Hartco bids adieu to Excel with new consolidation tool

More time to analyze the numbers, and less time to generate them. That’s the key take-away Hartco Income Fund is hoping for with its implementation of financial intelligence applications from SAS Canada.

Based in Anjou, Quebec, Hartco is an information technology solutions provider across a variety of channels, from the public and private sectors to the consumer market through its CompuSmart retail brand. With the company’s conversion to an income fund in 2005, CFO Carl Gauvreau said it was more important than ever for Hartco to consolidate and automate its approach to budgeting, planning and consolidation.

Hartco had been relying on Microsoft Excel spreadsheets, which Gauvreau said was a very manual process — taking a lot of time to process the numbers each month, enter them into the spreadsheets and produce a financial statement. Once that was done, he said there wasn’t much time left to really analyze the data and use it for making meaningful business decisions.

“Because we’re now an income fund we need to provide monthly cash distributions to our unit holders, and obviously this requires that our forecasting system be a little more accurate,” said Gauvreau.

While Hartco looked at five or six major vendors, including Cognos, OutlookSoft and Microsoft’s Great Plains offering, Gauvreau said it settled on the budgeting and forecasting applications from SAS. This is primarily because of the integrated budgeting and forecasting applications, and the ability to get both a consolidated view and a more granular one into each of its operating entities.

“The consolidated view is always interesting,” said Gauvreau. “But if you’re able to understand exactly where the contribution of each business comes from, and how they contribute to the total, that is of much more value to us.”

He added that the option to easily integrate additional SAS applications in the future, such as CRM and merchandising analysis tools, was also an advantage.

Hartco began the implementation of the SAS system in September, is currently working on the definition of their model, and Gauvreau said they hope to be up and running in November. Probably the biggest hoped-for benefit, he said, is being able to highlight and respond to key business issues more quickly, particularly between Hartco’s different business groups.

Roger Shears, director of financial intelligence practice with SAS Canada, said the integrated nature of the SAS offerings that appealed to Hartco is one of its differentiators. The budgeting and forecasting applications are built on the SAS 9 platform, which allows for more seamless integration and makes it easier to add on additional capabilities, he said.

“Our ability to use the platform for the data integration and consistency of the acquisition and cleansing of data has been seen as a real positive,” said Shears.

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