CATEGORY: Business Performance Management
REVIEWER: Ralph Hromisin, CFO of Benco Dental Co.
BACKGROUND: Benco Dental Co. is the nation's largest independent distributor of dental supplies and equipment, with sales of $250 million annually. The company serves more than 20,000 customers in 18 states.
PLATFORMS: Benco Dental Co. runs Geac Performance Management on the Microsoft business intelligence platform.
PROBLEM SOLVED: In a competitive environment with limited administrative manpower, Benco's advisory council and senior management team wanted a software solution to support our strategic and financial planning and reporting by capitalizing on the volumes of data trapped in our old spreadsheet, transaction and enterprise resource planning systems. We needed timely information and true analysis capabilities to support our decision making.
PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Today we use Geac Performance Management software for budgeting, forecasting, reporting and analysis. The software enables Benco Dental to effectively collect and distribute critical financial data, communicate policy and drive performance throughout the organization. We are making customized dashboard views of the application for each department that will equip managers with the most current information on key performance indicators, enabling them to be more proactive and help them make more effective, timely decisions.
STRENGTHS: Geac Performance Management is Web-based, making it easy to distribute and collect information using one centralized database; easy to deploy and maintain from an administrative perspective; user friendly and customizable from a user perspective; and modular so it can grow with our needs. The ad hoc reporting tool enables multidimensional financial analysis within minutes that was previously either not possible or extremely time- consuming. Using Geac software, we have shaved weeks of person-hours from our budgeting and consolidation processes. The budgeting process has become interactive and collaborative. Also, now we can perform real value-added analyses, not just number crunching. Geac Performance Management is enabling financial and operational managers to be strategic managers.
WEAKNESSES: At this time, system response time is not optimized.
SELECTION CRITERIA: We looked at several competitors' products. In some cases, the competitors' software did not represent much more than an enhanced spreadsheet and would not fully integrate all of our planning, reporting and strategic planning in a common database. In other cases, the respective sales reps were not as responsive as the Geac team to our entity- specific requirements. We wanted something with a proven track record and good references. Geac delivered with a modular, Web-based, single-source design that was unlike what we saw from others. The functionality promised by the sales team was, in fact, delivered by the Geac integrators and the Geac Performance Management software.
DELIVERABLES: The outputs include a streamlined budgeting, reporting and forecasting process; better communication of corporate strategy throughout the organization; integration of that strategy with financial plans; and enabling of the ad hoc reporting tool for multidimensional financial analysis. The result is increased effectiveness and accountability of our operational managers. In addition, our financial staff now has more time to spend on value-added activities and we have been able to begin a transformation of our financial analysts from "doers" to "thinkers." Our reporting and forecasting is more timely and reliable.
VENDOR SUPPORT: Our Geac consultants had expert subject-matter knowledge. I look for four skills in an IT consultant: project management, cost consciousness and control, product knowledge and technical knowledge. Our internal team, including our highly technically proficient IT staff, felt that the members of our Geac team were some of the best people they have dealt with. We developed a trust in Geac because they had absolute commitment to the success of the application and worked hand in hand with our team toward common goals.
DOCUMENTATION: The documentation is complete and easy to understand if you have a good technical knowledge of multidimensional databases. Our implementation team consisted of finance personnel without any technical knowledge of multidimensional databases. Relying on the documentation to implement and run the product from inception would have been a highly challenging task for a financial staff. Recognizing that, Geac provided a training program that proved useful in building our technical knowledge base. Now that we are using the system, we regularly rely on the documentation and Geac's Web site to troubleshoot and make changes to the product.
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