Hunter Douglas Finds a Better Alternative to Budgeting

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Overview

The Challenge

The Australian operation of global window coverings and architectural products group, Hunter Douglas, was lacking visibility for whole of business planning due to the limitations of its forecasting system. The existing model had Hunter Douglas looking back rather than forward, providing little support for business planning. Performed twice yearly and only providing a projection to the end of a financial year, the process involved too much effort on the part of the finance team.

Solution

Hunter Douglas engaged IBM® Business Partner* InfoCube to design and develop a new solution based on IBM Cognos® to enable a rolling 20-month forecast. Staged over several months to ensure the underlying processes were well-structured, the forecasting system provides a rolling business forecast 20 months ahead along with a 12-month history. Updated monthly with actual business figures, it reflects a truer picture of business trends going forward.

Benefit

Its new forecasting system allows Hunter Douglas to engage in smarter business planning with regular refinements to its 20-month forecast. Hunter Douglas can focus on future planning rather than on past performance, and now has the ability to react appropriately to real-time events in the market place. The financial team now spends less time preparing and reviewing budget papers, which has helped increase its productivity in other areas.

 

Hunter Douglas

Hunter Douglas Group is a world market leader in window coverings and a major manufacturer of architectural products headquartered in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. The company was founded in 1919 to develop, produce and commercialise the modern Venetian blind, based on a revolutionary continuous casting process for aluminium. Today, the Group is made up of 157 companies with manufacturing and assembly operations as well as marketing organisations based around the world.

Hunter Douglas Limited has been manufacturing products in Australia for over 50 years and continues to be at the forefront of technology and innovation. With national offices and headquarters in Sydney, it also distributes a range of products to the Australian market including Luxaflex, Shademaster and Vogue Vinyl Shutters. In 2008 Hunter Douglas Australia had 502 employees and achieved net sales of US$111 million.

The Business Problem

Hunter Douglas Australia was lacking visibility over market trends due to the limitations of its existing forecasting system. The existing model had Hunter Douglas always looking back and not forward. Performed twice yearly and only providing a 12-month projection, at any given time the data could be from a month to a year old.

The process also involved too much effort for the finance team; excessive time was being spent on collating and updating data to produce budgetary information, taking them away from other key business support functions.

Solution – IBM® and Infocube

IBM Business Partner* InfoCube, which had been working with Hunter Douglas for some time, was asked to help the company to understand and document its specific business requirements, then identify areas of the business where new forecasting processes needed to be implemented first. Subsequently, InfoCube designed a process for creating and maintaining a rolling, extended forecast of business trends, based on IBM Cognos financial performance management software.

The system delivers a rolling business forecast for 20 months ahead, along with a 12-month history. Presented online, the information provides greater visibility of business trends, and is automatically updated on a monthly basis.


Development and roll-out were staged over several months to ensure the new forecasting and budgeting processes were well-structured and tuned to the business. Initially, a single functional group was involved. Following this, the remaining six business areas were introduced to the new system. Hunter Douglas’ Finance Director, Peter Hughes, says that the company was in good hands. “Our ability to draw upon InfoCube’s extensive management accounting experience was key to the success of the project.”

Business Benefits for Hunter Douglas

Its new forecasting and budget planning system allows Hunter Douglas to:

  • Engage in smarter business budgeting with a more accurate forecast.
  • Focus on future planning rather than on past performance.
  • React appropriately to real-time events in the market place.
  • Have access to the latest business trends – and the flexibility to review and adjust the business plan on a monthly basis.

“Our ability to draw upon InfoCube’s extensive management accounting experience was key to the success of the project. ”

Peter Hughes
Finance Director; Hunter Douglas Australia Group

“We now have a forecasting and budgeting system that allows us to plan to the horizon that matters, and to the level of detail we need. ”

Peter Hughes
Finance Director; Hunter Douglas Australia Group

This latter benefit means Hunter Douglas can now respond more quickly to changes in the business environment. It can also adjust its business planning and execution dynamically in line with up-to-date forecasts. Flow-on effects include the Sales Team now having rolling targets, and more accurate information flowing through to manufacturing and supply. As Peter Hughes says, “We now have a forecasting and budgeting system that allows us to plan to the horizon that matters, and to the level of detail we need.”
As a bonus, the forecasting system has delivered specific and measurable productivity benefits within the finance team – enabling them to spend more time on value added planning instead of just processing. Financial reporting is online – eliminating the need to produce a report of potentially over 30 pages long, and they spend significantly less time preparing and reviewing budget papers.
Peter Hughes adds that automating the forecasting process has given the financial group more time to focus on other areas. “Reducing the budgeting time and process has enabled us to release the financial staff to proactively support the business. This has led to a morale boost.”

“Reducing the budgeting time and process has enabled us to release the financial staff to proactively support the business. This has led to a morale boost.”

Peter Hughes
Finance Director; Hunter Douglas Australia Group
Hunter Douglas

About Hunter Douglas

Hunter Douglas Australia is the largest supplier of window coverings in Australia.  As well as using our products within our own assembly division, we sell window covering components to independent fabricators who assemble the components into a finished product for sale to the consumer.

Key Learnings

  • Engage a trusted partner to provide both business knowledge and a technical solution to implement the project.
  • Gather feedback from the business throughout the process.
  • Empower organisations through a well-designed solution