Wildlife group aims for productivity gains

Wildlife Reserves Singapore implements SAP software to integrate backend operations in hopes of increasing productivity and prep for future plans to provide e-commerce services.
Written by Liau Yun Qing, Contributor

SINGAPORE--Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS) has unveiled plans to upgrade its IT system to automate and integrate its backend operations, with the aim of increasing productivity and establishing proper business processes.

In a media briefing here Monday, Thang Koon Tee, director of finance with the local wildlife group, revealed that the company previously used "basic accounting systems and SMB (small and midsize business) applications". However, as the company expanded, it realized the need for its financial tasks to be mechanized and integrated in real-time, to achieve greater productivity as well as comply with standard operating procedures (SOP).

The company opted to implement SAP's Business All In One (SAP BAIO) and Business Objects to track its operations. According to WRS's group CEO, Fanny Lai, the backend operations of the company's five departments currently run in silos, and it is looking to integrate these disparate systems with the SAP implementation.

Such an integration will benefit its customers, too, who will be able to book meals at the park's ticketing booths, Lai said. These orders will then be automatically sent to WRS's food and beverage department for preparation, she added, noting that the new system will also allow the company to track a member's spending at and visits to the different parks operating under the wildlife group. WRS is the parent company of the Singapore Zoo, Night Safari and Jurong Bird Park.

The SAP implementation is touted to enable real-time visibility of WRS's ticketing sales and revenue and better support its restaurants' supply chain. The software vendor added that it would allow the wildlife group to integrate its frontend point of sales with the backend SAP BAIO platform--implemented at shops and restaurants--providing accurate data and allowing WRS's management to make informed strategic decisions.

According to Thang, the company had evaluated products from other vendors before deciding on SAP. In fact, it initially had doubts on whether to implement systems from Tier 1 software vendors because of the perception that WRS was "only a zoo", she said. The company eventually decided it needed to be "forward looking with [its] apps and technology", she revealed.

While WRS declined to share the amount of investment that will be ploughed into the SAP implementation, Lai said the project will be rolled out in several phases and to the tune of "multi-million dollars in time to come".

Thang said first phase implementation work targeted at the finance department will begin this week and be completed after four months, during which SAP engineers will be outsourced to WRS.

Lai added that the move to the new system is more "strategic than [about achieving] cost savings", as it will allow WRS employees to focus on their core competencies--research, education and animal conservation--instead of spending their time entering data.

That said, she noted that the implementation is projected to yield productivity gains and returns that will be "bigger than [its] investments, for sure".

The integrated system will also allow WRS to pursue new projects. Lai pointed out that the organization is looking to develop e-commerce and mobile-commerce systems which would not be easy to deploy without the integration of its backend systems.

Mindset change biggest challenge
Lai noted that plans to integrate its systems arose two years ago. She said the company integrated its ticketing system for its three parks in November last year, and decided it "timely to do a full integration for the ticketing [operations] and at the backend".

For Lai, the biggest challenge she faced was convincing the board of committee that the project will be worth the investment. "It's very difficult to quantify productivity," she noted. "How do you know how much money you will save and [what are] the strategic benefits?"

"To take the risk and invest in the future was a key challenge. We had to put up a case to convince our management," she said.

When the company decided to go ahead with the deployment, Thang noted that changing employee mindset proved to be another roadblock.

"Over the years, we have developed disparate systems and now we have to train these people to come together to share and learn the new processors," she said.

To overcome this, the company organized outreach roadshows and workshops to prepare its employees for "more effective processes and value-added services [and move away from] traditional [way of] maintaining records".

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