Improving business efficiency

Sasol Polymers, a division of Sasol Chemical Industries Limited, has in a R12 million project, migrated to the latest version of the IBM Cognos TM1 budgeting, forecasting and analytics platform for financial performance management (FPM). It now benefits from a flexible forecasting environment as well as a cohesive, standardised infrastructure that improves the overall efficiency and turnaround time of its processes and users.

Sasol Polymers is a producer and marketer of ethylene, propylene, low-density polyethylene (LDPE), linear low-density polyethylene (LLDPE), polypropylene, polyvinyl chloride (PVC), chloralkali chemicals and mining reagents.

The TM1 solution, which was implemented by IBM Cognos partner Cortell at Sasol Polymers’ Bryanston, Secunda and Sasolburg offices, has also for the last two years been used by the Sasol Group. This made the transition to the platform a logical one for the Polymers division, as it offered a solution to its previous disparate system that was the cause of human error and inefficiencies.

The challenge

According to David Bolton, CFO at Sasol Polymers, the division’s previous budget and forecasting system comprised disparate, standalone Excel spreadsheets that unfortunately lead to human error and slow process/response times.  “One error had the potential to impact our forecasts and budgets significantly due to our integrated business model, which is why we had to streamline our infrastructure to ensure that everyone worked with a cohesive and automated system that allowed for improved control, accuracy and forecasting and planning efficiency.”

Sasol Polymers, as per the group’s normal processes, went out to tender and ultimately decided to implement IBM’s Cognos TM1 solution, as it offered practical and workable solutions to its standalone, user-isolated system challenges.  “We also felt TM1 was a user-friendly and flexible solution that would make the transition to a new system easier for our planning and financial departments.”

The solution

The TM1 solution, which went live in February 2009, effectively enabled Sasol Polymers to overcome the challenges that came with a standalone, disparate system that saw users working in silos.

TM1 was implemented by a dedicated team from both Cortell and IBM to ensure that the software solution was rolled out on time and with minimal disruption to Polymers’ business operations.  From the inception of the project, the team worked closely with Sasol Polymers ensuring that the client mandate was met.

Comments Pule Moloi, Pre-sales and Services Manager: Business Intelligence and Performance Management at IBM South Africa: “It was critical that all the stakeholders were involved from the get-go; whether it was to discuss actual coding or overall usage.  We held various workshops to ensure that all business users and resultant affected parties where involved throughout the process, thus ensuring an effective change management process.

“As a team we believe our success was due to our clear outline of the deliverables and overall ownership of the project.  Our teamwork undoubtedly led to the success of the Sasol Polymers project.”

There are currently 79 Polymers employees using the system and all have undergone training.  These users include the financial, planning and marketing departments. In the case of super users (those who utilise most of the TM1 features) they have received generic training, providing them with complete insight into the system; while other users have been trained in work-specific disciplines pertaining to the TM1 solution.

The benefits

Since its implementation, TM1 has resulted in a number of important benefits.  For one, it has reduced forecasting time and offers a unified view of the forecasts in question, which in turn results in overall transparency and usability.

The above has also led to business advantages as the Polymers team can now react timeously to predicted trends in the marketplace.  “User feedback has also been encouraging, already indicating that TM1 is making life easier, which is good news,” comments Bolton.

Bolton also adds that the multi-site nature of the system works well and ensures that all relevant users, irrespective of the office they reside in, can access TM1.

Additionally, due to TM1’s transparent nature, users now have access to the whole model, effectively enabling the Polymers employees to work as one team, resulting in improved productivity and efficiency.  The solution’s user-friendly and customisable look and feel also made the transition easier and allowed for quicker buy-in by users.

The relevant service level agreements (SLAs) see Cortell providing first-line (onsite, 24×7) support to Sasol Polymers while IBM offers second-line support, which pertains to specific TM1 queries and resultant issues.

Concludes Bolton: “We had the right people working on the project; they had a strong understanding of the product – the human factor was an important differentiator.  The teamwork between Sasol Polymers, Cortell and IBM went a long way in ensuring the overall success of the project.”

Share this article
Improving business efficiency