Conad Nord Ovest - Case Study
Performance Management becomes cooperative
Conad Nord Ovest is a large cooperative of retailers that, with its 410 stores and 5,800 employees, achieved a turnover of over €1.2 billion in 2018, operating under the business names of E.Leclerc Conad, Conad Superstore, Conad, Conad City, and Margherita.
The company is one of eight large purchase and distribution groups that make up Conad Group which, with over 3,100 stores, 56,000 store-based employees, and a turnover in excess of €13.5 billion, is the largest Italian cooperative organization of independent retailers.
Founded in 1962, Conad (Cooperativa Nazionale Dettaglianti - National Retailers' Cooperative) is not just a leading player in the Italian distribution market, but also a model of enterprise, with unique features that have spurred economic growth and social cohesion in the areas where it is active, by creating work and business everywhere in the country.
To guarantee the network of enterprises the best opportunities for growth, Conad is now an important member of national and international alliances that respond to the changes in the market toward transnational dimensions. The excellence of this business model is certified by the level of loyalty of the millions of customers who visit its stores every day, finding the assortment, quality, competitive pricing and service that make Conad a leader in Italy.
The Challenge: Performance control in an integrated environment
Franco Iazeolla, who holds responsibility for Management Control at Conad Nord Ovest, explains the challenges that the business was facing when it came to performance management:
"Performance control in a cooperative environment like ours is extremely complex because every analysis we produce must be applied to two different perspectives: the cooperative, the organizing unit providing the services of procurement and a wide range of accessory services, and the members i.e. the retailers who manage their own stores. A simple decision on the price, for example, in addition to having an impact on the results of the cooperative, changes those of over 300 different economic accounts we manage. This gives an idea of the complexity of analysis that we have to deal with every day.
In the area of management control, before installing Board, we used several applications developed on the Oracle database, Business Objects for reporting, and Excel for the simulation on data and budgeting.
Thanks to our good in-house knowledge in the database area and on Business Objects, we had succeeded in creating a system that ensured the company a good level of service, but was structurally limited in its architecture with respect to the desired flexibility of security management and depth of analysis.
Following an organization-wide study it became clear that we would benefit greatly from the adoption of an instrument that would enable us to integrate all the information arriving from different sources in a single environment. This would make it immediately possible to perform multidimensional analysis of the information, simplify reporting, and free us from the need to contact a software house every time changes in reporting were required, not only to obtain savings on costs, but above all to maintain full control of the timing."
The Decision: A complete, user-friendly platform
Following the study, and once the need for a more robust reporting platform had been identified, Conad evaluated the available options. Franco continues:
"When we undertook the software selection we already had fifteen years' experience in high level management control and this enabled us to evaluate the selection of the instrument with full awareness of our needs and what we wanted to achieve.
Aside from the need to provide the cooperative's decision-makers and members with a solution that would optimize decisions in less time, we were looking for an instrument that would allow us:
- To simplify the collection and standardization of data from management systems, databases, and other sources (not necessarily accounts)
- To integrate in one environment all the data necessary for Sales Analysis and Management Control through to production of the profit and loss account
- To effectively manage our Budget
- To simplify simulation processes
- To increase the depth of analysis, permitting multidimensional access to data and also ensuring the possibility of viewing them with different systems of analysis
- To give flexibility to the system in view of prospective organization changes and new business needs
- To provide reporting where we could complete information with explanations
During the selection stage we evaluated several instruments from Business Objects, which we were already using for reports, against the main instruments available on the market. The best choice seemed to us to be Board, primarily because it was the only instrument that gave us everything we wanted in a single environment, ensuring ease of use and the necessary flexibility to create new applications independently and adapt the existing ones to the continuous changes of business demands."
The Project: Unification of Management Control, Budgeting, and Sales Analysis to improve results
The Board project at Conad is divided into two main sectors: sales and management control, which is integrated on a single information base from which the multidimensional analyses can be developed, and the budgeting process on a forecast basis, which involves the entire network of retailers.
Sales are analyzed on the basis of data collected weekly, which allows aggregation of all the stores under one business name, channel, and wall code (physical location) as well as a series of analyses on other dimensions such as the warehouse of origin of goods sold, or department. At every level it is possible to compare the data with the historical data and the budget to have an immediate picture of the sales trends.
Management control, produced once a month, serves to generate the profit and loss account of the individual stores, integrating the information on the revenue side with that of costs, on the basis of the company accounts and other sources, such as sales data, margins per department, and personnel costs.
Alongside this detailed view, more synthetic analyses are created concerning the profit and loss account by channel/business name and territory, a complicated process considering that Conad has members in the regions of Lazio, Sardinia, and Tuscany, including the province of La Spezia. The process is also carried out at cooperative level with its attribution to different centers of responsibility, identifying their contribution to the overall results.
While this process is going on, the Management Control function has a dual role: on the one hand, it is the engine, on the other, it certifies the validity of the information that, though deriving largely from direct input, also includes data taken from standards or other supply sources.
In this context, it appears clear that the solution developed using Board also performs an organizational function, serving for nothing less than an across-the-board process of optimization of the performance of the entire cooperative structure.
The Results: Efficiency, independence, simplicity, and speed
"Moving to an instrument like Board has enabled us to obtain savings of 20% in terms of workforce, by obtaining management control data" - says Franco.
Independence of applications
"Since we had a good technological background," - comments Silvio Bacci, Controller - "our goal was also to become independent in the production of reports, the structuring of new analyses, and the management of data access permits. Certainly, from this point of view, Board differs greatly from all the other instruments we evaluated."
Simplicity of use
"Though it offers a complete set of functions, Board manages to remain easy to use. This characteristic will enable us to spread its use through our network of retailers, who will be able to reap the benefits without having to possess a vast technological knowledge," says Franco.
Speed of implementation
"If we attempt to assess the amount of time we have actually been able to dedicate to Board I would say that the results are outstanding. In about four months, using ten or so days of consultation, we were able to complete an ambitious project that enables us to control and manage performance, not only thanks to sales analysis, but through the creation of a monthly profit and loss account at the cooperative, company, and individual store levels," comments Silvio.
From the Retailer to the Managing Director: Toward extended information management
"After completing the implementation of Board in the sphere of the cooperative," - continues Franco -"we plan two more project steps that will extend its use upstream and downstream of management control, enabling us to configure an integrated performance management process along the entire organization structure.
The first step will be to create a dashboard for the senior management, capable of furnishing rapid, synthetic measurements of business performance through accurate identification of the correct KPIs.
The second step concerns the network; a project to make Board available to all the members. This will have two advantages: on the one hand it will automate collection of data from the field, with management via web of the budgeting process, eliminating all the tiresome work of reconciling the Excel spreadsheets that we have used up to now, and on the other we will provide the members, in appropriate ways, with access to the totality of the information base we have created."
Partners: BIG and ComputerVar a winning pair
"Certainly, partners always play a fundamental role in any success story. In our case we have to stress how ComputerVar and BIG ensured us not only good commercial support but also excellent consulting on the technological and applicative aspects, with a concrete approach that is the secret of its success. Perhaps a group like ours, that can count on excellent skills within it, is even more able to appreciate the value added by their contribution to the excellent results obtained thus far" concludes Franco.