Wintec dumps spreadsheets for Applix TM1

Budgeting and forecasting pain-point gets the BI balm

Waikato Institute of Technology is extending its use of Cortell’s Applix TM1 range of business intelligence products, replacing the ubiquitous spreadsheet in the process.

“We wanted something for budgeting and forecasting,” says finance and information manager Andrea Reynolds.

Previously, Hamilton-based Wintec used spreadsheets, but this meant the process took a long time. So it developed a list of requirements and appointed a consultant to assess what was out there in the marketplace. The consultant firm came back with three options, including Cortell.

“They sent two-to-three guys around, working on what we wanted. We wanted something for easier budgeting and forecasting, but then reporting fell out of the system. Now, we also have variance reporting, workload forecasting, reporting on student numbers, then central finance,” Reynolds explains.

“We use it for analysis. We are in the middle of trying to finance next year’s budget and we can compare costings by department, see where numbers have changed, and investigate further.”

When Wintec selected Cortell, three years ago, as well as offering the required functionality, the TM1 product had also been around for a while so was considered stable. It also had local support in Hamilton.

TM1 Business Performance Management promises everything needed for business planning, budgeting, forecasting, financial consolidation, reporting, and analysis and performance management, on a single platform.

Cortell says TM1 “eliminates the frustration of complicated, disconnected software, and the limitations, time and labour involved in spreadsheet-based business planning and analysis.”

An implementation time of within three months is also promised, with the system leveraging Microsoft and Excel. Since going live, early in 2005, Wintec has added extra functions.

“Now, when anybody logs on to their department, it shows key performance indicators. We have [also] added variance reporting [and] workload, to tie into budgets. [And] we have added the reporting of student numbers,” says Reynolds.

“Variance reporting makes life easier in knowing where we are. Variance reporting tells us where we will be at the end of the year. We can now make decisions based on that.

“If we need to pull back in areas, we can do that. It has a good impact on the bottom line. We have more, and quicker, information, [so] we can plan better,” she adds.

Reynolds says IT bosses considering such BI-related projects need to find out exactly what the end-users want, as it is essential they accept the project. Future-proofing is another factor and, as Wintec analyses more data, it has moved to a new server to handle the workload.

Looking back, Reynolds says the system operates smoothly, but when it was installed, Cortell was using accountants with IT knowledge. Wintec’s own IT staff would have preferred dealing with IT staff with accounting knowledge.

“Some of the way they set things up did not work when you rolled over to the next financial year. We got their Hamilton consultant in, who changed the coding and got it to work,” she explains.

Reynolds advises organisations to implement their BI projects in “bits and pieces”, and ensure there is a good fit between themselves and the supplier.

“That was why we worked well together,” she adds.

Wintec now plans to further extend its system, with modules for programme-costing and the use of workload information for planning.

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