It’s tough to know how a sales force is performing when data is difficult to bring together under one view. It’s something an investor services group was looking for when it went in search of a reporting tool that could be viewed in as many ways as users needed in a timely fashion.

The Imperial Service group at CIBC includes more than 1,000 licensed financial advisors and executives that work with 900,000 affluent clients across Canada. The group wanted to perform peer-to-peer comparisons, compare sales results to targets (mutual funds, GICs) and identify top sales units and performers.

Two years ago the group began working with Hyperion business performance management tools including Essbase and Analyzer to improve reporting and management. Analyzer is analytic software that sits on top of Essbase, which helps integrate data from a wide range of sources across an enterprise (finance, sales, marketing, supply chain etc.)

“”So many companies use Excel to run their business. Essbase supports the need to look at a business with so many dimensions. And Analyzer gives a dashboard look and feel and the ability to slice and dice. We will always print reports, but with this you can also create them in many different formats,”” said Tom Stevenson, senior account manager with Hyperion.

In its pre-Hyperion environment, Imperial Service was receiving financial data from a mainframe accounting engine.

“”We had Intranet-based report viewing but it was read-only data with no export or download facility,”” explained Bruce McDiarmid, director, performance management with Imperial Service at CIBC in Toronto.

McDiarmid was speaking as part of a seminar called Beyond Business Intelligence, sponsored by Hyperion Tuesday at the Toronto Board of Trade. “”We had no real model for performance measurement. We did have an ad hoc database for customer data, employee satisfaction, products, things like that.””

The challenges facing Imperial Service were numerous.

“”Because we didn’t have a consistent performance management process, every business was ranked No. 1 in something,”” he said. “”We had too many measures, too many reports but not enough focus. There were no controls on report content reaching the business managers.””

It was taking up to seven days to produce performance reports after the financial results were finalized and sales managers were spending two hours a week figuring it all out.

The vision, says McDiarmid, was to make reports available over the company Intranet in an exportable, printable and malleable fashion. They also wanted to centralize data, have integrity controls and reporting maintenance. Another critical item was to have reports developed, maintained and enhanced by the user, not technical staff. Ease of use was paramount.

In May 2002 Imperial Service signed on with Hyperion and in July of that year had the first scorecard in place that provided a view of the business that included a mix of financial and non-financial data. By January 2003 they were replacing Excel spreadsheets with Analyzer, and in June 2003 a weekly sales report cube was completed.

And while Imperial Service had good acceptance by users since it generated reports in a more timely fashion, there were still too many scorecard measures (13) while business managers were really focused on three key measures of business.

“”There was also some inconsistency of data reported by finance than that found in the Hyperion reports,”” said McDiarmid. “”We discovered that finance was making adjustments in Excel and e-mailing it to the sales managers. We’ve now found a way of incorporating data generated by finance into Hyperion.””

To manage the report proliferation going on at Imperial, the organization used Hyperion Analyzer to focus the business managers and simplify report access.

“”We positioned the performance scorecard as the foundation for all management reporting and introduced ‘intuitive’ navigation including broader and more effective use of traffic-lighting,”” said McDiarmid, who noted using colours to highlight trends isn’t used with the purpose of “”prettying up”” a scorecard, but to give it real definition.

Now, Imperial can conduct peer comparisons among units across the group.

“”Very quickly I can narrowly focus on the units causing me grief,”” said McDiarmid.

For example, the scorecard can show that one business unit in Imperial is underselling another unit by two thirds in sales of GICs (Guaranteed Investment Certificates.)

In terms of improving operations, the new system of reporting saves eight person days in terms of time previously spent preparing and distributing spreadsheet reports. Sales managers and support resources have eliminated most ad hoc manual reporting processes.

McDiarmid also offered some advice for those pursuing a similar project. While CIBC’s IT systems had been working with Hyperion tools for some time to improve clarity of its financial data on the back-end, by the time performance management wanted to go forward with its project, it was time for business to drive the project.

“”Build internal IT support for the initiative but the business unit must be the driving force behind the system. Keep building the IT understanding that systems development lifecycle is not necessary for staging and force data definition to be redefined,”” he said.

In future, McDiarmid said the group would be working on developing an employee cube to examine employee performance by industry experience, employee performance, by accreditation and tenure in their role.

As well, Imperial Service hopes to be able to analyze its business growth by age group and local market.

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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