The client, an internationally active food manufacturer, has around two dozen national companies worldwide. These operate largely independently, but report to the parent company in Switzerland on financial matters. All investments worldwide are recorded five times a year and evaluated on a consolidated basis. The customer wanted to optimize the Excel-driven process and create a central database for evaluations.

Food manufacturer

The internationally active food manufacturer, headquartered in Switzerland, has around two dozen national companies worldwide and nearly 15,000 employees.

 

1stQuad quickly created a database-driven web application with a spreadsheet component based on their FAST framework, which replaced Excel and included a flexible process for recording and approving new investments.

The process for recording all of the group’s investments requires the national companies to submit a forecast once per quarter and the current figures once per year. An Excel spreadsheet was used for each company to record the projects and figures, which posed a number of problems for both the authors and recipients of the reports. In addition, the company wanted to create a uniform database from the data that existed but was available in different files. This was to enable consolidated evaluations and analyses with SAP BusinessObjects and other business intelligence tools such as Microsoft Power BI.

Excel: Curse and blessing for data collection

Microsoft Excel can be used to collect data conveniently and – for the data collector – very efficiently. Also, a spreadsheet is prepared and sent very quickly. However, with more than 30 recipients with different business practices, the customer was faced with major problems: Changes are made to the Excel structure, new rows or columns are added, content is copied and pasted from different sources, data is missing or has a different granularity, and so on. Furthermore, how can you ensure that Excel forms are filled in by the right people at the right time and that sensitive financial data does not fall into the wrong hands?

It was clear to the customer that the future solution had to include “Excel” despite the disadvantages mentioned above. Everyone involved in the process is used to it, and a spreadsheet is the easiest way to efficiently capture financial data.

A web application does the splits

1stQuad developed the best possible solution for the client in record time: A customized web application in which investments are managed as before with a spreadsheet component.

There is an extensive permission system as well as an administration area where all process parameters such as organizations, categories, timeline, table templates and much more can be controlled. The spreadsheet has also been improved. There are various data and rule-based validations as well as the possibility of Excel export, offline editing and re-import into the application. The balancing act has been achieved – “Excel” remains, but optimally embedded in a structured financial application with a central database, ready for evaluations and analyses.

All-in-one: enter, approve and track investments

In a second step, 1stQuad was tasked with implementing the upstream process of recording, evaluating and approving investments and projects. Based on previous implementations, a solution was created with a small budget that allows the individual country organizations to enter more or less complex business cases in the web application, depending on the investment category and thresholds. Data is entered via spreadsheets that calculate key figures such as NPV, IRR or payback periods in real time. Various workflows can be stored for the approval process, which are applied dynamically depending on the business case.

Enormous increase in efficiency and data intelligence with the help of cloud computing

With the new solution, the customer was able to increase the efficiency of data collection and consolidation enormously. In addition, this data is now available in an optimal form for use with existing BI tools. This provides even more transparency and planning reliability for the globally operating group of companies.

Thanks to the 1stQuad FAST framework with many prefabricated components and the Microsoft Azure Platform-As-A-Service (PaaS), the advantages of modern and secure cloud computing could be used within a very short time and a solution was created that was highly appreciated by all parties involved.