We caught up with Julian Bennett, Financial Controller at Specialist Computer Centres (SCC), Europe's largest independent IT group.
What was SCC looking to improve that led you to implement IBM Cognos?
Our commitment to continuous innovation has seen the company focus on cloud and managed services offerings—a shift that had a far-reaching impact on financial planning processes. To meet these new demands we recognised that a refresh of our existing financial planning processes was in order.
Following the sale of our hardware distribution business, we moved to strengthen our focus on supplying, integrating and managing technology. This was supported by a strategy to increase profitability and reduce costs for our customers in seven key areas: enterprise infrastructure; data center hosting and cloud infrastructure; IT outsourcing; desktop and workspace; software and software asset management; networking and security; and flexible resourcing. The new strategy placed new pressures on our budgeting, forecasting and reporting processes.
We relied on a complex web of spreadsheets to manage financial planning and reporting, and used a separate system for our finanical consolidations. Using such manual methods meant that analysts spent more time manipulating data than analysing it.
Moreover, because each of our operating units had its own way of planning and budgeting, it was difficult for us to gain a consistent, enterprise-wide view of performance.
We wanted to get everyone working from a single version of the truth and drive a more efficient approach to performance management. This would allow us to deliver timelier, more accurate insights to the business.
We needed a much more multi -dimensional approach to financial planning and forecasting that would help the business get the best value out of its new data center investments and acquisitions.
And what did you do?
After considering offerings from several different vendors, we opted for a suite of financial performance management solutions from IBM and IBM Gold Business Partner Aramar to ensure that the new solutions were expertly designed and deployed.
We chose to work with Aramar because not only were they clearly very knowledgeable about the IBM® Cognos® Controller, TM1® and Business Intelligence software, they also had excellent project management skills, and a lot of experience with financial consolidation projects. This gave us confidence that the team could deliver a solution that really worked for our business.
As a first step, we replaced our existing financial consolidation tool with IBM Cognos Controller. We then moved on to introducing IBM Cognos TM1 for financial and management reporting. We have been working steadily to embed the new approach across our Europe-wide operations, and expand the complexity and scope of our budgeting, planning and forecasting models.
We started using TM1 for management and board reporting, and haven’t looked back since.
We have gone on to develop much more complex cubes, and rolled out improved forecasting models. We’ve since completed in TM1 several full-year budget cycles for the whole of the SCC EMEA operations, as well as launching local reporting and planning models for SCC France.
Did you get the improvements you expected?
Yes. Replacing decentralised processes with a consistent financial planning framework has enabled us to automate previously manual processes, and eliminate much of the risk and complexity of relying on spreadsheets. As a result, our finance team can deliver insight to the business faster and more reliably than ever before.
Today, Cognos TM1 enables us to complete our annual budgeting process six to eight weeks faster than ever before. Year-end statutory reports take 50 percent less time to prepare and we can get monthly actual results for our management reports up to 30 percent faster on average.
By providing rapid, accurate insight into company performance, the new financial and operational performance management solutions are helping to drive sharper decision-making.
What was it like working with Aramar?
Aramar provided valuable mentoring for our finance team, so that they can write their own reports and views. We also hired our own ‘deep dive’ developers to help build new capabilities, as well as broadening support from other IBM partners. We have a long wish-list of TM1 projects, with recent highlights including fixed asset analysis exploiting the fixed assets register, a multi-year planning and forecasting tool, a rolling monthly forecast, and a number of costing analysis cubes.
What‘s next for SCC?
Today, our analysts spend less time crunching numbers, which gives them more freedom to explore and understand our financial performance data. Instead of delivering reports to our management team at a meeting, we can provide all the data in advance. With more time to digest the information, it’s possible to make better-informed decisions that will help steer the business to continued success.
IBM Analytics has transformed our approach to financial planning and analysis, and we are looking forward to building on this success as SCC continues to grow.