Transforming finance into a strategic business partner

Apr 09, 2018
  • engineering & projects
  • Microsoft

DEME Group decided to transform its finance department into a high-performing team that adds real value to the business. delaware supports the group along the way. Thanks to an integrated business analytics solution from the Microsoft BI stack, core finance processes at DEME Group are now standardized and automated. The smooth access to real-time, ‘one version of the truth’ data has made finance a valued partner in strategic decisions.

With roots going back over 140 years, DEME Group is a world leader in dredging, marine engineering and environmental remediation. The group, which is active in over 90 countries, employs ca. 4,600 highly skilled professionals, including a 267-strong finance team that handles the financial tasks of 200 companies, divisions and project administration teams. In 2014, DEME decided to kick-start a transformation journey for finance. The objective: step away from mere transaction processing, compliance and control and deliver impactful analytics and forecasts instead. A project team, headed by Francine Stockmans, was appointed to guide the transformation, which focused heavily on automation and standardization.

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delaware instills confidence

A first step in the transformation was the choice of a new management reporting system. Eight suppliers made a proposal. DEME chose Microsoft Business Intelligence, as suggested by the Delaware team. “We’re using Microsoft Dynamics AX at most of our sites, so it was quite logical to stick to the Microsoft stack. delaware consultants, however, made a huge difference for us. Both our finance and ICT people felt comfortable with their knowledge, approach and solution,” Francine Stockmans explains.

Management reporting and analysis

delaware set up a solution built around four major pillars: Microsoft products for both reporting (SSRS) and data analytics (SSAS), a tailor-made Excel plugin and IBM Cognos Controller.

“By using SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS), we can now create the – 300-page long – management report that we generate quarterly in no time and manage it (share, interact, etc.) with ease,” says Francine Stockmans. “To help us analyze and explore insights, delaware built a cube with SQL Server 2016 Analysis Services. It includes a staggering amount of data from Microsoft Dynamics AX, which is refreshed in every hour. The data provides users with instant insight into massive volumes of data. Project controllers, for example, can now follow up the status of every project in real time.”

The power of automation

To help controllers easily upload report forecasts for three years out, delaware developed a tailor-made Excel plugin: Present View plugin. Francine: “Controllers can now enter the data themselves. As soon as the forecasts are approved, these are automatically integrated into the data warehouse for management reporting.” Last but not least, the IBM Cognos Controller supports the closing, consolidation and reporting process. It automatically integrates the data of every company that runs Dynamics AX and forwards all the consolidated data to Microsoft Business Intelligence, which creates reports.

The full picture, in real time

Thanks to the Microsoft-based BI setup, every user at DEME has access to a single, real-time version of the truth. Moreover, automating and streamlining the consolidation process eliminates tiresome, manual data entry, saving the finance team valuable time. “The manual upload of all the data took us about a day per month, per division, so the difference is huge,” says Francine. “As a result, finance now has more time for control and analysis, which means they can provide the business with more and better analytics, deliver clear paths and make better forecasts – as a foundation for faster, better decisions.

The future is in the cloud

In the meantime, delaware and DEME are taking the BI solution stack to the next level. For data security reasons, DEME didn’t want its joint ventures to run the same platform that they are running. Instead, delaware implemented Dynamics AX2012 in the cloud via MS Azure – a first step towards the cloud. In early 2018, a DEME subsidiary went live with MS Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations on Azure.

In the coming months and years, DEME will continue optimizing its finance department. The cloud is definitely a logical next step in their efforts to transform finance. delaware remains a trusted partner at every step of the way.

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