CATEGORY: Business Intelligence

REVIEWER: Gidon Albert, director of financial systems for Viacom.

BACKGROUND: Viacom is a leading global media company, with preeminent positions in broadcast and cable television, radio, outdoor advertising and online. With programming that appeals to audiences in every demographic category across virtually all media, the company is a leader in the creation, promotion and distribution of entertainment, news, sports and music. Viacom's well-known brands include CBS, MTV, Nickelodeon, VH1, BET, Paramount Pictures, Viacom Outdoor, Infinity Broadcasting, UPN, TNN, TV Land, CMT: Country Music Television, Comedy Central, Showtime, Blockbuster and Simon & Schuster.

PLATFORMS: Applix TM1 sits on a Dell PowerEdge 6400 server with Quad 700 MHz P4 processors. The system has 4GB RAM and runs on Windows 2000 Advanced Server.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Over the past 10 years, Viacom grew rapidly through acquisitions. In order to make timely and strategic decisions, we needed to connect the myriad financial systems in the acquired companies. Collecting information outside of the general ledgers became a significant challenge. Viacom divisions would run reports out of the legacy financial systems and fax hard copies to corporate headquarters where data was manually entered into Excel-based templates. Financial analysts at headquarters would manually compare spreadsheets to ensure accuracy. This process reduced the amount of time spent on analysis and decision making based on the data.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: We turned to Revelwood's Financial Consolidation Suite (FCS) powered by Applix's TM1 because it was best able to conduct real-time consolidations. The combination of FCS and TM1 matches Viacom's business processes for data collection, consolidation and reporting. Together, the two products now automate the entire data collection process, empowering divisions to map, validate and transmit data with little or no corporate involvement. We are able to map general ledger feeds directly to a centralized financial consolidation system. Additionally, FCS and TM1 automate the preparation of financials following a change in Viacom's organizational structure ­ a major challenge for any large company with multiple divisions. The solution provides us with the ability to generate reports via the Web and accept the reports via electronic signatures. It also gives us greater accountability through accurate financial reporting, providing a system to ensure compliance with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. Lastly, the FCS/TM1 system streamlines our divisional review and validation process, providing more information and a greater level of detail for real-time analysis of data.

STRENGTHS: The overall system gives us a view into what's behind the numbers. It enables us to easily detect and correct inaccurate submissions and improve data integrity. It also provides visibility into the extent to which the company's accounting policies are being applied consistently across multiple divisions.

WEAKNESSES: When we invested in TM1, Applix did not have a Web interface for the core engine. This limits the ability for Viacom team members to view and work with the information over an intranet. Applix has since addressed this by releasing TM1 Web.

SELECTION CRITERIA: We assembled a review panel and engaged KPMG Consulting (now BearingPoint, Inc.) to identify project requirements and best practices. The solution needed to support Viacom's financial reporting group and Viacom's tax department, while also accommodating the reporting requirements for other constituencies, including the SEC and shareholders. After an extensive search that included Hyperion and Elevon, Viacom selected the Revelwood/Applix solution.

DELIVERABLES: With this system, we have transformed data into critical business information that facilitates fast, effective decision making and ensures accurate reporting. We automate data collection, ensure data integrity, map general ledger feeds, publish reports via the Web and use the system to streamline our tax estimation reconciliation process.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Revelwood created the consolidation system from scratch for us. Applix has been very responsive and has provided adequate solutions to any issues that came up.

DOCUMENTATION: Documentation for both TM1 and FCS is complete and easy to understand.

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