Case study: five fundamentals for a successful IS re-engineering project at a farming cooperative

Urbanisation du système d'information des coopératives agricoles

Starting and successfully completing an information system re-engineering project looks to be a huge undertaking. Yet many organisations are already tackling it successfully, building the pillars of their digital transformation one brick at a time.

As in all sectors, some deep-rooted changes are shaking up the world of agriculture, with more stringent regulatory obligations, a new competitive landscape, and a financial model that is yet to settle. The farming cooperative in our case study was fully aware of the need to adapt to these developments.Under the IT department’s impetus, it started a transformation project.

The five fundamentals that structured this process were as follows:

1. Decide upon the target trajectory for the information system

The objective of this IS re-engineering project was to use digital to support the cooperative’s transformation around key strategy areas set by senior management. The project also aimed to overcome the issues caused by the existence of a major legacy system. Building an omnichannel strategy lies at the heart of the planned transformation, to improve the level of service delivered to the cooperative’s members, and facilitate access to those services through a single point of entry.

2. Divide the re-engineering strategy into project stages

The cooperative set its sights firmly on the final objective, and split the re-engineering project into four stages leading to that objective:

  • Stage 1: Structuring its third parties MDM
  • Stage 2: Implementing its product lines MDM
  • Stage 3: Working on the ERP trajectory to improve data reliability in support of its omnichannel strategy and e-commerce
  • Stage 4: Lastly, rolling out online ordering and e-commerce functions to support business expansion. 

The starting point in the process was implementing the MDM modules to structure the master data taken from the legacy system. This served to establish a firm working foundation for the architecture and application map before adding further components.

The project also included an IT-wide plan to migrate the infrastructure from on-premise to cloud-based.

3. Produce the target functional map

Mapping the data traffic shows the architecture that needs to be put in place to break free from using point-to-point methods.

The cooperative decided to use an EAI (Enterprise Application Integration) as a “marshalling yard” to interface all the master data repositories with existing legacy systems, ERP and functional applications. The aim was to use consolidated data as input to management solutions such as CRM (Customer Relationship Management), BI and decision-support systems, e-commerce solutions, and more.

4. Put a 360° picture of the business in place using the third parties MDM architecture 

For this cooperative business, the need to improve knowledge of its members was central to the re-engineering project. Members’ profiles develop as the cooperative’s business model transforms. Digital offers new prospects for bringing them greater added value, but this does require detailed knowledge of their characteristics and their needs.

Structuring master records for all its third parties enables the foundations to be laid for building a 360° picture of the membership. In practical terms, this means adding different aspects to the master data records characterising each member’s profile, by including the new circumstances the business faces (multiple businesses, diversification, new agricultural methods, etc.). These characteristics are added directly to the Third parties MDM architecture.

A hierarchy of these third parties has been established, to build connections between them to give a consolidated picture of each farm and the relevant decision-makers (to deal, for example, with one farmer running more than one farm). 

5. Build a multi-skilled project team for IS re-engineering

A key success factor for the project is making it far more than just a shared database. The tone was set at the outset: this is a Group project producing a tool that will be useful to everyone.

The project team accordingly pulled together various skills sets, of those defining and those using the future system:

  • Marketing and grassroots representatives. They provide customer knowledge, which the MDM module will deepen.
  • Finance, the involvement of which is essential for any IS project, and which will benefit from an improved financial picture once the IS has been re-engineered.
  • IT, keeping the project on its set trajectory. This project team would prove more autonomous, providing better support for the cooperative’s growth (easier to integrate new companies in the IS, centralised interfaces, fewer specific developments, etc.).


What happens afterwards?

Re-engineering an information system is an exercise in continuous improvement. Although the positive group dynamic existed from the outset, the work needed on change management must not be under-estimated. In particular, new responsibilities had to be defined to nurture master data records over the course of time. However, following a phased approach meant positive results were seen quickly, especially as regards improved data quality thanks to efforts in removing duplicate records. This approach secured user buy-in to the project and helped keep it on course.