Mace gains insight into the performance of international projects

Enabling faster, more detailed project-based budgeting and reporting with help from IBM and Barrachd

Published on 08-Jul-2013

"With better visibility and more timely access to more detailed and accurate information, we are in a better position to monitor performance and maintain profitability while ensuring that our projects are delivered on time and within budget." - Brendan Kitley, Finance Systems Manager, Mace

Customer:
Mace

Industry:
Construction / Architecture / Engineering

Deployment country:
United Kingdom

Solution:
BA - Business Analytics, BA - Business Intelligence, Enabling Business Flexibility, Information Integration, BA - Performance Management

IBM Business Partner:
Barrachd

Overview

Headquartered in the UK, Mace is an international consultancy and construction company that offers highly integrated services across the full property and infrastructure lifecycle. It employs 3,700 people in more than 60 countries worldwide, and is involved in some of the world’s highest-profile projects, such as the construction of London’s “Shard”, the tallest building in Western Europe.

Business need:
To manage the financial aspects of major international construction projects effectively, Mace needs a tight grip on its finances – but local variations in reporting processes made it difficult to maintain visibility and control.

Solution:
Barrachd helped Mace roll out IBM® Cognos® Express to its international business units, replacing cumbersome spreadsheet-based processes with an automated, detailed and standardised reporting process.

Benefits:
Improves visibility of costs and profitability at project level, enabling greater agility. Increases timeliness of reporting and provides a single source of truth. Reduces time spent on reporting by 50 percent.

Case Study

Headquartered in the UK, Mace is an international consultancy and construction company that offers highly integrated services across the full property and infrastructure lifecycle. It employs 3,700 people in more than 60 countries worldwide, and is involved in some of the world’s highest-profile projects, such as the construction of London’s “Shard”, the tallest building in Western Europe.

Many of Mace’s international projects are contracted on a fixed-price basis, and their success depends on the company’s ability to control costs and maintain profitability. Until recently, the only way for senior managers to gain a full understanding of international operations was a monthly report, based on a complex spreadsheet which drew data from numerous different accounting systems in subsidiaries around the world.

Brendan Kitley, Finance Systems Manager at Mace, comments: “The spreadsheet on which we based our international reports had about 40 tabs and hundreds of cross-links, which meant it was very easy to introduce errors, and the lack of a standardised approach was affecting accuracy and consistency. We wanted to find a more robust process for financial reporting.”

Finding the right partner

Mace was already using IBM Cognos TM1® software for its domestic business in the UK, and was keen to find a similar solution for the international business.

“We decided to use IBM Cognos Express as the foundation of our international reporting platform,” says Brendan Kitley. “We were impressed by its ability to give us many of the same capabilities as our TM1 solution, but at a price-point that was more affordable for an organisation the size of our international division. We also liked the web interface, which we knew our international users would be able to access easily.

“We engaged with Barrachd, an IBM Business Partner, to support us during the project, and they did a very professional job. They helped us negotiate a reasonable price for the software licences, delivered excellent technical support, and provided us with access to the right IBM experts whenever we needed them.”

Rapid implementation

The implementation was completed within six months, despite all the complexities of importing data from multiple accounting systems and handling exchange rate calculations for operations in over 40 countries. Mace is using all four modules of IBM Cognos Express: Xcelerator and Planner for modelling and planning; Reporter for business intelligence; and Advisor for several important dashboards.

“We have been really impressed by the ease of development with Cognos Express,” comments Brendan Kitley. “Setting up new applications and cubes is relatively quick and simple, and we feel that we’ve only scratched the surface of what we can achieve. We have a lot of Cognos skills and experience in-house, so we are keen to build a wider range of functionalities into Cognos Express as we move forward.”

Faster, more sophisticated reporting

The first major project with Cognos Express was to replicate the default reports that used to be produced by the old spreadsheet-based process. This was achieved relatively quickly, so the team was able to move on to a second phase of developing more sophisticated and detailed reports.

“The reports we have now are much more useful because they allow us to drill down from the group level through all our international subsidiaries to the individual cost-centres, and even to the projects themselves,” explains Brendan Kitley. “The ability to get an accurate picture of financial performance in each project empowers our managers to make better decisions.

“Moreover, since the reporting process is now largely automated, we can create reports more quickly and with less effort – which means we can generate them more frequently. Instead of a one-month lead time for reporting, we can do a full profitability analysis in half the time, and give our managers more timely access to the information they need.”

Moving towards a single platform

With the success of the international reporting project, Mace is working to unite all its UK and international subsidiaries into this single financial reporting and budgeting system. With a common platform for all reporting processes, the company’s central finance team will be able to spend less time and effort on maintaining and customising the processes, and more on actually analysing the figures themselves.

Brendan Kitley concludes: “With better visibility and more timely access to more detailed and accurate information, we are in a better position to monitor performance and maintain profitability while ensuring that our projects are delivered on time and within budget. By continuing to work with IBM and Barrachd to develop our Cognos Express solution, we expect to unlock even greater benefits in terms of standardisation and financial control.”

About Barrachd

Barrachd provides innovative solutions to deliver clarity and context to clients, enabling them to discover the unseen patterns in their data and transform them into meaningful insight. Barrachd has many years of experience in understanding and meeting clients’ requirements, delivering robust models that allow them to make smarter decisions based on a clear understanding of their own data. The company focuses on IBM Cognos and SPSS solutions, and also has expertise in IBM hardware installations – enabling it to provide an end-to-end service.

To learn more about Barrachd, please visit barrachd.co.uk

About IBM Business Analytics

IBM Business Analytics software delivers data-driven insights that help organisations work smarter and outperform their peers. This comprehensive portfolio includes solutions for business intelligence, predictive analytics and decision management, performance management, and risk management.

Business Analytics solutions enable companies to identify and visualise trends and patterns in areas, such as customer analytics, that can have a profound effect on business performance. They can compare scenarios, anticipate potential threats and opportunities, better plan, budget and forecast resources, balance risks against expected returns and work to meet regulatory requirements. By making analytics widely available, organisations can align tactical and strategic decision-making to achieve business goals.

For more information

For further information please visit ibm.com/business-analytics

Products and services used

IBM products and services that were used in this case study.

Software:
Cognos Express Planner, Cognos Express Advisor, Cognos Express Reporter, Cognos Express, Cognos Express Xcelerator

Legal Information

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2013. IBM United Kingdom Limited, PO Box 41, North Harbour, Portsmouth, Hampshire, PO6 3AU. Produced in the United Kingdom. July 2013. IBM, the IBM logo, ibm.com, Cognos and TM1 are trademarks of International Business Machines Corp., registered in many jurisdictions worldwide. Other product and service names might be trademarks of IBM or other companies. A current list of IBM trademarks is available on the web at: www.ibm.com/legal/copytrade.shtml. IBM and Barrachd are separate companies and each is responsible for its own products. Neither IBM nor Barrachd makes any warranties, express or implied, concerning the other’s products. This document is current as of the initial date of publication and may be changed by IBM at any time. Not all offerings are available in every country in which IBM operates. The client examples cited are presented for illustrative purposes only. Actual performance results may vary depending on specific configurations and operating conditions. It is the user’s responsibility to evaluate and verify the operation of any other products or programs with IBM products and programs. THE INFORMATION IN THIS DOCUMENT IS PROVIDED “AS IS” WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING WITHOUT ANY WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY, FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE AND ANY WARRANTY OR CONDITION OF NON-INFRINGEMENT. IBM products are warranted according to the terms and conditions of the agreements under which they are provided. The client is responsible for ensuring compliance with laws and regulations applicable to it. IBM does not provide legal advice or represent or warrant that its services or products will ensure that the client is in compliance with any law or regulation.