When companies grow rapidly – especially if much of their growth comes through acquisitions – their financial systems, processes and data sources tend to proliferate. As a result, the workload involved in managing, gathering and analysing data to support core financial processes can become inefficient – as one of the UK’s leading outsourcing companies discovered.
The challenge for this IBM client’s finance team was: how can we transform the way we manage our budgets, forecasts and other processes, so that instead of acting as a brake on growth, they actively support it?
By harnessing IBM technologies to deliver the next step in financial performance management, and replacing IBM Cognos Planning and several other analytics solutions with IBM® Cognos® TM1®, the organisation has been able to improve inter-company visibility of financial data, deliver increased insight, and empower its finance department to drive performance both at departmental level and internationally.
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Setting the scene for transformation
This IBM client is one of the UK’s leading strategic outsourcing and facilities management specialists. The company has an ambitious growth strategy that targets both organic expansion and corporate acquisitions. Over the past few years, it has made major strategic acquisitions in various sectors, and absorbing these companies into the group’s structure has been the key to its success. The group finance team is making a significant contribution to this success through its efforts to standardise core financial processes across the enterprise. By replacing a wide range of legacy systems with a single, standardised platform, the finance team is now in a stronger position not only to support today’s business, but also to evolve to meet future needs.
The company’s Head of Performance Strategy explains: “With help from IBM and Logicalis, we have built a solution that is dramatically more scalable and adaptable. Our financial analysts are able to build new cubes and create new processes themselves, developing solutions in-house. This has completely transformed our ability to meet the needs of the business rapidly, and at minimal cost.”
Enhancing budgeting processes
The first significant application that the company has developed on the new platform is an enhanced budgeting process, which makes it easy to perform both top-down and bottom-up planning processes across all the group’s divisions.
Logicalis played a key role in helping the in-house team develop this highly sophisticated budget model, which provides a standardised approach to business planning while also respecting the key differences between different divisions.
“With the new model, our analysts can slice and dice the data by service type or by customer or by legal entity, and gain a much clearer understanding of how the business operates – which helps them come up with better ideas during the budget planning process,”comments the Head of Performance Strategy. “It’s a much more engaged and dynamic approach than our old process, where we spent a significant amount of time gathering and consolidating the data.”
This year’s budgeting cycle has been a much smoother and more streamlined process than ever before.
“The time we saved on processing the data, we were able to spend on deeper analyses,” says the Head of Performance Strategy. “We also had much more confidence in the results. Instead of dealing with an array of different spreadsheets, we had a single, auditable and controlled source of data. It completely eliminated those classic discussions during budget cycles of whose numbers were correct and whether everyone was talking to the latest version.”
The budgeting solution is also used to produce quarterly forecasts, helping the company keep track of its performance throughout the year.
“The problem with our numbers used to be the time we had to spend cranking the handle to produce them reliably,” comments the Head of Performance Strategy. “Now those same numbers pose us a different problem: how to make the best use of them to provide insight to the business. That’s a much better problem for us to have!”
Simpler pay review modelling
The company has also used the platform to develop a pay-review model for its pan-European operations. The application allows line managers to log in, review their employees and enter appraisal scores. The HR team can then assess pay-related risks, categorise employees into talent groups, and perform many other useful analyses.
“There’s full transparency along each stage of the end-to-end process now,” says the Head of Performance Strategy. “HR can easily monitor individuals, whole teams, different sites, or set target levels of pay for people in different roles.”
Making the right choice of platform
The company chose to build its new processes on IBM Cognos TM1 – a solution that provides a highly flexible and scalable analytics engine that can easily be adapted to many different applications.
“We were very impressed with the performance and scalability of TM1,” comments the Head of Performance Strategy. “At the same time, finance teams in some areas of the business had already been using IBM Cognos Planning, and they liked the fact that they could use it to build models for themselves. So we initially considered a solution that would integrate both TM1 and Planning.
“However, when the latest version of TM1 was released, we realised that it combined the best of both worlds: the new Performance Modeler capability allows us to take control of the solution and do most of the development for ourselves. For example, we used the skills we had learned from Logicalis during the development of the budget model to create the pay-review application almost entirely under our own steam.”
With the new solution in place, the company is rapidly building an information-driven culture. As the Head of Performance Strategy comments: “I am amazed at the adoption rate of the tooling and the appetite to expand its capability throughout the business.”
Going forward, the company expects to profit significantly from this ability to develop new applications quickly and without IT support.
“The more we can develop for ourselves in TM1, the lower the marginal cost of the solution will become,” concludes the Head of Performance Strategy. “This will increase the return on our investment and help us provide more and better insights for the business without any need to invest in additional analytics tools.”
Logicalis Group is a UK-based $1 billion provider of integrated information and communications technology solutions and services, employing over 2,000 people worldwide to design, specify, deploy and manage complex ICT infrastructures to meet the needs of over 5,000 corporate and public sector customers. Logicalis is the only IBM Business Partner to consult and support on the entire IBM Analytics CPM suite. Awarded IBM Business Analytics ‘Partner of the Year’ for the last eight years, Logicalis provides full-service support to over 300 customers. With a dedicated UK-based in-house support service, Logicalis provides a single point of contact for each customer and runs the UK’s foremost training centres for Business Analytics.
To learn more about services and solutions from Logicalis, please visit our Business Analytics pages here.