Cases & inspiration

CMI in 2 months from Excel to HFM

For the rapidly growing Consolidated Media Industries (CMI), a media company providing digital content for television broadcasts, the need to set-up an efficient reporting process was high. A solution for structural reporting was created within two months, by implementing Oracle HFM and FDM.
Edwin van Dalen (Finext) and Richard van Kooij (CMI)

“Consolidated Media Industries (CMI) is a growing company, consisting of several purchased companies,” says Richard van Kooij, Group Controller, CMI. “Besides audio-visual communication, we now also provide all services relating to production, such as studios and cameras. A good example of this is the recording of matches in the Eredivisie (the Dutch football league) – following the recording, the data is then adapted in such a way that it can be streamed to households, both on television and via the Internet.”

Need for structured reporting

With a turnover of more than 100 million Euro, the group was looking for a thorough solution that would support their reporting process. “Before, this was done in a ‘Mickey Mouse’-way. It involved stapling together all printouts of the Excel reports,” says Richard van Kooij when explaining the need to standardize the reporting processes. “I started here last year, shortly after Peter Rademaker became CFO. Peter and I had worked together at Eyeworks, where we also standardized the reporting process. Through takeovers we want to expand CMI even further, from 100 million to 200 million Euro turnover in the future. Therefore the need for structured reporting was high.”

We work with short lines. We could immediately make decisions on all issues we encountered.

Richard van Kooij, CMI

CMI opted for Oracle Hyperion Financial Management (HFM) and Financial Data Management (FDM). “We liked the support of process-orientated functionality in HFM, and furthermore the reportings are more standardized,” says Richard van Kooij. The decision to choose Finext as implementation partner was based on previous experiences. “At Eyeworks we also worked with Finext. It is a no-nonsense organization. When Peter and I transferred to CMI, we immediately contacted Finext and asked ‘We want a new consolidation system, what can you do for us?’”

A short turnaround based on best practices

The project to implement HFM and FDM was characterized by a very short turnaround time. “We had a deadline of two months in mind,” says Richard van Kooij. “And we achieved that, despite technical setbacks.” Moreover, the project also remained within budget.

”We worked from a ‘template’ developed by Finext. This template is based on our best practices, which includes our experiences of other implementations,” says Edwin van Dalen, consultant at Finext Performance Management. This way of working enabled the setting up of the new reporting system within two months.

“The entire implementation starts from this template, for instance a standardized P&L, Balance and Cash Flow Statement. It was our starting point, which we adjusted to CMI’s wishes.”

“In addition, we spend a lot of time at the start of the project, defining very clear choices before building. Once you have started building you do not want to follow a new route every time. This would eventually cost much more money and time,” Edwin van Dalen continues. “First you define the output, then decide what is needed to realize that output.”

The short turnaround time was also realized because Richard van Kooij could spare extra time during the project. Thanks to his efforts and short response times, the project stayed up to speed. “Furthermore, we worked with short lines, where we would decide together what we wanted. We could immediately take a decision on every issue we encountered,” Richard van Kooij adds. He is positive about Finext’s role. “The cooperation was very good, swift and to our complete satisfaction.” “Characters are also well matched,” says Edwin van Dalen. “You can tell that Richard wants to shift gear quickly. We can work remotely, so if something is not functioning in the evening, we can fix it immediately.”

Specialized technical knowledge

Looking back on the project, Richard van Kooij sees a clear ‘lesson learned’ on the technical side of the implementation. “During the project we encountered technical issues. A specialist from Technision has helped us solve these.” Technision, a sister organization of Finext, specializes in the technical infrastructure of Performance Management applications.

“At first we decided on an implementation on our own servers, because we are an IT-knowledge center ourselves,” says Richard van Kooij. “However, we underestimated the amount of technical knowledge needed to set-up a consolidation package. It took more doing than we anticipated.”

There is a lot we can do ourselves, but some thins you just need to leave to others

Richard van Kooij, CMI

Again, these short lines are effective. “Following phone calls with Finext, and with Technision, the problem was solved. They co-operated directly with our IT department, so we could continue working on the development in the meantime.”

Saving on audit costs

CMI is positive about the results of the swift implementation. “Drawing up the reportings costs little time. It is a matter of just one button-push, 20 seconds waiting time, and the reporting is completed,” says Richard van Kooij. “The annual accounts are also linked to HFM. Besides that we use the new system for cash flow reportings, statements of changes, preliminary results and the monthly audit. Everything is now very quickly available.”

As well as an improvement in the reporting process, the implementation of HFM and FDM also involves savings. “HFM helps in the annual accounts process. This year alone we have saved over 100,000 Euro on our accountants’ costs. The consolidation in particular was disastrous last year. The audit trail via FDM is an enormous help to us. Last year the audit took several weeks, now it takes just a few days.” CMI is therefore very pleased with the decision to implement FDM as well. “Initially we doubted whether we should purchase FDM because of the costs. With the audit trail – and with it the savings on the accountants’ costs, the business case for the implementation is completed at the same time.”

Edwin van Dalen sees another advantage of the new, structured reporting process. “The subsidiaries are responsible for delivering the monthly reportings, not the holding company. Data should really be entered locally, so that this work is not done on a corporate level, but by the business. Corporate can then spend time on the consolidation and the analyses of the reportings.”

Dilemmas

One dilemma was how many years’ historical data to transfer. “We have chosen to transfer one entire year. That was all there was available, because before that, each company had its own reporting format. So looking further back is not possible.”

“Because we really wanted certain surveys, we had to thoroughly consider the statements of changes for the cash flow,” Richard van Kooij continues. “It is very helpful if you can work together with someone who is pragmatic. Edwin, for instance, knows how a cash flow statement works and can come up with specific suggestions. It is nice working with someone who has relevant knowledge, instead of with a programmer or project leader who is less experienced.”

Scalable system

”We are now in the process of taking over two companies in the USA. Once that has been done, they too will have to report in HFM, with all the reporting challenges that dealing with exchange rates entails. You’re never done improving the reporting process, it is a continuous operation. We will therefore not cut down on the support from Finext. There is a lot we can do ourselves, but some things you just need to leave to others.“

Text: Danielle Gruijs
Photography: Kees-Jan Bakker Fotografie