EKO Bulgaria EAD
Adding Fuel to Financial Reporting
Petroleum company EKO Bulgaria EAD has found a new way to give its SAP-based financial reports some gas – by using GL Wand from Excel4apps.
Financial reporting is hardly the topic to get one’s motor running, particularly when it’s the kind of cumbersome task that inevitably leads the executive concerned to burn the midnight oil. This was the challenge faced by the financial department of petroleum company EKO Bulgaria EAD, which spent so long at times putting its reports together that the people involved found themselves ‘running out of gas.
EKO Bulgaria EAD is located in the capital city of Sofia and was established in 2002 as part of the Hellenic Petroleum Group. This entity is the biggest commercial and industrial economic group in Greece, and furthermore plays a key role in the development of the energy sector across south-eastern Europe. In Bulgaria, the EKO brand is the face of the group, distributing its products and services through 86 petrol stations and four petrol depots across Bulgaria.
Travelling a New Road
Bozhidar Pavlov, Finance Manager at EKO Bulgaria EAD explains that his department had, for a long period, experienced challenges with the sheer length of time it took for them to produce financial reports. Everything from formatting them to extracting new information was time consuming, and when it came to requests they received from management regarding the creation of ad hoc databases, they ran into trouble with both the analysis and extraction of data. “It quickly became clear to us that we needed a tool that was very flexible and could operate effectively under the conditions we were working in,” he says.
“We have been using SAP for more than ten years and today utilize one of the most advanced SAP versions, yet we were still finding that creating reports could sometimes take several days to get right. I decided that we needed to find a solution that would be able to show us our SAP data online and that allowed data to be easily refreshed.”
Pavlov indicates that in spring 2015 he attended an oil and gas conference in Belin and amongst the products on display was GL Wand from Excel4apps. He says that this was a solution that made an immediate impression.
“I wasn’t even aware that a tool like this was available. I was, however, very impressed by what I saw and immediately requested additional details on this solution and followed up with Excel4apps on my return to Bulgaria, as I felt this was the answer we had been looking for.”
Having investigated the steps required to test-drive GL Wand, he says, he had to obtain approval from the company’s headquarters, due to the fact that permission was required for him to directly upload files to the SAP server. He adds that due to the summer holidays, it took longer than he had expected, but by September he was using a trial version of the product.
“My first impression was that this solution was really easy to use and took very little training to use effectively. It enabled me to build a structured reporting framework quite easily and I was thus able to demonstrate to those in EKO who need to know just how effectively the GL Wand tool worked.”
Based on this initial experience, he adds, EKO purchased its first licenses a few months later in November 2015. “Since then, I have begun evangelizing the benefits of GL Wand through our various territories. This has gone really well and already our operations in Serbia have purchased licenses, while Macedonia, Cyprus, Montenegro and Greece have also taken a liking to it. Having recognized the high value this product offers us in reporting terms, these other regions are also seriously considering implementing the tool.”
Like a Time Machine
Pavlov is enthusiastic about the time his department has saved, since implementing GL Wand. He explains that in the past, it could take up to an entire day to create and process a single report. Now, it seldom takes more than half an hour. This, he continues, means that the financial department has additional time to actually check the data in the report, to ensure that everything is correct.
“Moreover, GL Wand is useful across any number of report types, which is key as EKO’s financial department has to produce a wide range of such reports. This encompasses everything from profit and loss reports through to balance sheets and changes in equity statements. In fact, we have to develop a whole database of management reports including volumes, margins and opex. These must be created by function, by category and even by individual petrol station.”
“In the past we were forced to build such reports from scratch, due to the fact that our information was not always structured or arranged in the proper way.”
Also, he indicates, some reports took an inordinate length of time due to the simple fact that the department was unable to cherry-pick only the most relevant details that were required for that particular report.
“With GL Wand, on the other hand, we are able to specifically target the details we need and extract these immediately – there is no need for a whole report to be generated first. Yet even in those situations where the whole report is required, it is generated far more quickly than before.”
“In addition, we are now able to craft our own report structures and, perhaps my personal favorite aspect, the tool refreshes the data rapidly, so it genuinely boosts productivity and efficiency. In fact, GL Wand is so fast - compared to how we got on before - that it is a bit like having a time machine!”
Asked if he experienced any challenges when initially implementing the tool, Pavlov suggests that the only minor difficulty was that the EKO team had to alter some settings within its Excel software. This, he adds, once again highlights just how good the tool is.
“Perhaps the single biggest obstacle we faced during implementation was getting the permission required from our company headquarters to use it in conjunction with the organization’s SAP system.”
Describing how he found the experience of writing his first report using the tool, Pavlov says it was “simplicity itself”.
He adds that he is especially enthusiastic about the fact that it allows his department to show off its capabilities during management presentations. This is because in response to management questions, GL Wand enables his team to retrieve whatever data is required to provide the answers and immediately display it.
“Of course my people have really taken to it because you don’t need to have any specialist SAP knowledge to use the tool. All that is required is a basic understanding of finance and systems. As a non-technical person, it is refreshing to have access to a tool that is so uncomplicated and user-friendly.”
Due to the simplicity of the tool, he continues, the training was straightforward. He says all that was required to get his department up and running was a basic introduction and a little bit of practice. “After I had introduced GL Wand to my people, I simply told them to go and play with it for a while. That really was all the training that was needed.”
Of course, he adds, that doesn’t mean that there haven’t been times when he has had to call on Excel4apps’ support, suggesting that this too has been a pleasure.
“Not only is the support available 24/7, but they are a great help and seem to go out of their way to overcome any challenge we have been faced with.”
The Final Word
Pavlov indicates that if he was asked to recommend the tool to other businesses, he would happily point out the many benefits EKO has received and explain how exceptionally useful GL Wand from Excel4apps is.
“This is exactly what I am planning to do at the next conference I attend. I am going to speak to my industry colleagues about it and advise them to go and acquire GL Wand, as they will no doubt be as excited about what it can offer them as I still am, nearly a year after trying it out,” he concludes.