Very large amount of reports
The business unit of one the three largest construction companies in Europe, which is responsible for the construction and maintenance of the railways, wishes to improve its information supply. The internal organization creates a very large amount of management reports and analysis using the popular Microsoft Office tools Access and Excel.
Reports kept growing
The set of queries and reports kept growing and growing to a respectable total of one thousand. After a few years working this way, a sudden major problem occurred for the Board of Directors to deal with.
An eager financial analyst
The organization recently appointed a new and eager financial analyst. It was her task to improve and simplify the existing financial reports. After thorough research, the analyst wanted to find out more about the way in which the project returns were being calculated. The project administrators each used a different spreadsheet in which to record the costs of equipment, personnel and materials in their own specific way.
Project performance calculated in many different ways
It turned out that the five different overviews that gave insight into project performance – all from different angels – showed different outcomes. Which one of these reports was right? Follow-up analysis revealed that certain cost centres were sometimes included but sometimes not.
Irregularities reported to the CFO
The analyst reported these irregularities to the CFO, who wisely alerted the Board of Directors. Together, the analyst and the financial manager worked out the correct calculation of the return. This took them four days, after which they concluded that the actual return (over the last two years) was considerably lower than previously calculated!
The got away with it
For some reason or another, the Board of Directors got away with a hefty reprimand by the holding’s Management Board, who knew that there was no evil intent and that the other construction companies within the group were having similar problems. Luckily, this ‘near miss’ prompted the management to create budget in order to develop a Business Intelligence system that would put an end to the existence of thousands of reports telling multiple version of the truth.
The business is flourishing
Now, a few years later, the business is flourishing. A reliable Business Intelligence system, including a dashboard and about twenty standard reports, offers both employees and managers insight into the most essential aspects of the organization. The infrastructure behind this – developed by the IT department – provides accurate and reliable figures. Where necessary, data are checked on quality and the definitions are clear, unambiguous and accessible to everyone.
Now they have only twenty reports
Finally: thanks to the fact that the organization now uses twenty reports that are updated and issued each month, and also because creating these reports and analysis is now so much easier, the organization has saved a hefty € 170.000 (yearly) on reporting costs.