Brother International brings Russian subsidiary into its European reporting structure

Brother International Europe (BIE) is a major regional subsidiary of a global printer manufacturer. It had already realised substantial benefits using SAP to streamline its finance, operations, logistics and customer services activities. But its fast-growing Russian business remained off the grid. A legacy financials system, unique local reporting requirements and language difficulties meant SAP transition, by the year-end deadline, was a project too far for Brother's in-house developers.

Taking Brother's specifications for the roll-out, Bluefin was able to deploy the expertise required. Drawing on their UK and Malaysia based specialists they were able to meet peak demand for developer-hours, offering round-the-clock support and feedback for Brother's IT function. Bluefin helped Brother overcome a complex local, regional and corporate reporting structure and delivered a system which enabled Brother to operate efficient, region-wide procurement and finance processes.

The problem

The Russian subsidiary of BIE was growing so fast, its sales were becoming material to the region's revenues and needed to be consolidated into the group accounts.

"But because of quirks in the Russian accounting environment, it had to continue using its own system and because the financials were on that system, so were the logistics and sales functions. We needed Russia onto SAP so we could have visibility of the operation. Head Office gets daily stats for all the other European territories, but we were only getting monthly updates from Russia."
"To be part of the group accounts, we needed a five-day close and the ability to translate the December year-end stipulated by Russian accounting rules into Brother's March year-end." Julie Bradshaw, Project Manager, Brother International Europe

Limited transparency wasn't the only problem. Brother Russia, like all its territories, buys stock from the European headquarters. But without SAP, Brother was handling orders manually using email requests, which was both inefficient and prone to errors.

More than just a roll-out

Brother's need was clear, but the solution wasn't straightforward. For a start, the Russian alphabet made it impossible tosimply transfer data into SAP. There is a SAP add-on for Russian businesses – but it requires an upgrade to ECC6.

"That would be a major undertaking for Brother. We needed a solution that worked with R/3 4.7 and that inevitably meant a lot of development work." Julie Bradshaw, Project Manager, Brother International Europe

The approach

Brother was already working with Bluefin on other projects. It was evident very quickly that having ready access to additional development resources would the Brother IT function to respond to emerging demands from the Russian operation and unforeseeable difficulties created by the switch to SAP.

"We had a clear idea of the general approach, but the team in Russia had a much more specific set of requirements. We had to work out how to prioritise the requests for functionality we hadn't expected. A Russian implementation partner helped with the specifying of objects – but even they didn't appreciate how difficult it would be."
"For example, a lot of the initial development work was tasks such as ensuring that the Russian office could print from SAP files – there's a more limited range of printers that can handle the Cyrillic output – so Bluefin worked alongside our team to resolve these technology problems." Julie Bradshaw, Project Manager, Brother International Europe

Key benefits

  • Flexibility – peak workloads present no problem and costs are minimised when development demands are low
  • Access to skills – expertise and ability available to deliver consistent quality
  • Integration with in-house teams – and vital knowledge transfer to ensure long-term support for the platform
  • Business focus – delivering measurable operational benefits, not just functional technology
  • Greater efficiency – by maximising the existing investment in group-wide SAP platforms

The Bluefin advantage

As the project progressed, Bluefin's ability to assign additional developers, some with niche skills, proved invaluable.

"We realised we had to find ways of creating accounts that worked for our consolidated group accounts as well as the local rules. That created fresh development challenges: reporting had to be performed across fiscal years, for example." Julie Bradshaw, Project Manager, Brother International Europe

Even without unforeseeable challenges, development work on this type of project is uneven.

"The peaks and troughs for development work would be impossible to manage with our in-house team." Julie Bradshaw, Project Manager, Brother International Europe

She speaks highly of the skill level of the developers and says Bluefin really differentiated itself from other outsourcing vendors:

"It's like having Bluefin on our own in-house team. We had negative experiences with third party developers in the past, so it was just a joy to see the teamwork on this project." Julie Bradshaw, Project Manager, Brother International Europe

The result

Brother is bedding down the Russian SAP implementation with Bluefin's support. Now that the core platform is in place, the IT team is looking to roll out enhanced features to attain further economies of scale across Europe.

"The Russian business has a real opportunity to grow with stability now that it's on the SAP platform. I've been incredibly impressed with the quality of the work to get us to that point. Everything Bluefin promised was delivered to the agreed timescales – it was a great result." Julie Bradshaw, Project Manager, Brother International Europe

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