A Look at Columbia Sportswear’s Global Business Transformation – and How Winshuttle Contributes to Its Success

By on Dec 5, 2019

With Columbia Sportwear in the news this past month — both announcing the passing of chairwoman Gert Boyle (whose family founded the business in 1938 and was most recognized for the company’s iconic “One Tough Mother” TV ad campaign in the ‘90s) as well as the more positive headlines disclosing record third quarter 2019 financial results — I thought this would be an appropriate time to revisit a great success story we posted several months ago: Columbia Sportswear Connects Active People with Their Passions Faster Than Ever Before, which detailed how the business was able to speed and simplify its data conversion process using automation software from Winshuttle.

This article (featured in SAPinsider magazine) presented a case study of Columbia Sportwear’s global business transformation project — an initiative to boost revenue and profitability that involved a massive system, infrastructure, and process overhaul — with a specific focus on the project related to the company’s SAP landscape.

This overall transformation project, called “Project CONNECT,” was the largest initiative in Columbia Sportwear’s history — a history that involved some ups and downs, such as nearly going bankrupt in the 70s. However, the business was able to slowly recover following some smart marketing efforts, diversification, and launch of profitable product lines. After explosive growth, going public in 1998, and then continued revenue increases throughout the next two decades, the business knew it needed to modernize its operations to remain competitive.

After reading a statement from Columbia Sportwear CEO Tim Boyle (who had been co-leading the company alongside his mother Gert since 1988), it became clear to me how the company’s recent financial successes are a direct result of the enormous undertaking of the Project CONNECT transformation initiative. He said: “Since the project’s launch, the leadership team has been working across the organization to identify our biggest growth opportunities and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our day-to-day operations, streamlining wherever possible to free up resources to invest and enhance digital capabilities, product innovation, and incremental demand creation.”

And it became equally clear how Winshuttle played a huge part in helping the company to improve operational effectiveness, streamline processes, and free up resources.

Automating Data Conversion with Winshuttle

Columbia Sportswear’s Project CONNECT initiative involved, in part, moving its wholesale infrastructure and pieces of its retail infrastructure to a new SAP ERP-based landscape — currently the SAP Apparel and Footwear industry solution (version 6.08). The project involved rolling out five SAP Apparel and Footwear releases (each tied to a geographic region) and automating the conversion of millions of data records from various legacy systems to SAP Apparel and Footwear using the Winshuttle Studio solution. “Because of Winshuttle, we were able to accomplish a very complex release within a very accelerated timeline,” said Holly Day, Data Conversion Manager at Columbia Sportswear.

The legacy systems were outdated and highly customized, and much of the system data was in a format that didn’t easily integrate with the new SAP system, according to Day. When moving the data to the new SAP application from the legacy applications, the business didn’t want to port over old, unusable data, so a lot of data transformation and cleansing was required during the data conversion to clean up the data, delete old transactions, and purge inactive data elements.

As a result, the business obtained higher data quality and better visibility into its financial and supply chain data, and business users benefited from the data consolidation, which improved data cleansing, audit, and security processes and eliminated duplicate records.

David Flock, Senior Data Conversion Analyst at Columbia Sportswear, was impressed with Winshuttle Studio and how quickly it could automate high volumes of SAP transactions. He said, “When a user transcends to a Winshuttle developer and is a resource for the business in developing transaction scripts or queries, what a great value-added and empowered contributor that user becomes.”

Wins Achieved with Winshuttle Studio

During the conversion, Columbia Sportswear loaded more than 5.4 million transactions, and two thirds of the converted transactions were completed with Winshuttle scripts. Aside from the timesaving benefits of the solution, below are additional ways it adds value and efficiency improvements, according to the data conversion team:

  • Building a bridge between IT and the business: While Winshuttle Studio allows users to work within the SAP framework and make manual SAP tasks go faster, it does not require users to be mired in writing ABAP code. The data conversation team saw the solution as a good fit because the team could use it at a technically advanced level to quickly solve problems for the business — without having to overengineer or write a ton of code.
  • Eliminating demand for functional expertise. Because Winshuttle is intuitive to use and easy to adopt, business users can be effective quickly without having to be functional experts in every business area. After a subject matter expert (in finance) left the data conversion team, the remaining team members could build off the available baseline scripts or create new Winshuttle scripts, requiring minimal assistance from business analysts.
  • Mitigating scope creep: Winshuttle allowed the data conversion team to accommodate last-minute changes from the business and turn around any additional fields much more quickly than would have been possible using a more traditional programming method of conversion.
  • Supporting data validation: The software’s logging mechanism and run logs capture SAP error messages and maintain records of the conversions, which makes the jobs of the data validator and auditor much easier. The data conversion team ran mock data conversions to help provide business users with support for their data cleansing and ensure the project stayed compliant with Columbia Sportswear’s audit processes.
  • Improving SAP security testing: Columbia Sportswear’s security team had been using a manual process to test whether a newly configured role or authorization was allowing inappropriate access. The data conversation team automated this process so that SAP security users could launch a Winshuttle script (a chain of 148 individual scripts) and, within minutes, receive a negative testing log showing a successful or failed result on all the scripts. Without this Winshuttle script, the manual process could have taken days.

This is just a sampling of the benefits of Winshuttle Studio. To learn more, including details of Columbia Sportswear’s transformation project, how it selected Winshuttle and accomplished a successful conversion with the solution, and its plans to extend its use across the business, read the full article.

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