Premier Foods

Based in St Albans, Hertfordshire, Premier Foods owns and manufactures many of the UK’s best-loved food brands, including Ambrosia, Angel Delight, Mr Kipling, Sharwoods, Oxo, Bisto and Batchelors, as well as producing and marketing cakes and desserts for Cadbury. Listed on the London Stock Exchange, Premier Foods employs more than 4,000 people at 16 manufacturing sites and offices. We spoke to them about the company’s recent successful project to enhance its financial consolidation capabilities by migrating to a new version of IBM Cognos Controller, running in the IBM Cloud.

What was Premier Foods looking to improve that led you to migrate to the cloud version of IBM Cognos Controller?

We had an older version of Controller running on-premises, which had supported our group consolidation processes for years, as well as providing supplementary information for our year-end and interim reports.

We wanted to get our Controller version back up to date—and we didn’t want to worry about falling behind in the future, either. That’s why moving to the cloud version was a good option: it would shift the responsibility for patches and upgrades to IBM and reduce the maintenance burden on our own IT team.

Why did you decide to work with Aramar?

Before we could move to the cloud, we needed to do a pretty big upgrade to our existing system, including moving to a new consolidation engine. Since Controller is a critical system for Premier Foods, we wanted to mitigate risk during the transition, so we looked for an experienced partner. Aramar is one of the few companies in the UK with Controller expertise—they have dedicated Controller consultants, and they had already helped several other companies migrate to the cloud.

Aramar also knew our ERP system and database, so they could help us understand the impact of changing the consolidation engine. Fortunately, since we’d adhered to best practices in our original implementation of Controller, it wasn’t as difficult as if we’d heavily customised the system.

And what did you do?

The project itself had three aspects: the upgrade to a modern version of Controller with the new consolidation engine; the migration of the Controller application and database into the cloud; and the adoption of new functionality such as Controller Web.

The project was driven by our IT team, but finance was involved too. Aramar provided a comprehensive questionnaire at the start of the project that helped us understand how our finance users work with Controller, and to assess the impact of the change. We also brought finance stakeholders in at the user acceptance testing stage, and Aramar provided strong guidelines to make sure we covered all the important functionality during the tests.

What is it like working with Aramar?

We definitely felt like we were working with a real expert, and Aramar’s approach gave us a lot of confidence in the planning and execution of the cloud migration.

Did you get the improvements you expected?

Yes. The move to IBM Cognos Controller on Cloud was a success, so we’re now using a modern version of the software and we won’t have to worry about staying current in the future. This not only saves time for our IT team; it also puts us in an even stronger position in terms of auditing and compliance, with support for the latest IFRS standards.

In addition, we’re now starting to see the benefits of the new Controller Web interface. Aramar have helped us build more robust workflows for contributors, so they can only submit data if it’s complete and validated. That means less back-and-forth between our group finance team and our business units, so it’s a much quicker and more reliable process.

What’s next for Premier Foods?

Now that we’ve completed the move to cloud, we’re in a much better position regarding group consolidation, and both our IT and finance teams can focus on other priorities.

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