When Don Marshall, group financial analyst at CAV Aerospace Limited, joined the company five years ago, he had his work cut out for him. The U.K.-based aerospace manufacturer was expanding rapidly, acquiring or building sites in the U.S., Poland, South America and Mexico, bringing the total to 13. Each location ran a different enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. Some didn't have one at all. The need for a unified system for financial consolidation and reporting was clear.
"It was taking us so long to get meaningful information; it was three to four weeks after the month's close before we were advising management what the results were," Marshall said. "We didn't trust a lot of the data that was coming out of the old systems, so we were relying on people feeding us information via email."
The U.K. plant had been using Infor's Syteline ERP software since 2000, and the CEO made the decision to implement the latest version at each of the new sites.
Marshall was given an integral role in guiding the ERP implementation. While it wasn't always easy -- Marshall admits that there could've been better communication at certain times -- he picked up valuable tips along the way that led to the successful deployment of Syteline at all 13 sites.
Communication, cross-functional team essential for ERP implementation
During the three years it took to get all sites running on the same version of Syteline, Marshall found that having a diverse cross-functional team working on the implementation was a key to success.
"On the team, we had a business improvement manager, people from the finance, operations, and materials departments, an Infor consultant and an independent consultant," Marshall explained. The project manager and both consultants worked on the project full-time and traveled to the various sites, while other team members were site specific.
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Support from the CEO also helped to drive the process. "He was able to push it along more than our project manager could've done on his own," Marshall said.
Marshall stressed that communication among sites and team members was critical. During the implementation, team members wrote business processes and uploaded them into Microsoft SharePoint. This allowed the team to collect suggestions and feedback and incorporate the information before finalizing the processes. The SharePoint space remains a valuable source of support documents, according to Marshall.
After all 13 sites implemented Syteline, financial processes became smoother and easier to manage, Marshall said. "We only have about 13 people who look after finance for the whole group, in one central location. Before, we probably would've had to have finance people at each site," he said.
Excel add-on speeds up financial consolidation
Within the past year, Marshall again became involved with a reworking of the Syteline implementation. This time, CAV's financial consolidation process is getting a makeover.
Many businesses prefer to use Microsoft Excel for financial accounting because of its familiarity and low cost compared to ERP software. CAV had used Excel for financial consolidation and reporting before the expansion. Marshall discovered that Syteline offered an Excel add-on, which he decided was the best option for the company.
While Marshall initially tried to use Syteline for financial consolidation, he determined that the process was not as efficient as it could be. "We had to consolidate each site every day -- because of the number of transactions we do, we were told by IT that we couldn't do it every month. From our point of view, it wasn't practical and it was slowing down the system," he said.
Currency rates were another issue. In Marshall's opinion, translating the various sites' local currencies into pounds sterling was taking up too much memory and time.
With the Excel add-on, Marshall can pull information from the Syteline general ledger directly into Excel reports that he or his colleagues create. "I can run a P&L [profit and loss statement] for every site at the touch of a button now," he said. As a result, the two-week, month-end financial consolidation process has been shortened to three days, according to Marshall.
"Since we now have instantaneous data, we can download it into chart form and share it amongst the rest of the group via SharePoint. We now have weekly meetings where we discuss all the KPIs [key performance indicators] for the previous week, which is something we never had before." Marshall's team has begun using the newly consolidated system for a working capital analysis of inventory and for analyzing age debt.
Marshall's discovery of the Excel add-on taught him the importance of maintaining an open line of communication with vendors. "I didn't know anything about this Excel-based toolset until we started talking to Infor in a lot more detail. I suspect some Syteline users aren't using the add-on function because they aren't aware of it," he said.
Next on the docket is the transition to Syteline 8.03. Marshall is particularly excited about the additional KPIs that come with the new version. "I believe one of the benefits will be the dashboard. With 8.03, we can get KPIs from Syteline, which means we could avoid downloading the data ourselves," Marshall said.
This was first published in August 2012