Pakistan industrial giant moves to unified business software back end



“Our managers now have a tool in their hands that can help them both analyze today, but plan
for tomorrow. We see this as a solution we will be reliant upon for years to come.”
Khawaja Salman Younis, Group Chief Operating Officer, Omni Group

A move to a single ERP in the shape of Microsoft Dynamics AX is enabling Omni Group, a highly successful conglomerate active in fields such as agribusiness, fuel production and energy and one of the republic’s most important industrial groups, to exploit the power of a single enterprise software suite across many disparate operational contexts, a move believed to be unique in the Pakistani business sector. Migration to one ERP also means no fewer than 17 separate units are now on the same software.

Enterprise software’s two big challenges

Omni Group is one of Pakistan’s greatest industrial success stories, with a history marked by repeated penetration of multiple markets and profitable diversification.

But that rapid success had come at something of a cost in terms of the information available to decision makers and the firm’s governing board.

Maqsood Ali, General Manager IT, Omni Group, knew that if he could secure one, an ERP (enterprise resource planning) platform that could be used by all the company’s many businesses would be the answer.
The problem, he says, was twofold. “With any ERP choice, it comes down to how well the system matches what you want, but also the choice of implementation partner to ensure you don’t waste your investment. We needed to make sure we had both in place if we wanted to make the most out of the ERP opportunity.”

In 2015, the decision was made to go to market to see if such a combination was possible. No surprise that an extensive evaluation process was carried out before commitment to a final vendor was made: “We had had some bad experiences with few software houses that were unable to guarantee us the truly long-term, enterprise-scale
partnership a company like Omni Group really needs,” says Salman Younis, Omni Group’s Chief Operating Officer.

Another big plus as far as Omni Group was concerned was the tight integration between the proposed ERP offering and the rest of the Microsoft technology stack, as well as an attractive entry price due to its existing enterprise licensing arrangements with the supplier, and core embedded functionality like easy import-export of necessary
operational data for any ERP solution.

“While we did have extensive conversations with other ERP suppliers, in the end it was the safety of going with Microsoft on long-term basis that was ultimately decisive for us,” he says.

An end-to-end ERP solution

But committing to Microsoft for such an important, group-wide back end system was still something of a risk on Omni Group’s part—and as a result, the pressure was on to deliver something genuinely impactful.

“So it was very important for us to do a great job here and show them what the best-of-breed ERP can really do for a company of their size,”

explains Sultan Hamdani, Partner and Chief Executive Officer of the trusted Microsoft local implementation partner Maison Consulting, which Omni Group chose to make this vision a reality.

The good news is that the Maison Consulting team delivered the first phase of the system on time and to budget after an intensive sixmonth engagement commencing in March 2015, justifying Younis’s faith in the pathway chosen, he says. That’s in the form of a complete, end-to-end ERP platform covering all business functions, from finance to general ledger to human resources, which is now in place in no fewer than 17 of the individual business units that make up the Omni Group roster of companies, delivering a number of efficiencies and day-to-day business benefits, say the partners.

Implementation proceeded in a gradual, stepped, fashion, says Maison Consulting, with a testbed implementation in the oil & gas group coming on-stream first to check the strength of the single cross-group ERP concept, before being rolled out to more and more of Omni Group, as enthusiastic managers demanded their teams should benefit, too. Overall, “Microsoft Dynamics has exceeded customer expectations in a number of aspects,” Hamdani says, while Younis
notes the “friendliness, approachability and professionalism” of the chosen IT partner for this critical business project.

In terms of internal Omni Group knowledge workers exploiting the power of ERP, there are just under 200 daily users so far, with more coming on board—and since the Microsoft-enabled ERP’s go-live last year, the system has been offering Younis and the rest of his management team a number of benefits. These center on the longawaited
power of being able to gain immediate visibility into all aspects of this highly diversified company’s operations, enabling the board to derive data-driven metrics so as to make decisions only ever based on fully accurate operational information, he explains.

“For a firm like ours with the growth plans we have, a single, consolidated operational system like we now have will be crucial to strengthening our chances of success,” he says. “Our managers now have a tool in their hands that can help them both analyze today, but plan for tomorrow.

“We see this as a solution we will be reliant upon for years to come.”

A group-wide, unified IT service

Salman Younis and his fellow C-suite colleagues aren’t the only fans of Omni Group’s new Microsoft-powered ERP system. From the IT team’s perspective, says Ali, return on investment in Microsoft already includes big steps toward a paperless workflow, the basis for a truly group-wide, unified IT service capability and reduced admin and support overhead, because effectively there is now only one instance of the core back-end system being used by more and more of the group’s operating divisions.

“I can now offer centrally managed support across all of the company, which improves service and saves a lot of cost,” Ali says.

“I believe there is great potential here for some time to come.”