Reporting Nightmare Becomes a Dream: Hinterland Deploys GL Wand for SAP
Like many complex organizations, financial reporting for Hinterland is paradoxically a crucial task but one which presents a major obstacle for accounting personnel. When a previously cumbersome, time consuming and error-prone reporting process was replaced with GL Wand from Excel4apps, what was once a reporting nightmare was turned on its head to become an automated, flexible and easily executed process.
Established in 2013, Hinterland is a joint retail venture between Senwes, one of the leading agribusiness companies in South Africa, and farm equipment company AFGRI. Hinterland is responsible for supplying input requirements to agricultural producers and the provision of a variety of hardware and convenience products to the general public. Hinterland has 60 retail outlets with fuel stations, 5 forecourt convenience stores and 1 supermarket, and employs some 1275 people across South Africa.
Hinterland and several other Senwes subsidiaries have implemented GL Wand to support improved financial reporting out of SAP.
Hinterland Financial Manager Monja van Zyl explains why the company required a better solution for its reporting requirements: “Quite simply, reporting was a nightmare for the accounting department. We have a multitude of branches which are also structured differently and we are required to report across multiple regions. Getting a clear picture of performance across the division was really difficult, time consuming and prone to inaccuracy.”
She explains that a good deal of manual effort had to go into drawing reports from the company’s SAP enterprise resource planning system. “The process required construction of information in SAP, then exporting it into Excel to create management accounts. There were a lot of formulas which needed to be dealt with, and a variety of budgets and other information copied and pasted from SAP into Excel.”
It was a frustrating process, she agrees. “Just comparing previous reports to budgets would take up to a day.”
Van Zyl says help was at hand, however, as a colleague within Senwes had experience with GL Wand from Excel4apps and recommended that the solution be evaluated in Hinterland’s environment. In September 2013, the decision was made to introduce GL Wand; van Zyl remembers the implementation process taking around a month before the solution was running comfortably. Most of that time, she relates, was invested in training and familiarization with the solution – and because this took place after hours, it added to the time frame. “When I initially saw the formula, it was quite intimidating; however, after working through it myself, GL Wand turned out to be user friendly,” she notes. “Once you understand what it is doing, you appreciate its brilliance. After creating one report as a baseline,it becomes easier and easier to create additional ones just by changing variables and inputs.”
The user guide supplied with the software, says van Zyl, proven indispensable in supporting the creation of the crucial first report. “While there is a learning curve which requires frequent reference to the guidelines, practice does make perfect. Within a short space of time, creating the reports you need becomes simpler and faster as you discover more about how GL Wand can assist you.”
In addition to the user guide, Excel4apps provides training support to assist new users in getting familiarized with the GL Wand solution. Van Zyl further draws attention to the quality of support provided: “The support people are great and go extra mile to help you, whether day or night. We’ve been really impressed with this aspect of the solution.”
Speed, Accuracy, Convenience
With GL Wand installed and operational, van Zyl says the results are abundantly clear. “Previously, month end reporting would take up to five days to prepare. Now, it is sorted out in around two days. That’s a fantastic boost to productivity.”
As for comparing reports, which once took a day, just five or ten minutes are required.
There’s more to it than relieving accounting staff from tedious, time-consuming and unpleasant work, too. “We’re able to focus our attention on variances, whereas in the past, we were just trying to get the reports compiled in time. Not only is GL Wand quick and easy, but we also have far more confidence in the numbers. There is less likelihood of any errors creeping in with this tool, which means our analytics produce reliable results,” she explains.
While the productivity gains are substantial, van Zyl makes the point that the purpose of GL Wand isn’t to make accountants work faster, per se, but to deliver accurate, dependable information when and where it is required. “GL Wand makes accessing the right information really fast. If, for example, you’re in an Executive Committee meeting and you need specific information, you simply refresh and it is there. That differs from pulling out of SAP, which can take quite some time before you have what you need.”
Information is advantage, agrees van Zyl. “Within our industry, the difficulty associated with reporting is a common source of complaint – and, thanks to GL Wand, that’s just no longer the case at Hinterland.”
Given the clear benefits and compelling results, van Zyl says plans are afoot to increase Hinterland’s use of the tool. “We’ve also got our eye on the Budget and Vendor modules, as these could potentially be useful in our environment,” she notes.
As for recommending the solution to others, van Zyl doesn’t hesitate. “We’ve already recommended it and that’s purely down to how much easier it makes month end reporting. What was once a nightmare is now a dream,” she concludes.