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Huntsman Companies Create Dynamic Budgeting System with arcplan's dynaSight Analytics

  • July 01 2004, 1:00am EDT

REVIEWER: Jim Bell, director of corporate finance for Huntsman LLC.

BACKGROUND: The Huntsman Companies constitute the world's largest privately held chemical company. The operating companies manufacture basic products for a variety of global industries including chemicals, plastics, aerospace, automotive, aviation, footwear, paints and coatings, construction, electronics, technology, agriculture, healthcare, textiles, detergent, personal care, furniture, appliances and packaging. Originally known for pioneering innovations in packaging and, later, rapid and integrated growth in petrochemicals, Huntsman-held companies today have more than 15,000 associates, operations in 30 countries and annual revenues of approximately $9 billion.

PLATFORMS: arcplan's dynaSight runs in Microsoft Windows 2000 Server. Users access it via Microsoft Internet Explorer on a Windows platform.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Before implementing dynaSight, we had no way to adequately and consistently distribute financial information broadly across the enterprise in a user-friendly fashion. By using the dynaSight platform in conjunction with other products such as Applix TM1 and Microsoft Access, we have been able to deploy a dynamic budgeting system for creating and analyzing annual budgets. This system provides historical data for building forecasts and budgets, and enables the real-time input of budgets for hundreds of cost centers across all of our U.S. petrochemicals locations. Once budgeted costs and manpower have been entered, a series of reports provide appropriate comparison schedules and allow for the input of variance explanations.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: The ability to do the annual budget input and analysis online with visualization of easy-to-understand charts and graphs - in real time - has saved hundreds of man-hours of work and made cost budgeting a much less labor-intensive process. This, in turn, allows more time for in-depth data analysis and more consistent planning and forecasting. The product's rapid application development environment and templates also made it easy to get started right away. Even finance guys like me who aren't programmers can use it. This enables quick updates and changes to keep up with business or adapt to the personal viewing preferences of our users.

STRENGTHS: The ability to quickly and easily create applications that are widely distributed via our company's intranet played a key role in the selection process. The product works with a variety of data sources, which is extremely useful when a report needs to pull data from more than one database. This same attribute ensures integration with other sources we may want to add in the future. Our solution, which we feel uniquely meets our needs, was up and running much faster than if we would have created something in house from scratch. All in all, our dynaSight solution has proven to be not only a sensible choice, but also an affordable one as our cost of ownership is quite low.

WEAKNESSES: The product does not allow for the nesting of multidimensional hierarchies into a complex view. dynaSight allows you to nest as many as two dimensions.

SELECTION CRITERIA: We selected dynaSight for its ability to work seamlessly with Applix TM1 and allow both data read and write-back capabilities. Other well-known products we investigated did not allow write back to the source. Also key to our decision was affordability and usability.

DELIVERABLES: Our managers, C-level executives, analysts and operations employees - hundreds of people - have been using dynaSight successfully as our front end for nearly three years now. Reports can be easily created using drop-down menus. Our users also create printed output and can export to Excel or PDF. dynaSight has saved us a lot of time, and we have greater faith in the veracity of our data and our decisions.

VENDOR SUPPORT: arcplan delivers very good support via arcplan Answers, arcplan's Web support system for customers to share their technical knowledge and experience, which I believe was also created using dynaSight. Problems are answered in a reasonable time frame based on the criticality of the request.

DOCUMENTATION: Documentation is adequate but rarely used because the product is so intuitive. There was really no training needed for our users, and we've created a few help pop-ups for the few typical questions that do arise.

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