PHOENIX, Ariz. - Feb 26, 1998 - When rapidly-growing Starwood Hotels & Resorts needed to upgrade its computer systems at its newest acquisitions, it teamed up with another fast-growing Phoenix-based company, J.J. Croney & Associates (J2C+A).
Starwood's hotel portfolio was growing faster than its PC-based accounting system could possibly keep up. (Even during the first phase of J2C+A's implementation, Starwood was adding even more properties to total 650 worldwide in 70 countries with multi-billion dollar purchases of the Westin, Caesar's World and ITT Sheraton chains among them.) They handed J2C+A a unique challenge: replace the company's financial computer hardware and software with SAP's R/3, the world's leading Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system, by January, 1998. The problem was, it was already the end of September, 1997.
The scope of bringing up 129 hotel properties in 100 days should not be underestimated. Most companies would take 100 days just to write the proposal for such a project. J2C+A had to build Starwood a new data center, configure and customize SAP R/3 to suit the company, integrate new servers into Starwood's nationwide network, train all the computer users and convert the mission critical data to the new system.
Although SAP R/3 is clearly the most powerful ERP application, it came with its own burdens --- luckily they all turned out to be perceptual, rather than real ones. SAP has been regarded as very expensive software that requires years to install and that forces companies to radically re-engineer their business practices.
J2C+A quickly began harnessing the SAP R/3 implementation for Starwood.
J2C+A started the process by putting together a team of developers and project leaders with the rare SAP skills required to do the job. Internally, Starwood put together a small, focused group of five executives who knew the business inside and out and had the authority to make decisions rapidly. Decisions were to be made quickly when necessary and, in case of serious disagreement, Mike Morgan, MIS Director for Starwood, would be the referee.
"The team maintained outstanding focus on our goal, the 100 day implementation, throughout the project, " said Murray Lisook, project executive for J2C+A. "Starwood's decision, to be on the new system for 1998, was absolute and our commitment was to match their determination. We took advantage of every opportunity to accelerate the project without sacrificing quality, but the keys were the IBM AS/400 server platform and SAP's implementation and customizing tools," stated Lisook.
"The IBM AS/400 is renowned for its reliability, ease of use and scalability," said Wally Christofferson, J2C+A midrange systems division manager. "IBM helps speed SAP implementations by preloading SAP R/3 on the AS/400 servers and doing basic configuration and setup as part of their 'Ready to Run' program. This can save a week or more and tens of thousands of dollars in a typical R/3 implementation," he added.
According to Lisook, SAP AG also provides a set of implementation tools, Accelerated SAP (ASAP), that were key to the rapid implementation.
"We use nearly every aspect of the ASAP tool set," said Lisook. "While there are stories of companies mired in long, drawn out SAP projects, the reality is that today, most implementations of SAP R/3 run six to twelve months. Our experience with the tools, tenacious use of every project accelerator, and strict adherence to ASAP methods, allows us to produce the highest value for our customers - a working system in productive use spanning many cross industry applications."
SAP AG is a German-based software company, started in 1978 that today is the fourth largest software company in the world. Long time a leader in Europe, SAP is recently experiencing its own explosive growth in the United States.
J2C+A is a six year old company based in Phoenix. In 1996 it was number 64 on Inc. Magazines list of the 500 fastest-growing companies in the country. Jerry Croney, co-founder and president attributes J2C+A's steady growth to its reputation of meeting its customer's needs quickly and cost-effectively. "We are a total solution provider offering a wide spectrum of computer services, from application consulting to network cabling, from networking to training," stated Croney.
Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. and Starwood Hotels & Resorts Trust is the nation's largest hotel investment and management company. Starwood Hotels & Resorts is also the largest hotel real estate investment trust in the United States. Shares of the Trust are paired and trade together with shares of Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, Inc. Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc., leases properties from the Trust and operates these and other properties directly or through third party management companies.