IBM Cognos Express Helps Mace for Faster and Better Business Reporting
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 standardized 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 organization 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 licenses, delivered excellent technical support, and provided us with access to the right IBM experts whenever we needed them.”
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 modeling 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-centers, 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.”