Bill James, the finance director for Kuwait Petroleum International Aviation Company, was pleasantly surprised to learn that he had won a luxury weekend for two at Lucknam Park Hotel and Spa in the TCM Infosys member survey.
His company is currently migrating to an SAP business warehouse system to handle group and statutory reporting and he thought that taking part in the TCM Infosys survey would help him clarify his own thinking about business intelligence, reporting and budgeting.
“As an organisation we have been using Excel as a group consolidation tool for some time,” he said. “For the reporting, budgeting and five-year planning process, we had 1,500 interlinked spreadsheets. It was unwieldy, unstable and a recipe for disaster.”
The company’s auditor pointed out that Q8’s reporting set up was too risky, particularly with its short deadlines. The UK aviation division’s profits are around £12m on a turnover of £4bn, James noted.
“Given our unfeasibly short deadlines and the way oil prices are, it’s all too easy to miss a spreadsheet mistake that could lead to a material error very quickly.”
Retaining SAP as its core system, James and his team plan to adopt its Business Planning and Consolidation module as its consolidation tool. “It will do all of our statutory reporting, management reporting and planning/budgeting. With a relatively limited amount of manual intervention, it will be a seamless process from our ERP to the statutory reports”.
“I understand how Bill feels, it’s a scenario I’ve seen a few times,” said Faisal Nadeem, CEO of competition sponsor TCM Infosys. “Spreadsheets are a principal tool for most finance departments, however, these issues surface when it it’s being used as storage for large and complex multidimensional data with multiple sources.
“A lot of our clients use TCM alongside SAP for added flexibility,” added Nadeem. “One of the things we can do is simplify the finance department’s processes and provide a robust system for both the finance and auditing teams. TCM adds value through quick development of business specific models to address strategic and operational changes without resorting to wholesale changes in the source systems.”
TCM Infosys asked AccountingWEB members to take part in the survey to establish how reporting habits have changed in recent years. The full results are being analysed at the moment and will be circulated in a follow-up whitepaper.
But Nadeem was prepared to offer a quick preview for AccountingWEB members. “We’re largely seeing the same issues as when I started in this area about 20 years ago,” he said.
A preliminary review found the three most noticeable issues were:
- The number of finance managers who are still more concerned about correcting spreadsheets rather than spending time on more strategic work, analysing the data and helping the business.
- Budgeting and forecasting is still a problem, but less so in larger companies. TCM Infosys is still analysing the data, but Nadeem suspects that in light of recent economic change, companies operating internationally have probably been proactive in putting more robust processes in place.
- Many finance managers are concerned about reporting and budgeting problems, but have no current plans to address them.
“There could be a number of factors affecting this, and we’re keen to understand this further,” said Nadeem.
Meanwhile, back at Q8, Bill James is gearing up for the data warehouse implementation process and until then, he’s still relying on his consolidation spreadsheets. Hopefully, the weekend at Lucknam Park will come as a welcome break.
“As a single parent with a five-year-old daughter it’s an unusual prize for me,” he said. “It’ll be an interesting weekend for both of us. I’m sure my daughter will look forward to a weekend playing with fluffy towels in a posh hotel.”
About John Stokdyk
John Stokdyk is the global editor of AccountingWEB UK and AccountingWEB.com.