Wawa CIO: Upgrade Fear Dictated Multimillion-Dollar SAP Purchase

When the $3 billion convenience chain decided it needed all units to see "one version of the truth," it made a decision to retain SAP because it was afraid of upgrade pain from more complex alternatives.

The CIO of the $3 billion Wawa convenience food chain was frustrated that various business units saw business data in different formats—and, consequently, were basing decisions on different numbers.

So, he sought bids to consolidate all retail software systems and present a more unified view for the 13,000-employee chain with stores in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia.

CIO Neil McCarthy eventually awarded the project to SAP, for somewhere between $5 million and $9 million. But along the more-than-year-long bidding path, he found himself caught in the middle of the firefight that Oracle and SAP launched during their struggle for control of Retek.

And, he said, he was ultimately quite happy that he ended up working with the loser of that bidding war.

When the bidding process began about 18 months ago, McCarthys goal was to deliver consistent data across the company. Its not that any particular data snapshots were necessarily inaccurate, but because they were looking at different aspects of the business and using different criteria, the numbers different managers studied didnt always match up.

"We needed one version of the truth. Today, we have a bunch of different data repositories, seven or eight different price books and decision support systems. We want one common repository," he said. "Today the store managers see different [data] than marketing and finance. [With the new software,] everybody will be looking at the same data."

McCarthys goals include more sophisticated and rapid-response pricing to secure universal access. "We want to be able to quickly answer what [products] we should be carrying and what we should be discontinuing and should we raise these prices and lower these other prices" he said.

"Youll be able to get to this information anyplace you can get to a Web browser," he said, adding that he wanted to avoid a VPN approach so that employees could truly access the data from any Web connection.

Instead, he would like to have beyond-password security such as a one-time-password keyfob, where the password would be displayed to the authenticated user and then quickly change. The security premise is that it would make a stolen password useless to an intruder as it would be voided in a few seconds.

McCarthy dubbed such an approach more convenient to employees than a VPN, which would permit access only from a machine that had the chains VPN software installed.

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