How ICT put its ERP headaches behind it with SAP

22 May 2023 by Thomas Evans

It’s a rite of passage for many Kiwi start-ups with global ambitions: start small and lean, then hold on for dear life as the international orders start rolling in.

Auckland-based Integrated Control Technology has been on that journey. The commercial security and access control specialist started in 2004 with one employee and now has 270 staff around the world and four branches in New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the United States and sales worldwide.

ICT’s rapid growth has seen it repeatedly reimagine its inventory and supply chain management, accounting, sales and marketing - and the ERP (enterprise resource planning) systems that are central to running its business.

A recent Webinar hosted by Realtech Managing Director Andrew Spicer and featuring Hayden Burr, ICT’s CEO and founder, and Andre Pienaar, head of S/4HANA Cloud public edition at SAP ANZ, chart’s ICT’s path to finally embracing SAP for all of its its ERP requirements.

Realtech’s webinar can be played back here.

With a strong team of software engineers, Burr took a DIY approach to enterprise resource planning in  ICT’s early days - the team built its first ERP software from scratch.

“As the business expanded, it grew legs of its own,” Haydn remembers.

“There were a lot of bolt-ons and things which were not industry standard. We then embarked on a change of our accounting platform, which had other other challenges,” he says.

An ERP to rule them all

In the last six years, ICT went through two other ERP systems in a search for the perfect solution, unable to find one that was able to accommodate the company’s evolving needs.

“We're growing at a pretty phenomenal rate, so we needed to have an application that could grow with us.”

SAP had always been on Burr’s radar, but the perception of it as a “very large product” aimed at large corporations repeatedly sent him looking elsewhere.

While SAP built its leadership position in ERP software serving large multinationals, it now has options for small, medium and large organisations.

“As we've evolved as a company over the years, we've diversified our portfolio,” says Pienaar Yeah.

“More than 80% of our customers are small and medium enterprises.”

A migration from ICT’s existing ERP system to SAP’s S/4HANA Cloud public edition emerged as the right platform to take ICT into the future.

One pane of glass

The key advantage with SAP, says Burr, was the way it presented one “pane of glass” with which to view the entire global ICT business.

“In terms of diversity of product and inventory applications, I think every single country had a different inventory system and accounting application,” he says.

“If I talk to our CFO, he probably lost a few years of his life through that process!” Burr adds.

Now ICT’s management has a consolidated, real-time view of inventory, sales and accounting processes. The use of APIs (application programming interfaces) and extensions within the SAP environment allows ICT to view important data in one place and feed information to and from other key applications, with SAP’s low/no code tools allowing easy customisation.

Extensions can even be created by business users using no code and low code tools, where business users can develop extensions, without any help from it. ICT now has at least a dozen applications built in and around the SAP environment and will leverage the platform to further develop its B2B (business to business) e-commerce journey.

“As well as the consolidated accounting perspective, we can see stock holdings and regional inter-company, stock movements and balances,” says Burr.

ICT partnered with Realtech to assist it on its SAP migration.

“Our system was fairly complex," says Burr. “We had a mix of accounting, end of year payroll, manufacturing, multi-currency pricing. Realtech was very good at ensuring the smooth transition of data,” he adds.

“We actually deployed in three or four months.”

Hayden Burr’s three top tips for a successful ERP migration:

  1. Good quality data: “If you think your data is as clean, go back and check it again, and repeat until 24 hours before deployment, because your data being clean is the most important thing.” “We should have probably spent another four weeks on data, but we were in a little bit of a time crunch with the New Zealand deployment.”
  2. Find a product champion: “It's really important that you have a person in your business who is actually going to look after the SAP journey. For us, we were lucky enough to have a couple of people that actually took it on board and then actually drove the project internally.”
  3. Keep learning: “SAP is a moving beast, there are releases every four to six months. So it is about maintaining that training element. “It's like driving a car. If you get your licence and don't do any driving, your driving is probably not going to be that good.”

Andre Pienaar’s three top tips for a successful ERP migration:

  1. Clear business requirements: “Make sure that you document your business requirements upfront. It's really important that the business understands exactly what they're looking to get out of it. That includes identifying the processes and the workflows you need to manage.”
  2. Engage key stakeholders: “It’s crucial to get all the stakeholders involved in the project, including key personnel from each department, because for this to be a success, everyone needs to be invested.”
  3. Find a good partner: “We've seen a lot of companies look at this like a transactional purchase, but they need to understand that this is a long term partnership. It's a strategic decision for them and they've got to pick someone that is experienced and can take them on this journey. That’s a partner like Realtech.”

Watch the full playback of the webinar here and get in touch with Realtech for advice on how to modernise your own ERP environment.