Detailed Planning at the Jiffy Group
“In practical terms, a cloud-based solution is attractive,” explains Dirk-Jan Bax of the Jiffy Group about their choice of PBCS (Oracle Planning and Budgeting Cloud Services). “The initial investment is lower, the scalability is better, and the software upgrades are dealt with automatically. You always have the latest functionality.”
The Jiffy Group, which has its head office in Kristiansand in Norway, supplies environmentally friendly propagation systems, hydroponic systems, containers, and substrates to clients throughout the world. The organization uses renewable resources and bio-based materials such as peat, coconut, pulp, and other forms of biomass.
The Jiffy Group has been using Hyperion Essbase for several years. The decision to add an additional planning solution was principally driven by the need for more functionality and greater ease of use, for both the end users and the application managers. “Together with Finext, we looked at what would be a logical step,” says Dirk-Jan. “This kind of decision is made for several years and obviously involves investments. Hyperion Essbase is still the basis, but on top of that we have been able to add various specific functional requirements with Finext.”
Financial and commercial reporting
This international organization has chosen a combination of financial and commercial reporting in their application. “Depending on their authorization profile, users can now use various reports, irrespective of whether those are more financially oriented or sales focused,” explains Dirk-Jan. “The user organization received this very positively. Additionally, the way information is made available has become considerably more user-friendly.”
We can now drill down to the item level to see which product has been sold from which warehouse, at what price and with what margin.
The commercial reports give details such as production quantities and sales quantities, as well as saying which sales staff have sold how much of which products. “We want to use the sales reports to give a clear picture of all the dimensions,” adds Dirk-Jan. “Where we used to stop at the level of the product groups in Hyperion Essbase, we can now drill down to the item level to see which product has been sold from which warehouse, at what price and with what margin.”
A combination of two databases
That much detail does impose demands on the underlying databases. “Hyperion Essbase has two types of database: the block storage database is suitable for calculation, while the aggregate storage is more focused on reporting,” Martin de Haan explains. Martin works for Finext and he is closely involved with the Jiffy Group’s planning solution. “A dimension with a thousand members still fits in block storage, but if there are eight thousand members it takes a lot of time to do the calculations. In that case, the aggregate storage database is preferred.”
To maintain the performance of the detailed reports, a special solution was build. “We have chosen a combination of two different types of databases,” says Martin. “The calculations are first done at the lowest level in the block storage database and then dynamically aggregated to the highest level in the aggregate storage database.”
This combination is particularly necessary for the sales reports. “It means we don’t just get the details down at the product level, but also do calculations on the sales database,” Dirk-Jan tells us. “Take calculations such as year-to-date and currency conversions. Calculating and reporting are really fast too, by the way. Both databases are used to their full potential.”
Making conscious choices in the structure
The considerations for the setup have taken into account more than just the current planning process. “This application offers a lot more options that have not been used yet,” says Dirk-Jan. “Step by step, we will see which options can have added value for Jiffy.” In future, the Jiffy Group would like to look at the possibility of facilitating the reporting and/or planning requirements of the production and logistics departments through PBCS. “At this moment, we want to properly set up the dimensions at the highest level, to avoid making choices that we’ll regret later. Finext is helping us with that.”
Dirk-Jan has been working with Finext for almost twenty years. “We like to work with parties who are informal and principled where needed, and pragmatic where possible. We want to feel that both parties are on the same page. Finext has a very pragmatic mindset, which they combine with knowledge of current technology available in the market.”
Gabor Wieringa of Swap Support, a sister organization of Finext, was also involved. Swap Support specializes in support on Performance Management applications. “Oracle makes a backup by default every night,” says Martin, “but if you make a mistake that you don’t find before the end of the next day, that mistake will be in the latest backup. Gabor has made an additional backup script that you can activate manually, and which will store that backup on a file server.”
Ultimately, from the point of view of finance, you’ve got one goal: to add value and serve your customers.
The collaboration with Gabor went mainly through Martin. “That’s good; as a user, I want no worries in that regard,” says Dirk-Jan. “Issues usually turn up at unfortunate moments. In our field, we’re always working towards deadlines; there’s not a lot of sympathy from various stakeholders if we can’t report. And rightly so. If we run into something we can’t solve ourselves, I call Finext and know that it will get the proper attention. They help me get things up and running again quickly. The number of times this was needed was very limited, by the way, and mainly in the startup phase.”
The Jiffy Group is positive about the added functionality in the planning solution. “We can create reports and analyses much easier now,” says Martin. “The analysis capability was already available in Hyperion Essbase to some extent, but now there is even greater depth available with more details per dimension. The reporting module gives us more added value.” The dimensions are imported automatically via PBCS, subsequently using FDMEE as the integration tool to load the data.
The added value does not only come from the insights from the reports, but also from improvements in the process of making the reports. “When you start PBCS, you can select a report. You use a drop-down menu to choose the product group,” says Dirk-Jan. For a paper version, it is easy to create a PDF with all variants from the drop-down menu. That PDF can also be easily read on screen. “You get a reporting booklet with just one press of the button,” says Martin.
The new planning tool saves a lot of time. “Ultimately, from the point of view of finance, you’ve got one goal,” concludes Dirk-Jan. “To add value and serve your customers. This solution helps us do that.”