From little things, big things grow – how to manage consolidation complexity in a finance-friendly way.
In this interview we take a look at a ‘bread and butter’ Jedox use that you can see the world-over – Corporate Consolidations (yay!). However, this case is a little more complex than most and an example of how Business Intelligence projects often need to work in reality. Within a tight timeframe, the project team must live with a lot of ambiguity, and have with the confidence that their approach of continuous iterative efforts will gradually enable them to build up a comprehensive solution. The results are compelling.
McAleese Group is a leading Australian provider of specialised transport and logistics solutions across Australia. The newly-formed group brought together over 2000 employees in 15 separate companies – each with their own financial systems and unique chart of accounts. In this interview, with Sam Perrin, the General Manager of Finance, Colin Petrie discusses how McAleese is leveraging Jedox to consolidate 15 separate ledgers structures into a single view to enable management visibility and empower decision making.
Naked Data: What has been the main benefit of working with Jedox at McAleese?
Colin Petrie, General Manager Finance: The group had recently made a major acquisition, which introduced a number of additional companies and general ledger systems. There was no common way of reporting across the various businesses. There was a mix of general ledger systems with cost centre hierarchies and others with a flat design. We were using Excel for our reporting and also to perform manual consolidation. There was no common chart of accounts or automated consolidation across the 15 different general ledger systems.
We implemented Jedox in a few months and reported the whole of the previous year, running Jedox parallel through that period. Then we used Jedox for the year-end consolidation and close.
Naked Data: It sounds like you had some fairly complex business challenges to solve!
Colin Petrie, General Manager Finance: We identified that we didn’t have the systems or processes to report the larger group results on an ongoing basis in a timely manner. We saw Jedox as a tool that could enable us to quickly establish a common platform and consolidation process across the group. First priority was to scope out the project and engage a business partner to assist us.
With 15 different ledgers, maintained by separate IT and Finance teams, it was clear there was going to be a significant amount of technical work to extract data from these systems. The mapping process would involve a considerable amount of work, due to the different account structures used across the multiple systems. We also identified the need to develop a new common chartered account structure across the group. We also wanted to develop reporting to enable both statutory reporting and for use and production of our management reports.
As an approach, we wanted to make the project as efficient as possible and minimise the interruption to the day-to-day processes within each business. We assembled a small project team to work on this as a dedicated project and engage with relevant people within the business.
Naked Data: What was it about Jedox that initially got your attention?
Colin Petrie, General Manager Finance: The larger McAleese group had just been formed, and we needed a common platform, but weren’t in a position to deploy a single ERP system across all businesses. We were therefore looking for a solution that could sit across the various General Ledger systems and therefore provide us with a common reporting platform.
What I liked about Jedox was it had depth to help us manage our complexity but was still intuitive and finance-friendly. Having had exposure to other products, I largely knew what we needed. I’d previously had exposure to TM1. With the complexity of disparate chart accounts and a lot of business processes to map and bed down, I knew we needed a solution similar to TM1 that provided flexibility at a comparatively low operating cost. However, I also needed to ensure that we weren’t hit with high licence fees and ongoing maintenance costs.
Our vision wasn’t simply a consolidation tool at the group level, but to enable management reporting for each distinct business, so it was critical we had both a fast and easy to use tool; complemented by a sustainable licence model that didn’t hold us back us from rolling out across the organisation.
Naked Data: How did you go about selecting Jedox?
Colin Petrie, General Manager Finance: We needed something that was easy to use and could grow with our business and quickly adapt to changes and which we could support internally. We initially lined up a demonstration with Naked Data. Naked Data were very quick to turnaround a sample model using our own data, which was really helpful because it provided tangible proof of what we could deliver with Jedox.
We conducted reference checks. I was familiar with the environments and systems which two of the referees provided, and I was able to gain comfort that they had been able to successfully deploy and use Jedox in their organisations. This gave me a lot of comfort and really reinforced my confidence in the tool.
Naked Data: Were there challenges getting IT on board?
Colin Petrie, General Manager Finance: No. Installation of Jedox was supported by a management team and our IT department. Our IT team were part of the project team and worked closely with the Naked Data consultants.
Naked Data: A project that defines new business and reporting processes sounds like a challenge to scope upfront, especially on a tight deadline. Can you tell us more about the implementation itself?
Colin Petrie, General Manager Finance: We engaged a Naked Data consultant (Angelo Ho) on a full-time basis throughout the project, working alongside our internal project team. We engaged regularly with Angela and Chris (Naked Data director Chris Mentor) on the project and project deliverables. We also recruited and trained a person experienced in BI that could support us and manage Jedox on an ongoing basis. The selected candidate had previous experience with TM1 and was able to quickly get up to speed with Jedox.
One of the best things about the implementation was that the mandate from the CFO meant I didn’t have to deal with bureaucracy. Initially we scoped the broader project with Naked Data. With ambiguities in many areas, we agreed to work on a time/materials approach that enabled us to refine what we did iteratively. Angela [Naked Data consultant, Angela Ho] worked alongside us constantly onsite. Angela liaised with Naked Data principal, Chris Mentor regularly on timeline and budget, but we ran the project as if Angela worked for us. From then on, the project hung on two things – knowing what we wanted and Angela’s proficiency in delivering that.
Naked Data: How did you find Angela’s work?
Colin Petrie, General Manager Finance: Angela was good. The project wouldn’t have succeeded without her. She was able to understand the business structures, and what we were trying to do. We did the account mapping, and the team was able to take a concept that I had and design the Jedox model, create the automated load and extraction processes and build in checks and balances. The iterative approach meant we could rapidly refine the design as we discovered more, and Jedox lends itself to this type of approach perfectly. The documentation Angela wrote was great which made it easy for our team to take ownership. As a solution Jedox has provided us with much needed visibility and reporting. Angela’s role was instrumental to the success of the project
Naked Data: What’s next for Jedox and McAleese?
The various Finance teams from each business are coming on board now that we have started producing management reports. Next we need to build forecast models and create a forecast environment. That’s going to be relatively straightforward [Jedox enables forecasting out of the box]. The next significant project is getting sales and transactional data, then expand into the detail budget modelling. We will build all the budgets in Jedox.