In an environment where knowing where you stand is key to business, it is vital that CFOs and other interested parties can see their finances in a flash. Mark Paver of SGB International knew that the company’s new reporting solution had to be both user-friendly and provide real-time information with one click.SGB

In the world of infrastructure building, a clear and immediate view of current finances is not only a benefit, but increasingly, it is a mandatory part of the company arsenal. SGB, the foremost provider of specialty services for the global energy, industrial and infrastructure market could not afford to stay in the dark when it came to the numbers that the company and its many branches generated.

As the company grew, it became clear to Mark Paver, Regional Finance Director MEIA, SGB International, that the company was in need of a new, cutting-edge, financial database solution.
SGB International is the regional office of Brand Energy and Infrastructure Services. The company serves the infrastructure and commercial markets throughout the region and across the world. Its extensive portfolio of specialised industrial service offerings include scaffolding, coatings, insulation, refractory, forming and shoring, cathodic protection, mechanical services and other related crafts.

The company has a network of over 300 branches in 32 countries across the globe and manages a workforce of 24,000 professionals. To manage the finances of this extensive network, SGB utilises an Oracle suite of tools – the Oracle E-Business Suite. “Oracle tools are powerful,” says Paver, “but the process to see the data we needed was slow and cumbersome.”

The company was using Oracle FSG reports, Discoverer, Microsoft Access and Microsoft Excel to work their numbers each month, but it simply was not enough. “We had more than 100 FSG reports each month, and numerous Discoverer reports with little consistency or version control,” says Paver. Monthly analysis schedules were being manually entered from Oracle as a response to confusing outputs.

Using the system that was in place, the finance department had to post journals, run FSG, convert the data to Excel, review and validate the numbers manually, and then publish and repeat the cycle. The process simply took up to four hours from start to finish, and by the time the appropriate reports were generated, the data was already dated.

“We needed a solution,” says Paver, “that allowed our analysts to have real-time access to the data, and that gave our management a clear vision of what was happening at any time.” In addition, the solution would need to facilitate an ease of electronic distribution, and allow a variety of users to drill-down into complex data.

The brief was certainly not small. First and foremost, Paver needed to be sure that this new solution would not simply push work on to the IT department and database administrators. It needed to entail very little training, and the rollout needed to avoid putting undue pressure on other departments and users. Moreover, due to the company’s regional reach, the solution needed to work in multiple currencies. Last, but in no way least, it was imperative that the company’s data remain secure.

“The solution,” says Paver, “was found with Excel4apps’s product GL Wand.” Paver chose the solution based on recommendations from industry colleagues, and because it promised to be both bespoke, and tailored to the needs of Oracle users. “The user-interface was such that very little training was necessary,” he recalls. “Essentially, after a few videos, most end-users were prepared to use the product.”

The results were both profound and immediate. “It was so straightforward. Now, when the database is accessed there is an Excel4apps button. Users can click it, and have access to the tool,” says Paver. The product leverages the existing Oracle solution to do something that may sound simple, but is absolutely invaluable to any company – create user-friendly reports in real-time. GL Wand provides reports with drill-down capabilities that are refreshable on demand, yet preserve formatting and Excel formulae. “Now if someone has a question about their budget,” says Paver, “for example, and inquiry about why their travel expenses were so high this month, I can drill-down and answer their question while they are on the phone with me rather than generating a report to locate the anomaly.”

GL Wand now allows Paver and his team to process reports in minutes, rather than the previous four hour process. The process now is simply review, refresh and publish. If there is a change made to the database, the report is updated instantly, giving the user, and the entire company, a completely up-to-date view of SGB’s finances. Moreover, it puts power into the hands of the users that need real-time information. “Users that need information can simply access and manipulate the data by themselves,” says Paver.

With easier access to the database often come additional security concerns. Not so with GL Wand. “GL Wand uses the existing Oracle security settings, so we didn’t feel like we were putting our data at risk at all,” says Paver.

Paver can now close the month earlier than ever before. This frees the finance department to concentrate on optimising core business operations. “Now we are looking into standardising reports across the board,” says Paver. He is also looking to the future, to see how the company can leverage GL Wand going forward. “The solution is just so easy to use and the reports are so easy to read and function, there are no excuses now.”