Business Analytics and Corporate Performance Management program with IBM Cognos

This case study will discuss the implementation of the Business Analytics and Corporate Performance Management program at Aliaxis.

The Customer

The Aliaxis Group is a leading global manufacturer and distributor of primarily plastic fluid handling systems used in residential and commercial construction, as well as in industrial and public infrastructure applications. Their brands have strong identity and are firmly established in the markets they serve.
Aliaxis is present in over 45 countries, has more than 100 manufacturing and commercial entities and employs more than 16.200 people. In addition to the well-established markets of Europe and North America, they have operations in Latin America, Australia and Asia. The Group generated 3 billion in annual revenue in the financial year 2015. Aliaxis is privately owned, and its global headquarters is in Brussels, Belgium.

The Challenges

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 Solution

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
 Business Analytics and Corporate Performance Management program with IBM Cognos
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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 indicators.
  • Efficient and reliable solution for the budgeting, planning and forecasting processes.

Figure 2 - Simple representation of the Aliaxis BA and CPM solution
 Business Analytics and Corporate Performance Management program with IBM Cognos
click to enlarge Business Analytics and Corporate Performance Management program with IBM Cognos

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 software.

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

The analysis pre-study was essential to gather all finance and 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 warehouse.
One 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 records.

Figure 3 - Overview of all reporting dimensions

 Business Analytics and Corporate Performance Management program with IBM Cognos









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.

Figure 4 - Process flow for Cognos Controller closing and consolidation
 Business Analytics and Corporate Performance Management program with IBM Cognos
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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 simulation
  • Copy of actual data to monthly forecast actualities
  • Calculation of key performance indicators
  • 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
 Business Analytics and Corporate Performance Management program with IBM Cognos
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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.

Program management

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 project track.
  • Group CFO and Divisional CFOs shared ownership.
  • Gap analysis and workshops with Divisions and largest Group companies. Next to the functional SPOCs, there were project coordinators in each of the 6 Divisions as well as in the main Group companies.
  • (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

element61 responsibilities

element61 has been responsible for the following roles & activities:
  • 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 components
  • Microsoft integration services: ETL development and implementation
  • Cognos Controller: design and implement a complete new instance
  • Cognos TM1 setup & development
  • Design and build the Cognos BI end-user reports
  • Installation of all components
  • Provide technical know-how
  • Rollout and training of the customer
  • 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.