United Energy and Multinet Gas
Board delivers significant time reductions in financial analysis and reporting
United Energy (UE) and Multinet Gas (MG) provide a safe and reliable energy supply to residents across the eastern areas of Melbourne and the Mornington Peninsula. While UE and UG are separate businesses with different boards of directors and ownership structures, they are managed by the same head office.
The combined UEMG management subscribes to shared values of safety, accountability, collaboration, communication, empowerment and respect, which guide their executives and staff in everything they do.
Headquartered in Melbourne, Australia, UE and MG employ more than 300 people throughout their service region.
Financial reporting within UE and MG was performed by a combination of SAP reports, a legacy BI warehouse solution and many Excel spreadsheets. This time-consuming process required a great deal of manual intervention and checking by the company's financial staff each month. It typically took between three and four days to produce the end of month P&L, balance sheet and cost centre reports. And any late postings or manual adjustments delayed the process further because they required a full run of the entire process.
The Search for a Solution
Recognizing that this complex, error-prone and time-consuming reporting process needed to change, UEMG turned to the global analyst firm Gartner for recommendations. They first examined the annual Gartner BI and Analytics Magic Quadrant report, which annually subdivides the leading vendors’ expertise by functional strengths. UEMG recognized quickly that the Tier One vendors listed in Gartner’s MQ would require long, drawn-out and costly projects that would be overkill for what was required.
UEMG sought straight-forward financial reporting (P&L, balance sheet and cost centre reports) for each company plus the option to extend the system to accommodate budget and planning in the future.
Returning to Gartner, UEMG examined the specialty vendors listed in the MQ report as the best solutions for specific dilemmas such as theirs. They quickly recognized that Board International and three other vendors were better suited to help them overcome their data integration, consolidation and reporting challenges than the top tier vendors. A subsequent Proof-of-Concept evaluation conducted with all four vendors showed UEMG that Board would best meet their requirements for SAP integration and ease of use for the companies’ financial staff.
Implementing the Solution
The project of implementing the Board platform was driven by the finance department and funded by the IT department. Initial implementation took only 30 days, followed by another month of parallel running before Board was put into full production. During the first month, the SAP connector and server environment was set up and account structures such as GL accounts, cost centres (including hierarchies) and reporting formats were loaded into Board.
Board then enabled creation of basic reports, such as P&L, balance sheet, and cost centre reports. The first of these was done by Board consultants, while the balance sheet and cost centre reports were developed by UEMG Finance users on their own.
The time to extract data was greatly reduced due to Board’s integration with existing SAP queries and reports, allowing Finance staff to create variants in SAP to extract the required data. UEMG Finance staff can now easily create ad hoc reports instantly in order to further analyze their data.
Initially Board was used for basic reporting against budget and forecasts, with that data uploaded from spreadsheets. However, by the 2014-2015 financial year, the cost centre forecasts were entered directly into Board, saving time, the double handling of data, and reducing errors, thus enabling forecast totals to be made available immediately.
Board was implemented with minimal involvement from the IT department, allowing Finance to become self-sufficient for their reporting needs. The Board implementation has significantly reduced the hours required to produce month-end reports. In particular, the cash flow report alone has saved half a day per month of manual production and error checking. The quicker and more accurate production of financial reports has enabled asset owners and senior management to make informed decisions in a more timely manner.
From UEMG IT’s perspective, the Board project came in on-time and under budget. The Board platform improved the time taken to extract data from SAP and reduced the reliance on IT resources to extract SAP data.
From the Finance department’s point of view, financial reports from Board were up and running within two months, which was a big win for the business. To be able to create a report requested by the CFO within minutes was another plus for Board.
In summary, Board has been a success for UEMG. The outcomes of the Board implementations clearly show that needs of the organization have been met. And the success of the Board platform for Finance has prompted UEMG to expand the solution into other business departments.
“Since we implemented the Board platform, we have seen a quantum improvement in the speed and flexibility of our reporting. We are now much better placed to manage our business.” – David Strang, Chief Financial Officer (retired Dec 2014), United Energy and Multinet Gas.