The month-end report is due again. For Gaëlle Lallement, head of finance at Global Media GmbH, this day is not like any other day. After a few keystrokes and clicks, her work is done. SAP Business One now supports the specialized Web marketing company. Most of her analysis of the application’s data occurs automatically. It used to be quite different.
Internationalization with uniform data
In the past, Global Media had no uniform base of data. Each of its subsidiaries worked with a different software package, usually accounting applications without supplemental functions for purchasing, sales, and customer processes. “Our branch offices were connected loosely with each other, and we did not have a quick view of the whole,” says Lallement.
Individual branches produced business reports manually with Microsoft Excel files and then sent the reports to company headquarters in Munich, Germany for monthly, quarterly, or annual statements. The procedure was demanding, time consuming, and error prone. Branch offices produced their balance sheets according to local regulations and analyzed KPIs according to the requirements of local tax law, which increased the amount of work needed to balance the KPIs.
From nothing to future proof
“It was impossible to expand our international business on this foundation,” says Lallement. The company’s rapidly increasing needs for speed and transparency in reporting only exacerbated the situation. The new needs resulted from the entry of an external investor with the Carlyle Group and the restructuring of the Global Media into a corporate group with clearly defined boundaries.
As early as the fall of 2005, Lallement investigated a series of enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions at IT trade shows. She put the SAP Business One application and another manufacturer’s software on her short list. The company ultimately decided on SAP Business One. “The application offered an option to move our international locations to a uniform foundation of data and also supported foreign currencies,” says Lallement. The financial head also found the simple and intuitive operation of SAP Business One convincing. Even untrained users can work with the application quickly and use the Drag&Relate feature to find information promptly and easily.
Because of its proximity to Global Media’s corporate headquarters, a Munich-based SAP partner, m.a.x. Informationstechnologie AG, handled the implementation. The project partner rapidly and expertly implemented the standard business software. The application went live in the German and UK locations on schedule, on July 1, 2006, the start of the new fiscal year.
Closeness to customers
The 30 users of the application soon noticed the advantages of the integrated business processes enabled with SAP Business One. Core business processes, such as budgeting, run more quickly and more accurately. Sales orders, quotations, and invoices are now stored centrally and uniformly across all countries. Depending on their authorizations, back-office employees can access all important data on customer sales or the status of a quotation at any time.
The sales staff also benefits. Sales professionals use mobile devices and a secure virtual private network (VPN) connection to access customer data. If a sales representative has an appointment with a customer, the rep enters the data needed for a quotation right after the appointment – the type of service, the length of a campaign, and the volume of a campaign. At the touch of a button, the data is transmitted to the SAP Business One application, where it is processed. With this approach, data and information must be entered only one, saving time and avoiding redundancies.
Freedom from routine tasks
SAP Business One comprehensively maps all work steps from creating an order to creating an invoice. The steps can also be traced at any time. A clear view of all data and processes significantly frees employees from routine tasks like entering orders or invoices. For example, sales orders that are created by sales employees on the road are automatically converted into invoices. The company was able to accelerate similar processes, making them more economical.
Open items are automatically converted into payment proposals and electronic payment orders for the bank – all according to due dates. This approach ends the need for manual work, such as back posting payments to a business partner and entering data into the bank system.
Analyzing current financial data daily
Today, Global Media posts most incoming invoices automatically and performs monthly vendor settlement in just a few hours. These steps used to take significantly longer because all invoices had to be processed and released manually.
Because of the company’s rapid growth – the number of employees in Germany grew from 20 to 70 in just 2 years – the number of postings (entries or documents) grew from 10,000 in fiscal year 2004–2005 to 25,000 in the following year. The office in Great Britain saw a comparable increase. The high level of automation in the accounting department now means that the midsize company can process this volume of data quickly and securely. “With the help of the SAP Business One application, we can still handle the increased workload with the same number of personnel,” says Lallement.
Much has also improved in reporting. “Today, management can call and analyze profit-and-loss statements, balance lists, and transaction reports (revenues, cash flow, and receivables) for Germany and Great Britain with a few clicks, and in the correct currency,” says Lallement. The Web company obtains comparable numbers: how much revenue it earns with individual services (such as keyword advertising, affiliate marketing, online media planning, and consulting) and how much an individual service contributes to the group’s profit.
Lallement appreciates the standard reports of SAP Business One and the opportunity to use its XL Reporter tool to set up and analyze individual reports. The tool has been an integral part of SAP Business One since 2005. It enables midsize companies to create up-to-the-minute reports from various sources, including general ledger accounting, sales, or customer relationship management (CRM). For example, Global Media uses the tool to obtain important insight into customer behavior and profitability. That permits the company to make traceable forecasts and plan for future business development – and orient the company strategy accordingly.
Global Media has already achieved a great deal, but plans to do more. Within a uniform group structure, the company wants to integrate all its locations globally with SAP Business One. In the next few months, it will connect its Scandinavian locations in Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. The company is currently standardizing and consolidating its invoicing on the basis of International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS). According to Lallement, it was a necessary step. “Accounting according to IFRS simplifies communication with investors and lenders. It leads to better financing conditions, if needed,” she adds. The company also wants to use the CRM functionality more extensively to address customers more specifically and to drive the business further.