Sample Case Study – Dabo Vatis

This case study is about a real project I was directly involved in. Company names and other details have been changed.

In Just Two Months, Vatis Enables Dabo Expansion into Japan to Support Coffopolis

The Customer

Dabo Services, founded in 1975, has 520 employees worldwide, and is headquartered in Provo, Utah. It provides logistics support, from order to accounting, to companies with a high number of retail outlets. Dabo’s specialty is managing and delivering aromatic and easily spoiled foods while keeping them as fresh as possible. Dabo provides support to customers on an open book, cost-plus model.

Dabo supports Coffopolis, the world’s leading provider of the home-style coffee experience. Coffopolis has shops in over one hundred countries. Dabo’s support is from order to delivery, to accounting not only for food, but also for all small items, such as office supplies. Dabo supports Coffopolis in the Americas, Africa, and China.

A recent project was a great success, and let Dabo add Japan to the list of markets in which it supports Coffopolis.

(Graphic: diagram showing Dabo relationships with primary vendors, Coffopolis, and retail outlets)

The Challenge

In most of the world, Coffopolis deals with its logistical partners on an open-book, cost-plus basis. Zabotani had been the logistics support partner in Japan for Coffopolis for many years. But, Zabotani’s support was on a closed book basis. Coffopolis had tried for years to shift to working with Zabotani on an open book basis, such as by making

  • a change in Zabotani policy,

  • a joint venture between Zabotani and Dabo,

  • a purchase of either by the other, or

  • a sub-contracting arrangement.

    Eventually, with regret, Coffopolis decided to end its business with Zabotani, and gave a deadline for Zabotani work in Kyushu of four months. To replace Zabotani’s services, Coffopolis asked Dabo to provide services in Japan.

The speed of the change was a surprise to Dabo. Dabo has two IT teams worldwide able to design and build systems for Dabo in any market. But the European team, led by Thor Schmidt, was fully booked with major work in Eastern Europe. The East Asia team, led by Rupert Fung, could start work at once. But, they could only set up eight of twelve needed modules as fast as Dabo needed them. Four other modules would need very rapid work by a skilled team from outside of Dabo.

(Graphic: Diagram showing functional modules that Rupert could and could not implement fast)

The modules needed were:

  • purchasing from vendors of food items and other items such as cleaning supplies;

  • receiving and warehouse management;

  • picking, packing, shipping, and delivery; and

  • custom end-of-month accounting.

These could not be built by Rupert’s team within six months. So, an interim solution was needed, to be used until Rupert’s team could build a final system.

Without the complete set of modules, Dabo’s move into Japan would fail. This would be disastrous for Dabo’s relations with Coffopolis.

Selection of Vatis

Dabo knew of the lengthy negotiations between Coffopolis and Zabotani. But Coffopolis’ move to end work with Zabotani was very sudden, and the time-line was very short. This meant that Dabo needed to act at once. Within minutes of Coffopolis’s decision, Dabo knew that outside help would be needed. This was confirmed early the next morning by Thor and Rupert.

Dabo talked with a number of potential partners. The partners needed to be able to rapidly build, and then operate, the modules required to fill holes that Rupert’s team could not. Those talks were with two global consulting firms, and with two firms that had worked in Japan for years and worked with enterprise software. Dabo spoke with executives, managers, and customers.

Vatis was chosen. The choice was based on Vatis’ decade serving Japanese and international customers in the Japan market, and its proven ability to build critical software very quickly.

The Solution

Dabo and Vatis agreed that Vatis would:

  • confirm software and business needs,

  • build and test software, network support, and testing systems,

  • install and test hardware,

  • train Dabo staff to use the software built by Vatis, and

  • coordinate with Rupert’s team to avoid problems.

Implementation

Even before being chosen by Dabo, Vatis began work. An initial check of requirements was made. Software design and coding teams were staffed. The day Dabo announced it would work with Vatis, Vatis’ teams began to review and update these requirements, and began process design.

Well-known in Tokyo’s high-end software world, Vatis reached out and recruited trusted coders needed to work on hard technical challenges. These challenges included custom document standards, Japanese banking practices, and handling of kanji (Japanese written characters).

Vatis reviewed work done during Coffopolis’ talks with Zabotani. Then, based on Vatis’ software expertise and know-how in dealing with issues that arise between Japanese and global enterprises, Vatis prioritized work. Dabo and Vatis reviewed designs, and they were approved, within two weeks.

At the same time, Vatis installed and tested equipment at a new site chosen by Dabo. Over the tense four months before the deadline, the four needed modules were built.

One major challenge was Zabotani’s resistance in sharing information. Another was the cultural sensitivities that are hard to navigate for companies without deep Japan experience. These challenges were dealt with through professional, earnest communication, and through advice from Vatis to Dabo on cultural norms.

Results and Benefits

Business use of the systems built by Rupert’s team, along with those built by Vatis, started smoothly. One two-hour delay of a delivery to ten (out of 273) outlets occurred. This was minor, and one-time. The software worked as needed, and many minor areas for further work were discovered.

Data flow for sales reports was improved by Vatis’ team, and this led to a need for fewer staff and much faster critical monthly reports. In the place of eleven people working for four hours, a system built by Vatis finished in seven minutes with one person. Likewise, time required to make and use a monthly status report between Dabo and its vendors was reduced from three days to two hours.

Key benefits to Dabo were:

  • protection of Coffopolis’ name in Japan,

  • Dabo’s continued work with Coffopolis,

  • better insight into costs related to supply of Coffopolis outlets, and

  • gains in Dabo’s knowledge of business and culture in Japan.

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Sidebar

  • Dabo’s own expert staff were working on other problems.

  • Dabo needed to fully support Coffopolis in Japan within four months.

  • Vatis built the needed custom modules on time.

  • Coffopolis’ reputation in Japan was saved.

  • Dabo’s reputation with Coffopolis remained high.

Pull-out quotes

“Vatis pulled a honey badger out of our hat, with no bite marks.” Hans Geistner, Dabo

“We were ecstatic at being able to start work on schedule. We are also impressed with the process improvements made along the way.” Jun Ichikawa, Dabo Japan