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Business Analytics and Corporate Performance Management program with IBM Cognos
This case study will discuss the implementation of Business Analytics and Corporate Performance Management program at Aliaxis.
After the spin-off from its mother company Etex in 2003, Aliaxis
rapidly grew into a global leader mainly through progressive acquisitions.
Simultaneously the group evolved from a holding company to an industrial Group
with operational and financial HQ in Brussels. This was driving the need for a
global organization structure with a completely different reporting process.
The role of the CEO, CFO and CIO were changing and both at Group level and in
the Divisions new management reporting requirements were defined.
In this rapidly changing environment, the Brussels based corporate
finance department was managing the group consolidation, reporting, budgeting
and forecasting processes using an old Cognos Controller instance, almost out
of support, and a very diverse set of Excel reporting templates.
This was no longer sustainable. The IFRS adoption, the introduction
of a monthly fast-close process and changing transfer pricing requirements made
the introduction of a future-proof solution of business analytics and corporate
performance management even more urgent.
The Business Analytics (BA) and Corporate Performance Management
(CPM) Program defined during the pre-study phase that took place in the 2ndquarter of 2014, consisted of a complex collection of inter-related and integrated
projects, answering the key solution criteria.
Figure 1 - Main phases of the BA and CPM program at Aliaxis
click to enlarge
Key solution criteria:
- Sustainability and flexibility
for a very large, worldwide, changing organization with a wide variety of
different ERP platforms.
- Integrated consolidation
functionalities: merge the different data sets for monthly management reporting
and annual legal reporting into one version of the truth, but enabling
different views on company performance.
- Answer business controlling and
management reporting requirements at both group and divisional level.
- Corporate data warehouse with
central master data management and integrated data security combining all
existing Sales and Marketing (S&M) dimensions with the exhaustive set of
Finance dimensions, leading to a uniform definition of key performance
- Efficient and reliable solution
for the budgeting, planning and forecasting processes.
Figure 2 - Simple representation of the Aliaxis BA and CPM solution
click to enlarge
The core of the solution architecture is a corporate
data warehouse, ensuring the integration between all other components and data
streams. In the set-up of this data warehouse, we leveraged as much as possible
the existing technical platform and the components already built for the
S&M division, including leveraging the existing file upload mechanism.
Financial interface files are provided by more than 130 group companies, using
a wide variety of ERP systems.
Parallel to the data warehouse development, we built a
completely new Cognos Controller instance, using the actual data provided in
this data warehouse. This new Controller instance provides an integrated
consolidation model built on the latest release of the Cognos Controller
Subsequently we provided a real-time view on the
Controller data using Cognos TM1, through the FAP interface. The data are
passed through to a full TM1 application that will enable the allocation of the
Controller consolidation data across all the relevant business dimensions.
Finally, the fully allocated dimensional data are made available in
the corporate data warehouse so that pre-defined end-user reports, dashboards
and scorecards can be made available in Cognos BI.
The Solution in detail
The data warehouse and
the 3 Cognos applications have been created in parallel and are strongly
dependent of each other in order to offer a complete and integrated Business
Analytics and Corporate Performance Management solution
Corporate Data warehouse
operational reporting requirements and ensure the fit of the new data warehouse
design with the existing sales & marketing BI. All reporting requirements
are now exhaustively captured in the dimensions and facts of the data
of the main challenges was caused by the high complexity level of the ETL. The
interface files support both legal and management reporting requirements and
therefore contain up to 14 reporting dimensions. Therefore, interface files are
often generated from multiple source systems: not only the local ERP system,
but also local profitability tracking systems.
Other consequences are the need for more than 100 data validation
checks and high demands on system performance. During the monthly fast-close it
is feasible to upload simultaneously 16 interface files with up to 5 million
Figure 3 - Overview of all reporting dimension
Consolidation in Cognos Controller
Cognos Controller serves as sole solution for the consolidation
process. Data upload is fully automated, replacing the previous manual upload.
The automated upload runs through the data warehouse, where all Controller data
validations have been replicated. There is still a fall-back option of manual
data input, e.g. for new acquisitions not yet migrated to the new process.
This CPM automation was essential to make the fast close process happen. At Aliaxis, between close of the local ERP system and Group reporting there are only 2 business days. This means that the complete set of full dimensional data needs to be reported in a very short timeframe. Controller is limited to the dimensionality required for transfer pricing, but in order to ensure data consistency over all reporting dimensions, there is only one interface file definition.
click to enlarge
Analysis, budgeting & forecasting and management reporting in Cognos TM1
All Controller data, including the data added during consolidation (consolidation,
elimination, and management entries), are exported to the TM1 FAP environment.
This is the base for the data in the TM1 reporting environment. In TM1 several
functionalities, using the analytical dimensions loaded out of the DWH are
enriching the Controller data. Main functionalities:
- Allocation of Controller
entries over the analytical dimensions
- Setup for flows and movements
in cash-flow reporting
- Foreign exchange rate
- Copy of actual data to monthly
- Calculation of key performance
- Calculation of month data
(because Controller only contains YTD data)
Aliaxis has defined 6 functional domains for analysis and management
reporting. Each functional domain has its own set of reporting dimensions
relevant for that domain. Aliaxis Group Controllers have full access to the
functional TM1 cubes in order to analyse Group performance in a flexible way,
along any combination of analytical dimensions.
Finally, all TM1 enriched data are loaded in the data warehouse to
enable end-user reporting.
Figure 5 - Data flows to and from TM1 Reporting
click to enlarge
End-user reporting & scorecarding in Cognos BI
Main objective of the Cognos BI solution is to provide Group wide
standard end-user reporting, dashboarding and scorecarding. This is feasible on
multiple dimensional axes via different views, depending on the organizational
layer. Cognos BI is fully based upon the corporate data warehouse, but uses a
metadata layer in order to improve performance.
A crucial component of the execution of a program of this size and
complexity is to have consistent and quality program management in the entire
period. Throughout the entire program, element61 has ensured this program
management. After go-live of the program this function has been transferred to
the new role of an Aliaxis CPM Controller.
Following program management methods have been applied:
- SteerCo structure with monthly
SteerCo review meetings including the main decision makers: CFO, CIO, COEO,
Group Controller, Group Consolidation Manager and IT Project Manager.
- For each project track there
was a dedicated element61 track leader with extensive experience in that
specific technology. Also within Aliaxis there was a dedicated SPOC for each
- Group CFO and Divisional CFO’s
- Gap analysis and workshops with
Divisions and largest Group companies. Next to the functional SPOC’s, there
were project coordinators in each of the 6 Divisions as well as in the main
- (Bi-)weekly progress reviews,
on two levels: first the global program manager and project teams with the
divisional project teams, followed by divisional reviews with the individual
companies in the divisions.
- Training sessions and webinars
for 150+ users worldwide
- Extensive documentation
including user manuals for end-users, administration manuals for key users, and
technical manuals for ongoing support team
- Pre-study to design the finance
model and develop the program implementation plan
- BA and CPM requirement analysis
- Define and design the data
warehouse and integrated architecture with the different Cognos BA and CPM
- Microsoft integration services:
ETL development and implementation
- Cognos Controller: design and
implement a complete new instance
- Cognos TM1 setup &
- Design and build the Cognos BI
- Installation of all components
- Provide technical know-how
- Rollout and training of the
- Post go-live support and
support the customer in developing an ongoing support model
- Program management
The successful implementation of this broad Business Analytics and
Corporate Performance program enabled Aliaxis to significantly add value to its
analytical capabilities, both for regular business users and expert
controllers. Management reports are now automated, linked to the operational
processes and fully integrated in a financial reporting and planning solution. KPI reporting offers a solid base for group wide performance improvements and
interactive reporting tools offer the required level of insights.
Thanks to state-of-the art technological choices and a central data
warehouse architecture designed to support all functional and divisional
requirements, Aliaxis acquired the tools and the expertise to support all
future business initiatives with the appropriate business intelligence tools
and data models.