Driving business growth with real-time analytics

Mawgif streamlines operations and business planning
by Mike Tucker
7-minute read
Man helping other man with valet parking

Every day, at airports, malls, hospitals and on-street locations across the Middle East, car parkers make hundreds of thousands of transactions with Mawgif (National Parking Company), one of the region’s pioneers in the car parking industry and one of the largest operators of parking facilities in the Middle East.

In 2018, when new Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Ali Haji joined Mawgif, he became concerned that the data created by these parking transactions was not being captured or used efficiently. Ali Haji comes from a wealth of experience in the car parking industry, having worked for one of the largest car parking companies in the UK and Europe.

“I believe in working smarter rather than harder and I was used to having information at the touch of a button,” says Ali Haji, CFO and board member at Mawgif, who previously worked for a large UK firm in charge of parking operations for Heathrow and Gatwick airports. “When it comes to the month-end cycle, I should be able to review and finalize the previous month’s financial accounts in four days.” But Haji learned that it took Mawgif 20 days to prepare the monthly report.

Mawgif staffers exported data from different databases, downloaded PDF files and manually entered information into Microsoft Excel spreadsheets. The process was prone to duplication and calculation errors that made it hard to reconcile discrepancies.

Long delays in financial and operational reporting also had strategic implications. As a rapidly growing company looking for new business opportunities, Mawgif needed current and complete data to support decisions related to choosing new locations, awarding contracts and preparing business forecasts.

“With over 4,000 parking machines and meters, it’s pretty much like how a casino works and you have to monitor every transaction,” says Haji. “I did a complete drains-up review of the operating and financial system to see how we could capture and audit every transaction. It was a daunting exercise.”

In the UK, Haji relied on IBM analytics software to streamline operational and financial reporting and planning. “One of the first things I did when I came to Mawgif in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia was to call IBM Business Partner 1Direction Global in Riyadh because they have a strong background with IBM analytics solutions.”

sign with customer logo next to parking payment terminal

Reduced month-end closing process from 3 weeks to

4 days

by automating previously manual tasks

Analyzed and managed data in real time to increase operational performance by

10%

through revenue and efficiency optimization

With the IBM solution, the team is mesmerized by the power they have — to have a ‘crystal ball’ and see what tomorrow will bring rather than see only what happened yesterday. It’s a big mind change for us.
Ali Haji
Chief Financial Officer, Mawgif

“Mawgif had issues using spreadsheets and did not have actual figures when the financial team met with management and the board of directors,” says Bhupendra Berdia, Co-Founder and Managing Director at 1Direction Global. “When they approached us, we immediately started information gathering sessions and discussions.”

Time was of the essence, especially when suspicions arose that, due to the inability to capture real-time transactional data, an unknown amount of parking proceeds were at risk for theft. “Every day that passed was an issue for me,” says Haji. “I asked Bhupendra, ‘How could we get this done as soon as possible?’”

branded parking payment terminal
Mawgif platform on a laptop and smart phones
Mawgif compared IBM Planning Analytics with Watson to competitive solutions, and IBM delivered better automation and multidimensional analytical power along with cost advantages. We were also able to create a real-time dashboard from the platform.
Bhupendra Berdia
Co-Founder and Managing Director, 1Direction Global
A real-time read on the business
Mawgif compared IBM Planning Analytics with Watson to competitive solutions, and IBM delivered better automation and multidimensional analytical power along with cost advantages. We were also able to create a real-time dashboard from the platform.
Bhupendra Berdia
Co-Founder and Managing Director, 1Direction Global

After an in-depth review of Mawgif’s requirements, 1Direction Global recommended IBM® Planning Analytics with Watson®, a solution built on IBM TM1®, a powerful in-memory database and calculation engine. “Mawgif compared IBM Planning Analytics with Watson to competitive solutions, and IBM delivered better automation and multidimensional analytical power along with cost advantages,” says Berdia. “We were also able to create real-time dashboards from the platform.”

Mawgif built a system that streamlined the flow of information so that its ERP system understands and follows every transaction recorded by each parking machine and meter. “Every transaction is unique — so how do I follow the money?” says Haji. “We were able to bolt the operating system to the financial system to ensure they talk to each other and that automatic reconciliation happens.”

The IBM Planning Analytics with Watson solution went live at Mawgif in March 2020, just as the global COVID-19 pandemic began disrupting business operations. The flexible AI-infused solution enabled Mawgif managers to access financial and operational data while working remotely. “With multiple lockdowns, I was stuck in the UK for five and a half months and away from my office in Jeddah,” says Haji. “Every day, I could see the business, right up to the minute, from multiple dashboards across all countries including Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Jordan.”

The IBM Planning Analytics with Watson solution began providing a real-time, transparent and highly detailed view into Mawgif’s parking business. Taking advantage of the increased level of agility offered by the platform, the Mawgif finance and systems support team launched a series of investigations into how and where parking proceeds were being illegally diverted. Using IBM Planning Analytics with Watson tools, Mawgif discovered theft occurring at three different branches at the same time and took quick action to stop the illegal activity in its tracks.

“It was a big exercise. We captured the culprits in action because we could see the transactions as they happened,” says Haji. “Due to the sensitivity of this case, I presented it to senior management and showed them how we could see each machine on each street and also see who was on the machine — full transparency. They were very impressed and thanks to IBM, this was possible.”

Planning for future growth

In addition to reducing the time required to prepare month-end reports from 20 days to four days, IBM Planning Analytics with Watson also helped Mawgif:

• Increase operational performance by 10% through revenue and efficiency optimization as the result of analyzing and managing data in real time
• Reduce the time required to convert trial balances to profit and loss statements and balance sheets from a two-day task to a 10-second operation, across multiple currencies
• Reduce overhead costs by 5% - 8% through better strategic planning, better systems, contract renegotiations, restructuring and purchasing consolidation
• Save over 15 minutes of time to investigate transactional queries through drill-down functionality at the transactional level

The IBM solution also saved Mawgif’s financial department a day’s worth of work each month by standardizing financial reporting across all branches to generate immediate group performance results.

The ability to drill down into transaction data was a key enabler of operational improvements. “On any particular day, we have over 200,000 transactions in multiple currencies being captured through different payment sources and methods, without me changing any screens,” says Haji. “I have looked at quite a few other reporting systems, but I have never seen something like what IBM can actually provide.”

Mawgif and 1Direction Global are working together to expand their use of IBM Planning Analytics with Watson to include rolling business forecasts. “Instead of having a flat-line, 365-day revenue profile, we will have a 12-month rolling forecast,” says Haji. “It’s a completely dynamic, automated process and it will allow us to make strategic business decisions and evaluate risk.”

The 12-month rolling forecast functionality will also underpin Mawgif’s five-year business planning process. “With the IBM solution, the team is mesmerized by the power they have — to have a ‘crystal ball’ and see what tomorrow will bring rather than see only what happened yesterday,” says Haji. “It’s a big mind change for us.”

Mawgif is part of one of Saudi Arabia’s largest businesses, the Al Musbah Group, an international holding company operating in the retail, travel, real estate, hospitality, food and beverages, gold and jewelry, automotive, telecom and IT industries. “When the actual fruits of implementing the IBM solution were seen by the rest of the Group, the management board decided that we are going to change everything to be bolted on to the IBM solution,” says Haji. “After finishing the rolling forecast component for Mawgif, we will work with 1Direction Global to implement the solution for the other entities.”

Mawgif logo
About Mawgif (National Parking Company)

Founded in Saudi Arabia in 2008 and based in Jeddah, MawgifExternal Link develops and manages parking facilities across the Middle East and has branches in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates. With over 1,400 employees, the firm is also the region’s leading investor and operator of airport parking services and technologies. Mawgif is a member of Airport Council International.

About 1Direction Global

Based in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, with a global presence in Australia and India, IBM Business Partner 1Direction GlobalExternal Link specializes in enterprise performance management and business intelligence. Focus areas include IBM solutions, financial consolidation and reporting, and data transformation. Delivery models include cloud and on-premises deployment, and onsite and offshore implementation.

Solution component
Mawgif logo
About Mawgif (National Parking Company)

Founded in Saudi Arabia in 2008 and based in Jeddah, MawgifExternal Link develops and manages parking facilities across the Middle East and has branches in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates. With over 1,400 employees, the firm is also the region’s leading investor and operator of airport parking services and technologies. Mawgif is a member of Airport Council International.

About 1Direction Global

Based in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, with a global presence in Australia and India, IBM Business Partner 1Direction GlobalExternal Link specializes in enterprise performance management and business intelligence. Focus areas include IBM solutions, financial consolidation and reporting, and data transformation. Delivery models include cloud and on-premises deployment, and onsite and offshore implementation.

Solution component