Magazine Article | May 17, 2007

Deploy, Integrate Best-Of-Breed Systems

Source: Innovative Retail Technologies

Mervyns, a clothing and home goods retailer, interfaced and implemented POS, HR, finance, supply chain, and merchandising systems in less than one year.

Integrated Solutions For Retailers, June 2007

The challenge of separating one portion of a business from a larger conglomerate or simultaneously replacing all systems in your organization is very difficult in the retail industry. This is, however, exactly what Mervyns, a 189-store, family clothing and home goods retailer, did when it was sold off from Target in September 2004. Mervyns had two years to become independent of Target's systems, without affecting Target's ongoing IT support. 

Initially, Mervyns planned to create its IT infrastructure by duplicating Target's legacy systems; however, in April 2005, Mervyns hired Kurt Streitz as its CIO. Streitz proposed that the retailer build its own best-of-breed IT infrastructure. He felt the systems worked well for Target, but they weren't ideal for a midmarket, fashion-oriented retailer. His proposal included implementing a network backbone, creating a data center, hiring IT staff, acquiring all necessary hardware, and deploying and interfacing new software for every aspect of the business — merchandising, supply chain, warehouse, POS, financial, HR, and EDI (electronic data interchange) systems. By the time Streitz' proposal was approved, Mervyns had only one year before its IT 'independence day' was to arrive. 

Select Core Systems, Assemble Project Teams
Streitz' first step was to select the hardware and software he wanted to use for the entire retail enterprise and develop his project team. "The project, which was named MARS [Mervyns Advanced Retail Systems], began with the selection of software vendors for our core systems," said Streitz. "Those were JDA for merchandising, Manhattan Associates for supply chain, Lawson for financial, Inovis for EDI, and a combination of NCR and NSB for POS systems. The next step was to assemble the application project managers who were brought in from Katral Consulting. Finally, two integration teams had to be deployed." The first team was to provide the EDI integration and on-boarding of suppliers and external partners. The second team performed all legacy data conversion and integrated data and applications to allow core systems to communicate with one another. Streitz turned to B2 Integration for both teams. Having worked with B2 Integration on prior projects with another retailer, Streitz felt the company had the retail, supplier, and IT knowledge to manage the vendor collaboration, as well as the system integration experience to customize interfaces within Mervyns' tight time limit.

In an effort to integrate swiftly and accurately, B2 Integration recommended that Mervyns use conventional integration platforms to develop the internal and external interfaces. The MARS project also included converting terabytes of data, constructing application interfaces, and initiating and testing more than 1,500 EDI trading partners. To assist with the conversion, integration, and interfaces, B2 Integration and Mervyns selected Inovis EDI tools and the DataStage EE platform for data and application integration from IBM. Next, B2 Integration developed a detailed implementation plan.

Adhere To Strict Scope, Methodical Plan
"In order to meet our deadline, we had to expand and contract the functionality as necessary, but always keep the fundamentals we needed to run the core business," says Streitz. "Therefore, our first objective was to have the core retail processes [functionality from JDA] and core reporting processes [GL (general ledger) and stock ledgers from Lawson] implemented by January 2006." Additional functionality such as accounts payable, additional GL activities, and merchandising purchase orders were added shortly thereafter. Gradually, systems and data were transferred from old to new, including the conversion of a five-year history of financial summary data. Target proprietary data formats required B2 Integration to decipher data and transactions in order to interface systems. And, as the project team employed systems, it did not close Target system feeds on old systems — it simply atrophied the old systems' data until all systems were phased out completely. In June 2006, Mervyns converted the warehouses and DC sites, and it aggressively deployed store systems within a 10-week period. "We gradually retired Target systems and connected new software using Mervyns' connectivity," says Streitz. "We closed a store one night using the old systems and opened it the next day on the new network."

Mervyns achieved independence from Target on August, 5, 2006, which was almost a month prior to its deadline. Mervyns continues to add functionality to its systems and transfer knowledge from its consultants, including B2 Integration, to its newly hired IT staff. In addition, the retailer is now positioned for growth because of its scalable and integrated systems.

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