To make better decisions about the future, potato starch manufacturer Avebe wanted greater insight into past financial performance. With 35 subsidiaries, how could it reconcile the figures, fast?
By transforming its financial consolidation using an automated cloud-based solution integrated with SAP ERP, Avebe is making timely performance data readily available—while lowering IT costs.
30%cost savings and 80% time savings on financial consolidation, boosting efficiency
Increasesbusiness agility, with higher-quality decisions based on timely information
Drivesincreased employee productivity by supporting remote working
Business challenge story
Demand for insightTo retain its position as the world’s leading producer of potato starch, it is vital that Avebe is responsive to market trends. This involves staying on top of its financial performance so that the cooperative can make fast decisions about its business strategies. However, Avebe’s structure, consisting of 35 subsidiaries worldwide, made financial consolidation a complex and time-consuming process.
Fred Oostland, Finance Director Group at Avebe, elaborates, “Previously, we relied on spreadsheets for our financial consolidation process, which took more than 25 working days and required many separate intermediate consolidations. Such a labor-intensive process was costly and distracted from more useful tasks—including analysis of the reports.
“With many people working on different spreadsheets simultaneously, it was inevitable that some errors were made. As a result, we had to spend valuable time checking and re-checking our results to make sure that they were completely accurate.”
To make it possible to deliver reports with greater speed and accuracy, Avebe set out to streamline its financial consolidation process.
Taking controlAs part of a major transformation that included implementing SAP ERP solutions, Avebe automated its financial consolidation processes with IBM® Cognos® Controller.
Fred Oostland notes, “The data from almost all of our subsidiaries go directly from our SAP applications to IBM Cognos Controller for consolidation, which is much faster and more accurate than our previous approach. The solution automatically reconciles the figures and produces group-level reports on financial performance.”
Originally, Avebe relied on an external IT cloud provider to host the server running IBM Cognos Controller. Recently, the company saw an opportunity to unleash greater agility by moving to the IBM cloud.
“When our contract with the external hosting company neared its end, the chance to adopt IBM Cognos Controller on Cloud came up and we could not turn it down,” explains Fred Oostland. “Previously, our users could only access the solution remotely if they had a laptop connection that met specific security requirements. With Cognos Controller on Cloud, the built-in security made it possible to log in any time, from anywhere.”
Avebe was able to achieve a seamless transition to the new solution, as Fred Oostland describes: “The move to Cognos Controller on Cloud was very smooth and only took two and a half months. Our users were already familiar with the software, so there was no need for much training and we could soon enjoy the benefits.”
Reaping the benefitsBy automating its financial consolidation processes with the IBM solution, Avebe is boosting efficiency and accuracy.
“We have cut the time spent on financial consolidation by 80 percent—from 25 working days to just five,” comments Fred Oostland. “The actual consolidation itself takes less than four hours. What’s more, we can be confident that the figures are reliable—one look at the results is enough to reveal any errors in the initial formulas. This means that we spend less time gathering data and checking figures, helping the finance team work much more efficiently.”
Moreover, greater visibility of financial performance offers Avebe the insight needed to build more effective strategies.
Fred Oostland explains, “Being able to present reliable figures to group management in only five days with the IBM solution has increased the speed and quality of decision-making—enabling us to become more agile and responsive to market trends.”
By transitioning to IBM Cognos Controller on Cloud, Avebe achieved significant cost savings. Fred Oostland says, “We estimate that moving to IBM Cognos Controller on Cloud saves us 25 percent to 30 percent per year, as it eliminates software subscription, support and hosting provider costs—while delivering the same impressive user experience.”
Additionally, because the solution is hosted in the cloud, it is far more flexible and convenient. Fred Oostland provides an example of the advantages: “The ability to access the solution remotely paid off when an important user called in sick and a colleague was able to step in from home immediately, minimizing disruption to the business. More generally, the solution boosts productivity, as it allows employees to work on the go.
“What’s more, IBM takes care of managing and maintaining the solution, so our IT team doesn’t have to spend any time on it—all we need is a reliable internet connection.”
He concludes, “With a fast, accurate financial consolidation solution in place, Avebe can make rapid, informed decisions and respond quickly to market trends. Moving to the cloud is the cherry on top, as it offers us greater flexibility and significant savings.”
Avebe is a cooperative of starch-potato growers. It is the global market leader in potato starch and protein, from which it manufactures products for use in food, animal feed, paper, construction, textiles and adhesives. With 1,350 employees and about 2,500 farmer members, the cooperative has production sites in the Netherlands, Germany and Sweden.
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