A “revolution” in financial reporting brings faster and deeper insights
Solar Coca-Cola’s new operating model succeeds with the help of a continuous, integrated planning platform
Cans moving around in machinery in a factory
On a recent morning in Brazil, a senior executive at Solar Coca-Cola—Coca-Cola’s second-largest bottler in Brazil and the 15th largest in the world—was doing something he does often: paying a visit to a major customer. He was there to talk about future business and, inevitably, the subject of pricing came up. It was then that he did something that, until very recently, he could only dream of. Using his phone, he pulled up real, up-to-the-minute margin data specific to that customer.

For this executive, it wasn’t just the timeliness and convenience that was stunning. It was also the level of granularity—by SKU, packaging, and several other variables—that made for an “informed” discussion, to say the least.

But it wasn’t always so. This story is about how it all began.

Based in Solar’s headquarters in Fortaleza, on Brazil’s northeast coast, Hermeson Anibal Marques leads a team of about a dozen in the finance department, whose mission is to report the numbers to the many decision-makers who rely on them. As a 10-year veteran in the reporting area, Marques, as much as anyone, can speak to how much financial reporting has evolved at Solar within a surprisingly short timeframe.

“As a kind of reporting hub in the company, it was up to our team to gather financial information from many internal sources and transform it—through a series of spreadsheet-based models—into highly tailored ‘slices’ suitable for planning, budgeting and more,” Marques explains. “A lot of what we did involved running simulations of various decision scenarios, and it was almost all manual and it took a lot of time to run them.”

25% free time


Freed up more than 25% of departmental time by eliminating manual spreadsheet modeling

10x increase


Increased overall reporting output by 10x with zero increase in headcount

Our existing system simply couldn’t handle how complex the data reporting and modeling had become. We needed a planning tool that could accommodate the complexity of our business. Hermeson Anibal Marques Sr. Financial Manager Solar Coca-Cola
A new operating model—powered by game-changing insights

Rather than a single inflection point, the forces driving the need to change had long been building. Over many months, for example, Solar had been acquiring other bottling companies within Brazil to expand its market presence and gain market share. In parallel with this expansion, Solar was also moving to further decentralize its business, with the directors of the company’s 18 state-level units accountable for operating decisions and profitability. For this model to succeed, Solar needed to ensure that the right data—sliced to a high-level of granularity—was available to each decentralized unit for planning and decision-making purposes.

The problem, says Marques, was complexity. “There was a broad consensus that our existing [spreadsheet-based] system simply couldn’t handle how complex the data reporting and modeling had become,” he explains. “And we knew—and our trusted solution provider agreed—that adapting the system wasn’t the answer. We needed a planning tool that could accommodate the complexity of our business and remove a barrier to our agility.”

In its long relationship with Solar, the provider Marques speaks of—CTI Global, an IBM Business Partner focused on decision-support solutions—had built that trust by helping the finance team at key junctures as the demand for more, better and faster data steadily grew. Now, with Marques and his team at another critical point, he saw CTI’s deep process knowledge as ideal for what he needed most—and it wasn’t technology. “What we were really looking for was expertise at the financial process level, knowing the best practices when it comes to presenting the most relevant data for specific business decisions,” says Marques. “CTI had that expertise, but just as important, they were committed to getting our team ready to handle it ourselves going forward.”

In the big picture, Solar was asking CTI to optimize the processes by which it ran the financial simulations that were so critical to the company’s planning and decision-making. That meant making the process not only faster and more accurate, but also more flexible in terms of its ability to support decentralized analysis by Solar’s different business units.

From an implementation standpoint, the challenges to building such a system were two-fold. The first—where CTI’s track record proved essential—was knowing how to use the right financial data elements to properly frame Solar’s most important business decisions. It sounds simple, says Marques, until you consider the complexity of all the dynamic and interdependent factors that go into simulating even a single decision. “If you’re going to simulate how a price change for a single SKU in a single market is going to impact margins, company profit after taxes and Cash flow you need to be able to test the assumptions at a very granular level with real data in a very complex cause effect financial modeling,” he says. “That’s why deep experience with the financial nuts and bolts of bottling processes is an absolute prerequisite to getting it right.”

The other big challenge relates directly to the type of decentralized decision-making Solar is moving toward. And here, says Francisco Loschiavo Neto, Managing Partner at CTI, the underlying principle is simple, but the execution is far from it. “If a planner or director runs a simulation at the state or even customer level, seeing the impact on the whole company—maintaining a single source of truth—is absolutely essential,” says Loschiavo. “That continuous integrated planning is something no spreadsheet approach can handle, and we believe IBM Planning Analytics does it better than any other solution.”

We’ve been able to deliver about 10 times as much information—and deeper insights—to our internal users. With the new reporting capability of Planning Analytics, there’s been sort of a ‘revolution’ in the finance area. Hermeson Anibal Marques Sr. Financial Manager Solar Coca-Cola
A “revolution” in financial reporting

In a little over five months, and working closely with Solar’s finance team, CTI designed and implemented an integrated planning solution that Solar is now running and maintaining on its own. One of the core tasks of the project was to integrate IBM® Planning Analytics with Solar’s existing IBM Cognos® Analytics platform, which the company has long used for financial reporting. In parallel, another CTI team focused on designing all facets of the user experience, ranging from the data elements presented to end users to the layout of the planning dashboard.

As part of the knowledge transfer phase, at the tail end of the project, designated members of the finance team learned how to use the business rules function at the core of the Planning Analytics platform. To Marques, it’s exactly the kind of activity that dovetails with the domain expertise of the “finance guys”—his term—who use the system every day. “The fact that we can rely on ourselves to adapt the system as needed gives us a huge amount of flexibility,” he asserts, “and that means our team is more efficient and more productive.”

Perhaps the clearest evidence of this efficiency is what Marques and his team are not doing: pulling data extracts together from multiple sources, loading them into spreadsheets and running slow and error-prone models. “For the team as a whole, we’re saving five to seven days every month in the time we used to spend building spreadsheet reports,” says Marques. “And in terms of overall output, we’ve been able to deliver about 10 times as much information—and deeper insights—to our internal users, all with the same number of people. With the new reporting capability of Planning Analytics, there’s been sort of a ‘revolution’ in the finance area.”

A data-driven culture takes root, and takes off

The revolutionary impact also extends to every part of the company, and every level of management, where the insights generated by Planning Analytics insights are enabling people to make complex decisions faster and with more confidence. Slowly but surely, Marques believes, the revolution in planning data is beginning to reshape the decision-making culture companywide. “We seem to have passed a threshold where more people are more interested in it,” he says, “and they’re demanding it more and more.”

The next chapter of Solar’s planning transformation is unfolding today on the supply side of the value chain. The near-term aim, Marques explains, is to use the “what-if” capabilities of Planning Analytics to see how changes in external cost drivers—such as commodity prices, taxes and exchange rates—impact not only pricing policies, but also demand levels, inventory and production plans. “It’s very detailed, complex stuff,” he says, “but having flexible, easy-to-adapt business rules make it much easier.”

As one of the largest Coca-Cola bottling companies in Latin America and indeed the world, Solar’s decentralization trend is a strong endorsement of the value of local decision-making. By enabling the company to bring the power of simulation-based analysis to its enterprise, the new Planning Analytics solution is making it more nimble than ever.



    Solar Coca Cola logo
    About Solar Coca-Cola

    Based in Fortaleza, Brazil, Solar Coca-Cola (link resides outside of ibm.com) is the second largest Coca-Cola bottler in the Brazil and the 15th largest in the world, with 13 factories operating across the country’s northern and northeastern regions. Solar has more than 15,000 employees and is responsible for the production and distribution of more than 350 products from the Coca-Cola portfolio. With annual revenues of approximately BRL 9.6 billion, the company reaches 25 million homes across Brazil.

    CTI Global logo
    About CTI Global

    Established in 1992, CTI Global (link resides outside of ibm.com) is a company specialized in corporate management, with extensive experience in financial and control planning, bringing together knowledge in business, finance and technology. The company develops decision-making solutions for medium and large corporations, with tailored solutions to help executives in the simulation for strategic and economic scenarios.

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