Published on 18-Jul-2012
"In the past, two controllers would be busy for a whole week each month generating the profit and loss accounts of 35 subsidiaries. Today, they can process twice as many in only three days." - Markus Nacke, controller of EnviTec’s Own Shares Unit, EnviTec Biogas AG
EnviTec Biogas AG
Energy & Utilities
Business Analytics, Business Intelligence
IBM Business Partner:
EnviTec Biogas AG was founded in 2002 in Lower Saxony. The company covers the entire value chain for the production of biogas, including the planning and turn-key construction of biogas plants as well as their commissioning. EnviTec provides the biological and technical service, and also offers full plant and operating management. If required, the company can even take care of the marketing of the electricity and gas that is generated on the national energy stock exchanges. In addition, EnviTec also operates its own biogas plants.
The monthly creation of spreadsheet-based profit and loss accounts for more than 100 EnviTec companies was extremely time-consuming and labour-intensive. The process was also increasingly error-prone.
IBM Cognos® Business Intelligence accelerates and simplifies reporting, creates a uniform and high-quality source of data, allows evaluations and comparisons across companies and across periods, and increases flexibility.
Harnesses the integrated IBM product portfolio to provide a one-stop solution. Reduces the time required to create profit and loss accounts by about 60 percent. Will allow the finance team to operate independently, without requiring help from the IT department.
To read a German version of this case study, click here.
EnviTec Biogas AG was founded in 2002 in Lower Saxony. The company covers the entire value chain for the production of biogas, including the planning and turn-key construction of biogas plants as well as their commissioning. EnviTec provides the biological and technical service, and also offers full plant and operating management. If required, the company can even take care of the marketing of the electricity and gas that is generated on the national energy stock exchanges. In addition, EnviTec also operates its own biogas plants. Listed on the Prime Standard segment of the Frankfurt Stock Exchange since July 2007, the company is now a European market leader. EnviTec Biogas AG is represented throughout Europe in 15 countries, as well as in India and the USA. With about 470 employees, the company generates annual revenues of approximately €244 million.
Monthly financial results for more than one hundred companies
To operate the biogas plants, EnviTec has created approximately 140 independent companies. Most of these are subsidiaries in which the company owns a share of more than 50 percent. The other shareholders are usually farmers. In addition there are about 30 EnviTec companies that engage in international activities, power marketing or services. Creating monthly profit and loss accounts for each of these companies required a huge amount of manual effort.
Markus Nacke, controller of EnviTec’s Own Shares Unit, explains the initial situation: “In 2011, the number of companies doubled, which meant that the process we were using for the creation of the monthly financial statements was no longer viable. Up to that point we had used individual, differently structured spreadsheets for every company, and we consolidated the figures manually into a general spreadsheet. Given the frequent manual copying and pasting between the spreadsheets, this task had become very confusing and error-prone. If we did not want to double the number of employees in the controlling team, another solution had to be found.”
Everything points to IBM Cognos Business Intelligence
EnviTec wanted to find a convenient solution to automate the creation of monthly financial statements for all its subsidiaries, and that would also enable cross-period reports and evaluations. Its ERP system could not satisfactorily provide these functionalities, so the company began looking for an analytics solution.
After an intensive market analysis, QlikView from QlikTech and IBM Cognos Business Intelligence remained in the shortlist. SIEVERS-GROUP, an IBM Premier Business Partner that EnviTec had already worked with on several former projects, convinced EnviTec that the IBM Cognos solution was the right choice. The main arguments in its favour were that IBM Cognos Business Intelligence is already being used by thousands of companies worldwide, and is easy to extend if new capabilities are required, thanks to its high degree of integration with other products in the IBM Cognos family. The latter aspect was of great importance for EnviTec because it was already considering adopting analytics solution for other areas of the business such as business planning and group consolidation. Finally, in autumn 2011, the company decided to purchase the IBM solution.
Quick implementation allows huge savings
Since that time, the first sub-project involving IBM Cognos Business Intelligence has been substantially completed. The IBM Cognos solution now handles the profit and loss accounts of all EnviTec’s operating companies and the other companies that are managed by the central ERP system. The integration of the remaining German joint-ownership subsidiaries is already well under way. The need to create a different accounting structure to calculate the results for this second group of companies meant that they needed to be handled separately. The addition of non-Germany subsidiaries that are still using other ERP systems is currently in planning.
Markus Nacke summarises the tangible benefits of his new solution: “The increased quality of the database, which is now uniform across the whole organisation, the simplicity of report creation and the comprehensive ability to perform cross-client and cross-period evaluations fully persuaded us. In addition, there are enormous time savings from the monthly creation of the profit and loss accounts. In the past, two controllers would be busy for a whole week each month generating the profit and loss accounts of 35 subsidiaries. Today, they can process twice as many in only three days.”
New applications increase the solution’s value
The new business analytics solution is also helping in other areas, such as the weekly monitoring of production data from the connected biogas plants. The solution provides greater visibility into the amounts of input substances used (for example maize or rape) and the amount of gas or electricity generated at every plant.
It is important to monitor these production statistics to ensure efficient operations, because – for example – if a plant generates more gas than can be utilised, the excess must be flared off and wasted. So EnviTec uses the solution to create an economic efficiency calculation for every plant, and sends the results to the plant operators in PDF format on a weekly basis. Thanks to conditional data formatting, the economic efficiency of every plant can be recognised at a glance, so that countermeasures can be quickly initiated if necessary.
Currently, the plants still notify the central office about production data via fax. For the near future, the solution partner SIEVERS is developing an online form that the on-site employees will be able to use to enter their data directly over the internet. A longer-term objective is the automatic capture and transmission of all production data using interconnected sensors.
The IBM Cognos solution is also being used for sales reporting. Every Tuesday, the company’s sales representatives receive a list of open items for their area of responsibility. Then they decide whether and how to initiate reminders to their customers. Finally, EnviTec uses the new solution for investment control and for comparing budgeted costs to actual investment costs.
Seven or eight employees in the Own Shares Unit’s controlling team regularly use the new solution, as well as a few members of the service area and group controlling teams. Managers also have the ability to log in and gain access to timely and accurate information. In addition, the executive board regularly receives hardcopy versions of the Cognos reports.
Perfectly prepared for future extensions
The user-friendly web interface of IBM Cognos Business Intelligence greatly benefits EnviTec’s domestic and international expansion strategy, since it has the ability to provide internet-based access to analytical tools and services for employees working all over the world, both now and in the future.
Enno Recker, head of the IT department at EnviTec Biogas AG, explains his future expectations of the new solution: “Our company is still young, and we are still near the start of our journey with business analytics technology. Nevertheless, we expect to see a lot of benefits over and above what has already been achieved. There are many opportunities for analytics to add value – for example, in the near future, we plan to extend the solution to the purchasing department. And since our ERP system does not offer advanced reporting capabilities, in the medium term we will start using IBM Cognos Business Intelligence for company-wide reporting and analytics as well as for project management.”
Markus Nacke complements: “We are constantly thinking about integrating new data sources into the system and developing additional analysis tools. In future, we should certainly be able to do this on our own, thanks to the intuitiveness of IBM Cognos. However, we are still at the beginning in this field, so in the meantime we will make the most of the excellent support that we receive from SIEVERS. In any case, the capabilities of IBM Cognos Business Intelligence offer us many new possibilities for the future – especially in terms of the integration of the group consolidation process, which is our next project.”
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Products and services used
IBM products and services that were used in this case study.
Cognos Business Intelligence
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