QNH Performance Management: Perfect Partners

CEVA was created on 4 November 2006, following the private equity (Apollo Management) backed acquisition of TNT’s logistics business and was expanded seven months later with the acquisition of Houston-based EGL, bringing together 50,000 employees in 200 countries.

Based in the Netherlands, the new €6.4 billion-a-year business urgently needed a single reporting and consolidation package for 400 users in 240 entities worldwide.

‘Choosing HFM was a no-brainer,’ says CEVA finance director Alan Dempsey. ‘TNT had used Hyperion Enterprise, while 91 of the Fortune 100 companies now use HFM. We are an Oracle house. We wanted a tried and tested product.’

From three potential Dutch-based implementation partners, QNH Performance Management and Accenture were chosen for their outstanding technical and project management skills.

‘They were noticeably more expensive but their tender was comprehensive and complete,’ says Dempsey. ‘CEVA is young and eager and we want to get things done rapidly. We analyse quickly and act fast. Even before we engaged QNH and Accenture we had made all the key decisions: just one year’s historic data with the current year being converted, a small selection of standard reports, a redesigned chart of accounts (COA), a six-month project implementation, advance ordering of servers and bandwidth and advance planning of communications to, and training of, our 400 finance function users worldwide.’

The work began in March 2008, set to go live for the October monthend. Dempsey explains this gave his team two months to iron out any teething issues before running the December year-end figures. There was a Plan B ready to go live in April 2009, but this wasn’t required.

Dempsey ascribes the project’s success to careful risk management and the maintenance of momentum, with his finance function, not IT, keeping hold of ownership and driving progress on. ‘I was actively involved. You cannot delegate complexity on such a project. We did not set up a project management tool, laborious in itself to maintain. Instead we had a project committee, half CEVA people with our QNH and Accenture partners.

‘This met unfailingly every Monday afternoon to chase progress and agree the next week’s targets. That way we maintained dynamism and continuous forward momentum. We also benefited from a sounding board of three senior CEVA finance professionals from our operating companies, who we asked to shoot holes in our plans.

‘This led to refinements in our COA and they picked up a couple of errors in the data conversion mapping table. PricewaterhouseCoopers, our external auditors, also checked our plans.’

Merely having HFM go live by October 2008 would not have constituted success. It also needed the end-users to know it, like it and use it well. CEVA and its partners sold the benefits of the project through newsletters, which introduced HFM stage by stage. ‘We had this communication strategy ready even before we had finished the COA,’ recalls Dempsey.

Actual hands-on training took place in 13 locations worldwide over a period of five weeks, ending two weeks before HFM went live. The teaching combined classrooms, multimedia and web-based input and included an additional day of accountancy instruction. Looking back over the project Dempsey concludes: ‘IT projects are not supposed to come in on budget and on time. We kept it simple, worked with outstanding partners who knew their business and always kept ownership with the finance function.’

Alan Dempsey CEVA finance director Alan Dempsey