Published on 18-Sep-2009
"Over the last year with the IBM Cognos system, the entire planning process has been reduced from three months to just one month. This result has been achieved thanks to the active involvement of all participants. " - Dennis Schmidt, Controlling Manager at Arnold Jäger Holding
Arnold Jäger Holding
IBM Business Partner:
Jäger takes control of performance with an IBM Cognos system.
Jäger needed to find a solution that was capable of mapping highly complex structures, which could be maintained centrally and integrated into our existing IT landscape
Develop a detailed, multilevel sales planning system encompassing commercial, production and project flows, with an integrated profit and loss statement for each of the 24 subsidiary companies and the entire group
A comprehensive IBM Cognos 8 BI, IBM Cognos 8 Planning and conunit Corporate Manager system that supplied the reporting, planning and finance capabilities the organisation needed to create the foundations for performance management
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The Jäger group is made up of 24 independent companies under the Arnold Jäger Holding umbrella. This family-owned, medium-sized company has a presence at 16 locations in Germany, the Netherlands, the US and China. In total, around 750 employees carry out a wide range of production, sales and service tasks in the engineering, plant construction, automotive, industrial, environmental, agricultural and consumer goods sectors.
At the holding company, the controlling department faced the challenge of centralising and simplifying the planning and reporting process of the subsidiary companies, and optimising corporate controlling. In the past, reporting was based on a mixture of standard reports from the ERP system and time-consuming and error-prone Microsoft® Excel® spreadsheets. The main reports produced each month included an income statement for the supervisory board and directors, sales reports for all field and in-house staff, and a summarised version for local managers. It took at least two man-weeks each month to compile these reports. However, the frequent errors encountered when exporting data from front-end systems, and in data processing and distribution, cast doubt on their relevance.
Corporate planning was also based on Excel. The entire planning process – from the provision of data for current-year projections, creation and validation of spreadsheets, to the aggregation of planning data from the individual sites and group planning – took at least three months and occupied two employees almost full time.
“We needed to find a solution that was capable of mapping highly complex structures, which could be maintained centrally and integrated into our existing IT landscape,” explains Marius Q Jäger, Managing Director of the holding company. “In view of the complexity of the task and our limited internal IT resources, we called in the experts from conunit GmbH to draw up and implement this comprehensive, group-wide reporting and planning solution.”
Conunit is a specialist planning and controlling consulting firm and one of Germany’s leading business intelligence (BI) consultants. conunit consultants have in-depth industry and technological expertise, backed up by extensive experience acquired in hundreds of successful BI projects.
“During the selection process, a key factor in favour of the IBM Cognos solution presented by conunit was the fact that it is suitable for both large groups and traditional medium-sized German companies like us. Its scalable handling and functionality opened up a wide range of possibilities, including multidimensional planning and reporting and Web access to all applications,” says Dennis Schmidt, Jäger’s Controlling Manager, explaining the reasons behind the management team’s decision.
To pave the way for the implementation, the project team defined a standardised and consistent database, as well as sound processes and methods to be applied at all subsidiary companies. All users can now access these standards centrally through the system. To establish the foundations for cross-group planning, one of the Jäger companies was selected to act as a reference, due to the fact that its sales, human resources and investment planning processes could easily be adapted for the other companies. “The standardised and user-friendly IBM Cognos 8 Planning Web interface helped users to find their way around the new system quickly,” comments Dennis Schmidt, looking back on the early days of the new planning application. “We attribute the positive feedback and high user acceptance rate primarily to the application’s clever design and the ability to integrate user help and documentation in the front end.”
In addition to a standardised planning logic, users now have access to a far wider range of planning functions. For example, the introduction of a workflow functionality has significantly improved exchanges between sales and site managers and with central departments.
The reporting process was also updated and standardised during the standardisation of corporate planning flows. The newly designed data warehouse now encompasses all data sources (including ERP data from Microsoft® Dynamics® AX (formerly Axapata) Systems) in a standard structure, which forms the basis for all IBM Cognos components. This database is also helping the company to establish standard key data definitions, putting an end to discussions between users seeking to clarify different ratings of the same item.
In recognition of its extensive influence on virtually all aspects of the Jäger group’s business, an independent jury consisting of the Fraunhofer Institute, Business Intelligence magazine, the IMIS Institute and the F.A.Z. Institute selected this project to receive a ‘Business Impact Award’ in 2008.
One of the main benefits of the new planning system is the resulting improved monitoring and control over the entire process. For instance, top-down and bottom-up coordination sessions have been decentralised thanks to the use of targets and validation rules. As well as increasing the speed and accuracy of the planning process, communication among participants has also improved. A planning overview can now be produced at the touch of a button, from an individual spreadsheet item to the highest aggregation level. “Over the last year, the entire planning process has been reduced from three months to just one month. This result has been achieved thanks to the active involvement of all participants,” explains Dennis Schmidt.
The introduction of an integrated BI architecture is also helping to standardise internal structures, bringing greater flexibility in the event of structural changes. For example, profit centres can now be easily moved to different locations, and customers assigned to different field sales agents, without having to call on the services of the IT department. One of these key success factors of the solution was achieved thanks to conunit’s Corporate Manager.
“The option of using drill-through technology to interactively view the composition of values in reports has resulted in proactive and constructive querying of key data, such as ‘gross profit,’ and thus in the long-awaited standardisation of corporate language,” explains Natalie Jakob, Head of BI.
Managing Director Marius Q. Jäger sums up: “We have converted the reporting process for all users from numerous time-consuming spreadsheets to an extremely modern reporting platform. On the basis of a standardised database, we can quickly and effectively generate a wide range of special reports using drag & drop. What’s more, we have managed to reduce the time required to prepare standard financial, cost accounting and sales reports from two man weeks to two hours each month. On this basis alone, we will be able to amortise the new application extremely quickly. The positive effects, including improved sales controlling as a result of greater transparency, by far exceed the effort and expense. We are extremely satisfied with our new IBM Cognos solution and with conunit’s expert management of this complex project, from the initial planning through to completion.”
The next step of the project includes the design and introduction of a rolling forecast in the integrated planning process. In view of the current economic situation, this will provide a useful tool that helps the company to generate a preview of its performance and development over the coming months.
A certified IBM Business Partner, conunit supports its clients with all aspects of information and performance management and implements demanding projects. From its two sites in Frankfurt/Main and Düsseldorf, conunit supports large international groups as well as successful medium-sized companies.
About IBM Cognos BI and Performance Management
IBM Cognos business intelligence (BI) and performance management solutions deliver world-leading enterprise planning, consolidation and BI software, support and services to help companies plan, understand and manage financial and operational performance. IBM Cognos solutions bring together technology, analytical applications, best practices, and a broad network of partners to give customers an open, adaptive and complete performance solution. Over 23,000 customers in more than 135 countries around the world choose IBM Cognos solutions.
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