Brokerage dumps Oracle E-Business Suite reporting for Excel

Business users at GFI Group were having a difficult time with the complexity of the Oracle E-Business Suite financial reporting tools, so the company went to an Excel-based tool called GL Wand.

Oracle E-Business Suite might have robust financial applications, but its reporting tools were too complex for most business users at GFI Group Inc.

In particular, Oracle’s Financial Statement Generator (FSG) had too many different parts to configure to get a report to actually generate, said Marco Meirinho, director in the financial operations group at the New York-based brokerage firm.

“In 15-plus years that I’ve known (FSG), it always fit more into the tech group or superuser type role,” Meirinho said.

Adding to the complexity, GFI Group doesn’t just have a department taking care of its own finances. Finance is its entire business. So it has diverse reporting needs with various broker interests. Training them all on an Oracle E-Business Suite financial reporting tool would have taken too much time and proven too costly.

Because it was mostly IT techs who knew how to run FSG reports, business users often had to rely on them to get the information they needed. In the high-speed world of finance, brokers often wanted reports done at odd hours, when IT folks weren’t available, and that was frustrating.

“Those in IT were getting angry emails from people upset that they weren’t getting support,” Meirinho said.

That said, the company wasn’t going to rip out its financial ERP system just so the reporting was easier. It installed Oracle E-Business Suite 10 years ago and is currently running version 11.5.10 of the application, including modules for accounts payable, accounts receivable and general ledger. It has a large chart of accounts, multiple sets of books and much more financial data that can’t be easily stripped from the application.

Oracle E-Business Suite financial reporting in Excel

So back in 2007, GFI Group went looking elsewhere. They found a tool based on something their brokers and accountants were much more familiar with: Microsoft Excel.

I think even my mother uses Excel for her shopping list.

Marco Meirinho

Marco Meirinho, financial operations group director, GFI Group Inc.

“I think even my mother uses Excel for her shopping list,” Meirinho said. “Most accounting or financial people have experience with Excel, so it was easier with this tool to get people up and running to build reports.”

Conor McCarthy, GFI Group’s finance director for the Americas, added that he could never do FSG reports but can now do his own Oracle E-Business Suite financial reporting with GL Wand, the tool the company bought to pull Oracle financial data into Excel.

Before, running reports or accessing data often meant working with Oracle Forms to build the right data entry screens. Now the company just runs an Excel formula. Meirinho said the functionality and value the company gets out of GL Wand, compared with FSGs, are “pretty much the same.”

So why did GFI Group pick GL Wand instead of some other Excel reporting tool? According to Meirinho, there weren’t that many Excel-based tools back then that could both pull in Oracle E-Business Suite financial data and not require server hardware upgrades. The company also found that Excel4Apps, the company that makes GL Wand, was amenable to GFI Group using a trial version and slowly building up its use of the product.

GFI Group started using the tool in beta with five users. Word quickly spread around “in a viral fashion,” as McCarthy put it. Before they knew it, GFI Group employees all over the world were demanding the tool.

Now 99% of the company’s financial reports come from GL Wand.

There were hiccups and problems along the way. For example, when GFI Group first started using GL Wand, it only had one set of books, which refers to the functional currency, account structure and accounting calendar for the company. Since GFI has multiple international offices, it needed to move to multiple sets of books because of currency differences. That initially was a problem with the GL Wand tool.

Within a couple weeks, Meirinho said GL Wand had a beta version that could handle multiple sets of books. GFI Group upgraded to that version.

There have been other instances in which a business user has said that a number in GL Wand is different from a number in the Oracle E-Business Suite General Ledger. Meirinho said that most of the time it was an issue with the Oracle General Ledger, but that vendor Excel4Apps helped them discover the issue.

GFI Group is now planning on upgrading Oracle E-Business Suite, either to R12 or to the newly introduced Fusion Applications. The company has already spoken to other GL Wand users currently on R12 who say the tool works well with that version.

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