The British Library
British Library Implements GL Wand to Turn the Page on Reporting
GL Wand from Excel4apps makes Oracle financial reporting as enjoyable as reading a good book.
Time-Consuming and Inflexible Reporting
The ancient Library of Alexandria is estimated to have held up to 400 000 papyrus scrolls at its peak, which clearly means that when it came time for its staff to write reports, there was likely much furious scratching with quills. While there are no quills in sight at the British Library, when it came time to write financial reports, the challenge was much like that faced by Johan Guttenberg when he typeset the first Bible by hand – it was time-consuming and inflexible. All of this changed when the organization implemented GL Wand from Excel4apps.
The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom and is located in St Pancras in London and Boston Spa in West Yorkshire. Much like its ancient forebear, the British Library contains a wealth of information: through legal deposit it receives a copy of every book, magazine, and newspaper published in the UK, along with digital publications and the whole of the UK web domain. Its collection of over 150 million items, in most known languages, also includes manuscripts, maps, prints and drawings, music scores, stamps and even patents. More than 1.6 million people visit the Library every year, with millions more accessing the website at www.bl.uk.
Finding the Right Financial Reporting Tool
According to management accounts assistant, Stewart Starr, British Library places great emphasis on today’s climate of significant technological change. It has a strategy in place that is focused on the key trends and opportunities that will arise over the next decade. Despite there being a wealth of information and a future strategy, when it came to drawing up financial reports, the Library’s finance department found itself behind the times. Starr explains that the Library has used Oracle since the 1990s, starting with version 11.5.10. At this time many of the reports were created using a Discoverer download from the institution’s General Ledger and then using Excel to create reports based on this data. “While this solution worked, it was relatively inflexible and time consuming to use. In 2007, the finance department was restructured and we took the opportunity to search for the right reporting tool that would work with Oracle E-Business Suite,” he says.
“While making enquiries around potential replacement tools, we encountered GL Wand from Excel4apps and quickly decided this would work for us. Since implementing it nine years ago, we have used the solution through various iterations, starting with version 3.20 and progressing to version 5.7.3 – which has become progressively easier to use. For me, this demonstrates that Excel4apps listens to clients like us and learns from our inputs.”
Time on Their Side
Starr suggests that one of the first things the finance department requested during the restructuring phase was a reporting solution that allowed for greater flexibility.
“The nature of our business is such that we need to be flexible. GL Wand allows us to operate as we need, rather than being forced to fit into a specific reporting structure.”
He adds, the tool is not only more agile, it is also faster. He points out that in the past, creating individual reports could easily take several hours. “With GL Wand, creating the same report takes maybe five minutes. This means huge time savings and massively improves the productivity of our staff.”
More critically, he continues, because it can be completed more quickly, greater accuracy can be assured, because there is now time available to interrogate the report and make adjustments to the data if required. “In the end, I would say GL Wand probably saves us around a day and a half at each month end.”
Easy to Use
Starr points out that the British Library carries out a range of activities every year, some of which are revenue-generating and some which are not. GL Wand is the ideal tool, he says, to accurately interrogate the institution’s financial information accordingly.
“The beauty of this solution is that our financial people are able to easily and comfortably use it. Anyone with reasonable Excel skills is able to pick it up just like that,” he adds.
“We also use it for a multitude of other functions such as validation. We use GL Wand to check data that we download from Oracle, to ensure that it is accurate.”
He adds that some of the other functions GL Wand is used for include creating I&E reports at a divisional and full library level, project reporting, overhead calculations, budget monitoring at responsibility center level and monitoring commercial activities with P&L reports.
Starr indicates that although the tool itself is easy to use and equally easy to implement, the Library did face one challenge at the start: bad timing.
“The original implementation took place during our year-end which, as you can imagine, was quite tricky for us. Fortunately it is an easy tool to implement, so the challenge was a relatively minor one. Also, it took our people time when they initially began crafting reports with GL Wand, but they quickly got used to it and grasped its simplicity.”