1 company, 100 employees, 1 truth
When you decide as a company to change strategies, this has repercussions for your operational management. This is also the case for the West-Flemish Groep Huyzentruyt: since 2018 the company focuses solely on project development, and no longer on contracting. The perfect opportunity, they felt, to take a closer look at their way of working in general and give the green light for the development of an efficient financial and operational reporting tool.
“Since 2018 it is our mission to build affordable homes on our own plots, both for investors and owners”, CFO Willem Declercq starts enthusiastically. “Our approach aims to make the building process as simple as possible for our customers, while offering great value for money. To achieve this we have honed our project approach and made it extremely efficient. For instance, our customers select all the materials for their new home in a single location - our brand-new showroom in the old factory buildings - and all homes in a specific project are built simultaneously, regardless of whether or not they’ve been sold.”
Operational excellence first
But since 2018 efficiency is our top priority in other aspects of our operational management as well. And apparently this is particularly true when it comes to reporting. “Previously, reporting was not only scarce but everything was also done by hand”, Willem continues. “With all the accompanying disadvantages: reports were always late so there was never any time to check the figures. If you caught a wrong entry it was virtually impossible to correct it in the current reporting period. Moreover, we got the reports on paper: you needed a marker to filter out specific information in a hurry. And since every department implemented its own reporting method, everyone had their own truth.”
With a view to operational excellence we had to make some changes. “We went in search of an efficient reporting tool. It had to be intuitive and user-friendly, with a nice look & feel. The figures may be complex in nature but on the screen things must be simple for the user. We also wanted to be able to click through and see the data in more detail. Since every department had its own reporting method - and software - at the time, we also found it important for the tool to be able to link with all these programs.”
Translating complexity into ease of use
Groep Huyzentruyt initially contacted six suppliers but didn’t waste time opting for a partnership with BrightAnalytics and VGD, financial controller Dimka Buyse reveals. “We immediately fell for the ease of use and the look & feel of BrightAnalytics. Moreover, the tool was not only able to link with our other software programs such as Excel and Centric, but also with software developed in-house. In addition we found that many of the things we needed were already included as standard. However, due to the very specific nature of our business and the complexity of our stock management, we couldn’t simply retrieve the data required for real-time reporting from the accounts. That is why BrightAnalytics brought in their partner VGD: they built a bridge between the financial guys like us, and the IT talents of BrightAnalytics.
Together with Horsum we determined what reports we needed. Then VGD helped us retrieve the necessary data from our systems to build these reports. In doing so, they challenged us to think just that little further and harder. Together we were able to translate the complexity of our operations into user-friendly reporting in BrightAnalytics. Within the proposed timing and within budget. We realise this is not always self-evident with software. A strong tandem!”
Meanwhile not only the financial reporting has been implemented but also the operational reporting and a dashboard with KPIs. “We’re more than happy”, Dimka says with a smile. “The figures are not only transparent, they also provide new insights. Time we used to spend drawing up reports is now dedicated to analysing the figures in greater detail. We can perform real-time analyses, make adjustments if necessary and see the results of those adjustments with a single mouse click. Thanks to the built-in checks we can have every confidence that the data is correct.”
Willem adds that he finds the limited flexibility for the end user - management and employees - a major additional asset. “We wanted a standard reporting method for everyone. If the system allows the end user too much flexibility then in the long run you go back to a situation where everyone has their own way of reporting again, and therefore their own truth. I prefer to listen very carefully to the needs of the different departments and then present them with a reporting system that works. This way I can be sure all participants in a meeting are looking at the same figures, and that they are the result of the same definitions.”
Impatiently waiting for more
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Groep Huyzentruyt, BrightAnalytics and VGD are working hard on additional reporting tools. “Both management and staff are hungry for more and are eagerly awaiting the introduction of additional reporting tools. Dimka can hardly keep up with demand. That is why we will shortly be recruiting a second controller!” Together with Dimka and Willem, this second controller will focus amongst others on the development of a project reporting tool. “In the old days we added up what we earned across all projects in a fiscal year. But project developers want to be able to look at the figures on a project-by-project basis, and across the years. This will now be possible. In addition, we’re also adding a report on cash management, one for budgeting and yet another for projects that are currently being developed. So we’ve got our hands full”, Willem laughs.