Alfa Abroad Team: our trump card to implement software solutions abroad
“Tuned into the customer’s voice”, we chose it as a company motto precisely because it is the “mantra” that we follow in our work. And it’s already 70 times that our Customers have asked us to follow them around the world to implement their ERP systems in their foreign subsidiaries.
But let’s take a step back. Alfa Sistemi is an IT consulting company born and raised in Italy, but which has chosen not to stop within national borders. We implement Oracle solutions, of which we are Platinum Partner, and we specialize in industries. Therefore, no matter what field our Customer operates, we help him grow, providing him with all the tools to better manage his business. But we don’t stop here: consistent with our mission, we want to be a full-fledged “business partner” for our Customers. That’s why we don’t just install software, but we build with the Customer a real growth path, made of listening, consulting, and, if necessary, tailored solutions.
We mainly turn to international companies, with the leading company in Italy and a number of foreign subsidiaries, that have made the whole world their target market. These companies, once the “mother” project in Italy is completed, ask us to extend the solution implemented to other foreign subsidiaries, wherever they are. Following a customer abroad does not simply mean installing the same software elsewhere, but also being able to understand very different realities in order to convey the same corporate culture and the same way of working. In order to support these companies, we have created an internal team dedicated to international projects. As a result, we do not hire local external consultants, we don’t sub-contract the work to third parties, but we follow the entire internationalization process directly with our people. This methodology is certainly more challenging, but it brings the Customer a double benefit. Firstly, there are no new interlocutors, it is always the same people, those who have followed the project from the beginning, to carry it out even abroad. In addition, the Client can count on the many years of experience of our consultants: they are used to working in international contexts, they know the characteristics of the business perfectly, they have the technical and technological know-how to take the path to a project abroad.
Extending Illy’s ERP system into the Chinese subsidiary
Our most recent international project took us to the East, more specifically to China, with the aim of extending the ERP system used by our Customer, illycaffè, in the Shanghai subsidiary. A complex and articulated project, which we were able to complete with customer satisfaction and in accordance with the schedule.
The aim was to extend the Oracle JDE E1 ERP system to the Chinese subsidiary, which illycaffé has been using in its most recent release for a decade. Having the same management system in all subsidiaries is a determining factor for multinational companies, that in this way can achieve the complete integration of data between the various companies of the group for the purpose of its governance.
The project team, although belonging to three different companies, operated as a single team: Alfa Sistemi, with the dedicated Alfa Abroad Team, made up of Project Managers and both technical and functional Oracle JDE consultants; illycaffé Headquarters and the Chinese company, with about thirty users involved in the various phases of the project. There is a close and direct correlation between the success of a project and the resource team involved: again we were able to team up, creating a cohesive and well-focused group on achieving the goals.
The total duration of the project was one year. Work began in September 2017 with an assessment meeting organized directly in China to carry out a preliminary “as is – to be” analysis, with the goal of immediately engaging the true recipients of the change, the end users of the branch. In March 2018, a meeting was held in Italy, to make chinese owners better aware of the Oracle JDE E1 solution, shortly after, in May and July, our Alfa Abroad Team is back in Shanghai for testing activities. All in anticipation of the go-live that took place as project chronoprogram in September 2018, and that saw the onsite presence of our consultants to better support chinese users in the early stages of using the new solution.
Wanting to do a “retrospective” analysis of such an articulated project, the biggest challenges we faced were mainly two: cultural differences, but, above all, language differences. The West and the East have very different habits, customs, ways of doing and working, and finding a balance between the different teams was a real challenge. A perhaps trivial but easily understandable example, is represented by the tendency, typical of our local interlocutors, to “never complain”, adapting to what was proposed. This initially made it difficult to bring out and understand their specific business needs. Our team has been able to respond to this challenge by becoming familiar with the tools used by users, in their daily lives. To communicate, for example, they had to replace formal emails with the quickest and friendliest messages via “WeChat”, the most popular messaging app in China. In this way, the right communicative context was created and the analysis activities were carried out effectively and clearly.