Relieving the pressure in January

For the employees in Central Accounting at KarstadtQuelle AG, Europe’s largest department store and mail order group, each new year sees the onset of the crucial period for completion of the financial statements. By the balance sheet key date, the costs, revenue, and sales figures for all 700 subsidiaries must have been collected and drawn up in group-wide financial statement and a profit and loss statement.
The group’s interests – from brick-and-mortar retailing via numerous department stores and specialist outlets and Europe-wide general and specialist mail order business, through to services in the areas of tourism and financing, for example – are as varied as the information and data that needs to be included in the financial statements. The majority of data, such as the individual financial statements, statements from the subgroups and from the overall group, is provided by SAP R/3, which KarstadtQuelle uses as its enterprise-wide ERP solution.
The situation is different when it comes to the interests held. These are kept on record in paper form, and often need to be located from several archives, involving lengthy searches that are very costly in terms of employees’ time. “What is the current situation regarding an interest?”, “Who owns which shares?”, “Are the records complete and up-to-date?”

Run a search – with SAP Records Management

In this area, the pressure on employees in Central Accounting will be relieved to some extent at start of the coming year, because in this crucial phase, staff will be provided with extensive support. Since April 2003, KarstadtQuelle has been managing all records in the financial accounting central archive using SAP Records Management. “In the Essen accounting department, we are now working more efficiently, quickly, and therefore cost-effectively,” stated Hans-Georg Hackmann, divisional manager of Financial Information Management in the Financial Accounting Services division, about the results of his project, which could serve as a model.
What changes have resulted from the implementation of SAP Records Management? In the past, most of the records for the individual KarstadtQuelle subsidiaries, which provide all the relevant information for the group-wide financial statements, were available in paper form. Each document that was to be included in the records was given a docket, so that it was processed by the accounting staff in sequence. This conventional procedure took a long time and meant that information had to be sought under time pressure during work relating to the financial statements. Year on year, the employees had to handle around 5,000 documents, each consisting of several pages.
Since April 2003, employees have been able to use tools to run searches, and to compile and update records. The manual processes relating to the management of traditional records are taken on by SAP Records Management in an electronic context. For the financial statements, this means that all authorized employees are in a position to access the relevant records on screen at the touch of a button. They can immediately view all related documents such as contracts, sections of the commercial register, certificates, minutes from the annual stockholders meetings, and other documents. They can ensure that the records are complete and up-to-date. This means that time-consuming and personnel-intensive manual searches in the archives are no longer required, and that the laborious procedures using dockets and circulating files are a thing of the past too – they are represented electronically in the SAP solution.

Integration in the SAP environment

The managers at KarstadtQuelle commissioned the Hamburg-based IT consultants nextevolution AG to design the solution. The consultants’ task was to provide an application that would not only accelerate the creation of the financial statements but also improve internal communication and reduce personnel and costs for the records management process across the whole year. To keep the time and costs required for implementation as low as possible, the existing IT infrastructure, consisting for example of SAP R/3 and the FileNet archive, was to be retained as far as possible.
A decision was quickly made in favor of the new SAP Records Management as the most suitable software. Jens-Peter Hess, General Manager at nextevolution, explains why: “Electronic records is currently a major topic for a number of different providers. In the SAP environment, however, only SAP Records Management provides real integration with the classical applications. This means that business processes in other SAP applications can be triggered at any time from the records.”
Further advantages include the fact that SAP Records Management, which is based on SAP’s application platform SAP Web Application Server, does not just bring together documents, transactions, reports and workflows under one electronic records “umbrella”, but also offers ways of electronically managing the records. As a result, sub-records can be set up, documents can be categorized according to predefined criteria, and transactions can be delimited. With the help of a records model, the structure of a record type can also be defined centrally. Employees with the necessary authorization can therefore define the structure of the contents of an electronic record, and assign it to other records of this type as required. This results in flexible records management, which takes account of a fixed standard for records but also offers employees the freedom to determine the content structure. Thanks to their electronic availability, the records and their contents can be viewed at any time and by any number of users.
The system protects against unauthorized access. Certain activities, records, and contents can be blocked to any depth using an authorization concept. Multi-dimensional search functionalities also make it possible to locate information quickly, and e-mails and workflow allow information to be distributed quickly to the people who need it in the company. Jens-Peter Hess: “SAP Records Management does not just offer advantages over paper-based records management and all its shortcomings. It also offers completely new usage opportunities, which make it possible to work more efficiently and effectively with company records.”
For the actual implementation of the project, the KarstadtQuelle group IT service provider Itellium Systems & Services GmbH was involved alongside nextevolution. Itellium provided the technical infrastructure, was involved in the implementation, and now provides support for the new system in day-to-day operation.

Every document belongs to a record

What route does a document now take before it has found “its place”? Every new document is entered at KarstadtQuelle’s central scanning point by the FileNet Capture Desktop and archived in the FileNet P8 Image Manager. The references to the new document stored in the FileNet archive are automatically transferred to an SAP inbox. The documents listed in this can be called up individually for preliminary indexing. They are then given an index value and are assigned to a future storage location in the records structure of contract management.
After preliminary indexing, the index values and storage locations are transferred to SAP Records Management – again automatically – and an e-mail with a list of links to the new documents is sent to the users. Users simply click to directly access and view the documents from a FileNet Web services client. Further access to the records and documents stored in them takes place via SAP Records Management.
The implementation of SAP Records Management has considerably improved working procedures that use records in KarstadtQuelle’s Essen-based Accounting department. After just a short time, the benefits were being clearly felt: the time needed to find documents has been considerably reduced, and the completeness of long-term records is ensured at all times. Hans-Georg Hackmann: “Thanks to SAP Records Management, we are generating long-term advantages in the fast close process. The throughput and processing times – and therefore the processing costs – in the Financial Accounting Service at Essen have been clearly reduced. The new transparency is having a positive impact on group-wide, internal communication in this area, which is now also running much more efficiently. We are more than satisfied with the result.“

Ralf Peters
Ralf Peters