Posted on Jun 24, 2019

IBM Planning Analytics in action

A great example of how IBM planning and analytics can make a significant difference to a company is well illustrated by the consumer goods giant Unilever.

Established in the 1890s and the owner of brands such as Lipton, Knorr, Ben & Jerry’s and Dove, it had expanded over the years in a siloed fashion with multiple finance and accounting processes. Unilever Europe alone operated across 24 countries and 18 different ERP systems, resulting in an elevated cost structure and a complex inefficient organization. To create new opportunities for growth, the company needed to optimize their finance processes by improving process efficiency, business performance and cost effectiveness.

By adopting a process methodology called Enterprise Process Innovation Continuum (Epic), the company was able to use advanced analytics to systematically measure outcomes against IBM best practice process models, controls frameworks and benchmarks.

The benefits were significant: beyond generating savings in the region of €700 million, a far simpler centralized finance and accounting organization was created, which drastically improved efficiency of financial processes, with a single ERP for the whole region.

But IBM Planning Analytics are in no way only intended for the very largest companies. Fundamentally, all enterprises face the same issues around needing accurate data on which to base financial reporting and decision-making in a way that avoids costly errors and generates better ROIs.

More usable data faster

“In this day and age, you have to have answers quicker and that’s the challenge. So the TM1 is really helping us meet this challenge,” he says.

Basin Electric is a power cooperative that provides and sells energy to its rural members from North Dakota down to Texas. For Levi Kom, the manager of the company’s Business Systems Analyst Team, speed and ease of use are key issues for his work.

Basin uses TM1 to primarily help with budgeting and forecasting, as well as for some operational needs. TM1 allowed Basin to unify data from source systems and create one version of truth, replacing spreadsheet-based processes.

“What TM1 has really done for us is that it’s allowed us to roll the model out in an immensely

short period of time,” says Levi. “We’re expanding, we’re doing more with it all the time and we’re answering questions for our upper management and for our board of directors at a faster pace than ever.”

He says that Planning Analytics is going to be a game changer for his organization, with visual representations of data for decision making not only being more appealing, but also more usable and to a greater number of management teams. He says that trust in the data is key, with “numbers and numerics going along with their metrics in a visual format”.

Moreover, the speed of delivery of the data has freed up time for Levi and his team, who used to be busy compiling data. Planning Analytics takes a lot of the data out of their hands and automates it as much as possible so they can spend more time analyzing and discovering it, rather than just carrying out operational tasks.

Better performance

Bostik Adhesives is a world renowned manufacturer of industrial adhesives and its operations are carried out by three completely different business units. For Jared Koepp, a financial analyst in Bostik’s Industrial Business Unit, the major ongoing challenge for the company is around financial budgeting, sales budgeting and sales reporting.

He says: “The biggest benefit since moving to Planning Analytics on Cloud about three years ago has been better performance. It’s just the reliability that we didn’t have before where we had issues with servers going down, speed, performance, etc. So that’s all been drastically improved once we went to the Cloud.”

IBM Planning Analytics has given the company extra flexibility around the possibility of adding new features to its overall requirements, including when it acquires new businesses.This allows for the different parts of Bostik to work together with one platform, one version of the truth and validated against a single ERP.

Finally, opting for a Cloud-based service operated by IBM means that the company no longer needs to get a whole team to come in at the weekend for a server update. Instead, it can just concentrate on its business.

Advanced calculations at the touch of a button

Saint Luke’s Health System is a hospitals and medical services company serving the Kansas City metropolitan area, as well as the rural areas surrounding Kansas City.

Bruce Heifner is Saint Luke’s Senior Director of Corporate Finance. He says business analytics are very important at Saint Luke’s for forecasting future performance, budgeting and financial reporting.

He says: “TM1 brought to us the ability to do some advanced calculations. It’s a very simple product to use. The ability to search for data, the ability to drill down the information that helps drive your business is very simple and straightforward, and it puts information at our users’ fingertips.”

Bruce also says that the new tools would be used for making decisions to ensure long term financial stability based on what-if scenarios, given expected cuts to government payments for health services.

Better meeting demand

Carhartt is a US apparel company founded in 1889, known for its rugged work and hunting clothing. It is still a family-owned company, headquartered in Dearborn, Michigan.

Most of the consumer data the company receives is through wholesalers rather than directly from end-customers and the biggest part of its turnover is made from its traditional products.

John Hill is Carhartt’s CIO/SVP for Business Planning. He says: “The challenge is when you’re growing, how do you anticipate that demand? And how do make sure you have the supply chain to react to it?”

To achieve this objective, the company is deploying IBM Planning Analytics in order to have the required demand data upfront, feeding straight into the planning solution, allowing for the correct purchasing and inventory changes to be made automatically with no human interaction. The ultimate goal is to have a system that delivers the same two-day order turnaround for B2B as for B2C.

Better decisions faster

Deutsche Bahn is the German rail company. Its core business is passenger rail transport and it is also involved in logistics, freight and business units operating worldwide. It is a huge company with a large digital footprint and vast amounts of data, with 6,000 data users worldwide and individual business segments each having their own TM1 databases. IBM Planning Analytics is helping Deutsche Bahn unite its global enterprise.

The company carried out a 360 degree review of their data and found with Planning Analytics all of the company’s different systems could be synchronised, so that the Management Board can now have an overview of any topic (such as revenues, certain costs, etc) irrespective of the user interface or source system.

Christoph Paul is Deutsche Bahn’s head of Digital Reporting and Innovation and says that the company uses data for planning, reporting and insights. He says: “We have a lot of data at DB, it’s a real hidden treasure and we need to use it more for foresighting. Planning Analytics is allowing users to now spend more time working with the data, rather than needing to understand the underlying data technology.” He also says that Planning Analytics allows for the right data to be used in the correct way to support the presentation of a specific issue. He also finds that used correctly, Planning Analytics impacts on strategy. “You will see the warning signs in your different market segments,” he says. “The faster you can make decisions, the better the outcome.”


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