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Case Studies

Making a difference

Read below how CIMA skills have made businesses survive and thrive:

The exchange of information between production and finance departments is crucial when it comes to controlling costs and meeting production needs. Any information produced by accountants needs to be timely and readily understood by non-financial managers if cost reductions are to be realised.

In 2011, GlaxoSmithKline’s finance team in Cape Town embarked on a mission to simplify and improve the flow of financial and operational information across the organisation. The key objective was to embed sound management accountancy principles within the Cape Town factory so that meaningful information could be shared and acted upon.

This initiative gave management accountants greater participation and involvement with the operational side of the business. In turn, that led to an increased ability within production departments to make more effective and timely decisions.

The initiative was particularly effective for the annual standard setting process. Leveraging clearer management information meant that the finance and production teams could identify a range of key products and trim costs by 9% to 15% year on year.

With a strong commitment to driving improvement, reducing cost and waste, and increasing the robustness of the manufacturing process while maintaining the highest quality in its production line, the company’s management accountants now have more exposure within production departments. They directly influence the daily activities of the Cape Town factory and those cost reductions testify to the fact that having the right people with the right knowledge and attitude in place is crucial when it comes to achieving growth and sustainability.

Mark Petersen, Cost Accountant at GlaxoSmithKline, says: 'As an organisation and a CIMA Training Partner, our perspective is that CIMA has the right balance of professional knowledge and understanding when it comes to interpreting what the numbers mean and what you can do with them. Our job as management accountants is to assist in the interpretation of those numbers to non-financial users through simplification and easy to understand reporting within the factory and providing possible solutions as opposed to merely laying out the trends and analysis.

For me, a good management accountant takes the data presented to a simplistic level by putting forward ideas for possible remedial actions. Developing simplified management accounting visuals and placing them in the hallways of the factory has enabled daily interaction with the production department, where real-time reporting information is shared on the factory floor. The major advantage is knowing exactly what product to focus on at that given period.'

Diageo logo

Volatility in the energy market coupled with ambitious sustainability targets were the key drivers behind a GBP65m investment in an environmentally-focussed approach to plant and processing at Diageo’s Cameronbridge distillery in Fife.

With an annual energy bill of GBP5m and a distillery requiring 1.8 billion litres of water a year and producing 90,000 tonnes per year of spent grain, Diageo wanted a more sustainable model. The drinks maker is building a waste water treatment plant, a biomass boiler and steam and electrical generation plant. Waste water will be treated with bacteria to produce methane, which will be burnt in conjunction with the spent grains to produce steam to power the stills.

Cameronbridge aims to source 31% of its water and 85% of its power from this plant. It also hopes to remove virtually all effluent discharge to the Firth of Forth.

Diageo executives assembled a cross-disciplinary team, including CIMA finance professionals, senior managers, engineers and process chemists, to work on the project.

The initiative had commitment from the highest level. Diageo CEO, Paul Walsh FCMA, CGMA, says the new approach is a model of how business analysis can be deployed to arrive at sustainable processes that meet high environment and social standards: ‘It demonstrates the need for holistic management; you cannot just look at the P&L, you cannot just look at your margins, you have got to have a far broader view of life.'

Cameronbridge is an important location for the company, employing about 140 people and producing the equivalent of nearly 400 million bottles of spirits per year. So the cost scenario planning for approaches including the new technologies to be employed was key.

 The team costed out scenarios that would need a smaller investment from the board, but it was the most ambitious that was signed off and approved for commissioning – a huge vote of confidence in the planning and financial modelling behind the project, says Michael Alexander, Head of Environment at Diageo.

It is clear that the risk landscape facing companies is  changing. Organisations and boards responsible for managing risk can see that new challenges are emerging.  

Global professional services firm PwC is helping organisations move from understanding ‘known risks’ to grasping the impact of ‘emerging risks’, the full extent of which are often unclear and unknown.

‘For our clients, we are now starting to talk more openly about the impact of oil prices, economic slowdown, terrorism and even the impact of a tsunami,' says Sivarama Krishnan, Partner, Risk Advisory Services at PwC India. ‘It is about exploring the risks that are not directly linked to the business, but could have a significant impact on that organisations sustainability.'

In 2010, PwC developed a graduate programme supported by study towards the CIMA qualification. These graduates had a central role to play in developing a model to evaluate the potential impact of emerging risks, both from a quantitative and qualitative basis.

One aspect of this model focused on decisions surrounding green technologies.   CIMA students supported the development of a model to calculate energy savings and to take into consideration a range of alternative options and emerging risks.

‘This led to a risk driven cost benefit analysis for the client, as opposed to a purely price driven analysis’ says Krishnan. ‘Furthermore, the support provided by the firm’s CIMA trainees has led to a 70% increase in leads generated by deployment of this model’.

Krishnan adds ‘our CIMA people bring a range of unique skills that we can take to the clients’ doorstep. Our CIMA people are really intuitive – they do not have a predefined view of models – they see the broader content but grounded in fact.

‘We are now at the point where our CIMA trainees are leading client assignments.  We are impressed at the growth and development seen from these individuals and how the CIMA qualification has supported the exact skill set required to give us market advantage.’

Traditional pricing of information technology hardware and tracking profitability is a relatively straightforward task, considering that cost is a known quantity; but consulting and IT outsourcing deals in particular can be trickier to assess.

At Dell, IT infrastructure and cloud computing services represent a significant revenue stream. Some 500 specialist consultants in Dell’s Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region sign up around 900 deals each quarter and the IT outsourcing team is involved with pursuing hundreds of millions of dollars in opportunities.

Jon Rhymes, EMEA service business development finance director, has responsibility for large, complex bids within the region. He and his team of business development ‘pricers’ work closely with bid teams and sales colleagues to help construct deals.

Rhymes joined Dell from UBS six years ago. At the time, clarity on deals, win rates and profitability was lacking or inconsistent. ‘We did not have a clear view of our pipeline of opportunities. We did not have a view of what deals we had sold, from a budgetary perspective, and we did not have a view of deal P&Ls, ie which deals were making money and how they were being tracked.’

Rhymes’ team now works with Dell’s consulting and managed services organisation on the financial aspects of high-value deals.

Sales colleagues welcome the team’s input. ‘If you look at any sales-led organisation, you will find that a lot of the sales guys are not very comfortable dealing with finance. But at Dell, the sales guys want the pricing team to be with them on the deal. It helps them sell and assists with internal approvals; importantly, it also supports what they are trying to do with the customer and validates the solution that the sales team has designed. This adds value all round.’

Team members often attend customer meetings, says Rhymes, and management accountants are particularly well suited to customer liaison work. ‘If I look to hire into this team, CIMA is hugely valuable. You need to have very strong control and technical skills – and with Dell’s transformation into a solutions-focused business, forging deeper relationships becomes critical; since customers view us as their advisors. This is where finance can really add value for our customers & the wider team.‘

Business development team members can enhance deal values. ‘Net financial gain from someone at the top of their game in my view could be 10% or more, and if you are looking at USD50 million to USD100 million deals, you are talking about millions of dollars of gains being brought to the table.’