Extending SAP Value, Speeding Access With New Tools

An SAP user since 2006, Purcell Systems found over time that financial reporting from its big ERP system was inefficient, especially as managers began to request more information more quickly. By 2012, the company seriously needed a way to expedite both ad-hoc and standard financial reporting processes.

A lengthy process for data retrieval

An SAP user since 2006, Purcell Systems found over time that financial reporting from its big ERP system was inefficient, especially as managers began to request more information more quickly. Based in Spokane Valley, Wash., with international subsidiaries, Purcell manufactures thermally-managed outdoor electronic equipment enclosures. By 2012, the company seriously needed a way to expedite both ad-hoc and standard financial reporting processes.

“We had no real financial reporting capability within SAP,” explained Kevin Lybbert, senior cost/SAP analyst at Purcell Systems. “To access the necessary data, someone had to drop SAP information into Excel and then create the report. If any data changed, we had to go through all those steps again to make sure everyone was looking at the same numbers.”

Standard SAP reports did not provide financial data in the way Purcell needed it to appear, according to Patty Bordelon, global controller for Purcell Systems. The finance and accounting team was unable to consolidate financial statements properly in SAP, and both ad hoc and standard monthly and year-end closing reports were also an issue.

“We wanted to report our income statements a bit differently from the way it came across in SAP reports,” Bordelon explained. “We found it worked better to download the trial balance from SAP and then create reports using pivot tables in Excel spreadsheet templates, which was very time consuming.”

The process was equally time intensive for ad hoc reports. “To get the requested information, we would create and run different queries within SAP through the tables, and where possible, we would link tables together,” described Lybbert. “If there wasn’t a way to link everything in SAP, we would run the query and send the data to Excel, where we would finish linking data and create the report.”

The bottom line was that reporting for Purcell was a time-consuming, cumbersome process, and that the company needed faster access to critical data.

Impressive trial with Excel-based reporting tool

In 2012, with requests for SAP financial information mounting, Purcell decided to look for a new reporting tool. Lybbert knew of Excel-based GL Wand from SAP’s user conference, SAPPHIRE, and training venues, and was impressed with its fast access to real-time SAP data. Purcell decided to take advantage ofGL Wand’s free trial, while also evaluating another similar reporting product.

Lybbert was the primary person responsible for evaluating both tools. After a three-week trial on Purcell’s quality system, which had live transactions up to two months prior, he ultimately recognized the advantages of the Excel4Apps reporting solution.

After installing GL Wand in September 2012 for domestic operations, Lybbert was more than ready to use it for reporting in a live SAP environment.

“We don’t have a very complicated SAP structure, so I was able to mimic our income statement using the GL Wand drilldown function to access the detailed data and then link it back into other reporting functions for cost centers,” Lybbert described.

Monthly and ad-hoc reports accelerate

With the domestic monthly close for financials, Purcell now easily runs cost center reports and financial statements with on a daily basis. “The reports used to take 2 to 4 hours on a daily basis, and now we can get the data instantaneously,” said Bordelon. “As soon as a journal entry is posted, we can see the effects of it on our income statements.”

Ad-hoc reports are also much faster – and more accurate. “The new system allows me to pull the real-time SAP information into my reports,” Lybbert said. “Now, every time I have a question, I don’t have to jump into SAP and go through all these steps to find information. I have it all in GL Wand, and if a change occurs, it updates automatically. Because GL Wand provides direct access and pulls the data for me, I am confident that the data is correct.”

Margin analysis in 1 hour, not 8

The decision to implement an Excel-based financial reporting tool is paying off in many ways. For example, Lybbert creates a margin analysis report at month end that shows shipments, revenue, material costs and variances that might have flowed through on those products. Before, he would go into SAP and drop out the information needed, then reconcile it back to the general ledger.

“It was a multiple-click process,” he said. “I had to get the account number, go into SAP, look at the account balance, double click, drill down into it, find the information I needed, whether it was a work order or material, and then go look at it in another section of SAP. Every time I had a question I had to go back into SAP and do these steps.”

Now, reporting is almost effortless. Lybbert says, “I have some formulas coded at the bottom that bring across the balances I need from SAP. I can do everything there in one report and have all the detail behind the data to support it. GL Wand saves me hours at month end to create that report.”

For Lybbert, creating the report from SAP after a heavy sales month would take most of an eight-hour day. Now, on average, it takes him just one hour to complete.

Fast, accurate reports please management

With the improvements in reporting processes, Bordelon and Lybbert notice that Purcell managers are appreciative. While they used to have to wait until Day 7 of closing for reports, managers now get the reports on Day 3.

“Managers don’t often understand the ins and outs of creating a report, but they do know they are getting their information faster,” Lybbert said. “Our CFO realizes it. As our SAP environment becomes more robust, I see GL Wand constantly giving us efficiencies in timeliness of reporting.”

As Bordelon notes, Purcell has not yet seen the benefits of the shift to an Excel-based reporting tool on a consolidated basis because international operations in Sweden, Egypt and Poland have not yet implemented it. However, as GL Wand is rolled out to them throughout 2013, she expects the consolidation benefits, along with regional ones, to be realized as they have been domestically.

Chris Meyer is President, Americas, for Excel4apps, a provider of best-in-class Excel-based inquiry and reporting software for Oracle and SAP. Excel4apps currently serves over 14,000 users with offices in the United States, United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, Australia, and South Africa. For more information, visit www.excel4apps.com or contact Meyer at chris.meyer@excel4apps.com.

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