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Improved standardization and automation in financial reporting

Due to its geographical expansion, the complexity of the Bekaert organization has increased significantly. Changing partnerships, for example from joint ventures to subsidiaries, have a clear impact on its financial reporting. Along with the rapid-changing IFRS reporting requirements and disclosures of the last few years this added to the need for a globally standardized and highly automated financial reporting tool.

Over the years a growing number of Bekaert entities have been running on a SAP platform, however not in a globally standardized way. To further optimize the financial reporting process we had put together a project team in May 2008, consisting of staff from Bekaert Group Control and the SAP Competency Center, key users in accounting and financial reporting at Bekaert, consultants from SAP BusinessObjects, and from IT partner Tata Consultancy Services. In October 2009 this project team successfully completed the implementation of a new financial reporting tool (SAP BusinessObjects Financial Consolidation) enabling a flexible and integrated legal consolidation process.

Following the analysis and design of the SAP BusinessObjects solution by the core project team, the solution engineering phase, which took eight months, was finished in May 2009. As of February the project team had already started the migration of the historical data, including key users in the process. The subsequent training of 170 local end-users scattered all over the globe was a crucial task. All Group Control team members and key users prepared the necessary training material and successfully delivered the training.

Robust reporting tool contains multiple benefits

In July-August a test run by end-users took place at the local levels, followed by a parallel run by Group Control at central level in September. In October, Bekaert went globally live with the system for the third quarter reporting process. The implementation of the SAP BusinessObjects solution offers more efficient data gathering across entities, businesses or regions. It also contributes greatly to the transparency, accuracy and gathering speed of the data, since Bekaert now no longer has to deal with fragmented info coming from different systems. In addition, we need less time to prepare the numbers, allowing more time to perform broader added value analysis. Not only is Bekaert now running the same financial reporting software in all its entities around the globe, the Bekaert staff is using it everywhere in the same way. This makes, for example, the training of end users and the offering of support to the local entities much easier to organize.

Since the accounting departments generate the source data, it is essential for this to be also done in a highly standardized way. This is why, parallel to the main project, the existing SAP R/3 platform was enhanced to obtain a high level of integration with the consolidation tools of SAP BusinessObjects. This ‘R/3 Readiness’ subproject ran during the same period and is still on-going in the light of the next phase scheduled to start in July 2010: the replacement of the management reporting process.

This integrated financial reporting solution, which now also includes our joint ventures, allows for manual input to be replaced by automatic input upload to the maximum extent, currently leading to a 90% automatic upload level. This high level of automation means no more typing errors, less time spent on the process and more accurate interpretations of the data.

Before, the Bekaert transactional system and the financial reporting solution ran completely separated. Today we have established a new level of integration between the two resulting in significant time saving. To illustrate: this tool enabled us to report our full year results in February instead of March 2010 with data restated according to the new segment reporting.

Members from Bekaert Group Control and consultants from SAP BusinessObjects and IT partner Tata Consultancy Services.

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