Furniture firm settles in with analytics

A Canadian furniture manufacturer has gotten so comfortable with its enterprise analytical application solution it may expand it worlwide.

Teknion Furniture Systems, based in Toronto, is an example of the kind of company

that is turning to enterprise analytics as a way of managing its growth. It is atypical, however, in that it is building its data reporting capabilities and application framework from the ground up.

Shawn Schultz, Teknion’s director of treasury, says the company started investigating analytics — essentially a beefed-up version of business intelligence software — not long after it went public in July of 1998. A number of acquisitions turned Teknion into one of Canada’s largest furniture manufacturer and distributors with a network of 400 dealers and operating in 52 countries around the world.

“”From one company, in came a multitude of companies,”” he says. “”Public reporting became an issue. We commenced doing that manually, and within a year, realized that we didn’t have a proper database.””

The firm chose Khalix from Markham, Ont.-based Longview Solutions, an application suite supporting a range of functions including forecasting, planning and consolidation. This has become Teknion’s database collector and generator of both internal and external reporting over the past three years.

“”We were a new entity; we didn’t have any historical legacy issues. Essentially we were starting from scratch,”” says Schultz. “”The biggest benefits were up front. We were in acquisition mode for the past several years. In the first and second year that Khalix was in, it allowed us to add an entity very easily regardless of the currency it was in.””

Longview chief technology officer Len Adams says most enterprises run into problems trying to bring disparate databases together. Either the accountant builds data into their spreadsheets, for example, or the IT department takes tools and presents data through a browser.

“”IT is overworked and has a hard time keeping up with the demands of the business and they don’t have time for needs analysis meetings for something that’s constantly changing,”” he says. “”That’s why they turn to these applications.””

The problem is that IT people lack the accounting knowledge to reflect the legal, operating and pro-forma language of the various data. This means numbers are often stale, irrelevant, or simply wrong, Adams says.

“”If you take the tool approach, you’re just going to roll out numbers. If you take the accounting approach, the numbers are going to match your financial statement,”” he says. “”When you build the system, IT tends to focus on one of them, so you leave four or five stakeholders out in the cold and you’re forced to build other systems.””

Schultz says Khalix has allowed Teknion to accelerate its reporting time frames from a 10 business day cycle to two days. He is now thinking of implementing budgeting and making better use of forecasting.

Comment: [email protected]

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