In 2010 Boskalis took over Smit, followed by the takeover of Dockwise in 2013. “After the takeovers, we wanted to move to a single integrated database,” says Paul Schurgers, Group Account & Reporting Manager at Boskalis. However, division-specific wishes were an important factor. “I’m really only adding up figures,” Paul continues. “The money is made outside, and it’s important that the divisions get figures they recognize and that allow them to make good decisions.”
Facilitation and standardization
Since the acquisitions, Boskalis has a range of business models; maritime services in particular have been added to dredging. “These different business models make an integrated system a bit complicated,” says Richard Leijnse from Boskalis. Richard originally worked at Smit. “You want to facilitate every business model, while we also want to standardize.”
On top of that, the various business units use different reporting periods: per month and per quarter. “We kept that reporting rhythm,” Paul says. The project team had to be able to gain consensus from the users, which included a new uniform chart of accounts. Richard says, “For instance, we invested a lot of time in explaining why I want to have one particular account, and not another one. It makes sense that we have different requirements; Offshore Energy is different from Dredging.”
Balance between speed and acceptance
“We chose to standardize the input, while giving the output more flexibility,” Richard continues. “If Offshore Energy wants a report, that’s what they get as output, even if Dredging doesn’t need that report.” “In a project, it’s about the balance between speed and acceptance,” says Wesley Schulte from Finext.
“If you comply with every wish without incorporating them correctly, the system becomes unmanageable.”
“Standardize first, flexibilize later. If you comply with every wish without incorporating them correctly, the system becomes unmanageable,” adds Olaf Looije from Swap Support. Finext and Swap Support are sister organizations that often work together on Performance Management implementations. For example, Olaf has been involved with the support of the financial applications at Boskalis for years.
A two-stage rocket
The organization made a deliberate choice to implement the new system in two steps. “It was a two-stage rocket,” says Wesley. “First we moved Smit to the same platform and then we integrated the two worlds.”
This two-step process gives the users the opportunity to get used to it. “It’s really an investment in change management,” says Paul. “Richard’s success with the application at Smit led to other business units wanting the same. For example, people saw that they didn’t have to type data in anymore when they used the import feature. Without the Smit application, I couldn’t have implemented the integrated Boskalis application.”
Involving the key users
Involving the users turned out to be a crucial success factor. “We were able to attract a lot of good people to the project from Boskalis Nederland, Dredging, and Offshore Energy,” says Paul. “They were heavy users, mainly on the reporting side. The real work was done by the team. I was mostly just clearing the tracks – the project team with the key users drove the train.”
“We no longer have discussions about the figures, everyone recognizes them.”
The cooperation with Finext and Swap Support is appreciated. “There’s a good relationship between the specialists,” says Paul. “Finext tackles the project and Swap Support takes care of the support phase. It’s important that there are good connections between the implementation and the systems support. I think Swap Support and Finext are doing a great job here.”
Cornerstone of success
A second key success factor is the central database. “A single database is the cornerstone of the success,” says Paul. Having so many different business models does impose demands on the application and requires well-considered choices in the setup. “Having only one system also means that you get a forecast model per entity,” says Paul. “Richard doesn’t absolutely need that, but he does want a detailed income statement. If you standardize as much as possible, everyone pays a price.”
It has its advantages as well, though. “We no longer have discussions about the figures, everyone recognizes them,” says Richard. “It means that people take ownership of their figures. What also helps is that people don’t just have to give input: they get output in return.”
Reporting in 100 countries
There are over 200 staff working with the system. “Boskalis has around 800 reporting units in about 100 countries, each with their own requirements for the ERP system,” says Paul. “It’s important for us that the system collects all the figures worldwide in a uniform way. There are some countries where the legally required figures are the deciding factor, using a prescribed chart of accounts. And other countries do not allow some software packages.”
On top of that, the reporting and consolidation structures change a little every year. “We operate globally,” says Paul. “If there is an existing company in a country when a new project comes along, we will in principle not start a new company there. The revenue for every project, including the new one, should however be accounted for by the right business unit and the manager responsible.” This can be done easily in the new application, after which the revenue flows are automatically presented with the correct business unit.
An overview helps to steer
With hindsight, sticking to the original requirements was the third key success factor for the project. “We took the time to determine the key requirements clearly before building the system,” explains Paul. “We then stuck to those key requirements when we were asked to do things differently during the project.” There was a lot of room within the key requirements for the specific wishes of the divisions and business units. There was also plenty of maneuvering room to let the project team build the application they wanted. “It really let the project team spread their wings,” says Paul.
“If you have an overview, you can control things.”
Paul and Richard are positive about the new consolidation solution. “We can now report the group figures one to two weeks earlier,” says Paul. “I used to be proud if I had the figures for the three key systems, but now we have the time to verify and analyze the figures before they go to the CFO. Confidence in the figures is higher.” “If you have an overview, you can control things,” says Richard in conclusion.