After coming up short three times in attempts to move its 86 independently operated subsidiaries to a standard set of back-office applications, Taylor Corp. is now succeeding in what amounts to a master class on the importance of thoughtful change management.
Under an ambitious four- to five-year project dubbed Horizon, Taylor is replacing most of its on-premises systems—85 of them in all when you count different versions of the same system, some of them no longer vendor-supported—with Oracle Cloud financial, supply chain, and manufacturing applications. The company also evaluated SAP and Microsoft applications but chose Oracle mainly because of the maturity of the Oracle Cloud environment, says Jenn Warpinski, vice president of enterprise transformation, who Taylor hired in 2020 to oversee Horizon and the company’s broader digital transformation.
Privately held Taylor was founded in Minnesota in 1975 by entrepreneur Glen Taylor, who grew the business from a wedding invitation printer to a diversified global company operating printing, data, and marketing businesses, many brought in via acquisition. Until Horizon, each unit maintained its own legacy systems, which included the likes of Lawson, Baan, and Monarch, as well as custom-developed systems and a few mainframe systems.
Taylor’s main goals with the Oracle Cloud implementation? Consolidate and standardize data and processes to make more-timely and more-informed financial, customer, supplier, and other decisions. Modernize and automate previously manual processes, which were costly and time-consuming. Reduce the technology debt accumulated from having to manage outdated systems. And ultimately make it much easier for customers to do business with the company across its different units. Taylor estimates that Horizon, when completed, also will yield $20 million to $30 million in total cost savings.
As an example of the business benefits, one of Taylor’s five multi-subsidiary enterprise groups currently has customer information sitting in 16 different systems. That makes it difficult for the group to cross-sell products across business lines—Taylor units sell everything from printed wedding invitations, brochures, signs, and consumer-product labels to digital marketing services. “We’re trying to pull that information out so that we have one view of the customer across the company,” Warpinski says.
Before wave one of the Horizon standardization effort—a global rollout of Oracle Cloud Financials applications completed in January 2022—Taylor’s finance teams typically needed a couple of weeks to assemble a consolidated view of outstanding accounts receivables across the company, Warpinski says. Now that data is available for executives to act on in real time.
And now that Taylor is live on a global instance of Oracle Cloud Procurement, it can attempt to negotiate better volume discounts with approved indirect suppliers, while end users can get approvals and execute orders for such supplies with a couple of simple email clicks.
One of Taylor’s enterprise groups is slated to deploy Oracle Cloud Supply Chain Management & Manufacturing applications—including CPQ (configure, price, quote), order management, direct procurement, demand and supply planning, inventory management, and warehouse management—under wave three of the Horizon rollout. Additional enterprise groups will deploy through 2024 and beyond. One expected benefit of the SCM application rollout is to give Taylor better, more-timely data on the profitability of each product and customer.
Many companies pay lip service to the importance of “executive sponsorship” when embarking on an ambitious digital transformation program of this type. At Taylor, Charlie Whitaker, who became CEO of the $2 billion-a-year company in June 2020, has made the success of Horizon his personal mission.
On a kickoff videoconference early on, Whitaker rallied the company’s 10,000 employees to view Horizon as critical to Taylor’s growth and prosperity—and to embrace the changes required rather than resist them, a problem that dragged down the previous application standardization projects, none of which involved Oracle. Whitaker has since led steering-committee meetings, led working sessions with project team members, and took part in videos to update employees on the progress of Horizon.
“If you talk with Charlie, it's not an option to participate. It’s a requirement: Don’t debate it, participate in it, which I think is a fantastic message,” Warpinski says.
Yet there’s still room for discussion. If a subsidiary is using a supply chain or other application that’s providing some competitive advantage not readily available in an Oracle Cloud application, “we will figure out a way to integrate it,” Warpinski says. “We’re having those conversations individually, but we have really, really great executive support across the company for Horizon.”
Also key to the past and projected success of Horizon is Taylor’s relationship with implementation partner Oracle Consulting, which created a comprehensive change management program for the application rollout, one that goes beyond communications and training.
The starting point is a discussion of the standard way the Oracle application is designed to manage a process—say, invoice matching. “We ask, ‘Why won’t this work for you? How is it different from what you’re doing today?’” says Betsie Reynolds, the vice president who leads Oracle’s transformation services team. “We listen to the answers and can manage around them. We advise clients not to focus so much on what the technology can do that you can’t focus on what’s changing for your people.”
At a design thinking workshop early on, teams from Taylor and Oracle discussed how to develop the “traits of a successful cloud culture,” including acceleration (make decisions, adopt more efficient ways of working more quickly) and versatility (encourage employees to move seamlessly across roles). A monthly pulse survey gauges how Taylor’s front-line employees are feeling about the implementation, to determine whether the overall plan needs adjusting.
After the first month of the wave one rollout, the survey showed “sunshine and rainbows and lollipops”—everyone was excited about the new capabilities, Reynolds recalls. But in month two, the survey revealed growing concern among employees about their ability to do their day jobs and perform the needed implementation work—giving CEO Whitaker the opportunity to jump in and ask the program team to investigate options to ease the pressure. Taylor CFO Paola Lucente was an active champion during the challenging times of the wave one financial application rollout.
A unique feature of Oracle Consulting’s transformation services group is its creative team, consisting of former ad and marketing agency people, who worked with Taylor’s finance, supply chain, and other stakeholders to create a project narrative to share with all employees, complete with Horizon branding. The creative team designed Horizon-branded backgrounds for Microsoft Teams calls related to the project. A monthly email newsletter that sports an interactive Horizon logo asks employees for feedback on what excites or concerns them about the project. Employees wear Horizon logo T-shirts and other swag.
As Taylor continues to move different processes and units to the cloud over the next few years, it will be critical to keep employees motivated in anticipation of the longer-term benefits, Warpinski says.
Warpinski says a turning point was when several Taylor managers who were skeptical about the project early on started chiming in on Horizon calls to encourage colleagues who were having their own doubts about the project as they were getting started.
“They’re now jumping in and they’re doing the talking, they’re doing the change management,” she says. “And they're saying, ‘No, you guys don’t understand. I thought the same way you did. But you’ve got to get on board now.’ Seeing that other people are doing that besides my team and Oracle's change management team just makes me so excited.”
(Taylor’s Warpinski and Oracle’s Reynolds will lead a session on October 19 at Oracle CloudWorld in Las Vegas titled “How a Focus on Culture Accelerates Cloud Adoption at Taylor Corporation,” in which they’ll go into more depth on the ongoing Horizon implementation.)