Inside Billabong's IT strategy

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Inside Billabong's IT strategy
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Data insights

As Billabong transitions to single systems, it is concurrently rolling out a business intelligence platform underpinned by SAP's Business Objects and experimenting with Big Data analytics.

The company already has BI in place, using Oracle's Hyperion, which "periodically" draws from the three current ERP systems "in order to get insights around daily sales, weekly sales and general performance" in its wholesale, retail and online operations.

But the structure and task remains "challenging" and ripe for transformation, according to Millett.

"One of the challenges we've had around running a global company that's been very regionally based is getting insight and cut through on financial and customer information that's produced in the regions," he said.

"We're certainly not short of data. We've probably got so many different data sources [that] it's just about how to bring it together and provide that coherent fact-based information view that can allow a global management team to actually drive the business forward with purpose."

Billabong is currently in the process of implementing an SAP Business Objects system that will ultimately sit atop a consolidated environment, acting as a presentation layer for globally-driven KPI dashboards that cut across wholesale, retail and online operations.

"That can really provide the necessary insight that makes running a global business so much easier than it probably is at the moment," Millett said.

Data marts have been established in each region over the past six months in preparation.

Millett said he was also experimenting with "Hadoop-style" Big Data technologies to drive further insights out of Billabong's global data stores.

"I'm actually running an experiment ... looking at how we can take a number of pots of structured data that sit in our point-of-sale systems, our online systems, our wholesale and warehouse management systems, and drive those into an unstructured data bucket to then start to drive either business insights or customer insights, as we work through what the questions are that we need to have answered as a result of effectively getting this into one place," he said.

"Our environment is largely digitised from a data perspective but not all the tracks are connected, because they're in different formats, different systems, different processes."

Unwinding email

Billabong is also driving towards a single email system across its three regions. All options are still on the table, according to Millett, as the company charts a path to consolidation.

"With some email systems their ability to become integrated into the business is much higher than you would hope, so it's not just a simple matter of lift and [shift]," he said.

"You've got to unwind some embedded databases that have been workflow-enabled through the legacy email system."

North America and Europe run Microsoft Outlook, while Australasia uses Lotus Notes. No decision has been made with respect to a future system, whether on-premise or cloud-based.

"I'm open to anything that drives business value at this stage," Millett said.

Read on for Millett's vision for retail systems at Billabong.

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