Verna Group Ltd maintains a healthy business environment with Business Analytics.
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Verna Group Ltd provides a total solution to human waste management in healthcare and is a global leader in this sector, creating cleaner, safer, greener healthcare environments across the world. The company shapes their strategy around the universal drivers of infection control, environmental performance and cost savings, helping customers to achieve all three critical objectives. IBM Cognos Planning has been a vital component in Verna’s strategic planning process for around 10 years. Whilst originally purchased to replace spreadsheet based budgeting, Verna, and specifically David Forman, Group MIS Manager at Verna, has developed their utilisation of the application in several ways: to collate their Management Accounts, for detailed sales reporting across products, channels and countries; cost allocations; and a quarterly rolling forecast.
In collating their Management Accounts, Verna needed a level of data visibility and analysis that in Excel proved deficient. David explains; “We used Excel for very simple channel analysis, but we wanted to be able to analyse and manipulate our data in a more sophisticated way, using multiple dimensions.” David continues, “Each of our divisions are very different and don’t interact with each other that much. Our sales data comes from our Canada division through their ACCPAC system, and from the UK and South Africa through Sage. Utilising IBM Cognos Planning we look at hierarchies, customers, currencies, budgets, products against divisions and different prices, which we aggregate and reconcile. By reporting on the output we can make important decisions on capacity and production; this would have been practically impossible in Excel”.
Other areas in which Verna have utilised IBM Cognos Planning is with HQ cost allocations. “We have various cost centres such as IT, Finance, and Purchasing,” David explains, “Various nominal ledgers in Sage hold all the costs; we take each of those lines and can assign a driver to it. We can be as sophisticated as we want with these, for example, in IT, it may be the number of PCs, or salaries based on timesheet. These then drive costs to all the different divisions, and we can also drive costs to other cost centres, for example, IT are able to charge Finance and Purchasing, offering a full recharge system”. David describes the process: “Typically we allocate about 80% of the costs to the Profit centres on first allocation; the remaining 20% is reiterated through the model until all the costs are allocated to the profit centres”.
With Verna’s increasing presence in the healthcare market it was considered invaluable to the business to implement a quarterly rolling forecast using IBM Cognos Planning, as the use of an annual budget process was at odds with the strategic shift within the business to a more forward thinking forecast process. “We saw many benefits of using the software for the rolling forecast project; particularly the opportunity to control the environment more. Previously we did have an Excel template but people could do what they wanted really; for example, a single product might have many different names or units in various divisions. Now, using IBM Cognos Planning for the forecasts we’ve had to take responsibility in deciding standard names and units for products for everyone to use; there’s much more control across the business”.
The company uses IBM Cognos Contributor to roll out to certain budget holders, who areable to use the Add-In for Excel functionality to refresh and update graphs and reports, so these can be set up by the end users and updated as required. Starting out with sales models, Verna now also roll out head office and more recently overhead models. “We are now working to extend usage to the whole company, for operations, production, balance sheet and cashflow etc,” David comments.
The implementation of the rolling forecast along with IBM Cognos Contributor was an important project for Verna; “IBM Cognos Contributor especially was an unknown entity to us so it was vital that we had the expertise of a Logicalis Business Analytics consultant on hand throughout the project, to ensure it ran smoothly,” says David. “However, we wanted to be as self-sufficient as possible, with that in mind I also attended Logicalis’ IBM Cognos Contributor training course to gain both theoretical and practical understanding of the product; as a result of this and the collaborative approach of our Logicalis consultant, by the end of the project I was sufficient enough in knowledge to complete it on my own.
“The level of support we have received from Logicalis over the years has been invaluable to our IBM Cognos usage. We know that the resource is there at Logicalis whenever we need it, and have utilised Logicalis’ training several times to ensure that Verna retains knowledge and has a level of shared in-house expertise. Logicalis’ Technical Support Helpdesk has always given us solid advice on the few occasions we’ve required it, and it is particularly helpful that they can remotely access your computer to give hands-on technical guidance”. David concludes, “With the consistently collaborative approach Logicalis offers with its support, we continue to utilise IBM Cognos to develop planning processes as and when we need to”.