Determined to improve performance and efficiency throughout the company, IMI plc looked to accelerate financial reporting to help it make the most effective decisions, both now and for the future.
IMI is using a suite of advanced financial and operational performance management tools from IBM to help it transform internal reporting processes and gain a clearer picture of corporate performance.
10xfaster generation of monthly group-level reports
90%reduction in manual data entry
10%reduction in support costs
Business challenge story
Engineering a leaner business
Global engineering company IMI plc specializes in designing and manufacturing precision-engineered valves that regulate the movement of fluids. With three highly diverse engineering divisions and production facilities across the globe, ensuring that every department is operating efficiently requires strong and agile analysis and accounting.
Luke Grant, Chief Management Accountant at IMI plc, explains: “At IMI, our international engineering departments produce valves that vary in size, use and complexity—everything from valves incorporated in heating systems for the average household, to valves that manage the flow of fluids in power plants. The size and diversity of our company can make it challenging to capture robust, consistent data on our operational and financial performance.
“Due to the differing product portfolios each division makes, at a group level we need to stay flexible to ensure that we account for all of the factors that may impact the financial performance in each business. We need accurate, granular data on productivity and performance so that senior decision-makers can direct attention and resources where they are needed most.”
Jonaid Bhatti, Group Financial Systems Accountant at IMI plc, adds: “We have been using IBM® Cognos® Controller software for many years to consolidate and report on all of our financial data at group level, such as the monthly reporting of actuals and KPIs, weekly flash reporting, and forecasts.
“Over the years, our business has grown and changed significantly, and the database that supports Cognos Controller had significant amounts of data that were no longer relevant to our chart of accounts. This was starting to cause performance problems, especially at month-end. We wanted to be able to produce key financial data faster and get it out to our decision-makers as quickly as possible.”
At the same time, IMI had instigated a five-year plan to boost productivity across the company and help it weather difficult market conditions. To support this effort, the finance team wanted to be able to generate division-specific KPIs and provide a true picture of the performance of each department. As a result, optimizing the software and systems used for financial reporting became a priority.
Accelerating reporting, streamlining processes
With years of experience using IBM products, IMI plc was confident that IBM could deliver a solution that would supercharge its reporting and help it achieve greater insight into its business.
Jonaid Bhatti continues: “If we were to become leaner and more efficient, we recognized that we needed to restructure our processes and data, as well as upgrade our technical capabilities. We decided to rebuild and upgrade our IBM Cognos Controller landscape, and then integrate it with IBM Cognos TM1® to increase the performance of our financial analytics.”
Before starting the technical implementation of the new software, the finance team made a significant effort to clean up and simplify the way its chart of accounts would be represented in the new system’s database.
Luke Grant explains: “We were able to identify and remove a lot of old and irrelevant data, reducing the size of our database from 100 GB to 30 GB. This put us in a very good position to upgrade our software without complications, and improve performance at the same time.”
Jonaid Bhatti adds: “We then worked with IBM to upgrade to the latest version of Cognos Controller. We also decided to offload much of the reporting workload from Controller to Cognos TM1. The idea was that the in-memory analytics engine of TM1 would enable us to process our financial reports at a much faster pace. We also redesigned our reporting templates, moving from a highly complex report with 20 spreadsheets to an output with just four files.”
Today, IMI uses the solution to collect data from 400 contributors from over 50 countries around the world, consolidate it automatically—including currency conversions and inter-company eliminations—and rapidly generate the reports and KPIs that the business needs on a weekly, monthly, quarterly or ad hoc basis.
Jonaid Bhatti continues: “Working with IBM was a truly positive experience; they took the time to understand our needs and helped us every step of the way. Together we set out a clear timeframe for implementation and IBM delivered on this plan, helping us deploy the solution on time and on budget.”
A clearer view of the road ahead
Now that the new financial and operational performance management solutions are fully integrated with the company’s consolidation and reporting processes, IMI plc can gain a clearer picture of each facet of its operations. As a result, its finance team can provide the timely, detailed insight that decision-makers need to build a comprehensive strategy for future success.
Luke Grant explains: “From a performance perspective, we’re seeing improvements in many areas. Generating group-level reports with TM1 is around 10 times faster, and we can get monthly operational reports out to the business on day six or seven, instead of day nine. We also used to suffer from a six-hour monthly process to optimize our database—that’s down to an hour!”
He adds: “Our colleagues out in the business used to experience queues of up to 30 minutes to submit their data at month-end—now we can do four times as many consolidations in parallel, which has eliminated those queues altogether. We’ve also introduced an automated data loading tool that saves 90 percent of our subsidiaries from needing to spend two hours per month on data entry.”
Jonaid Bhatti says: “Reducing the need for manual data entry also reduces the risk of human error, so we can be more confident in the results. We can quickly determine accurate KPIs based on a single source of truth. This helps department leaders make better critical decisions on spending, strategy and resource allocation.”
During the implementation process, the accounting team at IMI also gained a much deeper understanding of how the systems work, helping them become more self-sufficient. The project was delivered with minimal disruption to the end users.
Jonaid Bhatti comments: “We have reduced our support costs by 10 percent, which is a testament to the hard work our team has put into learning the solution. IBM gave us a lot of great advice during the project that helped us understand the options and the best ways to do things, and we’re now expert enough that we hardly ever need to rely on external support.”
The company is exploring the best ways to extend the solution and use it in new areas of the business.
Luke Grant adds: “In the future, we expect more subsidiaries will use the TM1 platform in their own financial reporting processes, which would help us improve the quality and detail of our data even further. We are also looking at tighter integration with our ERP software, as well as budgeting and forecasting.
“The IBM solutions bring greater speed, clarity and accuracy to our financial reporting—helping our group finance team align even more closely with IMI’s lean strategy. More efficient financial analysis enables us to do more with less, and deliver even greater value to stakeholders across the business.”
About IMI plc
IMI plc, a specialist engineering company, designs, manufactures and services highly engineered products that control the precise movement of fluids. Its innovative technologies enable vital processes to operate safely, cleanly, efficiently and cost-effectively. The group works with industrial customers across a range of high-growth sectors, including energy, transportation and infrastructure. IMI employs some 11,000 people, has manufacturing facilities in more than 20 countries and operates a global service network.
- Cognos Controller
- Cognos TM1
- Planning Analytics
Take the next step
IBM Analytics offers one of the world's deepest and broadest analytics platform, domain and industry solutions that deliver new value to businesses, governments and individuals. For more information about how IBM Analytics helps to transform industries and professions with data, visit ibm.com/analytics. Follow us on Twitter at @IBMAnalytics, on our blog at ibmbigdatahub.com and join the conversation #IBMAnalytics.