ING Bank reduces the budgeting process and improves the quality of financial data using Microsoft software

The Controlling Department of ING Bank Slaski is responsible, among others, for preparing the budget plan of the Bank. ING Bank did not have dedicated software for this purpose, the budget plan was prepared through intensive use of Microsoft Excel and e-mail: vast quantities of sheets were sent via e-mail, and then they were discussed and verified. Although the logic of planning has been well polished, there have been no proper tools that would support the entire process. As a result, the whole process was very time consuming (partial plans were not always developed in the agreed terms) and the greatest bane were many versions of the documents that circulated among the employees, their agreeing and delays in preparing the analysis.

ING Bank started cooperation with Fild.NET in 2004 to include consolidation of data in one database with automatic validation and data history versioning mechanisms. As a result of this cooperation, within 3 months (from date of signing the contract to the date of signing the acceptance document) there has been created the solution – Excelerator®, which is currently used by over 100 users.

About ING Bank Slaski

ING Bank is one of the five largest banks in Poland. The main objective of ING Bank Slaski, arising from its strategy, is to develop and strengthen its position in the Polish banking sector by providing integrated financial services, and preserving the nature of customer-oriented bank. ING Bank has a network of offices throughout the country. The main shareholder is ING Bank NV. The Bank headquarters in Katowice.

The challenge

ING Bank’s rapid growth resulted in the need to create increasingly complex models that allow for controlling both costs and revenues. With ever-increasing amount of data ING Bank was dealing in several ways – by creating temporary databases in Microsoft Access or big Microsoft Excel files equipped with adequate number of macros and powerful features. Unfortunately, it was less and less effective to maintain such a solution in the subsequent stages of the budgeting process. Problems that were appearing included the following:

• Rapidly changing templates of reports: rapidly changing reporting requirements very lengthened time access to data. Moreover, most of reporting tools were considered too inflexible in comparison to Excel, which can be changed comparatively quickly. Therefore, the current system is based on Microsoft Excel spreadsheets.

• Obtaining the partial results – because the lack of data there was information about the crash or no information at all displayed in the system. It also increased the time to access data.

• Emergency absences of employees – which also caused delays in the process.

In this situation, ING Bank began to consider introducing a new solution, which in the simplest yet most effective way could solve the problem.

During a conference organized by Microsoft, ING Bank contacted with the Fild.NET company, which then presented the Excelerator – a tool for the budgeting process based on Microsoft Excel.

In the course of further meetings and analysis of the situation in ING Bank there have been found that:

• ING Bank’s employees like and know Microsoft Excel very well. It turned out that the problem is not the program’s analytical possibilities and presentation of data, but the speed of analysis and presentation of data in a different, fast-changing cross sections. To improve it, the Microsoft SQL Server database with a multidimensional Analysis Services for which Microsoft Excel naturally fits as a browser of the data has been used in the new solution.

• ING Bank has already obtained licenses necessary to implement the entire solution.

The primary objective of the project was to shorten the budgeting process of min. 20%. This was to be achieved by:

• faster access to data – and thus more rapid preparation of reports and analysis, or performance of making changes and modifications

• faster access to the results of partial data

• compensating the risk of absence of employees – by placing planning data in one central database.

The solution

Within 3 months – from the signing of the agreement to signing of the acceptance protocol – there has been created a solution that has realized expected goals. The solution is based on Microsoft SQL 2000 Server with Analysis Services as a place where all already used business rules, macros, functions, and budgetary assumptions are saved. Data arrives at the base from two sources: the data on the implementation are provided by the ING Bank’s transactional systems through properly prepared files, the planned data are introduced and edited manually by authorized employees. The user interface is Microsoft Excel, which communicates directly with the database. It makes the data more consistent, always up-to-date, and eliminates problems with e-mails and ever-changing versions. With the refined business concept by ING Bank it was possible to transfer quickly data to Fild.NET in the form of necessary measures, dimensions, business rules and indicators that were to be used in the solution. The access system uses Active Directory (AD) as a source of information about the rights of individual employees to specific data and reports, and users connect to the database through Terminal Services – which is a solution that was adopted because of the applied security policy of ING Bank and the existing network infrastructure. With this architecture, each employee can only see his data and group work is accelerating.

The data in the system is available for users in the form of PivotTable, so it is possible to generate reports in any format based on the available fields. As a result of discussions and analysis it was decided to create 4 types of the Microsoft Excel file, which form the basis for the presentation of all data.

To make the solution and the introduction of any changes (such as the presentation of data, applied measurement, formulas or algorithms, etc.) flexible and easy there has been used the Administrative Panel, which is managed by a person responsible for maintaining the entire solution from the business side (Fig. 5).

At present, the solution supports approximately 100 users across ING Bank.

Business Benefits
The solution has improved the efficiency of ING Bank’s operational activities (above all it has shortened time of servicing the reporting and cost budgeting process by expected 20%) and has allowed to avoid significant capital expenditures for new IT solutions. In the context of further development plans of ING Bank, such solutions that maximize available resources are the preferred course of action.

Better control of financial indicators
By centralizing the process of gathering controlling information, the data obtained are of better quality than before what enables employees to make better decisions. This is mainly due to the fact that by automating some repetitive elements of the process significant part of human errors have been eliminated.
In addition, by introducing access privileges to certain groups of data, the transparency of responsibility for the quality of data has increased. At the same time the possibility of introducing erroneous data where not needed or not by those who should has disappeared.
The solution also allows for faster and more accurate calculation of different variants of the budget. With the access privileges introduced, it is possible for multiple users to work on the budget and after the introduction of the data, they are immediately available for analysis. This allows for much faster execution of the analysis of “what-if” or estimating such forecasts for subsequent periods based on data about the implementation of the budget. In this situation, the information needs of the Board are much better met.

The most economical system, which has solved the problem
Wondering about the choice of the best solution for budgeting, ING Bank had to choose an alternative: to buy a system with ready-made business logic (for controlling), which then will be matched to ING Bank’s needs – or to choose such a technology partner, which reflects ING Bank’s existing business rules in a new system.
Due to the implemented strategy (including IT), ING Bank has decided to build its own solutions because of several elements, the most important were:

• Knowledge of Microsoft Excel by employees of ING Bank – including not only the ability to move through the program, but also practically minimal user training costs, minimal maintenance costs of the system and removing the perennial problem of all financial departments: “how to pass data from my system to Excel?”
• At least several times lower implementation costs compared to other, ready controlling systems – due to the fact that much of licenses to create the solution have been already in possession of the Bank.
• A reliable partner – Fild.NET, equipped with appropriate technology and having a great experience – guaranteed execution of work in accordance with the specifications and requirements of ING Bank. The important factors there were also Fild.NET’s flexible approach to emerging changes in the course of the project and communication skills in the conduct of the whole project.

A user friendly interface
Microsoft Excel has got “a new face” in the new solution – the workers discovered that a familiar tool offers a much richer functionality than they originally thought. What’s more, new capabilities include not only the possibility of analysis (data mining) but also support the group work on a document, which is the budget plan. Thanks to the new system for collecting and accessing the data there was no need to download hundreds of files and reports from the stack of e-mails anymore. Instead of that, data is available from a single location for all participants of the process in an efficient and simple way.

Reducing the workload on employees
With the implementation of budgeting and reporting system, the employees of the ING Bank’s controlling department spend less time on meeting the needs of reporting, modifying already defined sets of reports, and their distribution. SQL Server 2000 Analysis Services provides a managed reporting environment with a defined level of protection, caching, distributing, accessing and reporting of usage.

Excelerator is a product of Fild.NET that makes it possible to create a data warehouse or analytical system or the system supporting the budgeting process using only commonly available Microsoft technologies: SQL Server 2000 or 2005 with Analysis Services and Reporting Services for the processing and data analysis, the Office – in particular Office Web Components for SharePoint product group collaboration and information management.

Fild.NET directs its offer to medium and large companies. Depending on the size and individual needs of customers, proposed solutions are tailored to specific business processes of a company.
The offer of Fild.NET includes solutions of the three strategic competencies: Teamwork Supporting Systems (Project Portfolio Management – PPM, corporate portals, workflow), Business Intelligence (Excelerator – a system for budgeting, planning and reporting based on SQL Server) and Microsoft CRM.
The main idea of Fild.NET’s solutions is to maximize the use of Microsoft programs in the planned solutions. Thanks to such an approach, Fild.NET proposes cost-effective way to improve the functioning of the organization to customers, for whom the purchase of several different systems from different vendors is economically inefficient.