Published on 26-Sep-2011
Validated on 02 Dec 2013
IBM Treasury Department
Business Analytics, Business Integration, Business Performance Transformation, Performance Management, Workload Management
At IBM, the Treasury department has a long history of transforming itself. In the 1980s, Treasury began to automate netting of inter-company payables. In the 1990s, IBM created an in-house bank in Dublin, Ireland to help consolidate and manage capital, moving it to parts of the business that had the greatest need for cash. In the last ten years, Treasury has created Centers of Excellence for cash management in Brazil, Slovakia, Singapore and Dublin.
The Treasury Department at IBM wanted to find a way to improve its monthly and quarterly cash/debt tracking and reporting process. Existing processes, based on spreadsheets and emails, were labor-intensive and error-prone, and it was difficult to get a real-time view of the situation.
Using IBM® Cognos® FSR, the Treasury Department was able to automate each step in the cash management process – cutting the time and effort needed to collect, consolidate and review monthly reports and forecasts while also greatly reducing the risk of errors in this critical Finance function.
Gives Treasury professionals real-time insight into cash positions across the global enterprise, helping them optimize cash reporting and forecasting. Provides a single, integrated global solution for cash and debt management processes. Enables easy collaboration, using a familiar Microsoft® Excel® interface while maintaining data in a central repository with a full audit trail. Eliminates manual processes, enabling Treasury staff to focus on higher value work. Uses automated workflows and checklists to ensure compliance with internal controls and external regulations.
IBM Treasury transformation
At IBM, the Treasury department has a long history of transforming itself. In the 1980's, Treasury began to automate netting of inter-company payables. In the 1990's, IBM created an in-house bank in Dublin, Ireland to help consolidate and manage capital, moving it to parts of the business that had the greatest need for cash. In the last ten years, Treasury has created Centers of Excellence for cash management in Brazil, Slovakia, Singapore and Dublin.
At the same time, Treasury’s technology infrastructure has been dramatically simplified, and it has been transformed from an internationally aligned unit with strong regional structures to its current set-up as a truly globally integrated function.
Today, the IBM Treasury function continues to search for ways to further increase free cash flow and to ensure financial flexibility and capital efficiency. Continuously enhancing productivity is also a priority, so the function is always looking for new ways to improve, integrate and streamline Treasury processes. One specific area in need of improvement was the monthly and quarterly cash/debt tracking and reporting process.
The existing processes for performing cash management, forecasting and treasury position analysis were manual and complex. Global Treasury professionals, regional managers and the corporate treasury team relied on spreadsheets that were being updated and emailed throughout the organization on a daily basis. Each time a number was updated, multiple analysts spent time re-keying the same information into numerous reports and tracking documents.
These processes were in need of efficiency improvements and better workflow management. To ensure that reports and forecasts were up-to-date, regional managers and Treasury HQ personnel had to send numerous emails and hold multiple daily calls with regional teams (sometimes outside regular office hours) during critical periods. This was the only way to get near real-time visibility into IBM’s cash position worldwide and to make sure fragmented reports and tracking documents were up-to-date at various times throughout the day.
Another problem was that different parts of the business had different systems and different ways to record and report information. One example was the difficulty of tracking and maintaining consistency in the FX (foreign exchange) rates on a daily basis across the global regions. Tracking, correcting and maintaining consistency was time-consuming.
IBM Treasury needed a solution to automate the collection and aggregation of daily, updated cash/debt data and FX rates to allow Treasury Management to look at its cash positions around the globe and see near real-time data quickly, easily and accurately. IBM Treasury also had an initiative to reduce costs by finding ways to automate existing processes in order to redeploy Treasury professionals to higher-value activities and analysis.
At the beginning of 2011, the IBM Treasury team saw a presentation on IBM® Cognos® FSR and discussed whether the product could be applied to the manual and complex processes they were currently using to manage and track cash and debt. Once they saw the demo of FSR, they immediately saw the benefits and value that the automation and enhanced controls of FSR could bring to the Treasury function – which could ultimately lead directly to better investment decisions. In the following weeks they set a project plan, identified the resources needed and began to implement Cognos FSR for monthly cash management tracking and reporting. The Assistant Treasurer acted as project sponsor, helping to drive the implementation from a senior level.
Features and benefits
Once Cognos FSR was implemented, the benefits of the single, secure and automated reporting platform were immediate.
Single, secure, integrated platform
Because FSR was rolled out around the globe, the hundreds of daily emails of versioned spreadsheets were eliminated. FSR also helped the Treasury function avoid inefficiencies such as data re-keying or copying and pasting data within the various spreadsheets. Regional managers from around the globe could simply and securely enter their data into FSR, which would automatically update the reports in HQ. Treasury professionals could now collaborate on critical reports simultaneously using the Microsoft Excel interface they were so familiar with, but also take advantage of the single secure data repository inside FSR. The single data set also gave management greater confidence in the integrity of the reports and forecasts.
Enhanced visibility, controls and audit trail
FSR has robust audit trail reporting – allowing management to see exactly what changed, who made the change, and when the change was made. Workflow and task management tools ensured that inputs were up to date and that steps and revisions were being made throughout the daily processes. Since the workflow is tied to the FSR report dashboard, Treasury HQ had much greater visibility into the process and timing of reports. Embedded compliance checklists were incorporated into the workflow which prevent a report from being sent out until the required checks and balances have been executed and approved by the regional manager.
Real-time data and streamlined reporting
Real-time data updates made it easier for those working at Treasury HQ to see what changes are made throughout the day in all 170 countries where IBM operates. The bottlenecks and delays associated with a global team mired in manually updating spreadsheets were also eliminated. Using FSR, if cash or debt data were updated in one of the regional reports from around the globe, the numbers were automatically updated in the summary reports at HQ. This kind of real-time data refreshing enabled the management team at Treasury HQ to move surplus cash wherever it is needed in the organization and enabled them to make better borrowing and investment decisions.
A single source of the truth
Using FSR allowed the management team at Treasury HQ to centralize critical processes such as ensuring that FX rates are applied in a consistent manner. The existing problems with identifying and fixing inconsistent FX rates in reports were eliminated. Now, rates are updated by one administrator, and are then automatically refreshed across all reports.
With the FSR platform, the IBM Treasury now has the ability to track and govern its critical reports and forecasts like never before, enabling the team to forecast cash and liquidity requirements accurately and make better investment and borrowing decisions.
Re-focus treasury professionals on value-added analysis
FSR has eliminated many emails and the manual processes of copying and pasting data and re-checking for errors. It has created a more efficient and linear process for managing debt/cash, removing multiple bottlenecks for getting accurate and timely updated information back to Treasury HQ. Business rules and validation have automated many of the checks that were previously done by highly paid Treasury staff.
FSR enabled Treasury leaders to focus resources on more crucial work, driving further efficiency and effectiveness in the organization, which in turn provides more value to clients and shareholders.
By implementing IBM Cognos FSR, the Treasury department accomplished its key objective of increasing productivity by eliminating many manual and error-prone processes. Since FSR leverages the familiar user interfaces of Microsoft Excel and Microsoft Word, implementation and training were quick. The collection, aggregation, review and validation of the quarterly cash and debt data and reports were automated, while controls and visibility over the entire process have been optimized.
The Treasury team realized tremendous gains in productivity and already has two more FSR projects underway to automate additional processes and reports.
Products and services used
IBM products and services that were used in this case study.
Cognos Financial Statement Reporting
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