Lupin CIO Gives End Users The Freedom To Choose

by Hinesh Jethwani    Jul 06, 2004

The right choice always pays the right dividends. Adi Shroff is a CIO who prefers to be inspired by the practical, rather than follow the theoretic. He believes that the right choice doesn’t necessarily come from the management, but end users play an important role in shaping the future of every organization. Shroff is both receptive to ideas and suggestions from juniors, and sensitive to their school of thought. A CIO with a difference, Shroff has managed to hold on to the end user perspective even if it involves a Rs 12 crore ERP project.

Speaking to CXOtoday, Adi Shroff, CIO, Lupin Ltd., said, “We made our end users sit through functional demos with two of the biggest ERP vendors on our shortlist. The participants in this feedback program were each provided with detailed questionnaires with a 24-hour time limit. Demo participants were selected from a critical user audience, belonging mainly to production and purchase departments. From the valuable feedback that we received, it was immediately clear that end users liked SAP more than anything else they had seen.”

From there on, it was just a matter of driving a hard bargain with the ERP vendor for Lupin. Choosing the big bang approach for implementing SAP across six factories and 30 odd depots, the pharmaceutical major managed to finish the project in record time - “That’s seven months and twenty five days to be precise,” quipped Shroff.

Elaborating further, Shroff said, “Under the big bang approach, all modules of SAP were flagged off across multiple locations at precisely the same time. We went live on 1st April 2003, and in these 15 months of operation, we have seen remarkable benefits. A formal notice was issued to all users to stop the entry of any new information into the legacy system as on April 1st. No new events were allowed to be recorded into the legacy system, and it was just maintained as a historical archive for future reference. Dual entry is always a frustrating and time consuming effort, and we preferred to steer clear of maintaining any parallel legacy run. Mapping the legacy on to SAP is a very bad exercise and leaving historical data untouched is always better.”

“The system is now tightly integrated, and the process of extracting information is become much easier. Many routine process cycles have undergone a significantly reduction in time frames. For example, the closing of our accounts now happens a full 45 days earlier, in comparison to what we could manage with our previous Foxpro based legacy system,” informed Shroff.

“Information from across the organization, including critical data from all depots now can be extracted from a centralized server on a real time basis. IBM handled the initial task of integrating the ERP, while support is currently being handled by our own internal IT staff on a 24X7 basis,” explained Shroff.

Regarding the hardware infrastructure, Shroff stated, “For the 350 licensed SAP users, we purchased the latest Pentium IV desktops and IBM pSeries 630 Unix based (AIX) servers. In all, approximately ten servers power the ERP - which includes a development server, a QA server, a database server, a central instance server, two application servers, one production server, and a BIW (Business Information Warehouse) development server. Networking is handled with a combination of VSATs and leased lines provided by Hughes Escorts Communications.”

So how does a CIO convince the top rung of the management to jump into the multi-crore ERP bandwagon? Shroff replied, “Change management is probably the biggest challenge. At Lupin we had numerous board meetings with senior committee members to prepare the management for the entire mindset change that was going to follow with the induction of an ERP. I gave a detailed presentation to the management showcasing the benefits in a realistic manner. A common mistake made by CIOs is to concentrate only on the initial cost, leaving the recurring expenses vaguely sidelined. Also, third party TCO and ROI figures can be contorted and diluted to taste somebody’s own interest. So CIOs should definitely steer clear of ambiguous calculations. “

Regarding the selection process involved with an ERP, Shroff explained, “A top driven approach is the best methodology of approach. The first step was zeroing in only on a premium product, as in-house customized ERPs do not adhere to best practices and involve constant tweaking headaches. Then we proceeded to the demo stage with our functional audience. Finally, negotiate with the vendor to drive the best possible bargain. Now for the next 15-20 years there is absolutely no looking back.”

So what is the future technology roadmap at Lupin? Shroff replied, “We are evaluating a business continuity plan to build a disaster recovery center. We are looking to zero in on a major CRM package, for which first level discussions have already been carried out. Information security expansion is next on our agenda, and we plan to get into full fledged technologies in the future.”

Tags: SAP, ERP