Unifying IT Ecosystems to Accelerate Decision-Making

Session Insights
Written by Leslie Lang

Taha Tkito


Americana Foods

APRIL 2024

Streamlining multiple ERPs into a single system is no easy task, especially when you’re operating under time constraints. It requires integrating complex infrastructure networks and migrating legacy technologies, while maintaining existing systems. Where do you start when all these projects require buy-in from different stakeholders? 

At the Middle East CIO & CISO Executive Summit, Taha Tkito, CIO at Americana Foods, shared about his team's journey in unifying IT infrastructure across a vast manufacturing organization. He discussed five early defining moments of an enterprise resource planning (ERP) digital transformation: acknowledging the need for change, choosing the product or solution, determining your operating model, selecting an appropriate cloud model and choosing the right partner.

  1. When You Need to Unify ERPs

With extensive manufacturing operations and a vast distribution network spanning multiple countries at Americana Foods, the existing legacy ERP systems failed to provide either the detailed visibility into performance or the comprehensive automation of key controls. 

“We were grappling with a highly fragmented technological landscape, featuring a dozen heterogeneous ERPs and core infrastructure components,” said Taha. “It was imperative to swiftly transition to unified, plug-and-play systems capable of enabling business agility, control, and growth.”

The journey began with several months dedicated to conducting an in-depth analysis to gain a comprehensive understanding of the business processes and operations. This exercise involved capturing thousands of data points and business requirements, ultimately leading to the identification of gaps in approximately 50% of the critical and major processes.

  1. Fix Your Situation, or Start Over from Scratch?

In shaping your future IT ecosystem, Taha emphasized the importance of choosing an ERP that is fit-for-purpose for your organization, as there is no one-size-fits-all. Therefore, involving key stakeholders in this decision-making process is crucial, as well as considering their varied opinions, expectations, and diverse past experiences. 

For Taha, it boiled down to two choices: Either uplift the existing product, adding more capabilities to it, or start over with a new one with a fresh build from the ground up.

Insights from Gartner's Magic Quadrant were instrumental in assessing industry-specific ERP solutions, affirming the current vendor and product as both market leaders and future-proof, respectively. Furthermore, the in-depth analysis revealed that 37% of the identified gaps couldn't be addressed using the existing platforms. 

These were not the only considerations, Taha said. “When factoring other important elements, such as the operating model, the organization’s digital dexterity, and the maturity of our culture of change... Opting for a radical change was not deemed adequate, and we chose to leverage the existing capabilities -- but massively augment them.”

  1. Thinking Through Types of Operating Models

When the need and nature of the change were both clear, it was vital to back the digital transformation with the most effective operating model. Taha explained that it came down to choices again: “Either maintain your organization’s siloed ways of working and strive for increased synergies, or radically shift to a centralized modus operandi with a new shared service center at its core.” 

Taha noted that while the first option had some short-term merits for their team, they chose the second option because “the essence of any digital transformation is to deliver the highest, longest-lasting impact on the business and organization.”

George Westerman from MIT says when digital transformation is done right, it's like a caterpillar turning into a butterfly. But when it's done wrong, all you have is a really fast caterpillar.”

Taha Tkito
CIO, Americana Foods

  1. Variables to Consider When Selecting Your Cloud Model

The initiative began amid the onset of the pandemic in 2020. At that time, SaaS applications comprised only about 20% of the global market, but they were projected to triple within five years, Taha noted, “and so was their maturity curve in comparison to the legacy on-premises applications.”

Taha explained that while it was evident that SaaS represented the future, an immediate transition could incur significant operational costs if the core (process manufacturing and distribution) were affected or jeopardized. 

Ultimately, their choice was to go with an improved hybrid model. “We chose not to compromise on the present, by sustaining our robust core, or on the future, by adopting a SaaS-first strategy for any new capabilities,” Taha said. 

  1. Selecting the Right Transformation Partner

Next, the question was whether to select an incumbent regional partner and help them scale to operate in new territories or opt for a Tier 1, global player.

Although he emphasized that neither choice is inherently right or wrong, they decided to support their existing partner to transform, as well. He stressed the importance of viewing partnerships as mutually beneficial. 

"If a partner lacks genuine intent to build a successful case study, they're not good to shake hands with. It's important to define what success and 'good' look like, and then provide the partner with all the means to achieve it,” Taha said.

Once you've established confidence in your partner's ability to join you on your ride, it's crucial to regard them as your co-driver and provide them with all the necessary resources to help you win your ‘Dakar rally.’”

Taha Tkito
CIO, Americana Foods

Lessons Learned from the Digital Transformation

Taha shared that a pilot project is indispensable in such transformations as it replicates on a smaller scale the impact you intend to make on the entire organization. “It enables the early acquisition of valuable insights for the larger endeavor,” Taha explained. 

“For instance, we decided to start with a pure Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) play with a complex business structure. [It involved] three plants, three categories, hundreds of vans, multiple distribution centers…, with the ambitious goal of delivering it within five months... and we succeeded,” he said.

Then, the subsequent challenge was to overhaul the entire company, including 10 diverse Agri-FMCG businesses spanning across 4 countries, each with its own go-to-market strategy, all within an 18-month timeframe. 

"Once more, we had to demonstrate that the designs implemented during the pilot phase—related to processes, controls, master data, and enterprise architecture—could function effectively on a larger scale and within an aggressive timeline," Taha said.

Such was our success that we managed five flawless 'go lives' in three countries within a mere two-week timeframe.”

Taha Tkito
CIO, Americana Foods

Taha said he took several lessons away from the project.

  • Executive engagement at the C-level is essential.
  • Think Global, Act Local: Adopt a global mindset, while tailoring actions to local contexts.
  • When subject matter experts emerge, and they will, let them shine.
  • Change management is not optional.
  • Partner agility is indispensable.
  • The power of pilot projects is to fail fast and to learn fast. 
  • Prioritize thorough training, testing, and maintaining momentum.
  • Ensure the entire community is included in this journey.

Making Sure Your Changes Last

While organizing the ERP transformation project, change agents were selected from each business unit to actively participate in the project team. Their roles included conducting business impact analyses and managing effective communication and adoption of the change.

“You should choose individuals who are capable of both listening and being listened to, as they need both to advocate for the change and accompany their peers throughout the project’s peaks and valleys,” said Taha. “The key focus is on ensuring that users not only accept but embrace the change so that the new solutions are fully adopted and the new ways of working will stick around.”

To learn more about digital transformation or other key topics for CIOs, join an Evanta CIO community. Or, if you are already a member, sign in to MyEvanta to explore opportunities to get together in person and exchange best practices with your CIO peers.

Content adapted from the Middle East CIO & CISO Executive Summit. Special thanks to Taha Tkito and Americana Foods.

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