Mitchell & Butlers (M&B), the owner of pub and restaurant chains Harvester, O'Neill's and All Bar One, has centralised all of its data, which was being stored in a legacy system and across hundreds of spreadsheets, into one master data management (MDM) tool.
The data from 1,600 pubs and restaurants, which includes 1,300 live recipes, more than 80,000 items, 250 suppliers and 3,500 stock items, was fragmented and stored in siloes. Computerworld UK spoke to the leads on the project, which began two years ago and completed earlier this year, who explained the difficulties faced in streamlining M&B's data processes.
"We had a central database for all of our product information, but that was supplemented by a large number of spreadsheets. There was an awful lot of cross referencing of that data to ensure we had data quality in all of the applications across the supply chain," said Alison Vasey, head of business change at M&B.
"It's also worth pointing out that we have business challenges that make M&B quite unique. Firstly, we operate over sixteen different brands, which all have different menus, making our data quite complex. Also, in the kitchens we are essentially 'manufacturing' goods. This means we couldn't use a retail MDM solution, we needed something that could handle that complexity."
M&B opted to implement Stibo Systems STEP strategic information management solution, which Leigh Wells, programme manager on the project, explained won out because of its flexibility. He said that the other solutions that were contending couldn't integrate all the processes into one centralised system.
"Prior to STEP, there were a couple of big mistakes where someone had put a very high volume price to a high volume line incorrectly. That had a ripple effect throughout the business and that brought the business case to life. There was an appreciation that the business needed better data," said Wells.
"Stibo was selected because of its flexibility. There are big MDM solutions out there, but they are costly and rigid. STEP allowed us to integrate both our product information management system and our ingredient recipe management system - which some of the others weren't able to do."
Wells and Vasey also said that a key benefit was that STEP was able to easily integrate into a number of its other key systems, including its GS1 feed, its JD Edwards financial system, and its PeopleSoft HR system.
M&B now has improved visibility across all of its brands, where the one system shows information on every bar and restaurant in the company, and allows better visibility into retail and stocking policies. Although specifics weren't revealed, M&B was also able to 'immediately' make reduction in staff, due to not having to re-key information into an MDM system.
However, the team did face problems with data quality and educating staff when implementing the system.
"Data was the main problem. We had managed siloes in what was essentially a spreadsheet system, where we were doing uploads every night, which meant consistency wasn't great. There were challenges in identifying where the master data was, cleansing it, and then migrating it," said Wells.
"The other problem was education and training in terms of preparing the business for the change that was about to happen. It's always difficult moving people onto a new process."
However, both Wells and Vasey agree that the benefits going forward outweigh these initial challenges.
Wells said: "We are doing other projects at the moment where master data is required and what we are seeing is that instead of going through a massive design phase and integration, it's now simply a case of which data do you want and very simply developing one interface. You then have a full integration of the solution."
"There are huge benefits like that, which weren't even considered when the business case was put together."
Vasey added: "There was an investment appraisal done, which was mainly around efficiency, but there are other benefits being realised much faster than we ever thought - although these probably haven't been translated into hard cash yet. The main one being that we now have a strategic platform for growth."
"In terms of our investment plans for new technology, STEP is at the heart of what we do now."
Although the main programme completed in April, M&B is now looking to upgrade to Stibo's latest version of STEP so that it can further improve data quality and efficiency. Wells explained that M&B wants to be able to do data quality checks within the STEP system, rather than on a daily basis once the data has been extracted.
"We want to ensure that only good data comes out of step - at the moment we do data quality checks outside of the system. There is a new business rule engine inside of the new version of STEP that we like the look of," explained Wells.
"There will be certain business rules, conditional scenarios, within the system that say if field A is a certain value, then field B must be one of these other values. At the moment we take it out and run nightly checks over the whole of the data to make sure it's consistent."
"An upgrade will allow us to push that process further upstream."