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Getting the financials right

Hamish Barwick | Jan. 2, 2014
iiNet has reduced the time it took to generate financial reports by implementing a new business intelligence system. It is now looking to upgrade its ERP system, Hamish Barwick finds.

Matt Toohey, CIO, iiNet
Matt Toohey, CIO, iiNet

Demand for timely financial reports has led ASX-listed Perth Internet service provider (ISP), iiNet, to ditch manual processes in favour of automated reports.

The ISP selected NEC to implement an IBM Cognos TM1 and business intelligence (BI) offering in May. "It was taking too much time to generate departmental, monthly, half yearly and annual reports," said iiNet CIO, Matt Toohey.

"Analysing historical data was a time consuming process with information pulled from several different data sources, and the preparation and consolidation of monthly financial results was largely manual."

The budgeting process also required multiple inputs and spreadsheet consolidation, meaning changes were slow and potentially error-prone. In addition, rolling forecasts were difficult to produce, with little scope for scenario planning or version control.

"Data integrity, budgeting, forecasting and reporting were our four main business issues, and it was clear future acquisitions and organic company growth would only make the limitations of our systems worse," Toohey explained.

Since the implementation, the ISP's finance team has been able to obtain and analyse old data much more quickly. Staff can also share results using a Web-based tool, while monthly financial reporting to the board is now automated.

According to Toohey, Cognos was selected because of its ease of use and ability to work with all of iiNet's data sources.

"The BI team is introducing company-wide self-service reporting using Cognos as well as a number of advanced predictive data models to fight churn and optimise marketing campaigns," he said.

"The main benefits sought from the business improvement team were to lower marketing costs through targeted, direct marketing capability."

Self-service reporting is aimed at lowering operational overhead costs by "putting the power back" into the users' hands, without the need for information services intervention. Toohey added this also provides efficiency within the iiNet group to obtain information faster and in customised formats to match the situation.

"The entire staff of 2000 workers will benefit from the reporting and dashboard capability of Cognos including finance, marketing, business improvement, information services and human resources," he said.

According to Toohey, the company took a calculated risk in choosing NEC to do the implementation, as the vendor had no customers in the IBM enterprise space in Western Australia at the time.

Two key factors drove the decision. Firstly, there was a clear sense of "genuine buy-in" from senior management at NEC to achieve the implementation on cost and time, he said.

"Secondly, the per day cost of resources NEC committed to as a once-off for this project was significantly cheaper than competitors. This reinforced our views of the company's commitment to this project and working with iiNet," Toohey said.


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