Stock market index and financial data company S&P Global has migrated its on-premise Oracle E-Business Suite (EBS) to Oracle’s Fusion ERP cloud-based platform, in a bid to streamline reporting and establish global consistency. The company decided to make the move as it faced end of life support for EBS, but has resulted in S&P consolidating on Oracle systems and pursuing a more cloud-focused strategy.
The migration also took place during the COVID-19 pandemic, where the S&P team never actually met its implementation partners KPMG in real-life, and the project was completed one month ahead of schedule.
Speaking with Christopher Craig, SVP Corporate Controller and Chief Accounting Officer at S&P Global, at Oracle CloudWorld in Las Vegas this week, he said that the 22,000 employee company had been using the Oracle EBS reporting environment for approximately a decade. The organization operates out of 180 legal entities, across 37 countries with 64 ledgers. Craig said:
We had grown a lot in the last 10 years, we sold four major businesses in the portfolio and then we acquired somewhere around 15 companies over the same period. And the platform that we were operating on - Oracle EBS - we knew we had to introduce a new chart of accounts.
Our consistent reporting across all of our businesses was growing increasingly challenging. So we looked at doing a full Chart of Accounts remapping. If we had done it on Oracle EBS, which was reaching end of life on January 1st 2022, we were probably going to end up paying premium support.
And then we were going to spend a higher portion of maintenance responsibilities, versus the constant innovation that would come with a product that’s not end of life Oracle.
S&P weighed up the pros and cons of sticking with its Oracle EBS on-premise infrastructure, versus going with Fusion, which Craig said had a “more modern i structure”.
Luckily, S&P had maintained a pretty well structured and integrated system with EBS, following its acquisitions and across its multiple territories. However, across all of its divisions, which was part of the legacy challenge, there were slightly different reporting structures. Craig said:
We had diverse billing platforms for each of the businesses. We’d streamlined our businesses a lot over the years, but there were still differences in terms of reporting and roll-up. So a consistent end-to-end view of natural class reporting was increasingly challenging.
To start, S&P went through and remapped its entire Chart of Accounts. Craig said that once you’re going through this process you’re conforming your company’s reporting structures across the entire business, which aids with consistent reporting and processes. He added:
We’d been working towards this, but this was an opportunity to take a fresh cut at that. Also, our financial reporting tool was a legacy product from IBM, and that was more or less like the lifeblood of the company. So we moved out of that to Oracle EPM. From an architecture perspective that was completely different and we had to really evolve how our reporting was performed across the organization.
The project started shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic kicked in, with the implementation project beginning in May 2020. Craig said it was nerve wracking, given that the implementation was carried out remotely and it was a new way of working.
However, S&P completed its go live one month early, with the new Fusion ERP operating from 1st January 2022. Two months later it also completed a $44 billion acquisition, in March 2022, which was successfully brought into the system.
Craig noted that whilst the journey to a cloud-based ERP wasn’t exactly an exciting prospect for S&P, it forms an essential part of the organization’s digital plants. He said:
Nobody was necessarily thrilled at the prospect of a 16 month endeavour and a multimillion dollar project that would dominate 200 peoples’ time ,with multiple vendors over the course of other projects. I think there was a lot of hesitation.
We aren’t in the business of implementing ERPs. And we were going into new technology we weren’t familiar with, into the cloud. Going from EBS on premise, where you are completely in control, to a somewhat more standardized out of the box solution was daunting. You’re kind of ceding control and building a different kind of partnership with Oracle that you didn’t have before.
But for the last ten years the company has evolved. In addition to all the acquisitions, we’ve rationalized our real-estate footfall to pursue a more asset-light strategy. We’ve moved from on premise servers to a combination of AWS and Oracle to come up with a hybrid cloud strategy. This is all part of pursuing a more nimble operating model.
Craig said the move to the cloud has resulted in a range of changes taking place, from sun setting applications to adopting new workflows. But what’s evident is that a consolidation on to Oracle systems has been a priority. He said:
We used to do all the patches on our own, now the patches are done by Oracle. We moved out of our AWS data warehouse to an Oracle autonomous warehouse. Our third party feeds used to use Informatica, now we use Oracle. We got rid of IBM for reporting and now we use Oracle. So we’ve completely changed our architecture around how we get things done.
And we are still able to achieve a four day close.
Craig added that another key priority has been getting the teams comfortable with the new reporting systems and tools, so that they have the same level of confidence that they had with the legacy on-premise system. He said:
We managed the change and the transition okay, but now we want to create trust in the platform and the solution. That belief that we can be as nimble.
The implementation strategy used SAFe agile as part of the rollout, which includes user testing as part of the fabric - where users are testing as they go along, in the new environments. For Craig this is the key piece of advice from the project, ensuring that the team remained enthusiastic. He said:
It’s the governance. You’ve got to have a team that believes in the vision and that’s behind the vision. The most important thing is, what do you do to keep the team motivated, excited, focused and enthusiastic for 16 months? And that’s the governance and accountability and alignment of success to the project itself.
There’s going to be a tonne of problems, a tonne of pitfalls, no solution is perfect, every problem is different, but you’ve got to keep a team that’s motivated to work through the solutions and drive success. That comes down to having the right governance structure that rewards behaviours, replicates success and identifies failures. Get that right and you can probably get any solution right.