MARCH 27, 2017
Argentine Federated Farmers (AFA) invests $ 130 million in technology

In order to consolidate and centralize the management of the cooperative, Agricultores Federados Argentinos invested $ 130 million in a management solution for its business.

It is not Hannibal and his war elephants crossing the Alps. It is not Don Quixote, and there are no windmills turned into giants. However, the day of Agricultores Federados Argentinos (AFA) to change and professionalize its management systems has something epic.

AFA is a first-level cooperative of national scope, made up of companies whose activities include butchers, hardware stores, supermarkets, insurance, service stations, consignment of goods, sale of supplies, financing, plants of balance, phytosanitary and agrochemical plants, among many other facets. With almost 85 years of existence, its main activity is the sale of grains: between 1 and 2 percent of soybeans sold on a global scale passes through the silos of the cooperative. Its turnover in the last financial year was around $ 15,000 million.

It has almost 40,000 members, 2,700 employees (about 900 are temporary) and operates in 142 locations in nine provinces, especially in Santa Fe, Córdoba and northern Buenos Aires. The management of AFA was atomized in the 26 centers throughout the country. "A member is a member of the cooperative. But if that partner worked in more than one center, he was identified with as many account numbers.

The same thing happened with customers and suppliers, "says Iván Javier Borsini, Engineering Manager, a role that covers the functions of the CIO. Although they used the same management system in all these centers (IdeaFix, of Intersoft), each one made it work independently, "as they could, as they wanted or as they needed it", he says.

The consequence of this modality was an asynchronous and heterogeneous operation, which often gave different answers to the same questions. In fact, it was necessary to assemble a control panel on Cognos to consolidate the data of producers, suppliers, customers and articles, and thus give visibility to the most basic variables of the business.

"And always the information was late, because it worked with batchs. You had to change the paradigm, "says Borsini. "It was difficult for us to obtain resources for the maintenance of the previous system. But, more than a change of system, we talked about a change of culture that the cooperative went through. "

Things would start moving in 2010, and that process would last about two years. The first step was the elaboration of an RFP (sheet that details the premises on the basis of which suppliers will make their technical, functional, economic proposals). "We went to a sealed envelope with SAP and Oracle. We did not choose the companies that were going to do the implementation. We wanted each provider to have the best implementer available. SAP chose Deloitte. And for Oracle, Enratio was presented, "recalls Borsini. Regarding the features sought in the solution, he says: "We wanted a tool that was more flexible when it came to customizing it.

Many issues, as happened in the case of the current corporate account, had to be carried out in the same way that AFA had been doing them ". This flexibility, together with the economic proposal, tipped the balance. "Of the thousand points of the RFP, SAP maybe fulfilled 1 or 2 percent more than Oracle. But Oracle could fulfill aspects of the customization that interested us.

That difference in favor of SAP was not significant for AFA, "says Borsini. SAP and Deloitte were consulted for this note, but at the close of the report they had not responded. However, prior to this definition, it was necessary to choose which Oracle solution best suited the needs of AFA. "We asked them to evaluate what was best for AFA.

The architects made an analysis and determined that it would be PeopleSoft, because this management operation is very similar to a banking one. The producer comes, delivers the cereal, takes input, delivers goods, takes a check ... "

Make the difference

Borsini's group -23 engineers in Systems- participated in the project with more than 70 consultants and some 120 key users who traveled from different parts of the country to Rosario, the epicenter of the deployment, where the AFA data center is located.

"It was the only AFA project where all the salaries of the people who participated, instead of going to Expenses, were charged to the activation of this product," he clarifies. Those salaries involved 32 percent of the total investment of $ 130 million.

But the bulk of that amount (39 percent) was allocated to Implementation and Consulting. The diversion of key human resources to assign them to functional tasks of the project was a traumatic process, which involved major negotiations. "We tried to get the user that hurt the most from the cooperative day by day, to add it to the project. Because that person was really going to tell me how things were done."The consultants that participated in different stages and processes of the project -which has been going on for more than four years- are Enratio ( main implementer of People- Soft), CIGLA Consulting (change management), Project Consultingv (interfaces to Web Services and batch processes with business verticals), NeovSoft (interfaces to convIdeaFix batch processes), Ayi (Oracle-SOA implementer), and Esphera Consulting and Link Consulting Services (PeopleSoft technicians and administrators after the start of production).

"We started in 2011, in the presale stage," recalls Leandro Sivila, Business Development Director of Enratio. We started with demos of the complete Oracle PeopleSoft suite (Finance and Human Resources). Then we relieved the current processes of the cooperative. The pre-sale process lasted more than twelve months. "

Iván Javier Borsini, Manager of Requirements Engineering at AFA.


The Storm

The process initially involved two large stages divided into phases. The first of these stages began in August 2012. In it, Human Resources and Global Payroll were deployed. In the first phase (seven months), ten modules were deployed that included Workforce Management, Profiles and Basic Benefits Management, among others.

The second phase started the following year, in March, covering the deployment of four more modules (including Recruiting / Candidate Gateway and Career Development and Succession Management). It lasted five months. The last phase of the first stage began in parallel with the second, but it would last nine months. In it the modules of Global Payroll, Absences and Possible News (customization) were deployed.

The second stage corresponded to Finance and started in June 2013. In December 2014 they would go into production with seven modules, such as Inventory, Accounting, Purchasing and Project Costing. "At this point, everything that was missing would come out in stages." The second phase of Finance was complex. "We had already unified the items, but now we had to unify all the suppliers, producers and customers.

This forced us to go out to production little by little, with different temporary interfaces that interacted with the previous system. "The output to Suppliers, for example, required the construction of twenty-six interfaces that " match " Idea-Fix.

Each module implied disregarding a customer, a supplier or a product in the cooperative centers, to do it on the People-Soft, and from there it "spread" to all the centers. The biggest fear was to make the interface between PeopleSoft and the IdeaFix that had AFA (a C-based system). "Making the interfaces was not easy: you have to talk about two systems of different generations." In such long projects, Sivila points out, "it is key to look for partial productive outputs".

This means putting groups of business processes into production. "In the case of PeopleSoft Finance, it was more difficult given the complexity and diversity of the processes." "The great challenge beyond complexity -remember-, was the motivation, fatigue and rotation of the implementation team, both of Enratio as of AFA. To solve this, the team was supported by new consultants and key users, thus providing a final synergy for the final stage production. "Sivila points to another challenge: resistance to user change, which would be solved with the consultancy firm CIGLA, who "contributed talks, videos and meetings to prepare for the use of the new solution".

For the end were Billing, Sales Orders, Accounts Receivable, Accounts Payable and Treasury. The cherry on the cake was Checking Account: a highly customized module that was adapted to the operation of AFA. This last phase covered about 36 months, culminating on June 14, 2016. For the only time, in mid-2016 it was necessary to "freeze" the activities of the entire cooperative for thirteen days, in order to be able to make up the unified balances.

Keep in mind that, per day, AFA must process about 10,000 receipts of operations. During that hibernation, some 90,000 balances were migrated, and some 2 million records were consolidated. At this point, it is worth clarifying that a part of non-core business is still running on IdeaFix.

To navigate such a multiannual storm, the support of management was necessary, particularly from Martín Lorenzatti, Administrative Manager. "He accompanied us on the difficult stage," admits Borsini. Although the storm is dissipating, there are several months of struggle against the current. At this point, the system is still in its stabilization phase.
Nine hundred users work on the system, with concurrent use on average of 500 to 600 users. To support this last stage, weeks before leaving production, an Oracle Right Now instance provided by Oracle cloud was installed.

Source: March 16, 2017. The agriculture AFA invests $ 130 million in technology. Infotechnology. Recovered from