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Banking on Control

  • Sharry Ditzler, Jason Tellinghusen
  • February 01 2004, 1:00am EST
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CATEGORY: Business Performance Management

REVIEWERS: Sharry Ditzler, vice president of finance, and Jason Tellinghusen, financial analyst, for Washington Trust Bank.

BACKGROUND: With assets of $2.1 billion, Spokane, Washington-based Washington Trust Bank is the largest independently owned, full-service commercial bank in Washington and Idaho. Washington Trust recently celebrated its 100th anniversary ­ a testament to its success in the world of banking. The bank places great importance in the roots it has created and continually works to be a vibrant part of the communities it serves. The bank's expertise lies in commercial banking, private banking and wealth management, while also aggressively serving the retail market. Through the years, Washington Trust has been driven by one goal ­ to provide the highest level of quality service and financial stability to its customers.

PLATFORMS: Our IBM server features dual 2.4 GHz processors, 2 gigabytes of RAM and a 100 gigabyte hard drive with RAID 5. The operating system is Windows 2000 Server (sp3), and our database is SQL Server 2000.

PROBLEM SOLVED: First, we replaced a home-grown budgeting system with a system that would allow us to budget at a transaction level. Second, we moved all of our financial reporting, budgeting and analysis tools, which consisted of three different systems, into one piece of software.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: KCI CONTROL's multidimensionality opens many doors and saves significant time within the finance function. Prior to implementing CONTROL, producing a report that showed the budget by projects required a week. With CONTROL, it takes two minutes to create the report. Our organizational chart is very fluid, and we can maintain our chart within CONTROL. That allows us to roll the data and financial reporting up and down the chart by simply dragging and dropping. We started our current budgeting process at the same time we did the previous year; with CONTROL, we'll complete the process a month and a half earlier than we did previously.

STRENGTHS: CONTROL provides huge amounts of flexibility. We like having the Excel interface because people outside the finance area are comfortable with that front end. The "solving" functionality bolsters planning by enabling use to change high-level numbers and then automatically filter those changes down to lower-level numbers. The software's back end is Microsoft SQL Server, which provides strong security and data sharing capabilities. CONTROL allows users to make changes on the Excel-based front end and then hit the "file" button to write the changes back to the database. We could not find that capability in any other product.

WEAKNESSES: We both have systems backgrounds, but the system would take much longer to learn if an organization did not have someone with application design savvy on staff.

SELECTION CRITERIA: We conducted a formal selection process that evaluated six options, including homegrown tools and IPS-Sendero. Our key criteria were functionality (the most important factor), ease of use, ease of training, time to implement, flexibility and total costs. Compared to the large budget packages we considered, the hard- dollar cost for this product is small. We think we're going to realize a significant payback in a very short amount of time.

DELIVERABLES: The first phase of our implementation delivered the budgeting application, which includes several components: salary budgeting by employee; capital budgeting by each of our projects; allocations, which primarily consists of our occupancy out to the various areas of the bank; and, finally, the remaining portions of our non-interest revenue and expense by transaction. We are in the process of integrating our asset-liability modeling with the rest of the budgeting application. The second phase of the project will move the remainder of our financial reporting into CONTROL so that all of the information can be delivered to users via our intranet.

VENDOR SUPPORT: KCI's support is very, very good. When they tell us they're going to deliver something, they always make the deadlines. They listened to our requests for changes and used our suggestions to enhance their software. We were impressed that KCI's controller, a CPA, participated in implementation discussions to help us understand how CONTROL would support some of our specific finance and accounting needs.

DOCUMENTATION: The documentation is good at explaining what capabilities are available and how to create additional capabilities. It would be helpful if suggested best practices were provided to help guide us in customizing the software to our unique needs.

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