PLATFORMS: We currently use Applix TM1 Server 6.0 operating on an NT server and supporting Applix TM1 Perspectives 2.6 on Windows 95 clients.
BACKGROUND: Compass Bancshares is a $13 billion financial institution headquartered in Birmingham, Alabama, and located regionally in Alabama, Florida and Texas.
PROBLEM SOLVED: Compass Bancshares needed to upgrade its budgeting/forecasting system as well as other management reporting tools. The previous system was built around macro-driven spreadsheet templates. While the system was functional, it was not very flexible or efficient. Compass wanted to move the budgeting/forecasting platform to a database environment that was efficient, user friendly, easy to implement, affordable and could process information in real time. It would also needed to support approximately 100 users in a client/server environment.
PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: At the cost-center level, Applix TM1 cubes are populated monthly with general ledger data. Hierarchies and consolidation points are maintained by the budget department. Applix TM1 allows users to easily access financial and/or statistical data for any hierarchy point in the organization by using one of several tools. They can load centrally maintained Excel templates, browse cubes or create ad hoc report templates without any technical support or assistance. For budgeting, we developed input templates that retrieved year- to-date (YTD) actual and current budget information and processed "on-the- fly" changes to the budget for a given cost center. The real power of the system is its ability to immediately consolidate changes in real time all the way up the organizational hierarchy, making it simple for us to make mission- critical business decisions immediately. We could not do this with any other OLAP tool.
STRENGTHS: Applix TM1 gives users complete and intuitive database functionality without the need for technical expertise. By using the cube browser and "slice" features, one can quickly access data and write meaningful reports. Basic knowledge of Excel is required along with minimal Applix TM1 training. The ability to consolidate information quickly has been the biggest benefit to Compass Bancshares. Immediately seeing the result of a cost-center level change in a consolidated report has been invaluable throughout the entire organization. Further, Applix TM1 enables a user to review results at a high level and then "drill down" and find detail level information in real time within seconds.
WEAKNESSES: A weakness we have found is limited speed across a WAN. In both a send and receive mode, large templates can take several minutes to process compared to seconds when working on a LAN. Cube browses don't seem to be impacted as much, however.
SELECTION CRITERIA: Applix TM1 was selected because it is easy to use, processes information in real time, requires very little specialized training, could be implemented quickly and was affordable.
DELIVERABLES: Applix TM1 in tandem with Excel has been used to build a budgeting and forecasting tool that is used enterprise wide. As knowledge of the system has spread, it has become the "tool of choice" for all internal and external financial reporting needs. Every major business unit has a finance manager that utilizes the system for standard and ad hoc reporting as well as analysis of results. Data collected includes cost-center level general ledger, loan/deposit application system statistics and head count information.
VENDOR SUPPORT: Compass Bancshares has not directly solicited much vendor support to date. However, when required, Applix has been very responsive.
DOCUMENTATION: The Applix TM1 manual and on- line help are very useful. We have conducted several on-site training classes in order to educate all users.
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