Published on 25-Feb-2009
Validated on 01 Nov 2010
"“What impressed us about the IBM Cognos technology was its scalability and flexibility. It means we have a solution that has been able to grow with our business and adapt to our changing needs.”" - Mike Robertson, head of business analysis, Fenmarc
IBM Business Partner:
Fenmarc chose IBM® Cognos® because it had the best technological solution for streamlining their budgeting processes
Consolidate and coordinate budgeting and forecasting throughout Fenmarc’s geographically and organisationally distributed business
A scalable, flexible IBM Cognos enterprise planning solution that helps Fenmarc’s continuous business improvement with a direct impact on its bottom line
A holistic approach to budgeting and forecasting; automated processes that speed up and streamline the approach to planning, and make a significant cut in administration; expansion of the business analysis role to include tendering for new opportunities and modeling alternative operations solutions
Fenmarc is a dedicated large-scale supplier of fresh vegetables to Asda, one of the UK’s leading supermarket chains. The company produces a range of pre-packed and loose products including potatoes, carrots, parsnips, turnips and other mixed vegetables.
The company turns over £110m each year, and operates from five locations across the UK in Cambridgeshire, Lincolnshire and Wales.
Traditionally, budgeting and forecasting have been the domain of the finance department, but many forward-thinking businesses are taking a more holistic approach to these vital areas of business management.
A change in the finance team at Fenmarc provided the opportunity to review the way the company approached budgeting and forecasting. As a result, key stakeholders in the company, from procurement, production, sales and marketing, were brought into the process so that figures more accurately matched the day-to-day needs of the business.
The change also enabled the company to move away from spreadsheet-based budgeting and forecasting, and use technology to improve the whole planning process, ensuring a more consistent approach throughout the business.
“Staff viewed our forecasting and budgeting as a bit of a black art,” says Mike Robertson, head of business analysis at Fenmarc. “But when my team took over this function, we focused on drawing key stakeholders throughout the business into the process to ensure a 360-degree approach.”
Working with key stakeholders, Fenmarc’s business analysis team took ownership of forecasting and budgeting from the finance department. As part of this transition, Fenmarc reviewed a number of technology solutions to streamline the process. As a result, the organisation selected IBM Cognos Enterprise Planning in 2002, and has been using the solution ever since.
The business analysis team developed a number of IBM Cognos models to produce the company’s annual budget and six-monthly forecasts on business performance.
Managers across the company input projected data into Microsoft® Excel® spreadsheets – figures, marketing costs, labour, overheads and costs of materials – ready for the start of the financial year. The data is then uploaded into IBM Cognos for modeling and analysis to produce the annual budget and forecasts for the business.
Once the annual budget is complete, it is shared with key stakeholders, the Fenmarc board and holding company, Lifecrown. The business forecasts that are produced at the beginning of the year are reviewed every six months to assess how the company is performing against plans and ensure it is on track to meet its annual revenue and profit targets.
“What impressed us about the IBM Cognos technology was its scalability and flexibility,” says Robertson. “It means we have a solution that has been able to grow with our business and adapt to our changing needs. We still use the core models we built when the solution first went live, and we’ve been able to adapt them as our requirements evolve and as the business changes.”
The business analysis team has also provided a predictive planning model using the IBM Cognos solution to enable Fenmarc to undertake complex ‘what if’ analysis. Essentially, this gives the company the ability to create mini business plans to assess opportunities or changes in company strategy. These plans can cover anything from building facilities or acquiring companies to launching product ranges.
Fenmarc also works closely with Inca, a planning, reporting, and forecasting specialist and IBM Cognos partner. Inca consultants have worked with the business analysis team to develop new models and adapt some of the original models to meet the changing needs of the business.
“We have a very close relationship with Inca, which really understands our business,” explained Robertson. “Inca has helped us with some of the development work for our forecasting and budgeting models but, equally importantly, acts as a sounding board for my team when we’re looking at new ways to support the business.”
The primary benefit of the IBM Cognos technology has been the speed at which forecasting and budgeting can now be completed. Many areas in the process have been automated, ensuring a more streamlined approach, with budgets and forecasts then tailored to individual departmental needs.
For the business analysis team, IBM Cognos means a significant cut in administration, allowing the team to contribute at a more strategic level to the ongoing success of the business as a whole.
“Business analysis isn’t just about collating facts and figures to produce annual plans and reports,” explains Robertson. “We can play an important role in the business as a whole, looking for areas of improvement that have a direct impact the bottom line. This role includes tendering for new business opportunities and modeling potential roll-outs of alternative operations solutions.”
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.
For further information or to reach a representative: www.ibm.com/cognos
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