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November 25, 2009

4 Min Read
Case Study: Cellular South Taps IBM Cognos TM1, Revelwood For Business Performance Management

Cellular South is the largest privately held wireless provider in the United States. Based in Ridgeland, Miss., the company opened in 1988.

Cellular South has led the industry with innovative voice and data services and a commitment to providing the same kind of advanced wireless services in rural America that has long been available to those living and working in metropolitan areas.

Problem

According to Justin Croft, Cellular South’s manager of financial analysis and planning, the rapid growth of Cellular South notwithstanding, his department found itself saddled with an outdated and inefficient budgeting system.

“We were using an old general ledger system that flowed into our financial reporting tool,” he said. “You could report actuals against budget, but it really had no functionality in the way of creating a budget. This left us with multiple spreadsheets to create an operating budget, capital budget, sales forecast, customer budgets, and so on. All the data needed to compile our entire company’s budget was in disparate spreadsheets, and then we had to try to shove it into a system which was really never designed to do budgeting. Basically, we lacked the infrastructure to complete a comprehensive budget for the company.”

Solution

So Croft and his boss, Brian Jones, director of financial analysis and planning, began a search for a better way to do this in light of the department’s need to produce more dynamic, more detailed budgets in a faster and more efficient way. The two mapped out their alternatives and began evaluating and demoing what would eventually be 10 to 12 different systems. IBM Cognos TM1, one of the first systems they looked at, quickly stood out as a viable option.

“It is Excel-based and we wanted something that people here were familiar with,” said Jones. “Everyone uses Excel in their daily jobs. We didn’t want to bring something in that would result in people hesitating to use a new system which would be the case with a different looking interface.”

Cellular South held off on making a decision, first choosing to launch Oracle’s E-Business Suite to replace all of its accounting applications. Shortly after completing this implementation, they re-activated their search for a business performance management (BPM) solution. This led them once again to TM1 and to Revelwood as the implementer.

“We didn’t have a great deal of internal IT resources for the implementation and ongoing support for the new system, so we needed to work with a mature vendor with deep experience in TM1,” said Jones. “Revelwood fit the bill perfectly. They have dozens of successful TM1 implementations under their belt, stellar references and what I like to call their ‘bag of tricks’ – the pre-built models, templates and reports that dramatically reduced the overall implementation time and quickly improved our reporting efficiency.”

More specifically, these tools included Revelwood Implementation Accelerator and Revelwood Report Manager – out-of-the-box services and software for enterprise financial planning and reporting running on the IBM Cognos TM1 platform. These tools allow TM1 customers to get up and running quickly and easily, leveraging the best of TM1’s real-time OLAP functionality, along with best practices developed from Revelwood’s years of experience developing such solutions.

Results

“From the get go, TM1 greatly facilitated our data collection for the budget, giving us a central place for departments to input detailed information,” said Croft. “People now have more access to reporting. They can drill down to the details to see, on a nightly basis, who the vendor is, or the details of what makes up each account line item. This enables us to reference the individual transactions that make up the totals in our financial reports.”

“That’s been huge, as it’s relieved a great deal of burden from the accounting folks. We no longer have to manually look up invoices. All the information was trapped in the account and we were the gatekeepers – which was not the way we wanted it to work.”

TM1 offers a transparency that allows people to go into their statements anytime during the month to get up-to-date information and spot problems well in advance. It also allows for fast, flexible reporting and ad-hoc analysis.

“We’re living in a very dynamic industry and we’re constantly trying to figure out what the rest of the year will look like,” said Jones. “Right now, we’re looking to leverage TM1 in that sense. Our biggest challenge about forecasting has always been the ability to fluctuate between scenarios. With this system, all you have to do is change the scenario from budget to actual and then it automatically refreshes based on that update. That’s the value of having a system that works with an Excel interface. It’s easy to use and has made our lives much easier.”

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