Lessons Learned From A Major Systems Overhaul

You probably scarcely give them a second thought – those little soaps, shampoos and other toiletries supplied by hotels. Or perhaps you grab a few extras for the next time you’re on holidays. But those amenities are big business. Concept Amenities is a Melbourne-based business that recently undertook a significant business transformation. I spoke with the company’s CFO Sue McDonald during the SuiteWorld conference held in Las Vegas last month.

The 33-year old family-owned business started out by scoring a major client – the Rialto Hotel in Melbourne. And the company still retains a “light manufacturing” capability in Melbourne where they make soaps. McDonald says the business has experienced strong growth since then and now services hotels all around the world. They have offices in London and the US. The company was acquired by one of their former competitors – Canadian company Hunter Amenities.

Interestingly, McDonald says that there is still benefit in manufacturing on-shore when serving the local market.

“It’s more cost effective that manufacturing in China and importing,” she said.

The company’s acquisition has resulted in some significant movements. Control of the US market they had built moved to the new parent company but the Australian business picked up a new territory in Asia. But a complicating factor was that the two businesses use different business software systems.

The Australian business uses NetSuite while the Asian and North American arms of Hunter used two different systems. So, the newly formed business had three different solution in place making consolidation of company records challenging. For example, the previous solution didn’t work well with multiple currencies. And with a multinational team, it made sense to look for a cloud-based solution so that everyone in the business had the same view of the all the data at the same time.

McDonald took the lead in bringing executives from the new business to SuiteWorld in 2016 and the company took the decision to consolidate the business on a single system. All told, that project took about 14 months.

While that sounds like a good outcome, McDonald noted some of the challenges the project faced.

One of the key issues Concept Amenities faced in their initial deployment was dedicating enough internal bandwidth to the project.

“The bandwidth existed – it’s just that everyone thought they were too busy,” said McDonald. “It was about focussing the minds”.

McDonald also noted that the company didn’t invest early enough in some extra software modules. For example, saving a couple of thousand dollars initially on the fixed asset package resulted in extra work later when deploying it after the main project finished.

“It wasn’t a financial need – it was about not understanding the need and understanding the whole business,” said McDonald.

McDonald said that she wishes more effort had been made to get buy in from the sales team so that the CRM elements of the package they chose could be better integrated earlier.

“Getting buy in post implementation is quite a struggle,” she added.

McDonald is hoping to take the next step and add the heavy manufacturing capability in the software to their operations in China and to further expand the use of NetSuite.


  • Before embarking on a major business software program, engage with everyone.
  • Think long term: will not doing something small early on cost a lot more if added post-implementation?
  • Focus: make the goals and benefits clear so everyone has their eyes on the final prize.

Anthony Caruana travelled to SuiteWorld in Las Vegas during May 2017 as a guest of NetSuite.

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