To improve the performance of its analysts and provide them with timely access to data, Commerce Bancshares (co-headquartered in Kansas City and St. Louis, $14.5 billion in total assets), which operates more than 330 locations across Missouri, Kansas and Illinois, needed to improve its reporting system. "Our mainframe general ledger system had a reporting package attached to it for financial reporting and budgeting, but it was inefficient," says Jeff Aberdeen, controller, Commerce Bancshares.
"If we needed to make reporting changes, it was a tremendous effort because each report had its unique set of code, making it very laborious and prone to error," he says. Furthermore, because the technology was so old, we had concerns about bringing in new people and having to train them."
Aberdeen, who sponsored the project, was looking for a system that had reporting, budgeting and forecasting integration. He also wanted a user-friendly solution that would empower analysts and business unit managers to do their own reporting, integrate budgeting and forecasting, and speed up the consolidation process.
A four-person committee - two from IT and two from finance - evaluated vendors in 2002, according to Aberdeen. Ultimately, the team selected Ontario, Canada-based Geac's Performance Management solution in February 2003.
The search committee felt that Geac offered the best opportunity to seamlessly integrate its software with the bank's existing database structure, Aberdeen relates. The vendor made its developer available to the bank for planning purposes, Aberdeen says. And during strategy meetings between Geac's consulting group and Commerce, best practices used in other deployments were examined and incorporated into Commerce's implementation strategy.
Commerce purchased several application servers and a Dell 2650 Web server. The bank already had a mid-range IBMP690 that supports multiple applications, so the new software was loaded on that database. Most of the installation work was done by Commerce's IT department, which was supplied with specs by Geac.
Aberdeen notes that Geac Performance Management offers Commerce key benefits. First, the information is more accessible to a wider range of people, and financial analysis can be done more quickly than with the previous system. Second, electronic distribution has replaced hard copies of reports that previously produced a pile of paper approximately four feet high every month. And, third, maintenance efforts have been streamlined.
"In a past rewrite of our management reports, we budgeted for 160 hours but ended up spending about 250 hours on the project. ... That took about six weeks. But the Geac team duplicated that process and had it done in two days," he says. "Plus, the integration of reporting, budgeting and forecasting offers Commerce a strong potential to improve its business process and provide senior management with better information."
Currently, Aberdeen says Commerce is undergoing a second phase of the implementation to utilize Geac's capability to produce reports that mix forecast and actual results. Production reporting is also being set up to maintain a library of historical reports.
- Institution: Commerce Bancshares Inc. (Kansas City and St. Louis)
Assets: $14.5 billion.
- Business Challenge: Empower analysts and business unit managers to do their own reporting.
- Solution: Geac's (Ontario, Canada) Performance Management software.