REVIEWER: Jeff Sandora, manager of planning and reporting for American Eagle Outfitters (AE).
BACKGROUND: AE is a leading retailer that designs, markets and sells its own brand of laid-back, current clothing targeting 15- to 25-year-olds, providing high-quality merchandise at affordable prices. AE currently operates 805 stores in 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, and 71 AE stores in Canada.
PLATFORMS: IBM, CPU: Quad X86 Family 15 Model 2 Stepping 7 Genuine Intel 2.8 GHz, 4GB RAM.
PROBLEM SOLVED: We wanted to re-engineer our existing budgeting system because it couldn't handle our current and future requirements. Special challenges in managing financial performance included price markdowns and inventory shrinkage. The budgeting process took as long as six months. We wanted a comprehensive budgeting system that could be rolled out to all users and allowed them to input and manage their own budgets through a centralized database with distributed input. Excel spreadsheets were used for budgeting, and users sent their completed budget templates to the planning department. These templates needed to be rechecked and consolidated by the department, a time-consuming process riddled with formatting and formula errors. More importantly, the information did not present one version of the truth. We chose Clarity Systems' product, Clarity 5, to provide a more proactive and efficient budgeting system that was fast, easy to use and flexible enough to meet all our needs.
PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Clarity 5's Web-based interface and ability to support our existing database model was extremely important for us to access both our budget and actual data within the same environment. Managers could drill through to line-item details and track workflow to see the status of all the budget submissions. Clarity 5 also included strong security features, driver-based planning logic and the ability to plan at a detailed level.
STRENGTHS: The greatest strength of the product is the ability to quickly access information when we need it. We are able to get line-item details, HR planning by person, travel planning by trip and capital planning by project, instantly. The product is also extremely flexible in supporting our business processes. With Clarity budgeting, we significantly reduced the budgeting cycle, carefully maintaining information in one source and distributing controlled input to product managers. We spent less time gathering information, spent more time reviewing and analyzing the figures and held managers accountable for their budgets, resulting in improved cost savings overall. Clarity 5 provided a self-service environment that gives our managers a grasp of financial performance quicker than ever before. Department heads have visibility into reports that tell them how they are tracking to actuals every mid-month, empowering them to make better financial decisions. Clarity also took the time to understand our business so they could deliver exactly what we needed.
WEAKNESS: Administration of template and report security could be more accessible.
SELECTION CRITERIA: We evaluated a number of vendors, but Clarity Systems was the perfect fit because we wanted a system that could plug and play with our existing Essbase database and also have the flexibility and functionality to satisfy our complex business logic, input and reporting requirements. Clarity is extremely easy to use and has a strong reporting output for formatting and a strong security model. Clarity easily integrated with existing OLAP models and infrastructure.
DELIVERABLES: Clarity delivered a comprehensive corporate performance management system that included budgeting and actual financial reporting. In all, we used more than 300 templates and reports and had 120 users in the head office and across the U.S. We now have a more productive budgeting cycle with tighter cost controls and have the ability to utilize driver-based budgeting when appropriate, deliver more accurate budgeting and forecasting numbers and ensure our managers are accountable for their budgeting practices.
VENDOR SUPPORT: Clarity's services and support shine. They were always there to listen and understand our needs, but what made Clarity services and support superior was their expertise. Clarity's expert advice and support helped us leverage other areas of our business and ensure success at every step of the way.
DOCUMENTATION: The documentation was complete, helpful, easy to understand and satisfied our basic usage requirement.
Clarity Systems Limited
2 Sheppard Avenue East
Toronto, ON M2N 5Y7
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