Whitcoulls takes stock after systems failure

Six-day ERP outage disrupts administration

Bookseller Whitcoulls is studying the causes of an IT systems collapse that affected its administration functions and order-taking in some stores last month.

The company says multiple hardware failures took down its trans-Tasman SAP system for six days.

Owned by Pacific Equity Group, the 60-store New Zealand Whitcoulls chain is part of the A & R Whitcoulls Group, which also has more than 120 stores in Australia. Bennett’s stores, also part of the group, were also affected by the failure.

CIO Paul Brabin says there were hardware issues “at a couple of points” at both Whitcoulls’ head office and the company’s datacentre. Administration and support functions were affected, he says.

Brabin emphasises that the stores kept on trading but some couldn’t take orders from customers.

“When SAP was back up, we recovered the backlog within two days,” he says.

The problems were caused by a combination of hardware failures, Brabin says, but he was not prepared to identify the specifically hardware affected. Back-up tapes were also affected.

“We involved all the vendors,” he says. These included SAP, Hewlett-Packard and Oracle.

Brabin says Whitcoulls is undertaking a root cause analysis of the problems.

“This has prompted us to look at the area of single point of failure,” he says.

Whitcoulls has been an SAP shop since 1999, while the Australian chain, Angus & Robertson, adopted SAP in 2004.

In June A&R Whitcoulls announced the acquisition of 30 Borders stores in Australia, New Zealand and Singapore. In March, it announced a major expansion to its web trading, boosting stock on its website by a factor of four.

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