Landgard is one of Europe's largest marketing organisations for pot plants, cut flowers and vegetables, and it achieves annual sales of almost two billion euro. Based in Straelen-Herongen, Landgard is a producer association and, as such, is wholly owned by producer businesses. About 4,000 people are employed throughout its divisions and subsidiaries. At the present time, Landgard is running 34 Cash & Carry stores under its own brand in Germany and other countries, supplying large trade chains, garden centres and the specialist retail trade, and running an auction service for pot plants and garden plants as well as for cut flowers.
Since 2005, Landgard has been growing very rapidly, in part through integration with other companies, causing Group turnover to double within the space of just six years. "The links between these very different companies were extremely complex, so in the situation we faced at that time, we were only able to depict the full scope of the integration process to ourselves in rudimentary terms", explained Björn Flasche, Head of Corporate Controlling at Landgard. In 2010, Landgard took the decision to roll out a professional Business Intelligence solution. The aim was, at a future date, to be able to use just one tool to depict all company results including the complex intercompany links, and to do so in a standardised and detailed manner. In the new solution, all the 'dimensions' previously absent from the picture, such as customers or products, are the key to introducing control of break-even points at a customer-specific and product-specific level. Another important aspect was to simplify the management consolidation process which, prior to this, had been produced in the form of monthly Excel spreadsheets. "It was important to us to find a solution that offered a high level of flexibility because we had learned during the phase of strong growth just how quickly requirements and needs can change,” reflected Björn Flasche.
Landgard received support from the consultancy business Horváth & Partners in its selection of appropriate Business Intelligence software. Ultimately, this selection process chose the all-in-one toolkit Board over solutions such as SAP Business Performance Management. Among other things, Board carried the day because it is easy to implement, which also meant it was relatively inexpensive to introduce in terms of time and money. However, the decisive factor was its ability to perform workflow control of forecasting and planning processes, as well as the experience and expertise of Board's long-standing partner KONZEPT & LÖSUNG [Concept & Solution].
The Board solution
At the time of the implementation, Landgard was undergoing a restructuring process which caused priorities in respect of requirements for this Business Intelligence solution to alter at short notice. However, thanks to Board’s adaptability and flexibility, the project was nonetheless able to deliver real benefits very early. With the Board implementation partner KONZEPT & LÖSUNG, job one was to set up a new 'Actual Reporting' and a newly configured 'Forecast Process' in Board. "First and foremost, we benefited from Board's ability to support fast-changing requirements with flexible and rapid solutions. You see, at that time, our IT department was heavily involved in the restructuring process as well as in other projects," commented Walburga Willemsen, Controller at Landgard. Thanks to the toolkit approach of Board, the vast majority of the implementation process could be handled by in-house departments and KONZEPT & LÖSUNG without a single line of programming code. Fundamentally, the data are now being imported from SAP (financial accounts) into Board (via a SAP interface designed by Theobald Software), where they are supplemented with a few Excel spreadsheets.
Today, the controllers at the individual divisions of Landgard are either already employing the following applications centrally in Board, or are currently progressing towards that point:
- Variance analysis (budget v. actual), P&L or contribution margin calculation, scorecard with comments function
- Forecast, short-term liquidity planning (Work In Progress), planning on a seasonal basis (also WIP)
Currently, three members of staff are 'Power Users', responsible in their departments for the 'Customizing' process. Because of Board’s visual modelling capabilities, they are able to implement requested changes completely independently. All of Landgard’s operations, including more than 100 companies and a large number of divisions representing the various sales channels, such as the one for the 34 Cash & Carry stores, have been modelled in Board. As a consequence, the various managers in these divisions, arranged in a decentralised manner across the whole of Germany as well as other European countries, use Board to run the Controlling aspects of their operational activities.
The workflows and query functions provided by Board ensure that users feel supported and find the system easy to operate. It is now also no problem to integrate the international (i.e. non-German) divisions using Board's 'Multilanguage' functionality, and the various currencies are converted in Board employing a simple function. Furthermore, the administrator individually defines input and reading rights. In a final step, the individual reports and planning documents are merged into global overviews and these are used as a decision-making tool for management decisions at the head office of Landgard.
The customer value
For Landgard, Board’s main value lies in its ability to portray financial processes in great detail. "Board has helped us, during a difficult time for this business, to achieve greater transparency within the company, not only by presenting processes such as forecasting and planning very clearly, but also in helping us to reconfigure them," commented Walburga Willemsen. Today, Landgard sees its monthly forecast and its ingenious planning process as givens – however, neither of these functions would have been possible in the old system.
With specific reference to Controlling, the benefits lie in the ability to report and to plan in foreign currencies, in the flexibility available for evaluations and in the process of management consolidation devised in Board along company-specific lines with partner company KONZEPT & LÖSUNG. In the central Controlling function, particular benefits were derived from the fact that Board can produce evaluations much faster, and can also provide much more comprehensive information at the same time. "One of the biggest achievements was creating a standard provision of internationally collected data by consolidating them centrally in Board. This makes the work so much easier – an immense difference," reported Björn Flasche.
In contrast, what pleases the in-house departmental staff the most is the ease of operation and the user-friendly procedure for data input. In conclusion, it can be stated that Board enables the Controlling function at Landgard to model far greater levels of complexity than before, that processes have become much faster and that more details can be portrayed.
Landgard has great plans for its future uses of Board. Examples include the rolling out of new break-even computations at customer and product level – something that had initially been postponed –, the introduction of a personnel controlling func-tion and the implementation of a system of key performance indicators (KPIs) adapted to suit each division.