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Product and Topic Expert
Product and Topic Expert
Future-proof digital transformation keeps cargo in motion

The supply chain is now in the limelight. Before the pandemic, most of us might not have thought much about the vast networks of roads, rails, and ports facilitating nearly every purchase, from a carton of milk to a new EV. As long as the shelves are stocked, we likely weren't losing sleep about how they got that way and what it took to keep them that way.

With a network of more than 45 railroads, 25 switching locations, 30 logistics offices, and over a hundred terminal and port locations across the US, Canada, Mexico, and Australia, Watco is in the business of supply chain solutions—and keeping those B2B and B2C shelves stocked for a wide range of customers and industries, worldwide. Watco moves everything from agricultural products to steel to diesel on barges, trucks, rail cars, and ocean vessels—whatever it takes to get the customer's commodity where it needs to go. But with far-flung, rapidly expanding operations, a staff of over 5,000, and a new hybrid work environment, Watco needed technology solutions that could keep up.

Seeking a solution that will go the distance

Watco's expansive and expanding transportation network has 200 different profit centers - locations with standalone financials and leadership. With the company's legacy financial and accounting systems mired in sprawling, cumbersome spreadsheets, Watco struggled to establish a single source of truth that each location could rely on to measure performance and plan for the future, sometimes as much as a decade or more down the road. Further complicating that complex landscape, the shift to remote work during the pandemic highlighted crucial areas that need to be improved. Realizing that a 100% return to the office was not likely, Watco decided to embrace a permanent hybrid work environment. Collectively all those needs resulted in Watco replacing its labor-intensive financial reporting, analysis, and planning processes.

In addition to finding a solution that would provide each profit center and team member—whether they were at home, in the office, or on the road—with access to accurate, reliable, real-time information and eliminate labor-intensive, error-prone manual data entry, Watco also needed flexibility and scalability. This solution could seamlessly accommodate the company's aggressive growth. Given that SAP was already at the heart of Watco's IT systems, SAP Business Technology Platform was a natural fit to create a powerful cloud solution across three project streams: planning, analytics, and financial reporting.

The rollout of Watco's enhanced analytics and planning platform resulted in the following:

  • Increased speed and refresh time

  • < 30 days spent consolidating and QAing data

  • Planning and reporting of financials to support agile decision-making

  • Elimination of the need for multiple versions of the same planning workbooks and reports

Tune In

In this episode of Better Together: Customer Conversations, we sat down with Andy Nielsen, Senior Vice President of Finance and Accounting at Watco, and Corey Corrick, VP of Applications at Watco, to learn about how the company completed its digital transformation and established a future-proof foundation for growth over the long haul.

  • Thought Leadership Podcast: Tamara McCleary, CEO of Thulium, talked with Andy Nielsen and Corey Corrick about what it takes not only to survive but to thrive in the current transportation services industry, which is crucial to the worldwide supply chain. They also shared how and why relationships with external partners and internal stakeholders are vital to Watco's success.

  • Practitioners' Video: Sylvie Otten Sollod, Vice President, Product Marketing, SAP Business Technology Platform, sat down with Andy and Corey to discuss Watco's complex operations and the importance of flexibility and scalability when developing and implementing a comprehensive, company-wide financial solution.

Some key insights

Andy and Corey stressed the importance of setting clear goals for a digital transformation. For Watco, giving each of their profit centers and team members real-time access to information was fundamental, especially, as Andy told us, " I'm a financial person at heart. We love Excel, but when you start talking about 200, 300, 400 different locations where when we're putting together a financial plan or a forecast budget, you cannot use Excel and quickly get data back in the hands of the folks who need it, especially when everybody's not centralized and they're all in different locations." As he further explained, "you eliminate integrations and different systems, you inherently get more…accurate, timely, reliable financial information that gets back in the hands of the users, which leads to quality reporting and analytics…then you can make more educated business decisions, which align with our business strategy: to continue to grow, excel, and serve our customers as best as we can."

Also essential to Watco's success was putting the spotlight on solid relationships—from external partners to the executive team to every team member impacted by the new systems, all of whom, Corey explained, "were included in the blueprinting, the design, and the testing." Once the process was in motion, solid communication made all the difference. "We had a great plan," Andy explained, so he was surprised at how often a weekly check-in would reveal that they had started moving in the wrong direction. "Things are lost in translation, assumptions are made." So, Andy told us, "we had the conversation, we pivoted, and we pulled back, and we started going in the right direction." Keeping the lines of communication open ensured that Watco's digital transformation stayed on the rails for on-time delivery.

Interested in more stories about Financial Management? Check out:

  • Deutsche Börse: Discover how the financial services firm is pioneering a cloud-based IT infrastructure while maintaining the security standards required in the strictly regulated financial sector.

  • Zalando: The payment services provider for online retailer Zalando SE, Zalando Payments GmbH (ZPS) processes payments for more than 250 million orders per year. To ease regulatory compliance, it uses SAP BTP – delivering financial and nonfinancial risk assessment data and enabling automated risk simulation in one tool.

Visit to find all our Better Together: Customer Conversations episodes.

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