for software that could produce reports, connect retail stores and scale up with the company.

What started as a search for a POS upgrade quickly morphed into a bid for warehouse management and accounting software. GISJV wanted the three systems to talk to each other, instead of having to manually input numbers in spreadsheets. "I can't imagine Walmart or Target doing what we're doing, having all these little systems by themselves," Miller said.

SAP was the name that came up as a result of staff research, and GISJV contacted SAP's partner Softengine to learn more. Although Oracle and other suites were considered, Softengine's understanding of GISJV's business and commitment to the platform, as well as their expertise, convinced Miller that SAP Business One was the way to go to run economically and increase profit that could be funneled back into growing GISJV. "The more money we make, the more money we can invest in the people we're trying to serve," he said.

The long (but smooth) road to implementation

A software implementation that replaces three disparate systems doesn't happen overnight, and GISJV's SAP Business One implementation was no exception. Softengine warned Miller that the software was not only a big commitment but would take time to get up and running -- and would require executive support.

But executive support was already present from Miller, and his directors quickly came on board. "I'm blessed to have directors who have worked for me for … 15 to 20 years," Miller said. GISJV's COO has been with the organization for 30 years. The leadership team knew that accounting and POS systems would take a huge commitment and were willing to do it. GISJV contacted its telecommunications provider to increase its communications bandwidth, and the organization purchased larger servers to accommodate the software. "It was really coordination of more than just SAP," Miller said.

Meanwhile, Softengine worked with GISJV to develop templates for reporting, including reports sent to Goodwill International, according to Barry Lederman, vice president of business development at Softengine. "We focused on automation, from capturing [donation and inventory information] using a handheld device to interfacing with Business One," he said. This would eliminate the possibility of human error, creating bar codes with pricing, categories and origin information for tracking purposes.

A learning curve pauses rollout

At one point, Miller put the brakes on the implementation, which meant a longer time to roll out. He wanted to ensure that the rollout would go smoothly, particularly for end users. "We wanted … to be comfortable with what we learned and what we prepared for," he said.

"Everyone's had their own struggles with learning" how to use the new system, Miller noted. However, GISJV had planned for a learning curve. "We were at a training conference with SAP in New York. Target was there, and we asked, what was the learning curve? They said, give it three months, on average," Miller said. During that three-month period, employees learned to use the new POS, warehousing and accounting systems, as well as to tag inventory. "At the three-month mark, we were noticing production was where it was before we went live."

Management had been concerned with training and change management, according to Lederman. The switch from an inefficient, manual process to an automated scanning system seemed like a challenge. But in the end, the stores adapted quickly, he said. "They continue to run with very little support from us."

Although the final rollout introduced minor technology glitches, such as information populating the wrong reports, Softengine was able to remedy these problems quickly, according to Miller. "With technology, not everything works the way you want it." Still, rollout of Business One was smooth, and the glitches were minor. "The best thing is that all my directors are still with me -- nobody left," Miller said.

Ready to explore additional features

After a year, GISJV has started to investigate what else can be done with Business One. "The first year was mirroring what we've done for years," Miller said. Now, additional reports, labor planning and donor acquisition are being put on the table as possible additions to the system.

Donor acquisition is an especially important component, because GISJV will be able to track donors of goods as well as cash and use that information to analyze how to better penetrate the donor market, Miller said.

And having SAP Business One will also make opening more stores much easier. Using Business One will allow GISJV to instantly plug in a new store's POS and inventory management to accounting. "The next store will run as smoothly as the ones we have now," Miller said.

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