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Setting up the IT infrastructure to meet FHR's business transformation needs

Scott Bender, IT Director, Flint Hills Resources
Scott Bender, IT Director, Flint Hills Resources

Scott Bender, IT Director, Flint Hills Resources

A long-standing driver for IT organizations has been to supply technology expertise for its business partners at a reasonable value.  For decades, this simply meant running, maintaining and modifying solutions.  However, with accelerating digital transformation, this is becoming an increasingly difficult capability to deliver.  On-premise solutions take months to upgrade. Often those upgrades add little value to the business but are required to keep up with security and other technology risks.  Below is where Flint Hills Resources (FHR) found itself three years ago:

• On-premise solutions were requiring significantly difficult upgrades to add only incremental functionality.

• With competitive cost pressures in our industries, on-premise solutions required increasing resources just to stay current.

• Highly integrated solutions were barriers to transformative, best-of-breed technology options.

• Increasing demand by business partners for data, analytics and machine learning was applying increased demand for IT resources with expertise in these leading-edge technologies.

• Cloud technology provided alternative options to on-premise data centers, overcoming the high cost and high risk associated with the on-premise solutions.

• Software providers were offering multi-tenant Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions that continually delivered new capabilities while reducing technology risks for their customers.

• Cloud technology was offering a way to reduce the costs of storage.

We knew it was time to make a change. 

We started by targeting core technology solutions that FHR felt no longer provided competitive advantage to our business.  Our first focus area was around our finance solutions (A/R, A/P, G/L, etc.).  Our core solutions were nearly 20 years old, and we were facing another 18-month upgrade.  We started looking at new alternatives with a focus on cloud-first solutions.  We analyzed a handful of cloud solutions, but we found that nearly all of these alternatives added little value other than hosting an otherwise on-premise solution.  These were not the necessary transformative outcomes FHR needed.

Our parent company had just made a significant investment in Infor, a leading provider of business cloud software solutions.  Infor offered a multi-tenant cloud(true SaaS solution)finance package, which helped us avoid paying for modules that we didn’t need.  In addition, Infor was moving to a cloud-first model in this new product, in which all enhancements would come to the SaaS solution first, with the on-premise version following. FHR was also excited about the challenge of a six-month conversion project, partnering with Infor’s consulting services.  We subscribed to Infor’s CloudSuite solutions for financial companies and launched one of Infor’s early, complete multi-tenant cloud implementations. The project ended up taking 10 months to complete, given the maturity of the product. However, this was nearly half the time that a traditional upgrade, with older technology, would have required.

With IT resources freed up from maintaining the legacy finance solutions, FHR was ready for the next step to set our business up for transformative success.  We identified other technology solutions that we didn’t feel were driving a competitive advantage or where the solution didn’t support business transformation.  For FHR, that was our maintenance management solution.  We were approaching an end-of-life, significant upgrade, with heavy customization that was likely to take 18 to 24 months to complete.  While we liked what the solution had become, the customizations weren’t bringing the cost savings that we expected at our operating facilities.

We looked again to Infor for a solution and found Infor’s CloudSuite Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) multi-tenant application. This solution gave FHR the opportunity to transform operations at our facilities by enabling status-based lean work vs. waterfall workflows. In addition, we could right-size the solution so that it could support all of our sites appropriately–from our very large, complicated refineries to our smaller ethanol facilities.  We will implement our last site in January 2020 – about 10 months after we implemented the equipment hierarchy in EAM and eight months after implementing our first site on EAM.  While the project still took about 18 months, the transformation appears to be worth the wait. 

Infor continues partnering with FHR to enhance the functionality of its two multi-tenant cloud solutions and how they interoperate.  This means continuing to reduce IT’s cost of ownership, while providing increased functionality and continuous upgrades.  We could not have done this if we had stayed with on-premise solutions.  We also expect to leverage more artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML)solutions that Infor and other FHR partners will offer. FHR can take advantage of Infor’s technology ecosystem, so we don’t have to build custom interfaces or solutions for these edge technologies.  This is a huge win for our IT business partners who need to be agile, because technology moves increasingly fast in the manufacturing industry.  We also are starting to restore our business partners’ faith in IT, proving that we were willing to change with the times–as all successful enterprises must do.

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