Selected success stories
Our team was asked by a major investment fund to advise on pricing its products & reducing its costs. The company had tried using spreadsheets but realised that the results they were getting were misleading; they had not thought through their true requirements & the spreadsheets contained errors.
Our approach was to interview senior management & key workers to establish their responsibilities plus the activities undertaken by them and their teams. After a survey of the main activities in each department we recommended using activity-based costing and dedicated software. The team assisted the client in the selection of the software and building the models of each department.
We advised the company to built approximate models, which took a few weeks to complete, and not to try and model every activity down to the smallest detail. More accurate modelling was then focused on problem areas.
The models enabled our team to:
- show where resources were being wasted, used inefficiently and how major improvements in working practices could be made;
- show the client how to price products accurately.
The loss making products were either scrapped or had their prices increased and the overpriced products had their prices reduced and were made more competitive.
Our team was instrumental in increasing the company’s turnover through better pricing, increasing profit margins through greater efficiency and the elimination of loss-making products.
The client benefitted from:
- implementation of an optimised activity-based costing system
- increase in:
- net margins;
- reduction in:
- process costs;
- overhead costs;
- elimination of:
- unnecessary activities;
- loss making products;
- visibility of processes and activities;
- ROI within 12 months.
We were lead consultant to a large Swedish pension services company which wanted to implement a defensive client-retention strategy.
Our task was to create and deliver a world-leading service capable of supporting concurrent outbound &inbound services using as much process automation and technical efficiency as possible.
Over a period of two years the company had increased its market share and more than doubled its customer base. This was unexpected but demonstrated that once applied, our advice, methods & solution worked to a higher return than had been anticipated.
Our team was instrumental in the design and specification of the solution as well as providing the company with the detailed Customer Relationship Management (CRM) concepts together with the necessary methodology which provided the winning service.
The company benefitted as follows:
- implementation of a world leading service;
- sales above expectations;
- competitive edge far above alternatives;
- reduction in:
- production costs
- training times
- wasted calls;
- elimination of:
- process errors;
- expensive duplication of transactions and processes;
- visibility of processes and exceptions;
- management communication;
- customer satisfaction;
- client management;
- customer relationships;
- Less stress for staff and managers;
- achievement of ROI within 12 months.
We were approached by a well-known global hotel brand to advise on its travel agent commission processing. Their existing systems relied on spreadsheets, some in-house applications and manual procedures.
Processing was time-consuming, resource hungry and prone to errors.
- reconciliation of payments and commissions:
- reconciliation of complex payments;
- individual low-value line items locked up cash-flow in unpaid invoices;
- incorrect data was being sent to the payments consolidator;
- travel agents and suppliers weren’t paid or were paid incorrectly;
- fluctuations in Forex upset calculations.
At the client’s request, we surveyed the market for a replacement system that could automate all the processes but none was available within the budget.
The client agreed that we should redesign the processes and commission a software house to develop an application that utilised an enterprise class database. So our team designed and built a desktop system for the hotels, to solve immediate data issues.
This was subsequently upgraded to a robust enterprise system, which was adopted by the US parent company and used as a global solution.
- we worked closely with the payments consolidator to ensure accurate data transmission;
- backend processes were optimised for multi-currency so that payments were made in the correct currency and unnecessary conversion avoided;
- a validation engine was designed & developed to ensure robustness of data at every stage of processing, from collection to onward transmission.
The project was completed on time and within budget.
Within two months of going live the staff required to process the commission and handle queries from travel agents were reduced from ten people to two & processing errors were eliminated. Manual procedures and queries from travel agents were reduced to a minimum.
The client benefitted from:
- implementation of a fully automated travel agent commission processing system;
- increases in travel agent bookings due to better service levels;
- reduction in:
- processing costs;
- processing time;
- travel agent queries;
- elimination of:
- manual data entry;
- processing errors;
- Improved staff morale and end customer satisfaction;
- the project achieved ROI within 12 months.
The client, a prestigious global security company, had personnel situated in many overseas countries. Their difficulty was in managing the payment of payroll & expenses, to ensure that the right payments reached the right people (or their relatives) at the right time.
Their existing system was piecemeal: a tactical solution using hundreds of over-burdened spreadsheets that were prone to error, unreliable & not sufficiently scalable for mission-critical, highly-sensitive financial data. The system faults included:
- inaccurate reporting;
- incorrect payments;
- incorrect recipients;
- inaccurate & variable currency conversions;
- lack of audit trail;
- inability to process salary or expenses chits on time;
- inability to validate or correct errors in data input (addresses, names etc.) which resulted in payments being misdirected;
- incorrect invoicing adversely affecting a prospective acquisition;
- failure to validate, secure & encrypt highly-sensitive personnel details.
Another consequence of the use of spreadsheets was the inability to feed reliable data to other systems. This was a major impediment to planned corporate expansion. The existing architecture also obscured long-term and corporate governance needs. For example, a seemingly simple data input and billing process masked complex transmission, validation, referencing and reconciliation issues.
We consulted, designed, developed & built a data-centric solution for payments, payroll and expenses (PPE) which was multi-currency & supported multi-country data reconciliation. It included:
- a rules engine – for validation of data;
- a data management engine – to locate, authenticate, reference and control access to and the lifecycle of data;
- messaging – to control the transmission of data to other applications;
- a dashboard – to access information, to configure the system and to manage the data.
Our data exchange solution:
- replaced several hundred business critical spreadsheets;
- replaced disparate payments and expenses business processes;
- provided an audit trail for every piece of data;
- provided security and encryption for sensitive data;
- encompassed Forex fluctuations as routine;
- included an enterprise data quality component at its hub, to eradicate poor data input.
- a single software engine and focus for data which in turn enabled integration and onward use of the data in company-wide systems;
- resilience, and the prompt & accurate payment of salaries & expenses;
- fully-described, validated data which also supported strategic moves in to the US market.
With our solution in place, the client was able to evolve from spreadsheet chaos to compliant reporting (to exacting US Federal Government standards) and eventually to pursue contract management (in the US).
The new chairman & owner of a fast-growth, above-average profitable company in the apparel industry thought the company could do even better, and needed a team to act as ‘interim directors’ to identify new systems and review other aspects of the business.
A forensic review revealed many items requiring attention, of which more than half could be addressed through improved management practices, processes, management structure & changes in staff. Other improvements required new systems, a new approach to supply chain management & to outsourcing practices, as well as improved demand forecasting & product life cycle management.
Our team was tasked with assisting the owner and senior management to define requirements to support business growth & future challenges. We identified the key metrics for project objectives including increase in turnover, profit and time to market. The company had an average service level (quantity delivered versus ordered) far below market expectations (minimum of 95%). Time to market was between 6-9 months depending on type of garment and available resources, whereas the industry best practice was closer to 4 months. Air freight was used heavily to reduce delays and major clients imposed fines (industry norm) when goods arrived late. The company had had two consecutive seasons of late deliveries plus continual quality & production difficulties regarding either materials or capacity.
We presented a project, together with objectives, benefits and target changes required across each and every department for improved time to market. The project included product development (design), merchandising, procurement, customer service, logistics and sales.
The ambitious plan called for a replacement of the ERP system but also the implementation of additional systems to help address the key areas of improvement.
The new solutions would include the following integrated software applications:
- demand planning & forecasting;
- product data management;
- product lifecycle management;
- an ERP (for sales / inventory / finance / purchasing);
- Supply Chain Management
- Customer Relationship Management
- Warehouse Management
- e-commerce self service for clients;
- e-fashion self service for suppliers;
- a business intelligence dashboard and exception reporting;
- design tools for plans, grading and marker optimisation;
- a workflow tool for exception management and policy automation.
Our team produced a plan based upon changes in:
- management structure and roles (63% of 177 issues identified involved management issues);
- internal processes;
- external processes (outsourcing methods and technique);
We worked with managers and staff one-on-one where required to ensure focus and direction securing commitment for success. Detailed input for solutions largely came from key individuals within various parts of the business, whilst our team added value by making suggestions & defining a more streamlined approach. Consensus was achieved with staff and management, along with a commitment to implement the transformation.
The company chose a solution provider after searching the wider market under our advisement. We also provided documentation, communication & liaison between potential suppliers and the client, ensuring the company had the best solution at the best price and terms.
Once agreed and contract ratified, our team set about leading the project to ensure the objectives were met and that the supplier delivered in the most efficient and appropriate manner for the company.
Objectives were translated into the following outcomes:
- service levels increased to a minimum of 95%;
- turnover increased;
- inventory levels were reduced;
- material costs were reduced;
- time to market was reduced;
- airfreight was reduced;
- the client’s client fines were reduced;
- ROI was achieved in under two years.
Other benefits included:
- improved visibility of processes and exceptions;
- improved management communication;
- reduced stress on staff and managers;
- improved customer satisfaction;
- improved supply chain management;
- improved supplier relationships;
- the introduction of formal Sales and Operational Planning (S&OP) practices.
Forecasting models showed improved service level to be the top priority – 10% points improvement (from 85 to 95%) caused 10% T/O improvement, for no extra cost. The Continuous Production model offered 10% reduction in production costs.
The solution implemented provided a solid platform for managing and supporting the current & expected rate of growth. The client enjoyed financial benefits as well as improvements to its market value, reputation and ability to expand into a wider global context, which it has now done successfully. The ROI over five years was forecast to exceed 15 times investment.
The client had envisioned an ambitious project and wanted a portal solution to help them benchmark the world’s LNG tanker fleets. The business proposition was to gather, analyse & publish vital information about the global LNG business – to carve a niche in a lucrative worldwide market. It would be run via a Joint Venture (JV) with a highly respected Japanese corporation.
We were asked to provide a portal solution (& subsequently benchmarking) to enable the JV to gather & publish the data – a survey of some 200 questions for each of 3,000 tankers. No simple task when tankers are invariably at sea, the data is sensitive and those with the information are at the sharp end of narrow bandwidth and also somewhat shy of relinquishing the data.
The clients required the portal to deliver:
- a trading, communications and distribution platform, with news, information and data for the LNG industry;
- publishing and subscription, so that members could improve forecasting (and therefore decision-making) for energy demand and contracts, shipping schedules and post-fixture invoicing;
- an online community, where LNG professionals could exchange ideas and opportunities, transact business and build enhanced relationships both on an individual and a corporate basis.
The project required:
- a secure & well designed multilingual web portal in English, but also double-byte languages, Korean & Japanese;
- embedded Relational Online Analytical Processing (ROLAP) i.e. to calculate on the fly (such as when passing aggregated information to the portal) as data updates were received by the back office;
- an industrial-strength, enterprise database & data warehouse;
- bespoke software development of an integrated application (a Question & Results Manager) to facilitate the distribution, processing & audit of questionnaires;
- consultancy regarding critical Business Intelligence (BI) elements, specifically ROLAP & star schemas;
- secure, scalable hosting;
- skills transfer & handover.
- an understanding of the whole system;
- data synchronisation between front & back office;
- subscribed user registration, file downloads & management;
- system management & database planning & administration;
- site reports & statistics.
The objective had been to achieve “end-to-end systems which defined tanker performance” where “security of data and presentation of information were paramount.”
Within 8 months, the project had been entirely delivered: a total solution which involved developing a specific data input & questionnaire audit system to control acquisition of complex, confidential and sensitive data, for input into data warehouse, subsequent analysis & presentation using our own OLAP engine.
The solution was extremely resilient: it ran without error using the original solution as specified for a decade, during which time it was hived off as a separate division, became an established brand & integral part of the value chain within the LNG market place, & achieved over 8,000 registered members worldwide. Subscribers included oil & gas majors, shipowners, shipyards, terminal operators, traders, risk managers, analysts, and industry leaders.
A leading UK reprographics company, servicing an international clientele, sought to improve its position in a consolidating industry where margins were tight and competition fierce.
They saw opportunity in digital asset management (DAM) where the industry typically leaked 75% of marketing effort and budget. This value erosion was due to poor communications, duplicated effort, manual processes & opportunity costs arising from poor version control. The leakage was often overlooked since management reporting did not provide explicit analysis of the value chain. So the proposition was that an online bureau service would manage their digital brand assets more efficiently and cost-effectively than in-house departments.
As the clientele brands were household names, the system had to be enterprise-level: highly available & scalable, able to easily accommodate additional traffic & increasing data volumes. Further, since the business operated internationally, the system had to support distributed access & content synchronisation.
The IBM-based solution (software, hardware & storage) -fully specified, designed and implemented by our team – was fully configurable and had functionality that:
- stored, managed, described and version-controlled digital brand assets in multiple file formats as a basis for the design of print, packaging, advertising and point of sale materials;
- enabled replication of content and associated metadata across UK and transatlantic repositories;
- offered permissions-based access to the digital archive;
- enabled multi-parameter searches;
- displayed thumbnails of stored objects;
- automatically-populated key fields upon object upload;
- enabled smooth supply chain collaboration between the company and their demandingFMCG clientele, such that clients could swiftly on-board production assets online, 24 x 7, from distributed international locations;
- integrated with online billing, cost monitoring, account management, business intelligence and management information systems;
- provided a ‘basket’ for end users to ‘shop’ for desired media product;
- through the use of 3rd party tactical software, provided further revenue streams in the form of integrated value-added features downstream, i,e,. real-time image manipulation & wire-frame rendering facilities for packaging designers.
Throughout, our consultants provided critical advice to ensure that the system operated optimally once traffic and workload increased, rather than compromise the integrity of its resilience. This was particularly relevant to the upload function, where we built a special client-side routine to avoid server inefficiency i.e. trying to both serve and receive content.
The solution was delivered, from specification, within 3 months – on time and to budget, such that the company was able to demonstrate it to prestigious US brands, with the addition of an extended service incorporating video and multimedia.
The extended service, with full integration to management systems, was launched within 9 months, offering a 24/7 online project management service for clients to approve designs and artwork via a secure internet portal.
The client was able to offer market-leading front-end services ahead of the competition to gain leverage in the marketplace.
The client also subsequently extended the solution to include document management services, for customers wanting to outsource high-volume document imaging and processing.
The client gained the following business benefits from the solution:
- improved customer services from better response times;
- improved account management from eradication of misfiling, duplication and lost data;
- a single point of access for information;
- new lines of business;
- growth of its international, prestigious client base;
- the potential to move forward on their acquisition and growth strategy.
For this regulator, data quality was a business critical issue fraught with reputational risk. Due to data-sharing arrangements with other agencies & certain legal obligations, any errors in the regulator’s data had the potential to cause great embarrassment if passed on to other parties.
- Data quality problems manifested as duplicate entries, incomplete entries, lack of metadata or parsing inconsistencies. These had been acquired through various restructuring exercises. De-duplication was a priority task.
- The large Siebel contact database required a disproportionate amount of ongoing maintenance & vigilance, taking up to 60% of the data quality team’s time. Time was spent sweeping for duplication or parsing errors in a reactive, rather than a proactive, way. The situation was made more difficult since the same Siebel system was about to be frozen due to an impending major upgrade.
- Data errors represented wasted budget and effort in mailouts; diseconomies that could be avoided with better error management.
- Data quality reports were not only time-consuming but also disappointing, affecting the regulator but also those dependent on it for quality-assured data.
- There was a 24 hour lag between data creation & customer services updates. Since batch processing could only run at night (due to bandwidth constraints) the timing of the relevant processes meant update routines could never be real time.
The regulator sought a solution that would not only free up internal resource but would also enhance their data quality capabilities.
The recommended solution was Oracle Enterprise Data Quality (OEDQ).
Incorvus provided a specialist team, with extensive experience of OEDQ; in-depth knowledge of Siebel CRM, plus generalised data management & information architecture skills.
In line with Oracle standards, Incorvus provided:
- An OEDQ design brief;
- OEDQ installation and install guide;
- OEDQ configuration;
- Advice on policy and rules formulation;
- Confirmation of the project architecture;
- Onsite personalised training in OEDQ.
Incorvus project management also liaised with Oracle UK and worked seamlessly with the client & the incumbent infrastructure provider.
Incorvus scoped an agile project & agreed work packages with the client which evolved as the project progressed. The client was particularly concerned that its cost controls remained solid and not impacted by any change orders.
Direct access to the incumbent infrastructure was not permitted therefore Incorvus remotely represented the technical requirements of the OEDQ recommended environment against infrastructure constraints.
Finally, Incorvus delivered skills transfer, OEDQ training & documentation to the regulator’s data quality team.
During the project, Incorvus’ consultants identified & notified the client of bandwidth challenges in the regulator’s estate which would otherwise have adversely affected OEDQ performance.
Incorvus’ specialists were also able to resolve versioning issues between OEDQ & the planned Siebel upgrade.
Our team’s specific knowledge of OEDQ and Siebel informed project architectures & supported the client in integrating data quality tooling with their Siebel CRM in order to move from batch to quasi-real time data processing.
The agile project was delivered on time and to budget.
The regulator benefitted from:
- process issues arising from data creation and update lag (24 hours) being resolved;
- the ability to move data quality updates from batch routine lag to quasi-real time;
- the ability to review historic data and patterns and gain valuable insights, previously unavailable to them, subsequently adding to a formal ‘insight’ initiative;
- input errors being referred back to originators has reinforced best practice and reduced the number & frequency of such errors;
- better error management has freed up internal DQ resources;
- improved & enhanced data quality capability such that it could enrich its own data with new data feeds (e.g. from Companies House) that it could also route through OEDQ;
- being able to archive redundant information – which has in turn relieved infrastructure pressures and resulted in improved system performance overall.
Following the introduction of OEDQ, the regulator’s data quality team ceased being over-burdened data stewards, encumbered by routine tasks, and were instead able to move onto a strategic, proactive footing where their knowledge of the data could enrich organisational insights.
We left the regulator steadily moving towards full integration of Siebel and OEDQ, to further automate its DQ processes, and achieve even more process efficiencies with automation and quasi-real time updates.